This post was written about our recent trip and flight but the feelings behind it play out every day for families with food allergies. I’ll admit that it’s tone is much more serious and maybe even desperate. It was written from a mother’s heart. I was sitting across the aisle from the rest of my family and this letter details what I observed.
To the couple eating nuts sitting behind my son on the airplane,
You don’t know me. I’m the hyper-vigilant momma on board your flight who is more than slightly nervous you may kill her child. I saw you hide your ginormo bag of nuts when the flight attendant came over the speaker and announced that “a person with a peanut allergy” was on board. That person is my son. He is sitting directly in front of you.
I also saw you hide the bag of nuts every time I looked back at you and AGAIN when the flight attendant asked you to put them away.
You know it’s wrong or you wouldn’t hide it. Trust me, I have little kids, they don’t hide what they are doing unless they are breaking the rules.
Did you hear that? It was my heart pounding, not because of the “flight” but because of your snack. What if my son has a reaction, or worse?
A food allergy momma doesn’t just see a bag of nuts, granola or candy bar. We see a loaded weapon.
I know that may sound a little dramatic to you. Every 3 minutes someone experiences an allergic reaction that sends them to the ER. What do you think happens if you can’t get to the hospital?
The airline (Thank you Southwest) was nice enough to offer nut-free snacks. From where I’m sitting I could see you have several other bags as well. As a Food Allergy Momma I had a whole backpack full of snacks I would have happily given you for the added peace of mind of keeping my son safe.
I may be a little extra cautious. The night before the flight my son’s face was covered in hives, his face was swollen and red from an unknown allergen. He has never had that reaction. I wondered if his immune system is overburdened already.
My husband thinks I’m crazy for never deleting pictures or videos of my kids. This is why. One person, not following the rules, could cause me to lose my baby. I’ll admit, I didn’t give food allergies that much consideration before I found out my kid was allergic. However I was always accommodating. I would ask questions and go out of my way to keep people safe, I call it being considerate or human.
In case you are wondering, it’s not the sight of peanuts that will hurt people with food allergies (hiding them doesn’t make a difference). For some people just being in the same room as a peanut will cause their throat to swell shut. Other people have to eat them to have a reaction. We don’t yet know the severity of my son’s allergy. He seems ok when in the same room as peanuts. The last time he ate something with peanuts his face and neck turned red, he started crying, and scratching his neck. He was 1-year-old and we’ve been diligent to keep him away from nuts.
One in 13 children have food allergies. There is no cure. I don’t want my son to be a statistic. More than 200 deaths occur each year due to food allergies. We carry two Epi Pen’s everywhere we go. Epi Pen’s are life saving during an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). If you watch the news you know that some people don’t survive even when they use multiple Epi Pens.
My son and the 6 million other children affected with food allergies are delightful, precious, beautiful, talented and brilliant. They deserve to grow up without fear of getting sick or dying. Even though my son is only 3 years old he is very careful about what he eats. I hate to say it but he has had bouts of anxiety about food. Sadly, that anxiety keeps him safe.
We are not so different, you appear to be health conscious and natural minded people. I’m only guessing that because of your snack choices like nuts, seaweed and dry roasted veggies. We may even shop at the same stores or read the same blogs.
Truthfully I don’t think you were being malicious. I think that you just didn’t realize how dangerous your actions could have been. My hope is that now you do. Next time please realize that my son’s life is more important than your snack.
Holly, a food allergy momma