As those of you who regularly read my blogs will know – I’ve lived with severe allergies all of my life. This year, I was awarded an MBE by King Charles III, for my services to people with allergies and I feel very honoured to receive this.
I now want to give back by offering my support to children who are struggling to deal with the every day consequences of having allergies. Having lived it, and campaigned about allergy awareness, I know I can help them and their classmates.
The truth is I want to go into schools to educate children around this condition which is growing across the world – particularly around food allergies.
School for me, particularly primary school was very difficult. I was made to feel ‘different’, ‘the odd one out’, because I often had to miss things that everyone else could take part in. And, at lunchtimes, I felt ostracized when I had to sit alone at the ‘allergy’ table, when all I wanted to do was sit with my friends. Having allergies sets you apart any way yet this can be compounded in a school setting and it can increase isolation.
Also, I was often unable to attend friend’s birthday parties because we didn’t know what food would be available, and because people didn’t understand the gravity of the situation, they often thought I was being difficult. My allergies were – and are – so severe that it’s not just about what I eat or drink, it also means I have to be careful about what those around me eat and drink. This is horrible when you are a child.
I was too embarrassed to explain all the time, and my friends weren’t mature enough to understand either. Often it was just easier not to go to parties or social events outside of school.
As an adult I’ve developed relationships with other allergy sufferers and have heard some horrible stories around their school lives. This includes one who, when on school trips, was forced to wear a sign around her neck with words such as ‘do not feed’ or ‘no chocolate’. It is not okay to make a child feel so singled out.
This is why I want to continue to fight for an easier, more inclusive environment for children with food allergies. Especially as one in 12 children have food allergies, which is about two in every class.
With this in mind, I have put together an allergy awareness presentation that I want to roll out in all schools in the UK. I want to help those children who are like me, and hopefully make their time in school better.
It is the remit of schools to provide a safe environment for all of their pupils to thrive, and I feel that by sharing this information, I can help them to be fully inclusive.
My goal is to educate children and teachers about the severity of allergies, and how their actions can have real world consequences that can at times be life-threatening. I feel that introducing this information to children in schools as early as possible is vital.
The main thrust of the presentation with be:
- I’ll share how to use an EpiPen and what it is and what it does.
- I’ll talk to them about having empathy for their friends who suffer with allergies, so that they don’t think they’re odd or weird.
- I’ll explain how they can help their friends by learning to eat safely – for example making sure they wipe tables after they’ve eaten, in case they have eaten foods that will make their friends react.
- We’ll talk about them being aware of what foods their friend can’t eat, due to allergies.
I strongly believe that only through allergy education, can we create a long lasting change.
If you work in a school, or know of a school who would be interested in my presentation, please put them in touch with me – please email firstname.lastname@example.org.