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Let’s tackle the month of February and make Valentine’s weekend a sweet inclusive celebration


Here’s one perspective: pink and heart shaped treats and a day bearing happy sentiments like children on sugar rush, adolescents waiting for the first kiss and anyone expecting a bunch of flowers.

Here’s another perspective if you are one of the millions of American with food allergies: candies and sugar treats mean allergens and having to go through ingredients with a magnifying glass, the ‘first kiss’ brings chills of cross-contamination and the sense of shyness and hesitancy about sharing with someone else your life-threatening condition.

We have asked the allergist, FCAAC’s own Dr. Kfir Shamir and compiled an A, B, C for a free-of-fear Valentine’s Day celebration to support food allergy patients and their families and help our non-allergic friends make the environment inclusive.

Your Valentine’s Day A,B,C for allergies and asthma

ALLERGEN: What’s an allergen, or the (protein of the) food that causes the reaction and may be life-threatening. Put it in a different way: there are no other precautions than staying away from nuts, milk, sesame or your food allergen.
~ Get tested by a board certified allergist
AVOIDANCE: The solution is simple, healthy and inclusive: choose the non-edible alternatives. Something like home-made cards, crayons, pencils, stickers, book-marks, rulers, erasers, sharpeners, balloons (Latex-free), car toys, figurines (like farm animals or insects), and puzzles.
~ Get an epinephrine autoinjector
BIG 8: The most common food allergens eggs, wheat, soy, milk, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts. Sesame will soon become n.9
~ Get tested, don’t assume.
CROSS-CONTAMINATION: “The process by which bacteria or other microorganism are unintentionally transferred from one substance or object to another, with harmful effects.” Put simply, a lurking danger for an individual allergic to food. Cross-contamination is the reason why food manufacturers are required to disclose on their labels if the food was processed in the same facility as other foods that contain wheat or any other big allergen. Some tips on how to prevent it:
~ Read labels; make it known to family, friends, school and care takers; use different utensils and kitchen appliances; no double dipping; wash hands, mouth and any surface.
DINNER RESERVATIONS: Organize it with time: call the venue, explain the condition, make sure manager, chef and staff are aware.
~ Inclusion is the first ingredient



SAY IT WITH FLOWERS: Sending flowers to your sweethearts after you made sure he or she doesn’t suffer from airborne allergies. It is true that cut flowers bring very little pollen, and the pollens one is allergic to are plant based, but avoiding an allergic response has its own benefits.

~ Airborne allergies are tested and diagnosed by an allergist. Allergy shots are available to help reducing symptoms.



FRAGRANCE: Would you like to buy him his favorite fragrance? Would you like him to buy you the latest perfume of your favorite designer? That is another touchy subject: allergies to sprays, deodorants or any chemical air enhancements.
~ An allergic reaction can lead to an asthma attack.
MAKE-UP You are all excited for your date and bought a new lipstick, the color of the season, but who wants to end up at the emergency room with a swollen eye or lips because of a mislabeled ingredient?
~ The patch test helps determine what element, mineral, or chemical one is allergic to.
SCHOOL/WORK PARTY: Before bringing chocolate treats in school, think of those children or teachers allergic to peanuts, nuts and milk.
~ Food allergies can be tested at the allergist office. There are no injections available, so avoidance is the only way to go.
PUT A RING ON IT: After perfumes, the gift to the other level is jewelry and, let’s be frank, fine jewelry is not always the option. When it comes to costume jewelry or watches you must be aware that someone, aka your significant other, could be allergic to nickel. Same works for zippers if you were thinking of giving a computer bag, back-pack or a pair of jeans.
~ The patch test helps determine what element, mineral, or chemical one is allergic to.
KEEP IT ROMANTIC: Kissing under the tree, at the movies or in front of the house after dinner make us swoon and sigh. Not to ruin the party, but ‘cross contamination’ can cause what is commonly known as ‘kissing allergy’ : if you are allergic to peanuts or milk, for example, and your partner has been exposed to them the last 18 hours, you may have a reaction as significant as if you’d be exposed yourself to the same allergen.
~ Make it known with tact and enough confidence.
See? There’s nothing complicated or difficult, it’s all a question of mindfulness. What could be complicated and serious is an anaphylactic attack while all you wanted was a fun celebration.


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