One year ago, Robert and Merrill Debbs, and their twin children Oakley and Olivia, were on vacation visiting family in Maine over the Thanksgiving holiday. Their son, Oakley, 11 years old, ate a piece of cake that contained walnut extract and suffered a severe reaction that would lead to his passing a few days later. In the wake of their son’s tragic outcome from anaphylaxis, Robert and Merrill founded Red Sneakers for Oakley, a non-profit named after Oakley’s favorite sneakers, to spread awareness about the dangers of food allergies.
This Thanksgiving, Red Sneakers for Oakley is urging families to take precautions to ensure that their family members and friends with food allergies remain safe with a list of 10 Tips:
(1) Always ask. When preparing food for multiple guests, always ask if anyone has a food allergy and be mindful of the ingredients you use in preparation.
(2) Call ahead. If going over to someone else’s house for dinner or other gatherings, be sure
to inform the hosts of your food allergies. They could ensure a safe environment before
you arrive and avoid the awkward rush to put something away.
Don’t use and reuse. Food allergens can be spread through kitchen utensils. Don’t use the
same serving spoon you use for the pecan pie for the nut-free pumpkin pie. Avoid cross contamination.
(4) Check gifts closely. Well-meaning relatives may bring food items to your home or send gift baskets. Ask about ingredients, and look closely at labels.
(5) Fly safely. If flying to see relatives, check with your airline about their food allergy protocols and policies.
(6) Learn the language. If traveling overseas, learn how to say your allergy in that country’s language. Make flash cards with written warnings.
(7) Speak Up. Be sure to tell your friends and family about your food allergies and what they need to do in case you have a reaction. Have an emergency action plan.
(8) Never leave home without it. Make sure you always have an epinephrine injector on hand in the event of allergen exposure. Better yet, make it two.
(9) Know the symptoms. Allergic reactions can range from hives to nausea to trouble breathing. When more than one internal system is involved, act fast.
(10) Inject first, then call 911. If you suspect anaphylaxis, use your epinephrine auto-injector. Then, call 911.