Often when we hear of allergies we think of fall sniffles and watery eyes. While those may be an annoyance for many, one type of allergy less commonly talked about, and less understood, is that of food allergies.
Although some food allergies such as celiac or gluten intolerance are gaining exposure in the news, there are still many misconceptions and misunderstandings potentially leading to serious or even deadly consequences.
Jodi Mills, a Kaysville resident born and raised in Morgan, and her mother Jeanne Fry of Morgan, teamed up to create an innovative solution to help mitigate these consequences.
Jodi didn’t know a lot about food allergies at first. That all changed when her one-year-old daughter, Mazzy Mae, ended up in the emergency room in anaphylactic shock. The day before, she had gone in for her one-year check-up and while there, her pediatrician had given the green light to start introducing Mazzy to peanuts.
When lunch time rolled around, she didn’t think anything of putting a little spread of peanut butter on Mazzy’s toast. Mazzy seemed to love the new addition and soon settled down for a nice, quiet nap. Within about 20 minutes, little Mazzy awoke quite agitated. In an effort to calm Mazzy down, Jodi decided to go for a walk, one of Mazzy’s favorite activities.
As they were walking, Jodi noticed that Mazzy had developed a little cough, she attributed this as the reason that poor Mazzy could not sleep. It wasn’t until 30 minutes later, when they had returned home, that she discovered something was seriously wrong. To her horror, Jodi found bright red hives covering Mazzy’s back, stomach and legs. After a quick call to the pediatrician, Jodi rushed Mazzy to the hospital emergency room. At the ER Mazzy was diagnosed with a peanut allergy.
Looking back, Jodi realized Mazzy showed many of the signs of anaphylaxis—swelling of face and hands, vomiting, itching, coughing and hives.
Over the last year since Mazzy’s diagnosis, Jodi and her husband Kim have spent much time studying and educating themselves on allergies. They hope to be able to share this new-found knowledge with others as well.
Jodi shares that ne in 13 kids in America has a serious food allergy, a number that has increased 50 percent since 1997.
With the increasing prevalence of the eight top allergens (milk, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish and eggs), something as simple as eating can be hard on those affected with allergies.
Fortunately for Jodi, she has strong family support. Many family members including her mom, Jeanne, have gone through their own cabinets and have thrown out anything that contains peanuts or tree nuts, or was processed in a facility that also processes these nuts. Jeanne understands it is not just about keeping Mazzy away from a peanut or a Snickers bar; foods that have been processed in facilities where nuts have been processed are a cross-contamination hazard and can pose as many risks as eating the nut itself.
For Jodi the “trickiest thing is not wanting to feel pushy, or annoy people, but this is my baby’s life. People don’t understand cross-contamination. If they put their child who has just eaten a peanut butter sandwich in a shopping cart and then I put my daughter in there next, she is in danger of anaphylaxis.”
This past year has been a big learning experience for the whole family. When the time came that Mazzy was old enough to go to nursery at church, her parents found themselves panicky and nervous about not being with her.
With Mazzy being so young and not being able to communicate her allergy, Kim wished they had something that they could put on her that said not to feed her. As they looked into products available, they found stickers and bracelets. While these products would help, Jodi and Kim were concerned that people might not notice them or that they might be taken off by their little one. A light bulb turned on, and they came up with the idea of Talk For Me Tees.
Because they knew it was already hard enough for Mazzy to eat differently, they didn’t want her to have to wear something that made her feel different from others. It was important to them that the clothes she wore would alert others to her food allergy as well as being stylish and cute. With adorable graphics of elephants and bears as well as bright colors, the parents as well as the kids wearing these shirts have given positive responses. Mazzy loves her shirt so much that Jodi has even had to bribe her to take it off for bath time.
Jodi and Jeanne started this line of graphic tees to help alert people of Mazzy’s allergy, but they quickly realized “it is so much more powerful than that. These T-shirts start a conversation, and give us the opportunity to help educate and raise awareness.” In one way or another, these simple T-shirts might just save someone’s life.
For more information on food allergies, or to order a Talk For Me Tee, you can find Jodi and Jeanne online at https://www.facebook.com/foodallergykids.