When Amy Wicker’s daughter was born, her cheeks were unusually red and ooze, no matter what Amy tried she couldn’t get them to clear up.
“Then at 6 months when I started giving her solid foods she just would spit them up and had a lot of stomach problems so I knew at a very early age that she was having issues with food. I have food sensitivities so I would watch for those things but I never expected it to be as severe as it is,” said Wicker
Now 10, Elise has asthma, and is anaphylactic to milk, eggs and all nuts, meaning if she comes into contact with those substances airborne or physically, the results could be life threatening.
“Symptoms tend to be very dramatic with a food allergy, the other way to tell is that the quantity for the most part doesn’t really matter all that much, meaning a very small quantity of a food, say nuts, can cause very sever symptoms to people who are sensitive,” said Dr. Brian Smart an Allergist and Immunologist at DuPage Medical Group.
Wicker didn’t want the severity of her daughter’s allergies to keep them from things like family vacations, however travelling was now a terrifying and daunting experience.
“Flying with other 200 other passengers and you can’t control what they are eating makes it really challenging and you never know when you are flying if you’re going to have a flight crew that will help you or kick you off the plane. My daughter has had an airborne reaction to nuts on a plane before and there is really nothing worse than being 35,000 feet in the air and smelling nuts then seeing your daughter have a reaction on the flight. So that really prompted me to do something,” said Wicker.
She produced an award winning short film on the topic most recently created allergysafetravel.com, a resource for parents just like her, who strive for safe travel for their families.
“Every time we would go on a trip I would spend hours researching and I kept thinking to myself you know, how many other people are doing the same thing wouldn’t it be great to have a depository for all of this information so I launched allergy safe travel and its an online resource for those with food allergies. We have a lot of advocacy educational out reach efforts and we are working pretty closely with the airlines to get them to understand what we face when we fly,” said Wicker.
The response to the site has been positive but Wicker hopes that one day resources like these aren’t needed, something Dr. Smart says researchers are working on for the future.
“In the next 2 or 3 years there will be a patch for the peanut allergy. It will be specific for certain age groups and it isn’t clear whether it will cure the allergy or just suppress it but it will be the first therapy available for this,” Dr. Smart said.
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