Empower, connect, and reinvigorate. Just a few words that describe the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference. This was my second year attending. Having enjoyed last year, I was compelled to return this year to see my food allergy family!
When an entire community comes together to learn, educate, and build on each other’s knowledge, that is an empowering experience. There is an energy throughout the weekend that is full of curiosity, hope, and belief in what each of us can bring to the allergy world.
While I was there, I proudly represented the Allergy & Asthma Network on a panel for the new No Appetite for Bullying Initiative. As someone who has had some experience in this area, I enjoyed being part of a discussion and sharing my perspective as both the food allergy kid and as an educator in the schools.
A few points I made:
- Adults are not exempt and can be culprits of food allergy bullying
- Having a support system is essential
- Children need to learn to advocate for their needs
- Greater allergy awareness is necessary in schools
This is only the beginning of this discussion as this initiative builds and more people share their own bullying experiences.
We spend the year connecting with others behind computer screens, but that can’t replace the in-person visits that happen at FABlogCon. I spent years reading other allergy blogs, attending local events, and still meeting only a handful of people I interacted with in the online allergy world. Last year at FABlogCon it was the first time I had the opportunity to meet so many incredible women that I looked up to in our community but had never met in person. People that I felt like I already knew, even though our only interactions had been through emails or quick phone conversations.
When the food allergy blogging community is spread out all over the country (and world), it’s nice to know that once a year we have this opportunity to enjoy time together in the same location.
Sometimes it feels like everyone is just so far away. Other times it feels like there is one sad event after another in our community. When we all come together it brings back that spark we all need to keep on, keeping on. It’s not always easy to write about a medical condition that each of us deals with 24/7 (whether we have the allergies ourselves or we take care of our kids who have them). It can feel exhausting and overwhelming at times! When we are all together though; talking, laughing, hugging, sharing, commiserating, and understanding each other, we help re-inspire that desire to go on and continue to build each other up in the community.
So, what did I learn?
A lot. In summary, I learned that we still don’t have enough answers or enough data. We have much more research to do and need better ways to accurately test for food allergies. There are people out there trying to continue to learn, research and study to bring us closer to answers. However, it takes time.
Something that was continuously reinforced throughout the weekend to me through conversation and during some of the presentations was that as a community, we need to find a way to reach the allergic population that isn’t so heavily involved. What about families that aren’t on Facebook looking to connect with other allergy families? Do they know to use epinephrine with known allergen ingestion? I think back to my life before I became involved in this online community. Even life before I met Georgina. As someone who went to the allergist each year, I still wasn’t receiving the most up-to-date information about why I shouldn’t use antihistamine as my first line of defense with an allergic reaction from a known allergen. It took becoming closely involved, meeting people, and making connections before I truly understood that I was still using an old plan to match an old line of thinking. How many allergy kid adults are out there still thinking what I used to think? How do we reach them? (*I would love to hear your thoughts on this)
Why moms are the best
In the world of food allergy blogging, the majority of writers are moms that have kids with food allergies. These moms fight hard for their own kids as well as the rest of us. I have an extraordinary amount of respect for these women and truly appreciate all that they do to help support our community.
On Sunday night before heading to the airport, I went out to dinner with a few amazing food allergy mamas that totally get it. It was nice to be in company with women who understand exactly why I need to call the restaurant ahead and were more than happy to go anywhere I was comfortable eating. They even thought my chef card was pretty cool. ;) It was a fabulous way to end the weekend!
*Check out all the photos below and click on photos for links :)