Sarah Nichol’s 8 years old son has multiple food allergies including dairy, egg, peanut, tree nut and fish. After his first reactions as an infant, Sarah decided to organize and grow a support group for other moms and dads of children with food allergies: the Toronto Anaphylaxis Education Group.
From a Reaction: Action
Sarah’s son had his first allergic reaction when he was just 7 months old, and it was so severe he was admitted to the pediatric ICU. A few weeks after visiting the allergist, he had another reaction at a playdate — cross-contact with milk from other children who had been drinking milk.
“We had to use the EpiPen and call 911,” recalls Sarah. “The playdate ended with the fire truck and ambulance arriving as the other moms packed up with their children and left. …It was a whole different world for us to get used to managing severe allergies, not just from a food perspective but from a social and emotional one as well.”
Like many parents of young children with food allergies, Sarah and her husband struggled with feeling alone, misunderstood and afraid. They decided to take action and build a community where parents could share resources and stories, while learning all they could about managing food allergies.
Sarah discovered the Toronto Anaphylaxis Education group, a support group which had been on hiatus for about a year and was in search of a new leader. She picked up the reins of leadership and the group began to grow again. The group is now co-chaired by Marni Halter and has become a vibrant part of Toronto’s parent community.
TAEG runs five meetings per year, with experts and community leaders providing information about topics such as travel, summer camps, new allergy research, schools, anxiety, legal issues, holidays, teens and more. TAEG also organizes a Blue Jays game outing for TAEG families in the peanut/nut reduced section.
“Our meetings cover a variety of topics,” says Sarah. “We also try to target different [ages and] stages in allergy life. At the spring meeting, our members brainstorm topic suggestions.”
Check out the TAEG meeting notes online to read about past presentations.
TAEG receives support from Food Allergy Canada and Scotiabank as well as Allergic Living. The City of Toronto offers reduced-rate meeting space.
Starting a New Group?
Have you been thinking of starting a new group in your area? “Go for it! “ encourages Sarah, who has been personally helped by the group as she gives back to the community.
Sarah adds that leaders play an important role. “When first diagnosed, many allergy families are understandably scared and anxious. Support group leaders can set the tone that allergies are manageable, and that you can have a safe and inclusive environment for allergic kids and adults. Share the tools to help them get there!”
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Tags: Support groups