Each year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) declares May to be “National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.” It’s a peak season for asthma and allergy sufferers, and a perfect time to educate family, friends, co-workers and others about these diseases.
As the author of a children’s picture book Gia and Lincoln’s Aggravating Allergies (yes, I shall insert shameless promotion here), I often get asked the question “do your children have allergies?” The short answer is “no, I actually have allergies.”
I am the poster child for asthma and allergies.
My daughters unfortunately inherited my allergies to stinging and biting insects (which runs in my family, as does asthma and hay fever), but they dodged the bullet when it came to inheriting my chronic wheezing and severe allergies to many other things in life.
But I owe all the credit to my kids for helping me spread awareness of allergies through my book, especially to my 10-year-old, who suggested the story line of characters with allergies. Either she was tired of all the restrictions my allergies imposed on her young life (no pets, no perfume, no playing outside without bug spray…), or perhaps she had a few school mates with food allergies. Regardless of her motives, she had the foresight to know that allergies were a growing topic among her peers and might make a good story.
As The Allergic Author (I think I need a uniform to go with my identity, and perhaps some sort of superpower), I’m pleased my book contributes to the dialogue among kids, parents, educators, and the general public, of allergy issues.
So as this week’s blog public service announcement, I wanted to share a recently published report conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics: “Trends in Allergic Conditions Among Children: United States, 1997-2011” (May 2013). You can find this report on the Center of Disease Control website here: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db121.htm
Here are some key highlights:
• Allergic conditions are among the most common medical conditions affecting children in the United States.
• The prevalence of food and skin allergies increased in children aged 0–17 years from 1997–2011.
• Younger children were more likely to have skin allergies, while older children were more likely to have respiratory allergies.
What is causing this rise in allergic and respiratory allergies? There are many theories including the increase in unhealthy processed foods, over sanitizing, and climate change. It makes me sad that allergies in children are on the rise. I sympathize with the millions of children who suffer from allergies and asthma, because I’ve been there (and I still am there!). Allergies are just plain aggravating.
But, fortunately, they are manageable. And if I can help a child with allergies reclaim some sense of normalcy from reading my book, I’m honored to have had his or her attention for a few minutes. If my book helps kids who don’t have allergies empathize with other kids who do have allergies, then I’m even more grateful.
My ultimate hope, however, is that the rising trend of allergies among children will reverse itself. But until then, I will gladly do my part as the poster child of the afflicted, and promote awareness of asthma and allergies (and children’s literacy in the process)!