Here is our second interview in the series....enjoy!
Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, licensed master social worker, specialist in food allergy management, and author, is founder and President of Allergic Girl Resources, Inc., a consultancy devoted to food allergy awareness. She consults with private clients, the healthcare, food and hospitality industries, government and not-for-profit advocacy organizations. Ms. Miller earned her Master of Social Work at the New York University’s Silver School of Social Work and her Master of Fine Arts in Writing and Literature at Bennington College. In 2006, she started Please Don’t Pass the Nuts, an award-winning blog for and about people affected by food allergies. In 2011, John Wiley & Sons published Ms. Miller’s book, Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well With Food Allergies, the definitive how-to guide. Ms. Miller combines a lifetime of personal experience and passion with professional expertise to connect with people about how to live safely, effectively, and joyously with food allergies. For more information, please visit Allergic Girl Resources, Inc at www.allergicgirl.com
How did you find out you had food allergies and how old were you?
I had anaphylaxis after eating tree nuts when I was two years old, at my grandmother’s house and that is my first food allergy memory. However, as a nursing infant, my mother told me I had an allergic reaction to cow milk’s. My pediatrician recognized it as a dairy allergic and I was switched to soy formula. (I outgrew my dairy allergy in early childhood).
Why did you decide to write a book about food allergies?
In 2006, there was nothing on the Internet that I could find that spoke about living well whilst managing food allergies from an adult perspective. So, I started my blog, Please Don’t Pass the Nuts as a way to connect with other adults managing food allergies and explore ways to talk about living with food allergies, to share my experiences and share what I’ve learned about dining out, traveling, dating and working with food allergies.
The overwhelming positive response to the blog was immediate and global. It turns out there were tons of us who were managing our lives with food allergies and many adults were looking for support and didn’t have anywhere to turn or someone to talk to.
As someone who has managed food allergies, asthma, environmental allergies and eczema and is a licensed psychotherapist, I was uniquely poised help our community.
My blog was the inspiration for my book, Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well With Food Allergies(Wily, 2011), realizing that there is a real need for information and real talk about the hows-to of the practical realities of living well with food allergies.
Do food allergies or atopic disease run in your family?
Yes! My mother has a shellfish allergy and oral allergies to some fruits and veggies. My father is anaphylactic to bee venom. They both have eczema and seasonal allergies. So, I was fairly genetically primed to develop atopic disease and I have everything: allergic asthma, seasonal allergies, food allergies and eczema, all of which I currently manage.
What has surprised you during your food allergy journey?
Recently, it’s that the rest of the world is catching up to what was a rarity when I was growing up. This has been a fascinating ongoing story to watch as it unfolds in real time and I’m part of that story, too!
What have you learned during your food allergy journey?
I don’t define myself by food allergies so I don’t have a discreet “food allergy journey”; this is simply my wonderful life .
What advice would you give a newly diagnosed family?
Know this: You are not alone. And there is plenty you can do right now to arm yourself with the necessary medical knowledge and tools to help your child and your family navigate this diagnosis, such as:
· Connect with an allergist who is familiar with food allergies, and up to date on the latest research and interventions.
· Get a personalized anaphylaxis action plan from your allergist.
· Make certain you understand your diagnosis fully; if you don’t schedule a consultation with your allergist to go over questions.
· Communicate your food allergy needs to those around you in a clear and factual way.
· Carry your emergency medication with you at all times.
Have you ever found anything you can’t do because of food allergies?
Aside from eat my allergens, no, not really. It may take some workarounds, planning and adjustments of expectations but anything I’ve wanted to do, I’ve done.
Sometimes families can have a hard time psychologically with food allergies, what advice would you give them?
The best first thing you can do as a parent is deal with the facts around a food allergy diagnosis and the feelings.
When it comes to the food allergy facts, make sure you as the parent fully understand your child’s diagnosis and how to explain that diagnosis to people around you who will need to know (extended family, school, camp, etc..) including to your child in an age appropriate way. Talk to your board certified medical health provider if there are gaps in your knowledge. There are also great free reliable webinars, forums and resources through FARE and Kids with Food Allergies.
When it comes to the feelings around a food allergy diagnosis, the best thing you can do as a parent is comes to terms with any anxiety, shame, guilt, anger or depression you may have about your child’s food allergy diagnosis. Talk to someone: an in-person support group that is well moderated by medical or mental health professionals is a great options or see a local mental health provider.
If, as a parent, you do not feel on sure footing about the feelings or the facts around your child’s food allergy diagnosis, it will be that much more challenging to help your child feel secure around their food allergy diagnosis. Remember, you can do this and there is support if you need it!
Reliable Medical Resources:
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI)
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI)
Center for Disease Control (CDC)
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases(NIH/NIAID) United States
Reliable Patient Perspective Resources:Allergic Girl (AGR)
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)
Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)
Kids with Food Allergies (KFA)
Posted on Fri, June 1, 2018
by Jenn Griffin