I tend to avoid politics and other controversial issues in person and on social media.
I firmly believe that as Americans, we all have the right to our own opinion.
I may not agree with your view on something, but that’s okay.
We can still be friends.
We can agree to disagree.
We can be civil.
We can be grown ups.
But when I saw this meme floating around on Facebook, I was pissed.
I am pro-vaccine.
My whole family is pro-vaccine.
My son is 10 months old and has received every vaccine on the CDC’s Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule on time.
And he will continue on this schedule until he is fully vaccinated.
My son was also diagnosed with egg and peanut allergies at 6 months old.
We had a choice to vaccinate him.
But we didn’t have a choice to “give him” allergies.
On September 20, I picked him up from the babysitter after work. The right side of his face was covered in hives and his right eye was puffy. The babysitter said he had just woken up from a nap and couldn’t figure out what caused it.
He was still so tiny; only three months old.
I called the pediatrician but they were closing, so my only option was a pediatric urgent care.
By the time the doctor saw him, over an hour later, he looked almost completely normal again.
They told me it could have been anything.
They couldn’t give me an answer.
For the next three months, he would randomly and frequently break out in hives. On his face, torso, arms, legs.
He went back to the urgent care, back to the pediatrician.
Every time seemed to be different.
I couldn’t figure out what was causing it.
So on January 4, when he was six months old, I finally got up the nerve to have him tested.
It was not fun.
You can’t explain to a six month old why his back is itchy and stinging.
He reacted to several of the allergens they tested him for, including almost every food.
We then had to take him to a lab for bloodwork. Also not fun.
His allergist believes he has potentially severe allergies to eggs and peanuts.
Potentially severe meaning anaphylaxis is likely…so potentially deadly.
We have two sets of infant epi-pens and we have to carry a set with us at all times.
I had to learn how to use it.
I had to learn how to stab my son in the leg with epinephrine so that hopefully he’ll make it to the hospital, and hopefully he’ll be okay.
Epi-pens aren’t a guarantee.
And some of the symptoms of anaphylaxis are impossible for a baby to communicate:
It all finally began to make sense, though.
My husband and I were eating eggs every weekend for breakfast.
We both ate trail mix and peanuts and peanut, butter and jelly sandwiches all the time.
The baby never actually consumed either.
But he was around it.
Just being in the same room as his allergens caused him to break out in hives.
We’re terrified about what could happen if he accidentally eats them.
Since his diagnoses, he has rarely broken out because we know now what we can’t eat around him.
We know how to protect him.
But here’s the scariest part: we don’t know how he’ll react next time.
According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), “Food allergy reactions are unpredictable. The way your body reacts to a food allergen one time cannot predict how it will react the next time. You don’t know if a reaction is going to be mild, moderate or severe. You should always be prepared with emergency medication, just in case.”
There will probably be a next time.
I know that I can’t put him in a bubble and shelter him for the rest of his life.
But ignorant memes like this one are going to make the world a more dangerous place for him and the other 32 million Americans who have food allergies.
Allergies are not a joke.
They’re not a choice.
They’re not a fad diet.
Maybe I’m overreacting.
Gearing up for a battle I’ll never win.
But this “funny meme” is making a joke about a life-threatening condition.
It’s telling people that allergies are funny. Maybe even fake.
But they’re not.
And until you experience the fear and anxiety that I’ve felt, and that millions of other parents have felt, you have no right to judge.
No right to compare two entirely different things.
So, yes. Please vaccinate your children.
I wholeheartedly support that part of this meme’s message.
But if you know a child has a peanut allergy, please don’t “bring the Jiffy.”