Tell us about your allergy story.
I'm a "food allergy mom." My son, Kip, is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and sunflower seeds. He's 15 now, but we entered the food allergy world when he was 2, and I've been passionate ever since about connecting with the food allergy community, spreading awareness, and trying to make a difference. I've always been involved in nonprofit in some way, and I've always wanted to own my own business. Starting my own food brand, Kip's @lovekips1, in the allergy-friendly space, was the perfect combination of both – helping a community I feel passionate about, while running my own business at the same time.
What piece of advice would you give to parents who just discovered their child has allergies?
Connect to the food allergy community online. It's filled with parents that are going through exactly what you're dealing with. You can ask for ideas and help, share your fears, or just vent about your frustrations. Some of these groups have thousands of members, and you will hear many different approaches to dealing with allergies.
However, know how much is too much for you. If some of the accounts or posts are increasing your fear or anxiety surrounding food allergies, then stop following them for a while or skip past their posts. I need to do that sometimes. Know your limit.
What keeps you motivated in this journey?
I have hope that advances in research will mean that someday treatment will be available, and this might not be a lifelong condition. It's easier to get through the challenges when you think it might not last.
I do also turn to the Facebook group Parents of High School & College Students with Food Allergies when dealing with teen issues and/or starting to think about college.
And really, I'm very motivated, every day, to do what I can to help my son feel confident about food, his life as an independent person, and his future. It's much more his challenge than it is mine, and I will do anything I can to always support him.
What do you wish others understood about food allergies?
You have the power to help keep someone with food allergies safe. Be supportive in where you eat out, ask where his/her Epi Pen is, know how to use it. Make sure they don't leave it in the sun or in a hot car. Don't make it a big deal, but don't ignore it, either. In this way, you can help them stay safe, every day.