Today I joined hundreds of people at the CBS Studios in Los Angeles to raise money for Food Allergy Research and Education through the FARE Walk for Food Allergy.

We skipped last year and decided to join this year’s event at the last minute. Rather than walking along the shore at Long Beach, this year’s course ran through the CBS Studios lot. It started on what looked like a suburban New England street, and wound past production trailers, soundstages, prop storage, and even the Los Angeles river….

Lots of people walking along a path above a wide concrete-lined trench. Trees on either side, blue sky beyond.

…such as it is. Other parts of the river are much nicer, even navigable at times, but this stretch is basically a concrete drainage ditch inside a bigger drainage ditch. It looks bleak now, but during flood years the channels fill completely, preventing the city’s streets from flooding instead.

Wait, Walk for What–Who–Why?

FARE funds studies to explore the causes of food allergy and develop new therapies. They run outreach programs to make it safer to visit restaurants, or just be at school or the workplace.

Food allergies can range from mild to life-threatening — yes, people die — and those of us on the far end of the range need to be constantly on the watch for hidden ingredients and cross-contact between foods we can eat and foods we can’t.

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USS Epinephrine

The annual Walk for Food Allergy is coming up, and I need your help to raise funds for Food Allergy Research and Education, an organization dedicated to, well, research and education about food allergies.

Food allergies can vary in severity from mild discomfort to immediately life-threatening. We’re still trying to nail down exactly what causes them to develop, why they’re on the rise (current estimates are 15 million people in the US alone), and what can be done to stop allergic reactions from happening.

Until then, the best we can do is:

  • Avoid the foods we’re allergic to as best as we can. (This depends on industry and food preparers labeling properly and trying to avoid cross-contamination.)
  • Always carry epinephrine injectors and always plan for the possibility of a trip to the emergency room.

FARE funds research, provides educational resources for everyone from allergic patients to the food industry, promotes awareness of the problem, and pursues advocacy for people living with food allergies.

I’ll be walking in the September 21 event near Los Angeles. You can help by donating here. Every bit helps. Thank you!

15 Million Reasons to WalkIf you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I have a severe food allergy to peanuts. Last summer, two sips of a coffee drink sent me to the emergency room (during Comic-Con, which was really annoying). I’m not alone: estimates are that 15 million people have food allergies in the US alone, and one of us makes that trip to the ER every 3 minutes.

The causes of food allergies are still not completely understood, so preventing them isn’t possible yet. (The hygiene hypothesis is a popular one, but it’s far from settled.) And while new therapies show a lot of promise, there’s still no cure. We’re stuck with avoiding our triggers as much as possible — sometimes complicated by dealing with people who don’t understand or don’t care — and carrying emergency medication to keep us alive when we do have to go to the ER.

Candy clawFor the past three years, my family has participated in the Walk for Food Allergy. It’s a charity event that raises funds for FARE, an organization dedicated to allergy research, education, awareness and advocacy. Some examples of their work include funding research into treatments, educating the food industry on allergen safety, and getting life-saving medication into schools, where children often experience their severe first allergic reaction before even being diagnosed.

This year’s Los Angeles event is happening earlier than last year, in September, and has moved from Long Beach to Torrance. We’ve just signed up, and would appreciate it if you’d please donate to the walk on our behalf.

Thank you!

Ice cream bowls and peanuts.September. How the time flies, huh? It’s time to start focusing on autumn plans, and one of those is the 2013 Walk for Food Allergy, coming up in Long Beach at the end of October. This will be our third year participating in the event (you can see photos from last year), which raises money for FARE* and their mission to promote food allergy research and education, and to advocate on behalf of people living with severe allergies.

Fifteen million people have food allergies in the US alone, including six million children. For us, just eating is a constant source of risk.

ER Monitor and Comic-Con WristbandI left Comic-Con in an ambulance this year because I had two sips of a coffee drink with peanuts in it. I knew right away, but the shop had to call the owner to confirm it because the mix wasn’t labeled. It could have been worse, though. I walked out of the emergency room that evening. One week later, a 13-year-old in Sacramento didn’t make it to the hospital. Surviving Comic-Con meant more than usual this year.

We can’t cure allergies yet. We don’t know how to prevent them from developing in the first place. There’s only so much each of us can do to avoid our particular triggers if people around us don’t know — or worse, aren’t willing — to be careful with food they handle and to know what’s in it.

That’s where organizations like FARE come in. They sponsor research into identifying the causes of allergies and finding treatments. They provide training materials for the food industry. Over the last few years they’ve been pushing for stock epinephrine in schools, since many allergic children experience their first anaphylactic reaction at school, before they’ve even been diagnosed with an allergy. This year they’ve also been trying to combat allergy-related bullying.

You can help by sponsoring us in the walk. Your donation will help FARE work toward long-term solutions through research and more immediate solutions through education and advocacy. We’re in this together, and need your support.

*FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) is the merged organization made up of what used to be FAAN (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) and FAI (Food Allergy Initiative).

In two months, my family is walking to raise funds for food allergy research, education, awareness and advocacy. Here’s why.

For millions of people like me who have food allergies, the simple act of grocery shopping or eating out can be a minefield. Food allergies range from mild to immediately life-threatening, and while some treatments show promise at suppressing them, and emergency medication (if given right away) is usually effective, the only reliable course right now is avoidance.

That’s not as easy as you might think in a world where packaged foods seem to have 500 ingredients, and a lot of people (including restaurant cooks!) are unaware of or outright dismiss critical medical needs as simple preferences.

When I ask you whether your homemade cookies have nuts in them, or when I ask the waiter whether the salad dressing is based on peanut sauce, it’s not because I want attention. It’s because I don’t want to spend the afternoon in the hospital. Or worse.

To top it off, the medical community is still trying to nail down just what causes allergies. We know the mechanism: The body’s immune system detects a foreign substance, identifies it as dangerous, and overreacts to it, causing anything from tingling, swelling and hives to difficulty breathing and death. What we don’t know is why some people have this sort of reaction and others don’t. Again, there’s promising research being done, but we’re a long way from being able to say “Do X and not Y and you can prevent your child from developing life-threatening allergies.”

All these are reasons that my family is walking to raise funds for the Food Allergy Network. Their mission is to spread awareness, provide education and advocacy, and promote research into food allergies. You may have seen them in the news recently as they’ve pushed for state and federal laws encouraging schools to carry stocks of epinephrine auto-injectors — and allowing them to use them — so that children who experience a serious reaction at school can be kept alive.

The Los Angeles walk is coming up on October 21 in Long Beach, 60 days from now.

Please donate or join our team!

Thank you!

FAAN Walk for Food Allergy