Food Allergy Awareness Week and National Eosinophil Awareness Weeks usually take place in the beginning of May each year. That’s no coincidence, since food allergies and eosinophilic disorders are closely related. For many of our families, both of these are important reason to celebrate next week and to spread the word.
Food Allergy Awareness Week
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network(FAAN) established the first official “week” to increase awareness of food allergies in 1998, making next week the 15thFood Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW). While many people know food allergies exist, they often don’t realize how serious food allergies can be. As a Neocate family member, you can help spread the word! Check out the FAAN’s resources to see what you can do to help increase public awareness of food allergies. One of our favorites: Ask your governor to issue a FAAW proclamation, if they haven’t already. Promotional posters, brochures, and presentations are some of the great resources FAAN offers.
National Eosinophil Awareness Week
National Eosinophil Awareness Week (NEAW), is a bit newer than FAAW. It was created with the efforts of American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders(APFED). In May 2007, the House of Representatives passed HB296, designating the third week of May as the National Eosinophil Awareness Week. The purpose of NEAW is to create awareness and educate both the general public and medical community about eosinophil-associated diseases. You’d probably get some funny looks if you asked most folks what in eosinophil is, so this is a great time of year to do just that and fill them in.
Let’s start with a few basics. What are eosinophils? Eosinophils (pronounced E-O-sin-O-fills) are a type of white blood cell that are normally helpful to the body. Eosinophils play a role in the immune system, helping to fight off certain types of infections and parasites. These cells respond to triggers (e.g., food and airborne allergens) by releasing toxins into the affected area. Normally, most eosinophils spend most of their time in the circulatory system (basically in the blood).
However, sometimes eosinophils can go to parts of the body in large numbers, which is unusual. Affected areas of the body may include: the bladder, connective tissue, areas of the gastrointestinal tract (including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine,), blood and lungs. If eosinophils build up in these body parts in large numbers, they can cause swelling and other symptoms. That’s no fun!
We at Neocate support APFED (the American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders) in spreading awareness of Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorders (EGIDs). EGIDs are those disorders, like EoE (eosinophilic esophagitis), that affect parts of the digestive tract.
There are several different types of EGIDS, which are named according to where the high levels of eosinophils are located within the digestive tract.
- Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE): high numbers of eosinophils in the esophagus.
- Eosinophilic Gastritis (EG): high numbers of eosinophils in the stomach.
- Eosinophilic Gastroenteritis (EGE): high numbers of eosinophils in the stomach and small intestine.
- Eosinophilic Colitis (EC): high numbers of eosinophils in the large intestine. Colitis is an inflammation of the colon, the digestive organ absorbing water and mineral salts from the digestion of food.
APFED also has great materials to help educate patients, families and caregivers. Educational videos, like this one, help to explain EGIDs to children.
We often write about eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), but did you know that eosinophilic disorders can affect any and all parts of the digestive tract? For many patients with an eosinophilic disorder, Neocate products are a significant (if not the only) part of the diet. Not only are people in general unaware of eosinophils, a lot of medical professionals also don’t know of the presence and impact of eosinophilic disorders. That makes next week a great time to inform friends, family, and health care professionals!
Here are some easy ways that you can celebrate and help raise awareness:
Help Raise Awareness At School
As we all know schools and food allergies are major hot topics and this week is the perfect time to volunteer to give a presentation about food allergies to your child’s class or school. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) has some great presentations for elementary schools, teenagers and even corporate environments that you can download.
Help Raise Awareness In Your Community
As we’ve mentioned before one idea to spread the word and raise money for allergies is to host an allergy-friendly bake sale! Another idea is to create or print flyers about food allergies and hand them out at your local grocery store or mall food court. Also, if you aren’t already a part of a local advocacy organization, join one! They are likely to be hosting their own events this week so it’s a great opportunity to get involved. But, if there isn’t an organization in your town, now is the perfect time to start one!
Help Raise Awareness Online
If you’re on Facebook or Twitter be sure to post about FAAW. Or, if there are any events in your area you plan to attend be sure to invite friends. Also, don’t forget to follow Neocate on Facebook and Twitter, where you will find more information about food allergies.
Take the opportunity next week to increase awareness of food allergies in general, and educate on eosinophilic disorders in particular. What will you do to celebrate FAAW and NEAW and promote this special week?