30 years ago when a child was diagnosed with a food allergy, not only did parents have to navigate the challenges of managing a child with this condition in a world with less awareness and education regarding food allergies, they also had to travel the journey largely alone; (aside for a doctor, allergist and spouse, of course).
Experts across the globe all agree that having a strong and solid support system is instrumental in managing any significant challenge while staying emotionally healthy throughout. However, finding such a support group in the day’s pre-internet was very difficult.
With the increase of social media and social trends to connect and communicate through various online platforms, people were now able not only to find others with common characteristics and create niche groups to converse with but use these groups as a source of guidance and most importantly advice. And so it has become part of life.
A simple search on Facebook will reveal a myriad of support groups specifically targeting parents with food allergies- with niche groups for specific allergies and geological locations. Users seek out their fellow online supporters and friends for unbiased encouragement and advice, as well as an irreplaceable tool for help navigating their situation safely. This ranges from simple questions such as, “Is this food item safe for this allergen?” to “Do you think I need to be worried about this reaction on my child?”, as well as, to the more crucial questions such as, “Which treatment do you think I should try?” or “I don’t feel well- this is what I ate, what ingredient should I cut out of my diet?”
Various concerns have been brought to light regarding this trend at a recent presentation at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual scientific meeting in Houston, stating, “Social media alternative facts on food allergies can negatively impact medical decisions.”
Allergists don’t underestimate the value of a solid support group whether online or not- according to allergist David Stukus, "Social media has some benefits and there is a lot of good information out there," However he is careful to point out, “Social media gives everyone an equal voice - even those who are not giving out correct information. The years of training and clinical experience allergists have is given the same weight as unqualified individuals performing their own 'research' using online search engines." Examples include; ‘food allergy cures’- even though none exist and at-home food sensitivity testing- whose results he says, are meaningless.
Myths make identifying factual information more difficult
A safer course of action would be to ask your doctor about any treatment options that you read about online. "I'd much rather someone with a food allergy, bring me information so we can discuss it rather than starting a treatment without asking my opinion." Dr Stukus advises that patients ask for time to go over questions and ask their allergist for recommendations on trustworthy sources to find more information on food allergies.
Recent increases in food allergies have stretched medical professionals to the limit which could explain recent trends towards using online support groups as valuable sources of information as well as towards on-demand telemedicine for allergy and asthma care; which enables increased access to care and offers patience’s a convenient option to manage allergies and treat reactions in a fast and efficient manner. “American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology advocates for physicians to incorporate meaningful and sustained use of telemedicine in the care of patients with allergies.”
So while there is no need to remove yourself from your online Facebook Allergy group or others that you are a part of, care should be taken before starting any new treatment plan or over-the-internet at-home kit. Feel free to bring all your researched information to your next Doctors visit and have them weigh in what might be a good suggestion for future management and treatment of your child’s food allergies.
During our recent visit to Israel, we really struggled to find food for our son who has anaphylactic level allergies to egg and sesame. We approached both restaurants and hotels and were told they were unable or unwilling to take responsibility for preparing his food.
After learning about Dr. Eliana on-line, we contacted her in the hopes that she could provide a ‘normal’ restaurant experience for our family.
Both she and Shani were meticulous in their preparations with the restaurants to ensure that our son had a wonderful and safe experience.
We truly appreciate their efforts to take care of our son, and to provide us with a lovely vacation experience.
T.M., Chicago, USA
We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the amazing gift you have given us over this Pesach- the gift of having you with us!!!!
We have NEVER felt more comfortable, calm, and at ease than we did these past 10 days. Your warmth, professionalism, kindness, and care shown through in all that you did.
My children are so grateful that they were able to be with you this Pesach. You made sure that they were so well looked after and they felt so at ease and comfortable with you! You were so amazing and approachable to them! And they LOVED all the food you so amazingly prepared (supervised allergy-free food preparation, managed menus) for them!
It’s very difficult for us to trust people when it comes to our kids and allergies. You magically were able to take away ALL of our anxieties, and nervousness (and we don’t give that away so easily!!)
We can never fully thank you enough. We truly feel that you instantly became part of our family and we look forward to G-d willing being able to be with you and plan amazing trips with you many many many more times!!!!
Thank you and may Hashem bless you for the work you do. My son Jacob said your allergy card has been very helpful. I am so grateful- beyond words.
L.R., NY, NY
Thank you for delivering our allergy free baked goods to our hotel. We just tasted the focaccia and it was delicious!
All the best,
S.C., New Jersey
We can't thank you enough for assembling this top-notch team of specialists to work with our daughter while she is in Israel.
T.G., Philadelphia, PA
"Food Allergy Concierge assisted us with a very helpful, detailed customized allergy card in Hebrew. The Allergy card was extremely helpful for multiple allergies and allowed us to eat safely in several eateries and hotels. Highly recommended.”
G.A. Illinois USA