“Just Because” Day – what’s your ‘Just Because…’?

August 27 was National Just Because day – a day where you can do anything or not….

Why does this day mean something to me?

Just because I suffer from anaphylaxis, doesn’t mean I should be made to feel ‘different’,

Just because I suffer from anaphylaxis, doesn’t mean I should feel isolated and left out.

Just because I suffer from anaphylaxis, doesn’t mean I should feel bullied, from childhood right through to adult hood.

Just because of anaphylaxis, I’m going to do something about it. As the song from The Greatest Showman said “watch out, here I come!”

What is anaphylaxis? 

It’s a severe and rapid sudden allergic reaction that happens when I’m exposed to one of my allergens.   It means my body will release a flood of chemicals as it goes into shock, causing my blood pressure to drop dramatically and my airways to narrow. The most well known allergens are peanuts and bee stings. Unfortunately for me I’m allergic to all nut, sesame  seeds, chickpeas and much more.

Anaphylaxis is potentially, life-threatening, and I have on several occasions, required an immediate emergency response. Occasionally I can prevent it getting any worse by having a freezing cold shower, using my allergy pen – however there’s no guarantee that will work. I once ended up in intensive care after inhaling my father’s aftershave. It even took two incidents for the medical team to work out that it was that chemical which caused the serious allergic reaction.

You might think that this makes me nervous about how I live my life.  In fact, just because I have allergens doesn’t make me hide away anymore, but does make me think very carefully about what I eat, and what I expose myself to – it also as I get older, makes me increasingly angry about the lack of awareness, understanding and education there is around the risks in every day life for people like me.

And before anyone thinks I’m in a tiny minority, allergies are on the rise quite dramatically worldwide. One thought behind it is that this is because we are growing up in a more ‘sanitised’ world where we are less exposed to things in early childhood to build our immunity – however that’s still unclear. In fact, allergies to food stuffs is where the biggest rise is occurring.

The Ethos of Creative Nature

Just because I have anaphylaxis, is actually the reason I took over and build a new direction for Creative Nature.  I wanted to find a healthy snack that didn’t cause me – or anyone like me – to stop breathing!

Just because I have anaphylaxis even today I have to contend with bullying, ignorant behaviour by others and now I’m speaking out about it. I’m calling it out and I’m supporting others who have to make the same daily decisions about food, drink and their environment that I have to make.

Here are five statements – just because I’m fighting back!:

  1. Just because I’m allergic to nuts does not mean I’m affecting your human rights.

This was an incident, where, whilst on a flight, I asked if people could not eat nuts due to my severe allergy. For me, even being around anyone else eating nuts, puts me at risk of going into anaphylactic shock.

I was told, in a none too friendly manner, that they couldn’t ask the other people on the flight not to eat nuts, and to do so would be affecting their human rights! They suggested I put my cardigan over my head.

2. Just because I have allergies, I should not have to walk away from a restaurant or cafe, because staff don’t know the ingredients of their dishes. Too often eateries get round labelling rules by putting up a generic sign to cover their responsibility. Always putting the onus onto the consumer is a dangerous response for any eatery to make, especially when over 20% of the population are affected by one or more allergic disorder. A generic sign about allergies will not protect you from legal action.

Eateries may have started to state the ingredients of dishes on menus. However, more importantly, serving staff should know, or if they don’t offer to ask the chef/cook what is included in the food.

  1. Just because I have allergies shouldn’t mean I can never go out for a meal without feeling nervous that I might die while eating my food. My money is as good as anyone else’s and I should be made to feel welcome, not like I’m a supreme pain in the you-know-what!
  1. Just because I cannot eat sesame, doesn’t mean I should fear eating sandwiches from a High Street brand which packs up food on a daily basis. People have died from this and it has to stop. This can be due to cross-contamination, which happens when foods are prepared on the same day, in the same location, using the same utensils.

Although this shouldn’t be a problem, if the company can’t afford to, or can’t be bothered to take the time, they should at least label all of their sandwiches stating there may be nuts present.

  1. Just because I have anaphylaxis, should I have to minutely check the label of previously safe products in case they’ve changed their ingredients or supplier, therefore causing a possible risk? There should be a clear and large notice on any such product that ingredients have changed – or their process has changed – which may mean a product now contains an allergen like nuts.

Surely, with the number of allergen sufferers in the UK, all food should be correctly labelled, indicating if any of the top 14 allergens are present.  And, this warning should be made clearer and blatantly obvious – unable to be missed, not written in the tiniest writing possible.

And finally:

Just because I have anaphylaxis I should not have to struggle to find the Epi-pens I need to use.

Since 2018, there has massive shortage and a difficulty in acquiring the well known Epi-pens in the UK due to manufacturing issues. In March this year, some  were recalled due to an activation fault, which has also caused a further delay in replacing stock.

People have had to try different pharmacists to try to find ones with stock. Some people have even resorted to using out-of-date Epi-pens, because that was all they had left, which is not ideal in any way. Also if you can’t access these via the NHS or you want more than one, they can cost a lot of money.

Julianne Ponan, CEO of Creative Nature, Entrerpreneur and campaigner around allergies and anaphylaxis.
Julianne with her Epi-pen and also during an allergic reaction.

Oh yes, forgot to mention – having allergies can be very expensive!

 

 

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