Elijah’s law: Learning about food allergies before an emergency happens
BlackTechLogy: Black children with food allergies have higher rates of asthma, a factor in up to 75% of anaphylaxis fatalities
Thanksgiving is coming, and you know what that means. You’ll probably see at least a few dishes that include beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes, lamb, rams, hogs, dogs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, YOU NAME IT!
I agree with YouTube user PutYouonGame* who declared, “We gotta support this woman. She's the only one who can prevent the early Christmas music.”
At the start of Thanksgiving week, I listen to Shirley Caesar’s most popular sermon. (I’ve been agnostic my entire adult life, but I was still raised in a church so I can appreciate her.) The 11-time Grammy winning artist even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Then, I bob my head along to the vegan rap remix of her song, which plant-friendly, hip-hop lovers know as Official Grey Music. And both songs remind me of people’s nutrition requirements during the holiday season. Whether you’re a soul vegan or vegetarian or about that omnivore life, family members, friends and significant others should all ask about food allergies long before distributing knives, forks and plates. This is especially significant for children, who may or may not be outspoken enough to speak up when they can’t clean their plates.
U.S. News & World Report confirms that approximately one in 17 U.S. children (5.8%) were diagnosed with a food allergy in 2021. Of that number, the largest percentage (7.6%) was found among Black children. While crustacean shellfish; finfish; and nuts (peanuts and tree nuts) are commonly discussed as high allergens for Black children, dairy (milk and cheese) may not be getting enough attention. (Macaroni and cheese and dairy desserts are a staple in just about every black household I’ve ever been in for Thanksgiving.)
In one fatal dairy example, three-year-old Elijah suffered a severe allergic reaction after eating a grilled cheese sandwich in school. Although his guardians warned preschool staff of his dairy allergy, he was given the sandwich anyway. Instead of the preschool calling 911 once they saw his reaction, they called Elijah’s mother. Even though she rushed to the school and then a local hospital, it wasn’t in enough time. Her son went into anaphylactic shock and passed away.
We can all point fingers at where the preschool staff went wrong, but I can think of several relatives who have food allergies. And I didn’t have a clue what “anaphylactic shock” even meant. I heard them say they had food allergies, and it went in one ear and right out the other. They have to remind me every time.
So instead of angrily writing about how the educators at Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services in Harlem failed on that tragic day on November 3, 2017, I looked up what should have happened to prevent anaphylactic shock.
As much as I wish Elijah’s parents — Dina Hawthorne-Silvera and her ex-husband Thomas Silvera — were being interviewed to talk about how their son survived, the one positive thing that came from it was the passage of what is now known as “Elijah’s Law.” This 2019 law requires preschool and child care centers to have an “action plan” to recognize and respond to children with food allergies. Additionally, Elijah’s law requires emergency protocols if there is an allergic reaction. Two years ago, my home state of Illinois passed our own version (Childhood Anaphylactic Policy Act), along with several other states. I’m still confused about why California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a version of Elijah’s law last September though.