Having a Life-Threatening Allergy is Scary for a Child - Learning About the Condition Doesn’t Have to Be

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O’Reilly Publishing, Inc., a family owned and operated book publishing company specializing in materials for allergic toddlers, urges parents, educators and media to use knowledge gained during Food Allergy Awareness Week to continue to communicate the severity of food allergies to others.

Nadine O’Reilly, President of O’Reilly Publishing, Inc., school psychologist, and mother of a food-allergic and asthmatic toddler urges people to use what they've learned during Food Allergy Awareness Week to the fullest extent, to continue to spread the word about the lethal nature of food allergies. “These are not ‘sniffles and sneezes’ kinds of allergies. What we are talking about is an insidious condition that claims lives,” says O’Reilly. “Those of us in positions of influence have a responsibility to allergic children and to the general population with which they interact, to make the severity of food allergies widely known. Food Allergy Awareness Week is the perfect time to introduce educational materials into school curricula and media, but we must also find ways to capitalize on the momentum and continue our efforts on an ongoing basis.”

O’Reilly knows exactly how important educating others is. She nearly lost her son to an anaphylactic reaction brought on by one bite of a peanut butter sandwich, when he was two years old. Lacking age-appropriate material from which to teach her son about his condition without frightening him, she coined a bedtime story about a young boy who couldn’t eat peanuts. What she found was “amazing.” “After telling my son this story several times, I found him emerging from his shell and beginning to self-advocate. Suddenly, he was saying “no peanuts!” O’Reilly now shares this bedtime story with the food-allergic community in the form of a fully illustrated book by the name of “Peter Can’t Eat Peanuts.” “I am honored to help parents like me empower their children with the gift of self-awareness,” says O’Reilly.

O’Reilly encourages teachers and parents to use materials such as “Peter Can’t Eat Peanuts” when teaching preschoolers what could become a frightening lesson. "We must find ways to educate our children without scaring them," says O'Reilly. "We want to teach our children not to share food with others because it could be a matter of life and death, but we need to be careful to do so in a non-threatening manner. Young children are very impressionable. We don't want to alarm them, instill a fear of interpersonal interactions, or cause them to fear all foods."

Books like “Peter” are fundamental to the school libraries, for example, as the New England Journal of Medicine has reported that 4 out of 5 allergy-related deaths occur in schools. “Teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, school nurses, and so on need to take the condition seriously. Everyone is affected when a child has a potentially fatal allergy. We need to change our frame of reference from ‘we can’t do this’ or ‘we can’t do that,’ to ‘Yes, let’s take action.”

Nadine O’Reilly welcomes the opportunity to speak with the media.

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Nadine O'Reilly

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