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Trigger - a Short Film about Food Allergy in Children

By Carol Duncan - 21st November 2012

picture: Grace Farah and her daughter - reproduction not permitted.

The death of a teenage boy at a Sydney school has led to calls for teachers and childcare workers to be better equipped to deal with food allergies.

The 16-year-old is the fifth young Australian to die in recent years, despite the known dangers of food like nuts and eggs. (7 News, 19 November 2012)

I first met film-maker, Grace Farah, nearly 20 years ago when she filled my shoes on a breakfast radio program. She recently contacted me to ask for help with her project to make people more aware about food allergies:

"Before I had a child with food allergies, I thought I cared about food allergies and I thought I knew what was going on, but unless you're living and breathing it you can't really understand the constant vigilance of trying to keep them safe. It's everything. Everything you do whether it's 'Mummy, can I go to the shop for an icecream?' you think, 'Does the icecream have traces?', 'Can I go to my friend's birthday party?' It never goes away."

Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death.

Grace's daughter is anaphylactic, "She's allergic to nuts, that's her most dangerous allergy, but also seafood and egg."

Common causes include insect bites/stings, foods, and medications.

"I was really involved in my own world once she was born, I hadn't really thought about teachers, and when she started kindergarten I was discussing food allergies with her teacher and she said, 'You can tell parents, you can tell kids, you can give them pamphlets but I really wish I had something to show them'. I was looking at her while she was saying this and teachers carry the same sense of duty, the same concern and anxiety that we as parents carry trying to take care of these kids because this is a potentially lethal situation."

Respiratory symptoms and signs that may be present, including shortness of breath, wheezes or stridor.

As a film-maker, Grace realised the best way she had of sharing her family's own experience with severe food allergy was to make a film.

Grace has made the documentary Trigger as a not-for-profit project in order to try to educate more people about the serious nature of food allergies.

"I think that the film helps in a way that other material doesn't. You get that level of understanding. People are compassionate so when they understand how hard it is, they think twice about sending the peanut butter to school."

"It's also important to tell people that it's not just when the child eats the peanut butter or whatever the allergen is, it's also touch. For example if a child takes a peanut butter sandwich to school, and then that child touches my daughter we have a major emergency situation on our hands."

Coronary artery spasm may occur with subsequent myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, or cardiac arrest.

Grace says that parents of anaphylactic children can be as pro-active in trying to care as possible, but it's generally people who don't know about the child's allery who unwittingly cause the problems.

"There's no cure for food allergy, there's no preventative medicine, the only thing we can do is stay away from the food allergen and raise awareness. In my daughter's case, we had a friend invite us over to her house and was very careful about cleaning their home and preparing for her visit. My daughter hopped out of the car, the dog ran over and gave her a lick and had obviously had peanut somewhere in its food. Then we had a major health emergency. Who even thinks about dog food?"

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that may require resuscitation measures such as airway management, supplemental oxygen, large volumes of intravenous fluids, and close monitoring.

It seems bullying of children with food allergies is also a problem.

"It's something I was unaware of until I started to make the documentary. Children don't choose to have food allergies yet are being picked on because of it."

What does Grace want to achieve with Trigger?

"I would love everyone to go to, everybody watch it, everybody know about it, and then tell everyone else! The more people who become aware will help make the lives of parents, kids and teachers so much easier. I'd love to see it in schools."

"I've made it so that it's free, it's online and it's just there for everyone to access. If you think you don't have time to watch it, I've even made a four-minute version so there's no excuse."

Editor's Note: We have embedded the Trigger video below for you to watch. You can also visit the Trigger website here.


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