Can't Eat That: Food Allergy Walk Raises Awareness of Issue - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Can't Eat That: Food Allergy Walk Raises Awareness of Issue

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MORGANTOWN -

Many people know someone who suffers from a food allergy, like someone who can't eat peanuts, fish, dairy, or wheat.

"About 15 million people in the country are affected by food allergies and 6 million of those are children. So if you break that down, two in every classroom in the United States are affected by a food allergy," said Tracy Shaw of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

For some people, food allergies can completely alter their way of life. For parents of small children who suffer from allergies, fear of exposure can dictate what families do and where they can go.

About 300 people came to Hazel Ruby McQain Park in Morgantown for the inaugural Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network awareness walk Saturday.

At almost 4 years old, Ryan Nipper had a peanut allergy: a diagnosis that came with many new challenges.

"It's something I think we've just learned to deal with," Ryan's mother Kevan said. "It's a part of our lives. It's always in the back of our mind and we're constantly asking questions, and a lot of people probably think we're crazy, but if it's going to protect my son, and help him from anaphylactic shock than it what we'll do."

Anaphylactic shock can be a life threatening allergic reaction.

When many walk out the door at home they check for their wallet, keys and cell phone. But, the Nippers checked for EpiPens because they never know where or when you might be exposed.

"It's not just the peanut itself," Kevan Nipper said. "It can also be manufactured on equipment that processes peanut products, so we have to be sure we read labels very carefully."

FAAN's inaugural awareness walk rose more than money. Raising awareness of the problem can help support those who suffer, organizers said.

"A lot of times, people or children with severe food allergies feel very insular," Shaw said. "They can't go out, they can't go out to restaurants, they can't hang out with their friends where there are going to be food allergies there. So this is an opportunity for them to come together and have a real good community and support feeling."

"I think a few years ago you didn't hear as much about allergies. It's just important to realize how this can affect everyone's lives if they do have an allergy," Kevan Nipper said.