PAK is so excited to announce we will now start a series of interviews with food allergy innovators, experts, and newsmakers. Our very first interview is with Kyle Dine! Kyle is a food allergy entertainer and educator. He was here in Charlotte this past October when he performed at the annual FARE walk with our imPAKt crew!
How did you find out you had food allergies and how old were you?
I’ve had my food allergies ever since I was a toddler (approximately 2). It started by my parents giving me a taste of a milkshake that caused rashes and hives across my body. Early on I had an allergy to dairy but eventually grew out of it. My current allergies are peanut, tree nut, egg, fish, shellfish and mustard.
What prompted you to become a food allergy entertainer? Can you tell us about your school assembly program?
It’s certainly a niche path that I stumbled upon through the combination of having allergies myself, being a songwriter, working with kids at a summer camp, and having a mom who was an elementary school principal. After starting to write a few songs about allergies with kids at camp (to get some of our emotions out), my mom planted the seed about sharing my knowledge and experiences in schools.
My program is an entertaining mix of music, games and puppets. It’s heavy on educating children about the basics of food allergy, but in an age-appropriate manner. My goal is to empower kids to support each other. I try to cast the topic in a positive light that emphasizes that we can all make a true difference in a few simple ways.
Do food allergies run in your family?
Nothing more than seasonal allergies. I think I started a new tradition of food allergies as I now have a younger cousin with tree nut allergies. My daughter is now 2.5 and luckily is not showing any signs of food allergies.
What has surprised you during your allergy journey?
I’m surprised of how far a little education can go. When I was a teenager, I was very cavalier with my food allergies. I experienced a very severe reaction that truly scared me. I started doing more and more research and learned that I was off with the way I was managing my allergies. A serious reaction was bound to happen. After learning more about the risks of eating “may contain” products and being more vigilant with my food in all settings, I became much more “enlightened” and am proud of my small number of reactions ever since.
What do you want the non-allergic community to know about food allergies?
I think there is so much focus on the physical side of things. People think of allergic reactions and all of the symptoms. I wish more people knew about the physiological issues that can come with living with food allergies. I remember asking a group of teens what was the hardest part of dealing with food allergies, and the majority agreed upon “feeling like a burden to others” as the most difficult aspect. It can take a real toll some days, and when other people show ignorance, or ask unwanted questions, it only makes it tougher.
What advice would you give to a newly diagnosed family?
Don’t go it alone. Use trusted resources to your advantage in getting credible information from day one. Ask your allergist as many questions as you can, and connect with food allergy support groups like PAK. There is a lot of information floating around on the Internet, which is easier to decipher once you start off on the right foot.
How hard is it to travel the world with food allergies and what advice would you give a food allergic individual if they want to travel internationally?
I think it can be a very nerve-racking thought for many families. I was quite a homebody for many years and got the travel bug when I was 21. I’ve found over the years that it’s easier than I ever imagined it would be. Do your research ahead of time on your destination, their cuisine and other factors that will provide piece of mind when abroad. I was part of a team that created a site to make this research easier at www.allergytravels.com.
Have you ever found something you can’t do because of food allergies?
What is one thing you’ve learned on your allergy journey?
I’ve learned that people generally are open to helping people with food allergies out, and learn more about the condition, but just haven’t received the right opportunity. For many, their only point of reference of the condition is through the sensationalized portrayal in a movie, or through comments at the end of online articles or Facebook debates.
It’s easy to get frustrated by others in their lack of knowledge of my condition. But I try to use that as an opportunity to finally provide this person with the right info in a non-threatening way. I believe in the good in everyone and that everyone can change their perspective with the right approach.