Kyle Dine is a food allergy educator and musician. He has performed allergy awareness assemblies at over 300 schools across North America and has two CDs of music for children with food allergies. Learn more at www.kyledine.com
Photo credit- Debbie Mitchell Photography
Hello Kyle. Thanks for your willingness to be interviewed by AllergicChild.com! Can you tell us what food allergies you manage and have you ever experienced anaphylaxis?
I am allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish and mustard. I have unfortunately had many allergic reactions, however one stands out as the most serious anaphylactic reaction. I was 21 years old and was given a snack by someone I knew who told me it was okay. My instincts told me that the treat (a brownie) was a weird thing to be safe for me, however I ate it assuming it was made safe for me. It contained cashews and turned out to be an unfortunate accident due to a breakdown in communication. I learned a very valuable lesson that day in that you can never be too careful. I triple check anything I am unsure about, even food from friends or loved ones. It was a wake up call to say the least.
How old were you when you were diagnosed?
I have had allergies nearly all of my life starting at the age of two. I was initially allergic to dairy foods and outgrew it. I grew into my mustard allergy as a teenager strengthening my bond with ketchup!
How did you learn to advocate for yourself growing up?
I will admit that I had a difficult time advocating for myself. I was a very shy kid and allergies were not so prevalent at that time. I did not know anyone else that had an allergy. This often made me feel like I was a burden to others as I wasn’t so “simple” around mealtime as everyone else. I would ALWAYS carry my EpiPen with me and wore a MedicAlert bracelet. As I got older, my parents started getting my friends more involved, which really helped. They all knew how to use my EpiPen, and really supported me. It’s so much easier to ask about ingredients at restaurants and advocate for yourself when you know your friends have your back and know how serious an allergic reaction could be.
I’ve seen your posts about being on tour. Tell us about your Anaphyl-What? tour!
I firmly believe that ALL children should be educated about allergies at a young age. This helps them understand what they are all about and builds empathy towards those who have allergies. My current “Anaphyl-WHAT? Tour” will reach tens of thousands of kids at 45 schools in only two months. My assemblies raise allergy awareness in a fun way. My shows feature lots of songs, trivia, game shows, and my puppets EpiMan, EpiMan Jr. and Chef Allérgy. Kids learn a ton in 45 minutes and will transform how they view allergies. My latest tour really emphasizes the word “anaphylaxis” to let kids know how serious allergies can be, without making it scary. I am posting about my experiences while on tour on my Facebook page.
You’ve traveled to China. How did you manage that trip with your food allergies?
That is a full article in itself! I documented all of my preparations on my blog at http://foodallergiesrock.com/category/allergies-in-china/. In a nutshell, the trip was challenging. However, I love travelling and refuse to let my food allergies ever get in the way of that passion. My wife and I brought a full suitcase of safe food with us and bought an electric hot plate when we arrived. We cooked rice, pasta, chili and other dishes on the floor of our small hotel room. We ate out once and found a pizza place where they spoke English, but still used an Allergy Translation Card. I am not a foodie and don’t even care that I missed out on China’s food culture. I got to understand their culture on other levels through museums, temples, wandering the streets and practicing a few very basic Chinese phrases with locals. It was a trip of a lifetime!
Your wife has celiac disease. How do you each stay safe while cooking in the same kitchen?!
When we first started dating we thought it was so cool that we both had such dietary restrictions! We’ve had each other’s back for a long time now and do everything we can to keep each other safe. We are clean freaks with our kitchen! I eat wheat still (to help cut down on gluten-free grocery costs), but have a separate toaster and cutting board. She eats eggs, but uses a separate frying pan. She loves nutella, but only eats it when I’m gone on tour.
What advice/experience can you offer a child who’s tired of being different and doesn’t want food allergies anymore?
I had the same talk with my young cousin who was diagnosed with tree nut allergy a few years ago. I understand that it’s a downer to not be able to eat delicious looking foods, or be excluded because of an allergy. However, I really play up the fact that this one thing makes you so special and unique. Empowering a child over their allergies involves showing empathy when they are down, but also involves cheering for their successes. I tell children with allergies how proud I am of them for wearing their auto-injector and how cool their MedicAlert bracelet looks. I ask them how they stay safe in difficult situations and applaud their efforts. In essence, I try to make a child feel like they are part of something bigger. Although it’s isolating at times, kids with food allergies are part of a club of amazing children who are actively helping to take care of their own health at such a young age. That’s something to be proud of.
Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
Just as one tour ends, another one will begin this spring! I will be visiting many states across the U.S. throughout March, April and May. Please feel free to visit my website for more information and get in touch! I would love to help make a more allergy aware environment at your school!