CFL Star Thomas Miles On Peanut Allergies: A Serious Issue
Education and Advocacy Mediaplanet caught up with Toronto Argonaut Thomas Miles to share his journey with a severe peanut allergy and help raise awareness to children about anaphylaxis.
Mediaplanet What was your scariest experience with your peanut allergy? Does one moment stand out?
Thomas Miller I vaguely remember a time when I was around five 5 or six 6 where I was convinced I was having a reaction and experienced a minor panic attack. My allergy was a far scarier and daunting barrier when I was younger, compared to as a teenager or young adult.
MP There are often traces of peanuts in a lot of other packaged things like candy - do you find it difficult to avoid these trace signs?
TM I always read the labels on all the packaged foods I buy and check for any ‘may contain’ warnings for peanuts – there’s some gray area as far as food labelling goes, so you never know how big a risk it may be to consume a food with such a label, so I would avoid them. Many companies do a good job of listing the major allergens in bold at the bottom of the ingredients list so it’s easy to spot. Luckily, there are some companies like Dare and Nestle that have great peanut- free options for treats!
"With more and more kids being diagnosed with food allergies, I think more teachers and coaches are aware of the seriousness of food allergies and the fact that they can be life-threatening."
MP What are some ways kids can be extra careful to avoid peanuts entirely?
TM I think the major emphasis should be placed on label reading – if the ingredients are clear, you can eat it – if it’s labelled ‘contains peanuts’ or ‘may contain’, then you move on. If there’s no label at all, you don’t take a chance. Kids should also be wary of eating treats or foods prepared at home by others, as few people have peanut-free households, and they likely don’t pay special attention to keeping peanut contaminants away from their food preparation area.
MP Were your teammates always supportive of your allergy?
TM I don’t think that’s ever really been an issue, at least not as far back as I remember. Kids can be curious about the severity of others’ allergies and sometimes ask rather blunt or somewhat rude questions, but that’s all part of the process of helping people understand your situation.
MP Do you think enough is being done to protect kids in the classroom and in locker rooms from their potentially-life threatening peanut allergies?
TM I think there is more awareness today in schools than there was when I was younger, especially in elementary schools. With more and more kids being diagnosed with food allergies, I think more teachers and coaches are aware of the seriousness of food allergies and the fact that they can be life-threatening. Understanding this can go a long way in gaining their support in helping to protect kids and provide them with the support they need to take part in school and sport activities.
MP How can kids tell their friends about their allergies without being embarrassed?
TM Having an allergy isn’t something to be embarrassed about – in my experience, people often find it intriguing and want to know more. Sometimes friends will joke with you about what you’re missing out on, and to be honest, we are missing out on some (probably) pretty delicious desserts and /treats – but that’s just the way it is, and it’s certainly nothing to get down on or embarrassed about!