Teens with food allergies are at the greatest risk of suffering a fatal reaction. Olivier Deldicque, 16, is on a mission to change that.
His new book, “When Every Bite Matters: One Teen’s Journey With Food Allergies,” outlines lifesaving tips and advice for teens coping with food allergies.
“This is a book I wish I’d had when I was younger,” said Olivier, who lives in Fayetteville, N.Y., and is the grandson of Ralph and Melba Peters, Washington.
“It’s hard enough being a teenager, but having life-threatening food allergies complicates life even more. My story reminds other teens that they aren’t alone. I want to decrease anxiety among teens and their families and show that it’s possible to lead a ‘normal’ life while managing allergies. I have allergies, but I still go to parties, play sports, eat out and travel.”
In the book, Olivier shares advice on lifesaving tips and tools, navigating social situations, traveling and eating out, basics for people who are newly diagnosed, coping with allergy anxieties, deciphering food labels, creating a support squad and favorite allergy resources.
One in 13 kids has a food allergy, but as a child, it can easily feel like you’re all alone.
“When I was a kid, I thought me and my brother were the only ones with food allergies,” said Olivier.
The book is directed at teens, because that’s the riskiest time to live with food allergies, said Olivier.
An estimated 32 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.6 million under the age of 18. Incidents of food allergies are on the rise. A Centers for Disease Control study found food allergies in children rose 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.
The teenage demographic presents unique risks.
“Most fatal reactions occur when you are in your teen years, because teens are becoming more independent and starting to manage their allergies themselves, rather than always having a parent around watching out for them,” said Olivier. “Also, their brains are still developing, so they just take part in riskier activities.
“At the same time, they don’t want to draw attention to themselves by talking about their allergies or carrying their medication.”
The idea to write the book began as a brainstorming conversation on how the family could make a difference in the food allergy environment. Olivier, who is a sophomore at Christian Brothers Academy in Fayetteville, began writing the book around two years ago. The family had it self-published with Pop Fly Publishing.
Diagnosed at 3 Months
Olivier was 3 months old when he was diagnosed with food allergies.
Through the baby monitor, his parents, Alison and Gregory Deldicque, could tell from the noises that he was making that something wasn’t right. In checking on him, the found him covered in hives and having trouble breathing.
“It was very frightening, and that started the journey,” said Alison Deldicque.
As a newborn, Olivier had been given a dairy-based formula in the hospital after he was born because Alison was feeling sick after a C-section delivery. At home, she breastfed him exclusively until one night when he was 3 months old and they opted to give him a bottle out of convenience.
“He had a horrible reaction, and we had to rush him to the hospital,” said Alison.
Initially, Olivier was allergic to dairy, but today he’s also allergic to nuts and some kinds of fish. He was allergic to eggs, but he has since outgrown that.
“It was hard, during school, I couldn’t just get the cafeteria lunch,” said Olivier. “I always had to bring my lunch and explain things to my friends . . . teens want to fit in and don’t want to draw attention to themselves, so it was hard to go to a party and have to tell everyone about my food allergies in case an emergency happens.”
Olivier always carries an EpiPen with him to counter an allergic reaction should one occur. He has had to use the EpiPen about three times in his life.
The level of his allergic reaction depends on the food, said Olivier.
“With dairy, I might get some hives. If I eat a lot of dairy, I will feel it in my throat, and it will happen within five or 10 minutes,” he said. “With nuts, it’s instant. It’s in my throat, and my body just gets really red.”
For some people with food allergies, they don’t even have to eat a food to have a reaction. A teen boy with allergies could have a reaction if he kisses a girl who ate a food he’s allergic to. Even a grandparent kissing a child with food allergies on the cheek could cause a reaction, said Olivier, noting it happened once to him.
“I had a few hives on my cheek,” he said.
Goal: Get Book in Hands of New Patients
Alison Deldicque said she was extremely supportive of Olivier writing the book. They had only ever come across a book on the subject geared toward very young children.
Not only can “When Every Bite Matters” help children and teens feel less alone in their coping with food allergies, it also may help save lives, said Alison.
“That was always something I feared,” she admits, noting she has read articles about teens who died from allergic reactions. “It’s tough, because you have to balance living with caution, but also living a full life, being able to participate in summer camp and other activities.”
The book is a slim 125 pages and easy to read, with lots of photos from Olivier’s visits to doctors’ offices and hanging out with family and friends.
Although the book is geared toward teens, it can be helpful for younger children who have been diagnosed, as well as parents and other adults to read.
Olivier said his ultimate goal is to get copies of “When Every Bite Matters” into allergists’ offices so they can share it with newly diagnosed patients.
Copies of “When Every Bite Matters” are available at Neighborhood Reads, 401 Lafayette St., in Downtown Washington. It’s also available online at www.amazon.com.
A portion of book sales will be donated to food allergy research.