In the United States, food allergies send a person to the emergency room every three minutes. For Karin and Dean Teglia of Burr Ridge, that person was one of their two daughters who experienced a life-threatening reaction to peanuts when she was 2 years old. With no treatment and no therapy available, they were told to avoid peanuts, be prepared with an EpiPen, and hope for the best.
For these two problem solvers, this passive approach to prevention wasn’t going to work. “Every parent wants to provide safety for their children,” Karin says simply. The Teglias became involved with a group in Chicago that eventually merged with a group in New York, becoming the Food Allergy Initiative (FAI). Last month, the FAI honored the couple for their exceptional efforts on behalf of the food allergy community at their fifth annual gala.
For Karin and Dean, this work has two sides to it.
The first is pushing for more research funding, which attracts more top medical minds to develop treatment options for patients, especially children, who are often on the edge around food that is present in the classroom, in sports, and in social situations because there is potential for a life-threatening reaction from even trace amounts of an allergen. “It’s hard to avoid what you cannot see,” says Karin. Though grant money designated for the research and treatment of food allergies will never be as vast as a disease like diabetes, it has increased enough over the years so there is now a road map for families to follow and a network of people who have developed a common body of knowledge. “We’re seeing protocols having a positive impact on a child’s life,” says Dean. Another positive that has come from the work of food allergy activists is that Illinois schools are now allowed to keep an undesignated EpiPen for use in case of an emergency reaction.
The second element of the Teglias’ work is helping families through the bewildering world that opens up upon diagnosis. Because this diagnosis always follows an emergency reaction, the families are scared. They’ve seen their child go through something incredibly frightening, and they are looking for ways to protect them. “There were mothers who walked me through it, and now we try to do the same for others. This community is about paying it forward,” says Karin.
Recently, the FAI merged with the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), so going forward, “The food allergy community is speaking with one voice,” says Dean. With all of the allergy stakeholders now working together, there is hope that gaining support from government agencies and pharmaceutical companies will be easier than if the two groups were competing with each other for the same money and time.
Karin and Dean are quick to acknowledge all the hardworking people at FAI and FAAN who pioneered the work they now support. Their efforts though have been significant, and the food allergy community is lucky and grateful to have Karin and Dean Teglia working toward making the world safer for everyone to enjoy eating.
Rosemary Garlic White Bean Dip
Adapted from laurendavidstyle.com, a good resource for living allergy-free, this is fast party food that is free of dairy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and eggs, making it safe and delicious for any of your holiday party guests.
1 15 oz. can of white cannellini beans
3 Tablespoons olive oil
½ fresh lemon, squeezed
1 teaspoon salt
fresh, cracked pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 garlic clove, minced
Combine the beans, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice in a food processor until mashed. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more oil until a consistency similar to mashed potatoes is reached. Add in the rest of the ingredients and combine. Make sure to taste while the ingredients are still in the food processor to see if you need to add more salt or other seasonings. Serve with vegetables or chips.