Ben's Story

Ben shares his motivations for creating the Kids Allergy Network


Ben O'Donnell

9/5/20231 min read

My parents discovered my peanut, tree nut, and legume allergy when I had an allergic reaction at the age of two. After that, food allergies became a part of my life. Like most kids with food allergies, I often could not eat the food at events such as birthday parties. As I grew older, I had to learn to avoid peanuts and tree nuts by constantly checking labels. I could never relax with any type of interaction that involved food, from ordering at restaurants to having snacks at a friend’s house. I have multiple memories of allergic reactions due to both a lack of my knowledge of dishes and also the store/restaurant’s lack of knowledge. Recently, I went through a program at the UChicago’s Comer Children’s hospital that allowed me to desensitize my peanut allergy. I started with very small fractions of peanuts and updosed every two weeks until I was eating two peanuts a day. Now, I am still eating two peanuts a day to keep my allergy in control. The program helped me have a much easier time with food, as now I do not have to ask about dish ingredients as much. It was tough, though, and a lot of effort and consistency was needed for a successful desensitization. My friends and family have helped me a lot through all of this. I know that some kids do not have the same kind of support network and may just need others to talk to or need new ideas about how to handle the challenges that food allergies bring. With Kids Allergy Network, I want to be able to help children who deal with allergies every day, and help give them peace of mind when it comes to the food they consume. I also want to spread awareness about desensitization and dealing with allergic reactions when they occur and organize efforts to help kids who cannot afford allergy-free foods. I know we can do a lot to support and learn from each other.

- Ben O.