©2019 by Jessica Carrillo of Nut Free Mentality

  • Jessica Carrillo

My First Allergy Awareness Presentation


Here is the story of my very first allergy awareness presentation....



As a communications major in college, public speaking is quite a big part of my school projects. While most professors structure exactly what they want us to talk about in our presentations, the most recent presentation I got to decide my topic. It could be anything at all. It was only meant to be short, and at first I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. My very first thought was to talk about food allergies, but the idea actually made me a bit nervous. I don't normally get too nervous about speaking in front of the class, but the idea of exposing myself to having food allergies did make me somewhat uneasy. So then I considered writing about my pets - who I absolutely adore. But creating a presentation about my pets wasn't right, and I figured that out pretty quickly. My gut told me that I really wanted to talk about food allergies. So I questioned why I was avoiding it.



I am pretty open about discussing my allergies with people in small settings. I am not embarrassed of my allergies anymore, though I used to be when I was little. People can be cruel and say cruel things about those of us with allergies. I had no idea how this would be taken by my peers and I think a part of me was concerned I would bore them. I had never spoken in a presentation like setting about my allergies before and that was intimidating for me. But after thinking about it for some time and doing some self reflection, I realized that this was such a perfect opportunity for me to do something I always say I want to do: educate others on food allergies. So I took the plunge and put together my powerpoint.



The day of the presentation, I wore a teal shirt and brought out my epi pen to show all. There was about thirty people in the class. I was nervous but determined. I opened up the presentation telling everyone that my favorite color was teal, and why that was so. I spoke about how teal is the color of food allergy awareness and that spreading awareness on food allergies was one of my biggest passions in my life right now. I explained that a lot of people get the wrong idea about food allergies. I discussed how food allergies are actually potentially life threatening autoimmune disorders that change the way someone lives. I talked about how I have lived with food allergies my whole life, and what the most common misconceptions were that I had heard. I talked about the organization "Red Sneakers for Oakley" and how wearing red shoes was such a powerful symbol in the allergy community. I finished it off telling my class that 31 million Americans have food allergies, and the number is raising. Knowledge is power. Anyone can experience anaphylaxis at any point, so knowing what to do and how to prevent it is so important.



I had practiced so much for this presentation and everything went really smoothly. In fact, as I made eye contact with different people around the room, I discovered that everyone was actually listening to what I had to say. When I was done, a bunch of people came up to me after class with more questions about my allergies. I couldn't believe that my message had been so well received! I really enjoyed standing up in front of the class and talking about my allergies and what life can be like. It made me realize how far I had come in my personal acceptance of my allergies. There was a time I did all I could to hide me allergies (spoiler alert: it didn't go as I had hoped). But discussing something so important to me was empowering and really fun for me. I never thought that anything associated with my allergies could actually turn out positive but this sure was!



It's definitely confirmed in my mind that I really want to do something with food allergy awareness as a job. It's so important, and it gives me hope that so many people were able to listen to what I had to say and want to hear more. It was a good moment in my allergy journey.