5th Grader Wins School Science Fair with Project on Food Allergies
Drayden is a young man with peanut allergies, living in Saskatchewan, Canada. He belongs to a traveling hockey team, and is constantly on-the-go. His mother, Linda, bought him a Nima Peanut Sensor to help him double check his food while he’s traveling. You can read more about them in this interview, or follow them on Linda’s Instagram (@goalie_mamma).
Tell us about your project – what was the focus?
The purpose is to educate and show people about food allergies that cause anaphylaxis reactions such as my own peanut allergy and how easy cross-contamination can happen and not only make me sick, it can kill me!
Tell us about your project – what was the inspiration?
I wanted to do my project on my allergy because I want people to take food allergies seriously. They think oh just don’t eat it and you’ll be fine. I’ve had my allergy since I was 2 and so many people have been really good about watching out for me. But some others think its not serious and that I am just going to get a hive or maybe a swollen lip… and that if I have an epipen I will be “fine”. But I am so severely allergic that I go into anaphylaxis in less than five minutes and then I’m in real trouble.
What kind of research did you have to do for your project?
I used my own experiences and I read a lot on the internet and my allergy doctor and nurse have told me a lot of information.
- Statics for Pie Chart
- My own personal experiences
- Our Allergy Adventures
- Children’s Allergy Awareness Program
What was the most challenging part about putting this project together?
Thinking about how to actually show cross contamination on food without using actual peanut butter and jam. I ended up using glitter and it worked out perfectly because you can really see all the different flecks of glitter mixed together.
How did you incorporate Nima in your project? Why did you decide to include it?
Nima was really good to add in because people didn’t even know it existed for my allergy or gluten intolerances. My classmates and audience really thought is was cool to watch how the capsule holds the food and the machine comes up with a smiley face. Now that I won and am going to Regionals I am going to take my iPad and show videos of Nima so people can see the not safe peanut symbol come up (I can’t run a live test of this because I can’t handle peanut products safely).
In my French class we have to do oral presentations on things that interest us, I’m going to do a presentation for my class on the science behind Nima and how it uses antibody-based chemistry to test a sample of the foods for the protein in peanuts.
What were some of the questions you received when you presented your project?
Question: Have you ever had to have an epipen shot?
Answer: Yes a few times sometimes 2 within 15 mins of each other until I get to hospital.
Question: How did you find out you had peanut allergy?
Answer: When I was 2 I had a bite of a peanut butter cookie at the grocery store and my mom had to rush me to ER because my tongue swelled up and I was covered in hives and my face was puffy.
Question: How does the Nima work and where did I buy it?
Answer: I told them my mom found it in the States and bought it for me and some I showed but I didn’t want to use all my capsules so at Regionals I am going to show the Nima website video.
If you could change one thing about the way your school handles food allergies what would it be?
My school is a peanut-free, nut-free, cinnamon-free, and fish-free school BUT I know lots of kids that have things on the school ground at recess that are not nut and peanut safe. I wish their parents wouldn’t buy those treats at all.
If you could correct one common misconception about food allergies what would it be?
That I’m “just a picky eater” or that my allergy is not as serious at it is. People should watch youtube videos of an anaphylaxis reaction and see just how close to dying a kid like me can get from them eating or opening those foods around me.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone your age who just got diagnosed with a food allergy?
Always carry your epipens on you not just in your school bag and tell all your friends so they can make sure they do not eat peanut butter before school or sports with you.
And get your parents to buy you a Nima like my mom did, it makes eating away from home less stressful and it’s great to double check your food even though the restaurant says it is nut-free because you never know if it has been cross contaminated in the kitchen.
Are there any places you stay away from or are afraid to go because of your allergies?
I do not go to restaurants that cook with peanut oil, or serve dishes that contain peanuts like, asian type of foods. Malls can be tricky with the frying oils and the tables always need to be wiped down and then I use lots of paper towels so my hands don’t touch the trays or tables.
I don’t eat homemade treats from my classmates because even though they say there are no peanuts in it doesn’t mean it was made with all peanut safe ingredients.
My parents worry lots on airplanes because even though we tell the crew and my mom wipes down the seats and trays, who knows what people ate before we got on. They always announce that there is someone on the plane with a peanut allergy and ask everyone to not open any snacks containing peanuts, but some people just don’t care. That’s the last place I want a reaction is in a plane halfway to Mexico for my families vacation!
Has your allergy kept you from joining or taking part in something you wanted to do?
I really would like to go to a summer camp that all my friends go to for a whole week. Its at a lake about an hour and half from home but they will not accept me because they can not guarantee a peanut-free stay with lots of kids and the food they serve. We’ve been told that it is to far from the nearest hospital so they won’t take me as a camper.
Some times at baseball or other events, parents bring team snacks which are supposed to be peanut free and they are not always so I don’t get to have it and always carry or go for my own after. But since I have my Nima this season I’m going to test those treats!
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