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You are what you eat?

Fayetteville woman raising awareness about food allergy walk; proceeds will go to research

Lindsey Stoppacher, of Fayetteville, has been an advocate for food allergy awareness ever since her oldest daughter was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy. Pictured are Gretchen, 8, Lindsey, Emma, 8, and Harper, 11.

Lindsey Stoppacher, of Fayetteville, has been an advocate for food allergy awareness ever since her oldest daughter was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy. Pictured are Gretchen, 8, Lindsey, Emma, 8, and Harper, 11. Submitted photo

— From the time she was 11 months old, Lindsey Stoppacher’s oldest daughter, Harper, did not like the taste of peanuts.

Stoppacher recalls offering Harper a bite of a peanut butter cracker at age 2 and having her daughter immediately start coughing and spit it out of her mouth. A year later, Harper reached into a bowl of mixed nuts and welts started popping up after she touched her face. And then there was the time when Lindsey was driving through a snowstorm and gave Harper a peanut butter snack. It took about five minutes until Harper started projectile vomiting all over the car.

“I assumed it was the salt that irritated her face and carsickness during the snowstorm,” said Lindsey, who lives in Fayetteville. “It just did not dawn on me; [the idea that she might have a food allergy] did not even enter my mind.”

The final straw was when Harper was 5 years old and wanted a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. Lindsey remembers Harper telling her father specifically not to buy a box that contained chocolates with peanuts, because she didn’t like them.

“So my husband bought her a box, and there was no warning label about a nut in it,” Lindsey said. “But the first one she bit into, she started spitting out. Next thing we know, she was in the bathroom, trying to scrape away the sensation in her mouth with a toothbrush and holding her throat open. When she came out and started projectile vomiting again, it finally hit us – that ‘well, maybe this isn’t right.’”

The truth about food allergies

When the Stoppachers visited the pediatrician the next morning, they discovered that Harper was one of as many as 15 million Americans or one in 13 children to have a food allergy, according to foodallergy.org. The doctor said Harper was allergic to both peanuts and tree nuts, which include almonds, walnuts and cashews.

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