190514 teal community
Residents who are a part of the Facebook Teal Community Support Group in Dubai gathered at Burj Al Arab. Image Credit: Dubai Holding/Gulf Sotheby’s

Dubai: Burj Al Arab, one of Dubai’s iconic hotels turned teal on Sunday to raise awareness about food allergies as part of a global campaign taking place during ‘Food Allergy Awareness Month’ in May.

Residents with their families who are a part of the Facebook Teal Community Support Group in Dubai gathered at the site to raise awareness about managing and living with severe food allergies- ‘anaphylaxis.’

Over the last two decades, there has been a 600 per cent increase globally in the reported prevalence of food allergies, with no cure available.

The event is part of a global movement called ‘Turn it Teal,’ which was established in 2014 by Stephanie Lowe, a food allergy advocate with the purpose of raising food allergy awareness by lighting buildings, monuments and bridges around the world during Food Allergy Awareness Month.

Along with Burj Al Arab, other monuments turning teal this month include the Empire State Building in New York, Niagara Falls in Ontario Canada, London City Hall in the UK, and Sydney Town Hall in Australia among many others.

Allergy sufferers speak out

Emirati Sara Al Zarouni, a member of the UAE support group said along with her two sisters, she suffers severe food allergies from nuts, seeds, seafood such as shrimps, ousters and lobster, as well as kiwis, bananas, mushrooms and coconuts.

Growing up in Dubai, not many people knew what “anaphylaxis” was; my own family did not understand the extent and danger that can come from these allergies,” she said.

Today, Al Zarouni, who has four children with allergies to nuts, seeds, coconuts and eggs, said she feels grateful for the resources available.

“This cause is very personal to my family and I, and being able to see how far we have come today is amazing … raising awareness about food allergies is important because it is widely misunderstood and underestimated,” she added.

Growing up in Dubai, not many people knew what “anaphylaxis” was; my own family did not understand the extent and danger that can come from these allergies.

- Sara Al Zarouni

Like many of the group’s members, Al Zarouni said the ‘Teal Community’ in Dubai is a place where people with allergies can share their experiences and learn from others’.

I’m happy this event is happening because it is Allergy Awareness Month and people will see the Burj Al Arab turn teal in colour and ask why, and we will explain to them the reason.

- Adam Eita

Adam Eita, a nine year-old Dubai resident from Canada, said he is severely allergic to sesame, peanuts and other kinds of nuts, and has outgrown an allergy to soy, chickpeas, and cucumbers.

“I’m happy this event is happening because it is Allergy Awareness Month and people will see the Burj Al Arab turn teal in colour and ask why, and we will explain to them the reason,” said Eita.

Too many people are ignorant to the dangers of food allergies and have little respect and understanding of the day-to-day risk to life that sufferers face.

- Neil Lineham

Just the same, British Neil Lineham, said he joined the support group to help raise awareness and understanding of allergies so sufferers can lead a safer and happier life.

“Too many people are ignorant to the dangers of food allergies and have little respect and understanding of the day-to-day risk to life that sufferers face,” he said.

Without educating the communities we live in, we can’t expect ourselves and our children to be safe and cared for. Looking for the dialogue is a must to ensure inclusion for food allergy sufferers, which is why we are here today.

- Julia Al Jenabi

Dubai resident Julia Al Jenabi from Germany, also pointed out that education is key. “Without educating the communities we live in, we can’t expect ourselves and our children to be safe and cared for. Looking for the dialogue is a must to ensure inclusion for food allergy sufferers, which is why we are here today,” she explained.

I support them by sharing all the tips I have discovered to live a safe, peaceful life with a child that suffers from food allergies, and help them have smooth adaptation to their new life.

- Perrine Decaudin-Lefebvre from France

Member of the ‘Teal community’ Perrine Decaudin-Lefebvre from France, said she joined the group to help newly-diagnosed families benefit from her eight years of experience with her daughter’s food allergies, which include milk, egg, tree nuts, sesame, and seafood.

“I support them by sharing all the tips I have discovered to live a safe, peaceful life with a child that suffers from food allergies, and help them have smooth adaptation to their new life,” she said.

What happens when you have a food allergy?
Food allergies occur when the body reacts unusually to specific food items or food groups, and are more common in children than adults. When an allergic reaction occurs, sufferers often develop an itchy sensation inside the mouth, throat or ears, or a raised itchy skin rash known as hives.

Parts of their face may also swell up, and they may vomit. In cases of serious allergy, known as anaphylaxis, patients suffer from breathing difficulties, lightheadedness and loss of consciousness, and the allergy could become life-threatening if adrenaline is not immediately administered.

Those suffering from a food allergy must understand and manage their food choices and should carry anti-histamine pills and an epinephrine autoinjector known as an EpiPen, used in emergencies to treat very serious allergic reactions, at all times.