By Karen Billing
Charlotte Bailey is just 5 years old but, without hesitation, she can rattle off the foods that are dangerous for her: “peanuts, pecans and coconut.”
The Carmel Valley kindergartner has become her own advocate about her life-threatening food allergies and even at her young age is doing what she can to support others just like her.
On Nov. 5, Charlotte was the top fundraiser in the FAAN (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network) Walk for Food Allergy in Mission Bay Park. Team Charlotte was able to bring in $6,035.
Charlotte walked the “easy” two miles with lots of supporters, family and friends, all decked out in bright blue Team Charlotte t-shirts.
The walk even included a musical performance by Kyle Dine, a musician who sings children’s music that educates and entertains about food allergies. Dine himself is allergic to peanuts, nuts, eggs, seafood and mustard, and sings about characters like EpiMan and Benji, the nut allergic chipmunk.
“It was a very special day for kids who do feel left out sometimes,” Michelle said. “I’m so grateful that I found out about FAAN.”
The Baileys were able to diagnose Charlotte’s allergy when she was just 2 years old. They tested her with a spoon of peanut butter and just touching the utensil to her lip made her break out in hives. They did a full panel of testing to find her allergies to pecans and coconut.
“When we first found out about Charlotte’s allergies it was very overwhelming,” said Michelle.
Finding FAAN was a huge base of support for Michelle, just knowing that someone was working with school, restaurant and airline policies, food labeling, promoting awareness and looking toward a possible cure.
Currently FAAN is working to pass legislation that would encourage states to adopt laws requiring schools to have on hand “stock” epinephrine auto-injectors, an epi-pen that isn’t prescribed to a single student but can be used in an emergency. While students like Charlotte are required to bring their own medication to school, data has shown that up to 25 percent of all epinephrine administrations that occur at a school involve students or adults whose allergy was unknown at the time and do not have a prescribed epi-pen.
What would happen if Charlotte ate something with peanuts, pecans or coconut? Simply put by Charlotte: “I’m sick.”
As a result, a lot of the food Charlotte eats now is made from scratch. Her entire family has become diligent about asking what ingredients are in foods when they’re ordering out, sometimes her allergic foods can be found in unexpected sources. Like the barbecue chicken pizza they ordered last weekend—it turned out it had peanut oil in it.
Charlotte said she was content to eat her “princess soup” instead — chicken noodle soup with noodles shaped like princesses.
While Charlotte wears a bracelet to indicate her allergies, Michelle wanted to drill “peanuts, pecans and coconut” into her head. When Charlotte was little, it was easy to control what her daughter ate. But sending her off to school was a different story, she had to rely on Charlotte to remember to ask: something that seems harmless, such as a snack or birthday cupcake, could have deadly consequences.
“As she does things more independently, I lose that control,” Michelle said. “I just want to cling on to her but I know I have to let go.”
Charlotte’s school, Solana Highlands, has been amazing, Michelle said, making her feel very comfortable. They even have a peanut-free table that Charlotte shares with six other students. Those seven kids are just part of the 15 million Americans, and approximately 6 million children, afflicted by potentially life-threatening food allergies.
To learn more about FAAN’s efforts, visit