International Red Sneakers Day Date in the current year: May 20, 2022

International Red Sneakers Day International Red Sneakers Day is observed every May 20 to raise awareness of the dangers of food allergy. It was launched in 2018 by Red Sneakers for Oakley, a non-profit organization founded in memory of Oakley Debbs, an 11-year-old boy who died from anaphylaxis.

The term “food allergy” refers to an abnormal immune response to food, the symptoms of which may range from mild to severe. A very severe allergic reaction to food is known as anaphylactic shock or anaphylaxis. It has a rapid onset and can result in death without immediate medical attention. This is what happened to Oakley Debbs, an 11-year-old boy from West Palm Beach, Florida.

Oakley Debbs suffered from both asthma and food allergy to tree nuts and peanuts. His doctors described Oakley’s food allergy as “mild” and based his allergy plan on how to respond to the boy’s asthma attacks. They failed to educate Oakley’s parents about the danger and signs of anaphylaxis and emphasize the importance of using epinephrine.

In November 2016, Oakley ate some cake that unknowingly contained either nuts or nut extract. When his mother discovered it, she gave her son a Benadryl as she normally would. He seemed fine after that, but in a couple of hours, Oakey suffered a severe anaphylactic shock and passed away despite the EMTs administering epinephrine, giving him CPR, and even using a defibrillator.

Shortly after Oakley’s death, his parents decided to share his story with the world in order to raise awareness about the dangers of underestimating food allergies and prevent other families from facing the same tragedy. They founded a non-profit organization which they named Red Sneakers for Oakley because the boy loved his read sneakers and was wearing them the day he died.

Red Sneakers for Oakley runs a number of year-round programs and organizes the annual International Read Sneakers Day to raise food allergy awareness and share the lessons Oakley’s parents learned the tragic way:

  • Symptoms of anaphylaxis do not always manifest immediately after ingesting the allergen.
  • Some symptoms of a food allergy reaction can be mistaken for asthma symptoms.
  • The severity of a food allergy reaction can be exacerbated by preexisting medical conditions such as asthma, exercising prior to ingesting an allergen, extreme air temperatures, ingesting an allergen on an empty stomach, acute infections, certain drugs, and other co-factors.
  • A food allergy that was previously thought to be mild can result in a severe reaction.
  • The only first line medication for an anaphylactic shock reaction is epinephrine; antihistamines won’t help. In case of anaphylaxis, immediately administer epinephrine and call 911.
  • Read product labels every time and never take a risk with unlabeled products.

You can observe International Red Sneakers Day by taking a picture of yourself wearing red sneakers and posting it on social media with the hashtags #InternationalRedSneakersDay and #ReadSneakersForOakley and links to resources about food allergies and anaphylaxis to spread awareness.

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International Observances

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International Red Sneakers Day, Red Sneakers for Oakley, international observance, awareness day, food allergy awareness