Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Food Allergy Retrospective: How Far Have We Come? May 17, 2017

When the term “food allergies” was first mentioned in our lives in 2005, my son was only a few months old.  Already suffering from severe, body-encompassing eczema and a family history of food allergies, my pediatrician mentioned that we’d have to approach first foods very carefully with him.  I thought she was being WAY overcautious.  Like a ridiculous amount.  I was told to avoid feeding him anything with peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, soy, shellfish, fish, strawberries, pork, and corn in it.  I remember thinking, who had ever heard of anyone allergic to corn?!  And, so much for Cheerios as a finger food!

 

Now twelve years later, I think about what a genius that same pediatrician was and what a long way we’ve come since that first discussion about food allergies.

 

In 2005, there were approximately 11 million Americans living with food allergies.  Today, there are 15 million. And that number is growing.  Back in 2005 there may have been 1 child with food allergies per class; now there are at least 2 in every classroom.

 

In 2005, there were no food allergen labeling laws.  Manufacturers could “disguise” ingredients under a variety of names.  If you were allergic to dairy, for example, you had to memorize over 45 different names of ingredients that contained milk protein (whey, cream, casein, lactose, curd, rennet, ghee, flavoring… read the complete list here).  There were no suggestions to include voluntary “may contain” statements.  And, manufacturers were not well informed about how to respond to customer service questions about the safety of their products.

 

In 2005, consumers had less choice of emergency medication but it was far more affordable.  A pair of EpiPens cost only about $50. Other epinephrine auto-injectors were hard to come by and Auvi-Q wasn’t even invented yet.

 

In 2005, I felt alone with my son’s condition.  I started writing about food allergies, in part, to reach out to other like-minded parents experiencing the same daily struggles and triumphs that I was.  There was no research about the psychological impact of growing up with food allergies.  I was figuring out how to parent a confident, competent kid AND how to safely navigate the world with food allergies all at once.

 

I am so thankful to you all today for being part of the Allergy Shmallergy community – for giving me feedback, reminding me that we’re not alone running into and overcoming food allergy-obstacles, and for supporting each other, helping to make each other’s lives simpler and happier.

thank-you-362164_1920 pixabay ryan mcguire

 

 

 

 

Best Allergy Blogs of 2017 May 8, 2017

allergyBANNER

 

Healthline compiles a list of each year’s best allergy blogs each of whom serves as a valuable resource to its readers.

 

Allergy Shmallergy is once again thrilled to be on this list and amongst such fantastic company.  I’m an avid reader of many of my co-honorees!

 

Thank you to those at Healthline for being an excellent resource to us all.  And congrats to all those on the list!

 

Click here to check out all the wonderful and motivated writers, advocates and innovators who are trying to make life better and easier for those with food allergies.

 

 

Identifying and Recognizing Emotions May 2, 2017

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As parents, we’re reliant on our children to express themselves.  And as food allergy parents, knowing how they feel is our best barometer for understanding how our kids are handling their food allergies, what’s going on around them vis-a-vis food and friends and what’s on their mind.  And, in order to do that, kids must first be able to recognize and identify those emotions.

 

But how (and when) do we begin?

There’s no such thing as too young to start this conversation.  Whether your kids are 2 or 22, getting in touch with how you’re feeling at a given moment can clarify almost any situation, reduce stress and make way for better decision-making.

 

Here are a few ways to get started:

1.  Puts Words to Feelings:  Let your children know that their emotions have names.  Point out those feelings as you see them.  “It looks like doing art makes you feel calm;” “When your brother takes your toys without asking, that makes you angry;” “Wow, you are really excited about going to the zoo today!”

 

2.  I Second that Emotion:  My own daughter (now 4) gets upset and will say, “I am feeling so mad right now!”  This leads me to a second point: validate their feelings.  Praise your children when they express themselves verbally.  When my daughter tells me she’s mad I usually respond by saying, “I’m sorry you’re mad about something.  BUT, I’m really proud of you for letting me know how you’re feeling.”  This lets her know that being mad is okay.  And, it encourages her to keep talking to me about her emotions.

 

3.  Read, Discuss, Repeat:  Books are great tools for learning and describing emotions as well as helping your child identify the feelings of others.  Some great books to start with are:

Today I Feel Silly, by Jamie Lee Curtis

In My Heart: A Book of Feelings, by Jo Witek

The Color Monster: A Pop-Up Book of Feelings, by Anna Llenas

The Way I Feel, by Janan Cain

 

But you don’t need a special book to talk about emotions.  Even when reading a child’s favorite, you can help him/her explore and identify how the characters are feeling.  Ask them, “How do you think Madeline felt when she fell from the bridge?”  “Is Trixie happy when she realizes she lost her lovey?” “What is Harry thinking and feeling when he’s living at the Dursley’s?” “How would you feel if you were a firefighter headed to a fire?”  With older kids, you can even pause a movie or TV show and chat about what a character might be experiencing psychologically.

 

4.  Touch Base:  Don’t ignore opportunities to check in with your child about their food allergies.  Parents often need to walk a fine line between acknowledging the pain, exclusion and frustration and keeping things *positive*.  We are quick to brush aside things that cause our kids pain and sadness and paint it over with positivity and sunshine.  But we need to recognize and call out those negative emotions too – because regardless of our rose-colored glasses, our kids are likely experiencing all of the emotions (good and bad) that come along with food allergies.

 

Recently, when my 12 year old son and I learned that his number one favorite treat, Krispy Kreme doughnuts would no longer be safe for him, we stopped to talk about it.  He acknowledged how insanely frustrated he felt and how disappointing this news was.  He felt depressed and disheartened – not over a doughnut exactly but rather over another example of food options that more-often-than-not shrink and exclude him.  After mockingly shaking our fists in rage and putting a name on everything he was feeling, my son was able to move on emotionally and focus on other special desserts he could look forward to.

(more…)

 

Managing Food Allergy Anxiety April 20, 2017

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According to a study out of the Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, children with food allergies are more likely to experience anxiety and depression than their non-allergic peers.  And, the more foods they are allergic to, the more likely they are to internalize those feelings of helplessness and vulnerability.

 

How does anxiety present itself in children?  What are the signs parents should look for?

Because children often lack the ability to identify the source of their stress and articulate their feelings clearly, anxiety tends to present in a number of different ways.  Some of these include:

  • stomach aches
  • headaches
  • clinging
  • avoidance: not wanting to go to events or school
  • changes in sleep and eating
  • tearfulness
  • daily persistent worries

 

Periods in a child’s development also make them more susceptible to anxious feelings; such as ages 7-10 when kids are old enough to understand serious health risks but are still too young to manage their fears efficiently.  Similarly, pre-adolescents (tweens ages 10-14) typically develop an awareness of germs, disasters and things that could possibly go wrong, making this age range primed for feelings of nervousness and worry.

 

What can parents do to help their children manage their anxiety?

  1. First and foremost, parents need to model calm. (More on that below…)
  2. When speaking about their food allergies, frame risk in a positive way.  For example, “reading ingredient labels, asking questions and carrying your epinephrine will help keep you safe;” “eating peanuts may make you feel sick;” “having regular cheese can make it hard for you to swallow and breathe…”.  DO NOT talk to kids about death, dying or their mortality.
  3. Give them words for their emotions so that they can express themselves and relieve some of that private, pent-up worry.
  4. Validate their feelings.  Anxiety about food allergies can spill over into more generalized anxiety.  Their fears and perspectives are real to them.
  5. Tell your child a story about a time you had anxiety.  And, if possible, maybe something you did to overcome it!
  6. Explain to your child that everyone experiences some level of anxiety.  It’s a normal part of being human.  But when it becomes overwhelming we need to talk about it to help let it go.
  7. Encourage your daughter or son to socialize with friends and family.  Being with others is a great distraction and reminds them of the support that surrounds them.
  8. Teach them skills to relieve stress, such as breathing techniques, getting out to exercise, or compartmentalizing the discussion of food allergy worries to 10 minutes a day and then moving on.  These are important techniques for life!
  9. Reassure your child that they are in good hands, both at home AND away, like at school, at grandma’s, etc.  Kids need to know they are secure and that those in charge know what they’re doing.
  10. Empower them!  Practice what to say to their friends, family, teachers, and restaurant staff about their food allergies.  Teach them what to do in case they suspect they’re having an allergic reaction.  Work together to read ingredient labels and manufacturing warnings.  Allow them to ask questions at the doctor’s office. The more capable they feel, the more in control they will be!

 

What about us?  

As food allergy parents, we – too – are familiar with the stress and anxiety related to the management and realities of food allergies.  It is as, OR MORE, important that we manage our own anxious feelings as parents so that we can be a model of calm and security for our kids.

 

Anxiety – in all forms – clouds good decision-making (it’s science!).  Keeping worries in check allows us to be more effective parents by approaching decisions and assessing situations with cautiousness and calm.

 

When adults feel out of control, they tend to overcompensate.  This primal need to protect our children kicks into overdrive, leaving parents spinning their wheels in a world they cannot sanitize or make safe enough.

 

Kids tend to absorb the perspective of their parents and they can become frightened if adults around them are very stressed or scared.  Therefore, it’s critical for parents to adopt a healthy attitude towards food, food allergies and the greater world to help their children manage their own food allergies.

 

What can we do to keep ourselves calm?

  1. Find support.  Connect with other food allergy parents or spend time with understanding friends.  Socializing reminds us that we’re not alone with our concerns.  Feel free to use Allergy Shmallergy’s Facebook page to post questions or connect with like-minded parents.
  2. Arm yourself with information.  Familiarize yourself with food labeling laws, causes and symptoms of a reaction, and your emergency action plan.  If you can, learn to cook!  In short, empower yourself!
  3. Adopt simple solutions for your food allergy hurdles.  Resist the pressure to be the perfect baker, for example, and focus on surrounding your child with LOVE.
  4. Trust in others who’ve shown understanding towards food allergies.  A lot of food allergy parents only feel their child is safe when he or she in in their total control.  It’s important to let go a little and let others help.  If you’re at a friend’s house, let the host find a safe snack  – you can still approve the ingredient list, but it will give you a window into their decision-making abilities.  Let your child’s teacher become his or her food allergy-ally while they’re at school.  Every child needs a village.  More importantly, every parent needs one too.
  5. Prepare and approach food-related situations with CAUTION without assuming CATASTROPHE.
  6. Get out and exercise.  Talk a nature walk.  Have a date night.  Be sure to find outlets and activities that bring you joy.

 

 

 

 

Fun for Everyone: Candy Bar Birthday Party April 12, 2017

I wish I could take credit for this adorable idea.  But I can’t.  My friend is just a genius.

 

Her own kids aren’t allergic, but my thoughtful and creative friend had kids with food allergies on her mind when she thought about what special treat her daughter could share with ALL of her party guests.  Like my friend, many parents are concerned with how to be inclusive of guests with food allergies.  Sometimes, the best answer is also the simplest.

 

After singing a rowdy chorus of “Happy Birthday” to our favorite 7 year old, the kids were each given a festive party bag that they could fill with any (or ALL) of their favorite candy.  Best of all, everything was dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free and most was also gluten-free.  There’s nothing that makes a child happier than being included in on the fun!

 

Plus, no goodie bag needed!  The kids all got to bring their loot home.  HUGE bonus in my opinion!

 

If you’re going to replicate this fantastic idea, I would recommend a few things:

  1.  Check Allergy Shmallergy’s Safe List of Nut-Free Candy page.  This is not a comprehensive list.  And, it doesn’t account for other allergies.  But you’ll find that many of the candies listed are also dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free.  Read ingredient lists carefully and if you have any doubts of an item’s safety, snap a photo and email the child’s parent to verify.
  2. Save ingredient lists and bring them to the party.  If anything needs to be double-checked, you’ll have all your information at hand.
  3. Be careful when serving similar looking items (like M&Ms and Skittles).  Not only is chance of cross-contamination a concern with unwrapped candy, but I’ve seen unsafe candy fall into safe candy bowls.  For the purposes of a party, I would stick to the idea that “everything on the table is safe for party guests” principle.

 

Look at this fun, inviting table set up!
Looking for containers and scoops like the ones above?

Set of 12 Clear Plastic Candy Scoops

Penny Candy Jars (set of 2)

Amcan Scalloped Container, Large

Vista Premium Quality Plastic 10″ Serving Bowl (set of 2)


  
Smarties.  A classic!


Caught red handed!  My son and his best friend/brother of the birthday girl.

(Thank you in advance! A portion of the proceeds of the affiliate links go toward AllergyStrong.org – an organization aimed at helping low income and at risk families with food allergies.)

 

IMPORTANT: EpiPen Recall April 1, 2017

IMG_3211Expanding on its recall in other countries, Mylan is now recalling EpiPens in the United States.

 

The recall began when reports of two devices outside of the U.S. failed to activate due to a potential defect in a supplier component.

 

According to Mylan, “The potential defect could make the device difficult to activate in an emergency (failure to activate or increased force needed to activate) and have significant health consequences for a patient experiencing a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). ”

 

As a precaution, Mylan is recalling EpiPens made my their manufacturer, Meridian Medical Technologies, between December 2015 and July 2016.  This recall applies to both their EpiPen Jr. dose (0.15mg) and their regular dose (0.3mg).   The recall does NOT affect generic EpiPens introduced in December 2016.

 

Please see below for lot numbers and expiration dates.  Remember to check any EpiPen sets you may have including those outside of your home (for example, at school, daycare or a relative’s house).  Mylan said that recalled EpiPens will be replaced at no cost to the consumer.

 

For more information as well as product replacement information, please visit Mylan’s site directly.

 

Mylan EpiPen recall April 2017*Please share widely with friends and family as well as school administrators and nurses.*

 

UPDATE:

If your EpiPens are affected by the recall:

  1.  Contact Stericycle to obtain a voucher code for a free, new replacement EpiPen.  Stericycle: 877-650-3494.  Stericycle will send you a pre-paid return package to ship back your recalled EpiPens.
  2. Bring your voucher information to your local pharmacy to receive your free replacement EpiPens.
  3. Send your recalled EpiPens back to Stericycle using their packaging.  Remember: DO NOT send back your recalled EpiPens until you have replacements in hand.

 

Mylan continues to update its recall page with their latest information at mylan.com/epipenrecall.

 

Essential Items for Families with Food Allergies – Portable Food Carriers March 28, 2017

Filed under: Parent Sanity — malawer @ 11:00 am
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Food allergy parents are accustomed to prepping safe food at home and taking it on-the-go to parties, school functions, and family gatherings.  Here are a few items that might make carrying safe food just a little easier!

 

Portable Slice of Pizza or Pie?

 

Take a gluten-free or dairy-free slice of pizza to a party?  Who knew there was a container just for that purpose?!  This Brick Oven Pizza Saver looks like it’s perfectly sized to transport both pizza and maybe even a slice of cookie cake or pie!

Brick oven slice saver

 

 

Individual Cupcake Holders:

 

Both this reusable (by Fox Run) and these disposable cupcake holders (both via Amazon) are the PERFECT container to tote a peanut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free cupcake to a birthday party!

 

Fox Run Cupcake Holder

Cupcake Supply Co Indiv Cupcake holder

 

Removable Labels:

When sending your child with a safe snack or special treat – OR when labeling your own lunch at the office – the best way to ensure it doesn’t get mixed up with someone else’s is to clearly label it.  These removable labels by Avery do just the trick:

Avery Labels

 

Hot Lunch!

 

If your kids are itching for a hot lunch, but school lunches aren’t a safe option, then you absolutely need a thermos that will keep your meal warm for up to 5 hours and fit neatly into your lunchbox or work bag.

 

Thermos

 

And, while you’re packing your lunchbox, why not add Sistema’s four-piece cutlery set.  It connects handles to fork, spoon, kid friendly-knife and chopsticks – making it a synch to grab on-the-go.

Sistema Klipo

 

For Safe Restaurant Dining:

 

If you’re allergic to soy, you’ve probably already toted salad dressing to restaurants.  Allergic to gluten/wheat, I’d bet you’ve stashed tamari in your purse as you meet friends for sushi.  OXO Good Grips On-The-Go Silicone Squeeze Bottles allow you to do just that in a small, spill-free way!

OXO Squeeze containers

 

We want to hear from you!  What other items do you find useful for living with your food allergies? 

 

(Thank you in advance! A portion of the proceeds of the affiliate links go toward AllergyStrong.org – an organization aimed at helping low income and at risk families with food allergies.)