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EoE – A Learning Process May 26, 2015

Filed under: Health — malawer @ 10:30 am
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My husband, my father-in-law (a doctor) and I have been trying to manage next steps in what appears to a forthcoming EoE diagnosis.  Ironic, considering last week was EoE Awareness Week, eh?!

So, what is EoE?

According to GIKids.org, Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) is an inflammation of the esophagus.  The wall of the esophagus becomes swollen with white blood cells called eosinophils.  A person with EoE might experience trouble swallowing, pain, heartburn, nausea, regurgitation or vomiting, It’s a relatively new diagnosis that doctors are still struggling to learn more about.

This emerging health issue for my food allergic son has been brewing for at least the past year, growing steadily worse and more frequent each month.  Originally appearing to be a classic case of acid reflux, my husband and I tried everything suggested to reduce his discomfort.  We raised his head at night, tried to feed him earlier in the evening so that he had time to digest, stayed away from acidic foods as much as possible, and gave him acid reducing medication as directed by his pediatrician.  However, his symptoms seemed resistant to medicine and relatively unphased by our other efforts.  And, other symptoms were muddied with his food allergies and asthma.  My son would complain of burning in the lower part of his throat.  He began wheezing within only a few minutes of laying down at night.  He began complaining of pain (actual pain) in his stomach.  His throat felt “weird” after having dairy (to which he’s no longer allergic, but that symptom is always scary to food allergy parents!).  And, started articulating a sensation that finally rang my alarm bells on EoE:  he felt like he had something stuck in his throat.

We immediately went back to the pediatrician who ruled out a number of conditions like celiac disease and quickly thereafter booked an appointment with a pediatric gastroenterologist.  One Upper GI (where they watch barium travel down your esophagus and into the stomach via x-ray) and one Upper Endoscopy later and we’re only a *little* closer to figuring this thing out.  EoE is more common in patients with food allergies and other allergic diseases (like asthma) and far more common in males than females – although the connections aren’t clear.

While his doctors rule out causes, his symptoms persist and we have more endoscopies, food challenges and allergy tests (I almost can’t believe it) on the horizon.  I’m certain many of you have already gone through this cycle of testing and I would love to hear your experiences and any advice you have to offer.

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Food Allergy Awareness Week: What You Can Do to Educate Others May 13, 2015

Filed under: Preparedness — malawer @ 8:00 pm
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Happy Wednesday, everyone!  Check out my latest post over at ContentChecked for simple, easy things you can do to participate in Food Allergy Awareness Week/Month!

What YOU Can Do to Education Others

Excerpt:

Parents of children with food allergies live with certain challenges day in and day out.  We read labels, ask questions, and are prepared for any emergency.  And although we are adept at handling food-related obstacles, that doesn’t mean that the greater community is intentionally setting them up.  In fact, in my experience, most people are well meaning but simply don’t know enough about food allergies.  They want to be helpful, but don’t know how…. read more

 

Food Allergy Education: Allergy Shmallergy’s 4th Grade Lesson Plan May 9, 2015

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I received so many requests from you asking for the lesson plan I followed for my recent talk with my son’s fourth grade class (see Thank You For Being a Friend – The Need for Food Allergy Education in Elementary School) that I kicked it into high gear and began writing it up right away!

In previous years, I had followed a simplified plan accompanied by a food allergy-related book (see the list of books I’ve used/reviewed here).  This year, however, I noticed a shift in maturity amongst the kids and decided to capitalize on it and upgrade my lesson plan.

I will tell you in advance, the response to this talk was amazing!  The kids were fully engaged, respectful of each others ideas and questions, and clearly connected with the topic.

A few tips to begin:  Everyone has a different level of comfortability when discussing personal health issues.  Although it is tempting to talk about personal experience or ask pointed questions to kids who you know have food allergies, I would resist this urge.  I try very hard to speak about food allergies from a neutral perspective and not single out my own son, for example.  That said, if the kids chime in for themselves (as they did when I spoke to their class) all the better.

Mentally allot a couple of minutes for kids to tell you everyone they know who is allergic to everything you can name.  It’s going to happen.  It engages the kids right away and lets them be heard.

This lesson plan should take about 30 minutes but with discussion and an optional snack you could easily fill 45 minutes.

Have fun in the classroom!

DOWLOAD LESSON PLAN BELOW:

Allergy Shmallergy – 4th Grade Food Allergy Lesson Plan

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Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Celebrate with Chipotle’s Perfect Guacamole Recipe May 5, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 2:20 pm

I think the internet might have exploded yesterday when Chipotle posted the recipe for their yummy guacamole.  Best news of all?  It’s free of the top 8 allergens!

If you’re looking to do something special for Cinco de Mayo, try making some with your family tonight.  It’s quick, easy, healthy and something everyone can enjoy!

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone!

From Chipotle themselves:

Chipotle’s Perfect Guacamole Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe Hass avocados (In the restaurant, we use 48 per batch, multiple times per day)
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp cilantro (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 jalapeño, including seeds (finely chopped)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Instructions:

1. Choose the right avocado. It should feel squishy yet firm (like the palm of your hand), and be a nice dark green color on the inside.
2. Cut the avocado in half and the remove the pit (carefully!)
3. Scoop the avocados and place in a medium bowl.
4. Toss and coat with lime juice.
5. Add the salt and using a fork or potato masher, mash until a smooth consistency is achieved.
6. Fold in the remaining ingredients and mix well.
7. Taste the guacamole (over and over) and adjust seasoning if necessary.

 

Fire Up the Grill: It’s Burgers and Hot Dog Season! April 30, 2015

Filed under: Grocery and Supermarkets — malawer @ 5:45 pm
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It’s BBQ time and with that comes later sunsets, fireflies and eating outdoors.  What’s the easiest thing to throw on the grill?  Burgers and hot dogs!  What’s the hardest thing to find if you’re allergic to sesame seeds?  Buns.

For unknown reasons (because I can’t taste the difference), most commercially made hamburger and hot dogs buns – including potato rolls – are made with a ground sesame seed flour.   While shopping for buns for our own upcoming BBQ, I thought this old post might help you in shopping for yours!

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I was at the market today and, in preparation for a spring and summer full of barbecuing, I scanned the bread aisle for buns. Specifically hamburger buns. Frustratingly, when manufacturers aren’t putting sesame seeds ON their buns, they’re adding them in as an ingredient. I, personally, can’t taste the difference. So it only serves to drive us crazy in our quest to find safe hamburger buns for my sesame seed-allergic little guy.

When we’re out at a restaurant or a BBQ, we always ask about the hamburger buns’ ingredients. Often times, if I KNOW my son will order a burger, I’ll bring a bun from home. That is, when we can find a safe brand. To shorten your search, here are a few I found at our local Safeway. Please add to the list if you’ve come across any others!

All this thinking about burgers is making me hungry!

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Read the ingredients carefully on each package and always ask (and explain) when ordering burgers and hot dogs at restaurants.  Have a good weekend and enjoy!

 

Thank You For Being a Friend – The Need for Food Allergy Education in Elementary School April 29, 2015

So we had a food allergy incident a couple of months ago.

There was a whole walnut rolling around the hall in my son’s school.  This, I can assure you, is a real anomaly.  So much so, that the kids didn’t know what it was. Having rolled underfoot, one of my son’s classmates bent down to inspect it.  “Hey!” he yelled to my tree nut allergic son, “come over here.  Is this a walnut?”

Feeling a little nervous, my son backed away about to explain that he, of all people, is not qualified to be a nut inspector when his friend, a food allergic girl in his class, stepped in to remind everyone that my son has an allergy to tree nuts.

The kids began to file into the classroom and somehow the nut followed them.  My son’s deskmate grabbed the walnut and teased him with it, waving the walnut close to his face saying, “Ooooo….a walnut.”  My son began to speak up, as practiced, when the same girl started yelling, “Are you crazy?!  He’s ALLERGIC to nuts!  He could go to the hospital!”

My son wasn’t harmed.  But he WAS upset when I picked him up from the bus.

“Mom,” he said.  “I know I seem really tough… Like my feelings are as thick as a wall. But inside, they’re like this [holding his palms facing one another, nearly touching]… they can be as thin as paper.”

We talked it through thoroughly: we discussed what he was feeling, things he would have liked to say, how thankful he was for a good friend like that awesome girl.  And, he was sure his classmates acted out of misunderstanding or miseducation rather than malice. The head of the school spoke to his grade and I came into his classroom to teach the kids about food allergies.  Both boys apologized to my son, explaining they had no idea about the severity of possible reactions.  Their regret was evident as was their interest in food allergy education (which I will discuss in a separate post).

This incident was innocent.  The first boy was curious.  The second was teasing, but truly didn’t understand the possible consequences of his actions.  In fact, he thought my son would join in the joke.  They were friends.  They’re all still friends.

I went into their class the following week and spoke about food allergies in general.  The students were attentive and engaged.  They had intelligent questions.  They were amazed at and very sympathetic about how complicated their food allergic classmates’ lives could be.  Interestingly, I think this incident brought my son and his classmates closer together.

While this is an example of a lack of education with no physical harm, it would have been very easy to imagine a similar case with a different outcome.  As my husband rightly pointed out, “Kids WANT to do the right thing.  Kind WANT to be supportive.  Sometimes they don’t have enough facts to know how to do so.”  Statistically, there are two kids in every classroom with food allergies.  We need to teach our kids the facts about this condition, so they can act appropriately.  And we need to teach all of our kids not only how to support their friends with food allergies, but how to support and look after each other in general.

— If your school (like ours) doesn’t include food allergy education in their health curriculum, volunteer your time to do it yourself.  I’ll post my 4th grade lesson plan shortly. Feel free to contact me should you need more information. —

 

Taking Food Allergies to School April 13, 2015

Filed under: School — malawer @ 8:05 am
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Pop over to Content Checked’s Food Allergy blog today to read our personal narrative about the first day of school with food allergies.

Content Checked Food Allergy Blog

Starting school can be a stressful time even under the best of circumstances.  Starting school with a food allergy can put parents and students alike over the edge.  This post outlines how doing your homework by completing a few small steps can set you all up for a whole year of wonderful school experiences.

I’m about to talk about this very topic with a school locally.  What kinds of questions do you have about starting in a new school with food allergies?  Happy to answer!

 

 
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