Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Take a Few Minutes BEFORE You Go — Trick or Treat Preparation October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!


Trick-or-treating is upon us and no one in my house can wait another second.  So, before we head out tonight I will double check MY Trick-or-Treat bag to make sure I have everything we’ll need.


Today, my bag contains:


1.  My son’s Emergency On-the-Go Kit (Allergy Shmallergy’s Emergency On-the-Go Pack), including EpiPens, dissolvable Benadryl, and small scissors;


2.  Safe candy that can serve as a replacement for milk, egg, tree nut, and peanut (and sesame, if anyone offers that)-laden candy that he can’t have.  As you can imagine, there’s a lot of allergy-producing candy out there.  I try to keep allergen candy out of his bag to begin with by popping one of our safe alternatives into his bag at the front door of any house offering only unsafe treats.  Some of my safe alternatives include non-candy items like temporary tattoos, fake spiders, etc.

 3.  A cell phone.  In theory, for emergencies; but more likely to be used to send Halloween photos to my parents.


4.   An extra plastic bag for storing unsafe treats that inevitably wind up with my son.  I do try my best to keep the allergens away, but sometimes a few find their way into his treat bag.   I remove them as we walk from house to house and put them in another bag and usually pass them on to another parent.


5.  Flashlights and glow sticks.  Flashlights help me watch where I’m going; glow sticks let me watch where my kids are going.


Don’t forget to arm your FA child with language to politely refuse unsafe treats and remind them not to eat ANYTHING until you’ve made sure it’s safe at home.  I also review our family Halloween protocol with my kids which is:  if there isn’t a safe candy my son can choose, I will have one for him.  Never fear, safe treats are here!


At least, we’re well prepared and have a good plan for dealing with food allergies at Halloween.  Keeping up with my son will be the latest challenge we face this year.  (He’s almost 7 now and literally RUNS from house to house!  Better wear my running shoes!)


How do you prepare for trick-or-treating?


Halloween Haunt Supports FAAN October 27, 2011

Just wanted to point out that Julie Fanning, of FAAN has created a fabulous Halloween haunt just outside of Washington, DC.  “I got to thinking,” she writes, “about the kids who can’t enjoy some – or most – of what they get in their sacks after trick-or-treating.”  So she created a non-food based way to enjoy Halloween.  And, in addition to offering non-food treats at her haunt, she’ll be collecting donations for FAAN.


Check out her spooktacular creation, Windy Hill Cemetery, online or in person if you live in Bristow, VA.  If, like most of us, you’re not in her neighborhood, I’m sure you’ll be inspired by her creative way to include all children in Halloween trick-or-treating.

For more information about you can help raise funds and awareness for FAAN, please see Trick-or-Treat for Food Allergy.


Food Allergy Fancy: The Capital Grille October 24, 2011

The Capital Grille Home

Celebrating a birthday or special event at the Capital Grille has always guaranteed a delicious meal and a wonderful time.  But dining there with a FA child would be another adventure.


Here’s the skinny:

  • The wait staff were clearly well trained about food allergies and seemed well informed about how their menu items were prepared.
  • The easy thing about dining at the Capital Grille is the mainly a la carte menu.
  • The steaks are all seasoned (nut-free, dairy-free) and delicious and, having ordered the very smallest one they had, was more than enough to split between my two boys.
  • The sides appeared tricky at first:  none of the potato sides would work for my dairy-allergic son.  When I mentioned this, the waiter offered to make him regular french fries instead.
  • The fries are fried in soybean oil.
  • For a delicious dairy-free dessert, they offer fruit sorbets.  And, I’m certain you could order just berries.


  • The bread basket contains bread with sesame seeds.  For us, that’s a no-go.
  • Their calamari is battered in only flour (not with egg).  It is amazing (and a little spicy)!  My son was excited to be able to partake in an appetizer.
  • The green beans, which heretofore were merely sauteed in olive oil, are now served with butter.  Many of their side dishes appear to be dairy-based.  But, as mentioned above, the Capital Grille staff seem to be very willing to make reasonable accommodations for allergic patrons.

The staff were fabulous and attentive ensuring that everyone (right down to those of us who could show our age on one hand) enjoyed our meals.  In short, we’re already looking for another excuse to go back!


Expired EpiPens? EpiPhany! October 21, 2011

After being inspired to clean out some spaces in my house that haven’t received much attention recently, I amazingly stumbled upon a large stash of expired EpiPens.  I was holding on to them with the thought that they might be useful in some way or in need of special disposal, but instead they simply sat in the back of a closet.


Suddenly I had an epiphany (an EpiPhany if you will).   Instead of throwing them out, I brought the EpiPens into our school nurse to help train other teachers, assistants, interns and substitutes on the administration of an EpiPen.  More than 15% of food allergic children experience a food allergy reaction while at school.  Given that statistic, emergency training with real EpiPens is only to everyone’s benefit (not least of which is my own son).


So, consider donating your expired EpiPens to your local school, preschool, camp or daycare facility and spread the word to any allergic adults you may know.  Our nurse was excited to use our old EpiPens and to store our old trainers for faculty food allergy training and I felt great putting them all to good use.


New Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Chocolate Chips in Safeway October 19, 2011

Check out the GF, DF Chocolate Chips I stumbled across in Safeway today!    I was so excited to be able to easily purchase something like this that I bought a package despite the fact my son doesn’t really like chocolate…


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Library… October 18, 2011

I had been online last night investigating a new set of food allergy books to bring in to my son’s class.  I saw several great new options and thought about buying a copy for my son’s elementary school library.


But before I did, I checked with the librarian to see if they already had a copy and if she needed the copies to come with a library binding to withstand many reads.  Not only did our fantastic librarian prefer the sturdier binding but she offered to order the books herself.


She admitted that with all the various curriculum requirements and more than 10,000 new children’s books published each year, she hadn’t considered how important it would be to have food allergy books in her library.  This issue will now be one of her talking points at the next faculty meeting.


Maintaining a school library is no easy feat.  Perhaps your elementary or middle school librarian could also use the food allergy suggestion.   Educating your FA child’s peers is an essential step in keeping him/her safe and a great opportunity for them to show how thoughtful and caring they are.


Famous Daves is Food Allergy Fabulous October 8, 2011

File:Famous Dave's logo.png

If you’re lucky enough to live near a Famous Dave’s, then eating out just got a whole lot easier.


A Famous Dave’s moved into our area recently and when invited to eat there with friends, we wasted no time in saying yes.  As with all new restaurants, I set out to do my homework to ensure my FA son had a few menu items from which to choose.  Much to my surprise (and delight), Famous Dave’s has a link to their Food Allergen Guide (Click HERE for printable PDF).  Yay!


The Food Allergen Guide lists all of their menu items, checking off which include wheat, milk, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.  I noticed right away that nothing on their menu contained peanuts and only one thing contained tree nuts.  A huge relief just having those allergens out of the way.


While the Allergen Guide covered the top eight allergens, it did not identify which items contained sesame seeds.  I chose one or two menu items my son was interested in and asked the staff if they might have sesame seeds somewhere in them.  The girls I spoke with immediately went back to the kitchen to check on the items in questions.  They also came back telling me that the fries that usually accompany those dishes were fried in a safe oil as well (believe it was canola).  I was impressed with their quick reaction to my questions and forethought on the oil.


Our meals were all delicious. PS:  They serve prepackaged Oreos with all the kids meal…a safe cookie for us!  Bonus!


So, not only did Famous Dave’s handle food allergies responsibly, but their food was delicious and atmosphere fun!  We’re all already looking forward to catching the next football game there.