Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Back to School Again! August 29, 2012

It’s that time again!  Some of you have already gone back to school while the rest of us are still preparing.  Now’s a great time to renew prescriptions for EpiPens and inhalers you may need to leave with the school nurse.  I’m republishing my post from last year which outlines my back-to-school process; including storing medications, ensuring safe snacks for my son, and preparing for special in-class celebrations.

 

Good luck to everyone on their first week!

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Starting a new school can be so exciting.  But it can also be daunting if you have a child with food allergies.  For some parents, this is the first time your child will be given food without your supervision.  And for others, it’s a point of transition to a new system for handling food allergies.  In both cases, it can be stressful.  But there’s a way to ease those nerves. Here’s how I would recommend handling everything to start your child’s year off right.

 
 

Understand Protocol:  First of all, talk to the school about your child’s food allergies and how they handle food allergies in general. It’s important to understand the standard procedures they have in place.

 

Store Emergency Medications:  Next, get a refill on your child’s EpiPens and keep them in their original packaging (most schools require this).  Keep two EpiPens at school (I kept ours in the classroom or at the nurse’s office) along with Children’s Benadryl.  Make a list of your child’s triggers and made a note of any symptoms he may have experienced to inform the teacher about his reactions.  In some cases, I didn’t know what my son’s reaction might be (thank goodness) so I deferred to my son’s pediatrician and allergist to give me a list of general reactions to look out for.

 

Ensure Safe Snack and Lunchtime:  Arrange a time to speak to your child’s teacher about snack and lunch.  Understand the process and how to work within it.  In my son’s case, the school provided snacks.  This originally horrified me.  I was uncomfortable about having the school give him snacks that I didn’t choose, but didn’t want him to feel left out if everyone was eating graham crackers and he was having rice cakes.  Thankfully, the school had a set snack list.  And, my son’s teacher took me through their snack closet and let me read the ingredients of every snack they provided.  Turns out he could safely eat eight of the ten snacks they regularly provided.  The teacher made a note of the two unsafe snacks and we agreed to substitute with a safe alternative on those days.

-OR- Leave a bag of safe snacks in the classroom for your child to choose from each day if that’s easier. Your child would probably be just as happy with that if you load up the safe snack bin with his/her favorites. Ask the teacher to let you know when you need to refill.

 

Prepare for Special Occassions:  Ask the teacher to alert you when in-class birthdays will be celebrated as well as any food-related holidays (think Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc).  I send in a SAFE alternative on those days or keep one in class depending on the class/teacher (and it doesn’t have to be cupcakes!  For example, my son loves Golden Oreos and considers them a special treat).  But the teacher NEEDS to keep you posted on that stuff or it can result in a lot of disappointment.  **I would also make yourself available to parents who are planning these parties if they need safe snack suggestions.**

 

Inform and Practice Social Situations for Food Safety:  Now’s a great time to talk to your child/refresh her knowledge about her food allergy in some basic terms.  It’s a good time to check out the books recommended here: Food Allergy Books For Young Children and here:  Helping Toddlers Understand Their Nut Allergies.  Arm him/her with some words to politely decline sharing offers and remind him to ask his teacher if he’s not sure of the safety of something.  Have your child practice with you so they feel more comfortable using these techniques at school.

 

Educate Peers:  Offer to inform the other students in your child’s class about food allergies.  Educating your child’s peers will empower them to keep him/her safe as well.  Many kids have no experience with food allergies at all.  Bring in a book about food allergies along with a safe snack for everyone to share.  Let them ask questions and let your child help answer some of those questions.  My son’s classmates were so supportive once they understood he couldn’t always share the snacks provided.  In several instances, his close friends offered to eat some of his safe snacks in solidarity with him during class parties.  And, by the way, nearly all of his pals now love Golden Oreos as a result.  And some classmates, will ask their parents NOT to pack peanut butter/nuts so they can safely sit next to my son at lunch.  How wonderful!

 

I hope my on-the-ground experience helps alleviate a little of those back-to-school jitters and gives you some ideas of how to proceed at your school.  I was nervous at first when my son began school, but it’s been great — allergies and all!

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Fire Works Wood Fired Pizza Restaurant August 18, 2012

After keeping my tight schedule, relaying instructions to the babysitter in fast forward, beating traffic and getting the best possible parking in an area known for it’s rare spaces, my friend and I managed to miss the movie we have been so excited to see.  We didn’t exactly miss it…. In fact, the theater closed that wing of its building that morning for renovation.  The only theater in the metro area still playing it. Sigh…..

 

In any case, we decided to do dinner.  So, we walked around the corner to try Fire Works Restaurant  – a restaurant located in the Courthouse area of Arlington, VA that I had heard so much about.   What a find!

 

Here’s the skinny:

  • First of all, we dined outdoors, right at sunset.  It was beautiful and once the sun dipped below the buildings they lit up a fire.  Great ambiance.
  • Importantly, they serve gluten-free pizza.  And if the GF version is anything like the delicious Siciliana one I had, you’re in for a treat!
  • They also serve a gluten-free Cookie Dough Sundae; a sundae that, in it’s regular version, is legendary.
  • They also serve SORBET!   I believe the flavors vary.  Mine was pink lemonade that night  and so refreshing.
  • And, last but definitely not least, our service was fantastic.  They were helpful, knowledgeable about their menu, and didn’t mind us lingering while we chatted.
 

My friend and I had a great time catching up while NOT watching a movie (the best way, generally).  We both felt Fire Works was such a coup given that her husband is gluten intolerant and my son is allergic to dairy that we can’t wait to come back with our families next time.

 

Gluten-Free Products Deal on LivingSocial August 11, 2012

Look what I just saw in my inbox:  a LivingSocial deal for Gluten Free Products.   What a way to get your weekend started!

 
GlutenFreely.com
http://www.livingsocial.com/cities/1938/deals/418980-50-to-spend-on-gluten-free-products
 

A Call to Hostess Customer Service Regarding Dairy Allergies… August 9, 2012

My son is in an in-between phase of his dairy allergy.  He is allergic to raw milk products, but can now tolerate baked milk such as you might find in baked goods.

 

Contemplating fun food items to stick in my son’s lunch or use as a safe substitute for all those in-class parties, I grabbed a box of Twinkies at the market the other day.  It’s possible, I thought, that the cream inside might not contain milk – much like Oreos.  No peanuts! No nuts!  No sesame seeds!  But milk was listed as an ingredient and the list was not separated into cake/filling so there was no way to determine if it was a safe possibility without a phone call to Hostess.

 

I called and got a customer service representative on the phone.  She was quick to put me on hold once I explained that I wanted to find out if their snacks would be safe for my son, wondering if there was cream in the filling.  The Hostess Snack Company rep came back to let me know that they couldn’t disclose that information.  Let’s face it: it’s not that Hostess cannot disclose the information, it’s that they are choosing not to disclose it which I  find to be unnecessary and unhelpful when dealing with such a serious issue.  The customer service rep finished by advising anyone with a milk sensitivity against consuming any Hostess Brand  products.  This is such an unfortunate response.  It struck me as insensitive and dismissive of my concerns and the broader concerns of parents of food allergic kids.

 

“[Hostess,] You could’ve given us help, but you’ve given us so much m0re.”  (Bill Murray in “Quick Change”) Like a reason to buy another snack from another company.

 

Sesame Seed-Free (and Dairy, Egg and Nut-Free!) Chinese Sauces August 2, 2012

When you have a sesame seed allergy, eating Chinese food is nearly impossible.  Even cooking Chinese can be tricky since so many prepared sauces contain sesame seeds or sesame oil or both!  But, inspired by one of our Shmallergy readers, I restarted my quest to find safe prepared sauces and alternative recipes so we can all enjoy Asian food at home!

 

As I was collecting ingredients to MAKE Hoisin sauce (recipe below), I stumbled upon Kikkoman’s Hoisin sauce.  And guess what?!  It’s sesame free!  That was WAY too easy.

But if you can’t find Kikkoman sauce (as I couldn’t for the last six years), here’s a Hoisin sauce recipe that’s easy to prepare.

 

INGREDIENTS:

4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons black bean paste (found in the Asian section of your local grocery store or at Whole Foods)
1 tablespoon honey or molasses or brown sugar
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 finely minced garlic clove
2 teaspoons safflower oil
20 drops chinese hot sauce, habenero or jalepeno
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine ingredients together in medium bowl.
  2. Whisk together until well combined.   (It may appear like it won’t mix well at first, but keep whisking longer and it will come together.)

 

I haven’t had as much luck finding Plum Sauce at the market.  So here’s an easy recipe to try from allrecipes.com.  I haven’t given it a shot yet, but would love to hear how it turns out if anyone gets to it before me!

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 (16 ounce) jar plum jam
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine jam, vinegar, brown sugar, dried onion, red pepper, garlic and ginger.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring.
  3. Remove from heat.
 
NB:  Here were a few suggestions: Use the whole 18 oz jar of plum jam, omit the pepper, and add a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce.  It is possible to substitute minced garlic for garlic powder as in Hoisin Sauce recipe.
Warm sauce for second use; it  can congeal a bit once cool.