Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

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!

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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!

 

Sweet Surprise Cake Cookie Sandwiches (Nut-Free) April 10, 2015

You guys already know this:  Desserts are tough to rely on for people with food allergies.  The typical bakery will almost never guarantee that your dessert doesn’t contain or hasn’t been cross contaminated with nuts and most are made with dairy, eggs, wheat, and even corn and soy.

So, every couple of weeks, I would spend an afternoon baking and frosting cupcakes for my son to bring with him to birthday parties, class celebrations, and dinners out.  Sometimes, he’d have the occasion to gobble up a whole batch (minus a few for Dad) before I could even freeze a few!  But I began noticing he wasn’t really eating the cake part.  Which started making my labor of love a lot less lovely.

“Yeah, Mom….” he began one day, “I don’t really like the cake part.”  I thought I would die.  Do you know how much time I had been spending baking cupcakes?!

Turns out he was just using the cupcakes for the frosting.  So, I had to find a new vehicle to get frosting into that kid’s mouth (but ONLY for special occasions, much to his dismay!).  Thus the Cookie Sandwich was born!  At first I used store bought cookies (influenced by my son’s inexplicable objection to my baking).  As they are, they are a humungous hit when I send them into school for both my boys’ birthdays.  And, it’s embarrassing when moms ask for the recipe because it’s so insanely simple.  But this week, the Cookie Sandwich has been upgraded.

Meet the soft, perfectly proportioned, Sweet Surprise Cake Cookie Sandwich:

 

And, may I point out that it’s frosting to cake ratio is ideal!  It’s just simple math.  These are perfect for taking with you to birthday parties, serving as class treats, and offering to guests.  I made them for my husband’s birthday this week and plan on making more for a May Day celebration.

Here’s how to begin (based on a suggestions from the Betty Crocker site):

1 box cake mix (I used Betty Crocker’s Rainbow Chip Super Moist Mix)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 Tbsp milk

1 egg

1 can frosting

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients together until soft batter forms.  Scoop onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.

[Tip:  You want to remove the cookies from the oven before they begin to turn golden.  I took mine out at 8 minutes sharp.]

Cool completely.  Frost generously on the bottom of one cookie and top with the bottom of another.  Serves 12.

Notes:  I use Pillsbury frosting because it is dairy-free (a holdover from when my son was very allergic to dairy).  Although this recipe isn’t dairy free, I’m certain it would be delicious using dairy-free butter and very vanilla soy milk in lieu of regular.  As is, it’s good for kids who are approved to incorporate baked milk products into their diet.

Optional:  I liked mine with the sprinkles IN the cookie, but you would use another cake mix and roll the frosted cookies in sprinkles, chocolate chips or nonpareils to mix things up!

Quick someone get me a napkin, I’m salivating from TYPING about them!

 

Autism Awareness Month – Help Support a Good Cause April 2, 2015

Filed under: Technology — malawer @ 2:38 pm
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Autism Speaks logo

As you may already know, food allergies are prevalent in the autistic community.  In addition to the food allergy responses we are most familiar with, certain foods have been reported to provoke a behavioral reaction.  As Kelly Barnhill, Director of Clinical Care at the Johnson Center for Child Health & Development, in Austin, Texas (speaking on the Autism Speaks website) points out, “Clearly such symptoms [such as hives, GI responses, anaphylaxis] can cause a bad day for anyone. This can be particularly true of a child or adult living with autism – who may not be able to communicate or fully understand or explain his or her discomfort.”

Today is International Autism Awareness Day and the entire month of April is Autism awareness month.  So, you may see people going blue today in support of Autism research and hear of autism awareness walks.  And you can lend a hand, too!  Download ContentChecked’s app today.  ContentChecked helps those with food allergies find grocery products that are safe for their specific allergies.  For each download (free or paid) during the month of April, ContentChecked with donate $1 to Autism Speaks, the world’s leading organization dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism.

For more information about ContentChecked, check them out online or read my post, “Look Who’s Blogging at ContentChecked…”