Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Holiday Houses and Candied Cheer December 16, 2015

Happy Holidays, everyone!

 

It has been a very busy holiday season so far… and we’re not done yet!  We’ve eaten an entire crop of potatoes in the form of latkes.  I’ve hosted three Chanukah parties; attended numerous holiday concerts; shopped, wrapped and cooked until I broke a sweat.  The kids decorated the house and graciously ate as many doughnuts as they could manage. Finally, we’re building.  Yes, building!

 

Holiday houses, that is.   And, as much as I’d love to create a gingerbread house from scratch, it just isn’t going to happen during such a busy month.  So, I’ve been leaving no gumdrop stone unturned in my search for allergy-friendly, off-the-shelf kits.

 

Here are a couple of fabulous allergy-free finds:

 

Manischewitz Chanukah House:

This nut-free house is easy to assemble, a cinch to decorate and delicious to eat.  It is not gingerbread, but rather vanilla cookie which my kids prefer.

Check ingredient list here: nut-free, lactose-free, contains soy and wheat.

Manischewitz Do-It-Yourself Chanukah House Vanilla Cookie Decorating Kit

Sensitive Sweets Gingerbread House:

How fantastic to find such an allergy-friendly kit!  Gluten, dairy, egg, soy, tree nut, peanut-free and vegan.  And, look how gorgeous the final product can be!  Too beautiful to eat!

Check ingredient list here: Gluten, dairy, egg, soy, tree nut, peanut-free, vegan.

 

A&J Bakery:

A&J Bakery not only manufactures gingerbread houses, but they make Gingerbread Men in their nut and gluten-free facility.  These Gingerbread Men would make a great kids’ activity for a holiday party.  They’re individualized and ready to eat in minutes!

Check ingredient list here: free of top 8 allergens.

featured product

 

Sweet Nature Candy Canes:

These candy canes are made in a gluten, dairy, tree nut, peanut, egg, fish and shellfish-free facility.  Their allergen information page is impressive and their candy canes minty and fresh!  Spangler, the parent company also makes our favorite, safe lollipops, DumDums!

 

Check ingredient list here: free from wheat, gluten, dairy, tree nut, peanuts, egg, fish, and shellfish.

Eleni’s New York:

Among the insanely adorable cookies and treats that Eleni’s offers for nearly EVERY occasion are these fantastic and creative Color Me! holiday cookie sets.  The Hanukkah one below is sold out, but you’re in luck – there are still Christmas sets available!

Color Me! Hanukkah Gift Set

Check out ingredient lists here: everything is nut-free (and Kosher). Woohoo!

 

Living with food allergies can be crazy.  Especially during the holidays.  These gingerbread, Chanukah houses and other treats are such an easy way for my kids to feel included in the fun.  They all love to work together to create the perfect house, covered in as much frosting and candy as they can manage.  They’ve been excited to participate in the fun of decorating and devouring gingerbread cookies at a party.  And, we ALL love setting out a treat like nut-free candy canes knowing that anyone that walks through our door can enjoy them – safely and with confidence!

 

 

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A Look Ahead: A Summary of Teens and Food Allergies December 3, 2015

I have a food allergic 10 year old.  I’m starting to see all those signs of tweeny-ness that my friends have been talking about.  And, although I could use a lot less eye rolling and smart alecky retorts, but I understand this is a (questionably) necessary right of passage into his more independent teen years.

Do you all remember being a teenager?  How many ill thought out decisions did you make?  My oldest child will be a teen before I know it and he’ll be faced with choices of his own.  The only way he’ll grow is to make mistakes, I know.  But when food allergies are a part of your life, small mistakes could be costly.

So, even if you don’t have a teen YET, please read on so as your kid ages you know what to look out for:

According to an article posted on Radio Canada International [Severe Allergy Risk Worse Among Teens, Young Adults], there are several issues at play during the teenage years that put them at greater risk for a severe food allergy reaction:

  1. They believe they are invincible.  Having had the minutia of their lives cushioned by their parents, teachers, etc up until these years, they feel they are unstoppable.
  2. They typically feel a strong need to conform to their peer group.  Admitting to a food allergy, needing to ask multiple and sometimes persistent questions at meals, not to mention carrying often bulky epinephrine doesn’t make them invisible.  If anything, it highlights their “differentness.”
  3. Teens are independent creatures.  They may balk against whatever makes them feel limited.

According to Dr. Scott Sicherer of Mt. Sinai in practical terms this means:

  • They fail to tell their peers about their condition.
  • They don’t want to/don’t know how to speak up to authority figures (such as teachers, waiters, etc) and alert them of their food allergies and dietary limitations.
  • Teens often leave their emergency medication at home – particularly when active and/or wearing something fashionable that leaves little room for autoinjectors.
  • They taste foods to see if it might contain an allergen, rather than reading labels.  My guess is that it may be harder for teens to reject an invitation to taste something “amazing” or even terrible, particularly if it means that behavior allows them to better fit in with their social circle.

The Radio Canada article goes on to quote Dr. Adella Atkinson, who offers a few helpful suggestions:

  • Start the conversation about food allergies early.  Without scaring them, very young children should be aware that some foods can make them sick.  Empowering young children will enable them to more confidently handle their food allergies as they age.
  • Provide choices.  [I thought this was the best suggestion I’ve heard in a while.  I can’t wait to implement it this weekend!]  Decisions about who and which kind of epinephrine autoinjector to carry, what kind of cuisine they’d like to eat, what their food plan is for outings without you will again empower them and force them to think through their food allergy roadblocks before they hit them.
  • In the WebMD article, Teens With Food Allergies Take Risks, Dr. Sicherer goes on to suggest educating friends as a secondary safety net.  This has already served us well [See That’s What Friends Are For] as my son’s friends help look out for him, are careful to make eating a more INCLUSIVE rather than exclusive experience, avoid eating my son’s allergen around him, and have been taught how to use epinephrine autoinjectors.
  • Teach your child’s friends how to use an autoinjector.  This is a great use of old EpiPens and Auvi-Qs and tweens and teens find it interesting.  By now, they’ve usually seen autoinjectors before and have loads of excellent questions.  Practice using autoinjectors by injecting them into an orange or grapefruit.
  • Buy/create several different accessories to help your tween or teen wear her epinephrine in all circumstances.  A dress with no pockets?  No problem!  Going skiing? We’ve got your covered.  School dance?  Don’t worry: there’s a way to wear it there too!  [See Your Growing Child: How to Carry Epinephrine]

But the most important thing you can do is keep up the conversation.  Not only are food allergies dangerous, they are stressful.  Keep talking to your tween and teen about them.  Make sure they know the door is wide open to discuss anything that comes up surrounding them.  And, present them with the big picture:  that you might want to fit in during your teens but you want to stand out in your twenties.  Encourage them to get a head start by being careful and responsible with their health!