Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Managing Food Allergy Anxiety April 20, 2017

anxiety-2019928_1920 pixabay

 

According to a study out of the Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, children with food allergies are more likely to experience anxiety and depression than their non-allergic peers.  And, the more foods they are allergic to, the more likely they are to internalize those feelings of helplessness and vulnerability.

 

How does anxiety present itself in children?  What are the signs parents should look for?

Because children often lack the ability to identify the source of their stress and articulate their feelings clearly, anxiety tends to present in a number of different ways.  Some of these include:

  • stomach aches
  • headaches
  • clinging
  • avoidance: not wanting to go to events or school
  • changes in sleep and eating
  • tearfulness
  • daily persistent worries

 

Periods in a child’s development also make them more susceptible to anxious feelings; such as ages 7-10 when kids are old enough to understand serious health risks but are still too young to manage their fears efficiently.  Similarly, pre-adolescents (tweens ages 10-14) typically develop an awareness of germs, disasters and things that could possibly go wrong, making this age range primed for feelings of nervousness and worry.

 

What can parents do to help their children manage their anxiety?

  1. First and foremost, parents need to model calm. (More on that below…)
  2. When speaking about their food allergies, frame risk in a positive way.  For example, “reading ingredient labels, asking questions and carrying your epinephrine will help keep you safe;” “eating peanuts may make you feel sick;” “having regular cheese can make it hard for you to swallow and breathe…”.  DO NOT talk to kids about death, dying or their mortality.
  3. Give them words for their emotions so that they can express themselves and relieve some of that private, pent-up worry.
  4. Validate their feelings.  Anxiety about food allergies can spill over into more generalized anxiety.  Their fears and perspectives are real to them.
  5. Tell your child a story about a time you had anxiety.  And, if possible, maybe something you did to overcome it!
  6. Explain to your child that everyone experiences some level of anxiety.  It’s a normal part of being human.  But when it becomes overwhelming we need to talk about it to help let it go.
  7. Encourage your daughter or son to socialize with friends and family.  Being with others is a great distraction and reminds them of the support that surrounds them.
  8. Teach them skills to relieve stress, such as breathing techniques, getting out to exercise, or compartmentalizing the discussion of food allergy worries to 10 minutes a day and then moving on.  These are important techniques for life!
  9. Reassure your child that they are in good hands, both at home AND away, like at school, at grandma’s, etc.  Kids need to know they are secure and that those in charge know what they’re doing.
  10. Empower them!  Practice what to say to their friends, family, teachers, and restaurant staff about their food allergies.  Teach them what to do in case they suspect they’re having an allergic reaction.  Work together to read ingredient labels and manufacturing warnings.  Allow them to ask questions at the doctor’s office. The more capable they feel, the more in control they will be!

 

What about us?  

As food allergy parents, we – too – are familiar with the stress and anxiety related to the management and realities of food allergies.  It is as, OR MORE, important that we manage our own anxious feelings as parents so that we can be a model of calm and security for our kids.

 

Anxiety – in all forms – clouds good decision-making (it’s science!).  Keeping worries in check allows us to be more effective parents by approaching decisions and assessing situations with cautiousness and calm.

 

When adults feel out of control, they tend to overcompensate.  This primal need to protect our children kicks into overdrive, leaving parents spinning their wheels in a world they cannot sanitize or make safe enough.

 

Kids tend to absorb the perspective of their parents and they can become frightened if adults around them are very stressed or scared.  Therefore, it’s critical for parents to adopt a healthy attitude towards food, food allergies and the greater world to help their children manage their own food allergies.

 

What can we do to keep ourselves calm?

  1. Find support.  Connect with other food allergy parents or spend time with understanding friends.  Socializing reminds us that we’re not alone with our concerns.  Feel free to use Allergy Shmallergy’s Facebook page to post questions or connect with like-minded parents.
  2. Arm yourself with information.  Familiarize yourself with food labeling laws, causes and symptoms of a reaction, and your emergency action plan.  If you can, learn to cook!  In short, empower yourself!
  3. Adopt simple solutions for your food allergy hurdles.  Resist the pressure to be the perfect baker, for example, and focus on surrounding your child with LOVE.
  4. Trust in others who’ve shown understanding towards food allergies.  A lot of food allergy parents only feel their child is safe when he or she in in their total control.  It’s important to let go a little and let others help.  If you’re at a friend’s house, let the host find a safe snack  – you can still approve the ingredient list, but it will give you a window into their decision-making abilities.  Let your child’s teacher become his or her food allergy-ally while they’re at school.  Every child needs a village.  More importantly, every parent needs one too.
  5. Prepare and approach food-related situations with CAUTION without assuming CATASTROPHE.
  6. Get out and exercise.  Talk a nature walk.  Have a date night.  Be sure to find outlets and activities that bring you joy.

 

 

 

 

Fun for Everyone: Candy Bar Birthday Party April 12, 2017

I wish I could take credit for this adorable idea.  But I can’t.  My friend is just a genius.

 

Her own kids aren’t allergic, but my thoughtful and creative friend had kids with food allergies on her mind when she thought about what special treat her daughter could share with ALL of her party guests.  Like my friend, many parents are concerned with how to be inclusive of guests with food allergies.  Sometimes, the best answer is also the simplest.

 

After singing a rowdy chorus of “Happy Birthday” to our favorite 7 year old, the kids were each given a festive party bag that they could fill with any (or ALL) of their favorite candy.  Best of all, everything was dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free and most was also gluten-free.  There’s nothing that makes a child happier than being included in on the fun!

 

Plus, no goodie bag needed!  The kids all got to bring their loot home.  HUGE bonus in my opinion!

 

If you’re going to replicate this fantastic idea, I would recommend a few things:

  1.  Check Allergy Shmallergy’s Safe List of Nut-Free Candy page.  This is not a comprehensive list.  And, it doesn’t account for other allergies.  But you’ll find that many of the candies listed are also dairy-free, egg-free and gluten-free.  Read ingredient lists carefully and if you have any doubts of an item’s safety, snap a photo and email the child’s parent to verify.
  2. Save ingredient lists and bring them to the party.  If anything needs to be double-checked, you’ll have all your information at hand.
  3. Be careful when serving similar looking items (like M&Ms and Skittles).  Not only is chance of cross-contamination a concern with unwrapped candy, but I’ve seen unsafe candy fall into safe candy bowls.  For the purposes of a party, I would stick to the idea that “everything on the table is safe for party guests” principle.

 

Look at this fun, inviting table set up!
Looking for containers and scoops like the ones above?

Set of 12 Clear Plastic Candy Scoops

Penny Candy Jars (set of 2)

Amcan Scalloped Container, Large

Vista Premium Quality Plastic 10″ Serving Bowl (set of 2)


  
Smarties.  A classic!


Caught red handed!  My son and his best friend/brother of the birthday girl.

(Thank you in advance! A portion of the proceeds of the affiliate links go toward AllergyStrong.org – an organization aimed at helping low income and at risk families with food allergies.)

 

Essential Items for Families with Food Allergies – Portable Food Carriers March 28, 2017

Filed under: Parent Sanity — malawer @ 11:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Food allergy parents are accustomed to prepping safe food at home and taking it on-the-go to parties, school functions, and family gatherings.  Here are a few items that might make carrying safe food just a little easier!

 

Portable Slice of Pizza or Pie?

 

Take a gluten-free or dairy-free slice of pizza to a party?  Who knew there was a container just for that purpose?!  This Brick Oven Pizza Saver looks like it’s perfectly sized to transport both pizza and maybe even a slice of cookie cake or pie!

Brick oven slice saver

 

 

Individual Cupcake Holders:

 

Both this reusable (by Fox Run) and these disposable cupcake holders (both via Amazon) are the PERFECT container to tote a peanut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free cupcake to a birthday party!

 

Fox Run Cupcake Holder

Cupcake Supply Co Indiv Cupcake holder

 

Removable Labels:

When sending your child with a safe snack or special treat – OR when labeling your own lunch at the office – the best way to ensure it doesn’t get mixed up with someone else’s is to clearly label it.  These removable labels by Avery do just the trick:

Avery Labels

 

Hot Lunch!

 

If your kids are itching for a hot lunch, but school lunches aren’t a safe option, then you absolutely need a thermos that will keep your meal warm for up to 5 hours and fit neatly into your lunchbox or work bag.

 

Thermos

 

And, while you’re packing your lunchbox, why not add Sistema’s four-piece cutlery set.  It connects handles to fork, spoon, kid friendly-knife and chopsticks – making it a synch to grab on-the-go.

Sistema Klipo

 

For Safe Restaurant Dining:

 

If you’re allergic to soy, you’ve probably already toted salad dressing to restaurants.  Allergic to gluten/wheat, I’d bet you’ve stashed tamari in your purse as you meet friends for sushi.  OXO Good Grips On-The-Go Silicone Squeeze Bottles allow you to do just that in a small, spill-free way!

OXO Squeeze containers

 

We want to hear from you!  What other items do you find useful for living with your food allergies? 

 

(Thank you in advance! A portion of the proceeds of the affiliate links go toward AllergyStrong.org – an organization aimed at helping low income and at risk families with food allergies.)

 

Auvi-Q’s Returning to Market With an Innovative New Approach January 23, 2017

Oh, happy day!

auvi-q-production-line

Auvi-Q is coming back to market on February 14, 2017!

As many of you already know, Auvi-Q is an innovative, FDA-approved epinephrine auto-injector that is about the size of a deck of cards.  Auvi-Q was invented by twin brothers, Eric and Evan Edwards, who suffered from severe, life-threatening food allergies as children. Eric Edwards, an MD, and Evan Edwards, an engineer, teamed up as adults to invent this unique and effective life-saving device.

 

This product has a very valuable place on the market:

  • It fits in your pocket – making a great choices for dads, preteens and teens;
  • It speaks the instructions, step-by-step – reducing the worry over training and operation;
  • Auvi-Q’s needle retracts immediately after injection, mitigating the possibility of lacerations and making it safe to handle.

 

But that’s not even the best part.  Not only are Eric and Evan patients, they’re also food allergy parents who understand the needs of our community from a unique, first-hand perspective.  After speaking to patients and considering their own family’s needs, they wanted to ensure all families had access to and could afford their product.  So they are introducing AffordAbility, a first-of-its-kind program under which the vast majority of patients (including those with high deductibles) can obtain Auvi-Q for $0.  And, not only will the product be free for so many patients, but Auvi-Q will also be available for direct-delivery to your home (in most cases, in less than 48 hours in insulated packaging).

 

The makers of Auvi-Q, kaléo Pharma, wanted to remove as many of the barriers families face in order to ensure that the patients who needed this life-saving medication would be able to obtain it.  No family should have fear they are unprepared to help in a life-or-death severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis.

 

The Auvi-Q website is a wealth of information: Auvi-Q.com.  Please refer to it for further questions the device, prescription, the AffordAbility program, and direct delivery service.

 

 

 

Holiday Stress? 4 Tips for Celebrating with Less Than Supportive Family December 14, 2016

christmas-791142_1920-kaboompics

 

I hear from so many readers this time of year who just need to vent.   Reports of disappointment and frustration frequently get voiced over extended family that isn’t supportive – or, in extreme cases, is totally defiant of – a family’s food allergy concerns.

 

These incidents often center around the holiday table – at a time of year when parent anxiety can be heightened and when all parents put extra pressure on themselves to make the holidays magical for their children.  Family gatherings are typically filled with unspoken expectations.  Which is why it can be doubly disappointing (and sometimes volatile) when things go wrong.

 

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you relax and have fun with your extended family and friends as you celebrate this season:

 

  1.  Educate:  Many adults did not grow up knowing a single person with food allergies.  What comes off as careless to those of us who live this reality, may simply be a matter of ignorance.  A little education may go a long way.  If you want to start that process before you arrive, suggest they watch the Discovery Channel documentary, “Emerging Epidemic: Food Allergies in America.”
  2. Distract and Enjoy:  Perhaps you have a history of issues surrounding meals with your food allergies. If you know your family and your food allergies will not mix, don’t forego the time spent together.  Maybe you can host or help cook the meal.  Maybe you skip the meal and instead all go ice skating or sledding or on the hunt for the best Christmas lights in town.  New traditions will forge new memories!
  3. Be Flexible:  When it comes to the meal, we know you cannot compromise on safety.  Nor should you.  But if you can compromise on other parts of your visit, that may help reduce stress for all.  Be flexible when you can.
  4. Focus on Family:  Just remember that family relationships are important.  Not just to you but to your children.  Try to strengthen that relationship by creating positive memories throughout the year.  Having strong family bonds will defuse the anxiety and expectations of the holidays.

 

For further information about how to navigate family dynamics, please read Food Allergies and Family: Disagreements Not Break-Ups.

 

Motivations: Food Allergy Baker, Nicole Seevers and Cole’s Moveable Feast August 29, 2016

Filed under: Holiday,Order & Ship,Parent Sanity,Uncategorized — malawer @ 3:45 am

 

My hats are off to all the parents out there who are taking time out of their lives to make life better for all of us with food allergies.

 

I’d like to introduce you to one such parent, fellow food allergy mom, Nicole Seevers of Cole’s Moveable Feast.  On a quest to ensure her son always feels included, she began experimenting in the kitchen.  The results aren’t just safe and delicious for her son, Cole; they are scrumptious for everyone!

 

We were the lucky recipients of the above OUTSTANDING allergy-friendly dessert: iced tea cupcakes with lemonade frosting – possibly my favorite flavor combination of all time. I opened the box and thought they might be almost too beautiful to eat.  Almost.  Their mouth-watering aroma sucked me in immediately.  I’m usually more of a frosting girl (and, oh my gosh, was this frosting good), but it was the moist and tasty cake that balanced the tart and sweet original frosting so well that just made the treat.  My kids loved them and my extended family had no idea they were made without wheat, dairy, peanuts or tree nuts.  I’m planning on ordering these again for my next brunch.  And my food allergic son has requested I call Nicole for his next birthday.  That’s ONE thing off my party planning list!

 

Nicole can cater to almost any allergy and any occasion.  Check out her gallery of goodies at Cole’s Moveable Feast.  And, for those outside her delivery area, please check out our ever-growing list of allergy-friendly bakeries on Allergy Shmallergy’s Allergy Friendly Bakeries page.

 

Inspired by her story and motivation, I took a moment to ask Nicole a few questions…

 

1.  Tell us about how you got into the baking business?  Were you always a baker?
Not long ago, a lot of my friends and family would have been surprised to see the word ‘baker’ connected to my name.  I grew up here in Virginia, and like most people, food was a big part of my family life.  My mom and my grandmother were wonderful cooks, and the desserts were especially good. I learned a lot from them, but it wasn’t a passion for me. I headed to New York after college and stayed there for 12 years, practicing law and eating a majority of my meals in restaurants. My husband is a great cook, but it was never really my thing.  When we did eat at home, I was usually in charge of dessert (I have a big sweet tooth). But things got more complicated when our second child was born.

 

2.  What inspired you to bake allergy-friendly goods?
My son Cole. As soon as we introduced solid food, we knew. His first taste of yogurt made him sick. He vomited and started wheezing. Eggs did the same thing. Over the course of the next few months, we learned he was allergic to dairy, eggs, tree nuts, buckwheat, sesame and shellfish. He also has asthma and spent nearly a year avoiding gluten to try to reduce inflammation. I think under normal circumstances, it could have been overwhelming, especially for someone who didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen. But I had watched my own mom handle it. My younger brother struggled with the same allergies and more … including wheat, soy and corn. Those are tough allergies anyway, and in the ’70s, there was no popping into Whole Foods for an allergy-free snack. But my mom rolled up her sleeves and dealt with it.

So for me, it meant figuring out how to make sure Cole didn’t feel deprived or left out. Celebrations are big in our family. I wanted to learn how to make treats we could all enjoy. And it turns out, I LOVED baking. But what about when Cole was invited to a birthday party? Or when he started school, and had to say ‘no thanks’ every time a parent brought in cupcakes for a celebration. I was spending so much money on expensive, processed snack foods that were allergy-friendly but kind of bland. I thought, I can’t be the only one who wants better options. So this spring, I launched Cole’s Moveable Feast.

 

3.  Do you cater only to the food allergic community?
At first I did, but then people started asking me to do “regular” cakes for their events also.  But I’d say 90% of what I do is customized around specific allergies. Frankly, I like some of my allergy-free goodies more than the regular kind! I probably shouldn’t admit that, huh?

 

4.  What are some of your biggest challenges in the kitchen?
Time and space! It’s me, one oven, one dishwasher and two mixers.  I have a separate pantry and fridge for bakery ingredients and dedicated cabinets for equipment. But allergy-free recipes, especially those without gluten or eggs, require additional steps and ingredients, so it takes longer and makes a bigger mess.  And I’m fastidious about sanitizing surfaces and equipment, especially between orders. That takes more time than you’d think. So I’m starting to think about next steps … my dream is a bakery where anyone can walk in and find something on the menu board. Cole has never experienced that.

 

5.  Is there any allergen/other obstacle you’ve had a hard time accommodating?  How do/did you overcome obstacles?
Oh yeah. It’s hard enough to bake without egg, dairy and gluten. In fact, I had to come up with my own gluten-free flour blends and egg substitutes, because I just couldn’t get my baked goods where I wanted them with commercially-available substitutes. But when you take soy and corn out of the equation, it gets even harder. Those ingredients are everywhere because they’re cheap (and genetically-modified and federally-subsidized, but that’s a rant for a different day). But I’ve gotten there, after lots of research and working closely with my customers … and throwing out a TON of failed experiments. I am so thankful for the Internet, for all those people that forged ahead of me and blogged about it. And for companies like Earth Balance, Authentic Foods and Enjoy Life, among others, that are dedicated to producing high-quality allergy-free ingredients.

 

6.  Has taking customized orders forged a connection to your clients?
YES! That was the biggest surprise in all of this. I figured, if I got lucky, word would get out and I’d get a nice flow of orders listing the ingredients that needed to be excluded. I didn’t realize that nearly every single order would come with a unique story. The mother that was told a party venue could handle her child’s food allergies … until they heard it was soy. The child with a severely restricted diet that hasn’t had cake in years. The adult struggling with health issues. Everyone has something they’re dealing with, but we’re wired to connect and comfort, love and celebrate, through FOOD. When I can be part of that connection, it’s  awesome. Baking for someone can be a very intimate act.

 

7.  What has been the most rewarding aspect of starting your company?
Well first and foremost, it’s that connection I was talking about. I really can’t believe I get to do this. Meet interesting people, help them out, bake and get paid for it?! It’s pushing me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to connect, solve puzzles, make mistakes, rethink. But also, my three kids are SO excited about it.  I love letting them be a part of this, letting them witness the fact that you can find what brings you joy and go after it.  My dad has always pushed me to do that: to have a vision and do the hard work to make it happen. I want my kids to learn that lesson too.

 

 

The Ins and Outs of Reading Food Labels August 23, 2016

Filed under: Books and Literature,Parent Sanity,Preparedness,School — malawer @ 9:30 am

 

Here’s the latest article I wrote for Allergy & Asthma Today (Fall 2016), a publication from Allergy and Asthma Network.

 

Look at the beautiful layout and graphics here:  The Ins and Outs of Reading Food Labels.  And, check out the full issue, featuring Sarah Jessica Parker here:  Allergy & Asthma Today, Fall 2016.


 

Hibiscus Popsicle, uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja, author Joey  

 

When my son was in first grade, he joined his class in celebrating the completion of a school-wide charity project. All the students were so proud and the faculty even more so. The teachers planned to reward the students with popsicles — just the kind of unexpected treat kids live for!

 

Knowing my son’s food allergies, the teacher went to the administrative offices to check the ingredients. The coordinator read off the ingredient list one by one, all safe relative to my son’s peanut, tree nut and dairy allergies. And then she read a final statement, “Contains trace amounts of milk…”

 

“So that should be fine,” the coordinator said.

 

“NO!” replied his teacher, who also has food allergies. “He’s allergic to dairy! Milk is dairy!”

 

My son avoided an allergic reaction that day thanks to his teacher’s quick thinking and familiarity with reading food labels.

 

Many parents, teachers, school nurses and administrators are called upon to make food allergy decisions based on food labels. Deciphering ingredients and warning statements can sometimes feel like reading a foreign language.

 

Understanding the requirements that govern food allergy labeling makes those decisions much easier. In 2006, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) went into effect with the goal of improving food labeling information for families with food allergies.

 

  1. Under FALCPA, companies are required to label the top 8 allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy. These account for 90% of food allergy reactions in the U.S.

 

  1.  FALCPA also requires companies to label any ingredients made with proteins derived from those allergens.

 

  1.  This law gives manufacturers a choice of how to label the food source allergen.  They can either: 1)  List the allergen in the ingredient list, such as “whey (milk) or lecithin (soy)”; or 2) Use a “Contains” statement, such as “Contains tree nuts, eggs and shellfish.”

 

  1. Manufacturers might use the same facility or equipment to produce two different food products, and if one is an allergen, there is potential for cross-contact. If the manufacturer thinks there’s a chance an allergen may be present in a food product, they can voluntarily put a “May contain…” or “Made in a facility with…” statement. For example, a soy milk label might say “May contain tree nuts” if it was produced on the same equipment as almond milk.

You’ll need to be extra diligent when reading labels to avoid an ingredient outside of the top 8 allergens. Learn alternative names for your allergen that manufacturers sometimes use. For example, sesame seeds may be listed as “tahini” (which is sesame paste), benne seed or generically as “spices.”

Because manufacturers change their ingredients and production methods all the time and without warning, it is very important to read the labels every time you purchase an item.

And if you’re unsure about what’s in a food product but still want to purchase it, call the manufacturer.

AAT Fall 2016