Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Food Allergy Bullying: Not Just a School Problem January 22, 2018

Food Allergy Bullying stats

Last year, a 13 year old with a dairy allergy died after someone allegedly slipped cheese into his sandwich at lunch.  He was rushed to the hospital and placed in intensive care where he remained until he suffered cardiac arrest.

 

80% of parents reported that their children with food allergies have been teased, excluded or harassed by their school mates as well as adults.  In a 2010 study conducted by researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center, most kids felt their bullying had been due to their food allergies alone.  Others reported that issues related to their food allergies (such as carrying medication, being set apart at lunch and receiving what appeared to be “special treatment”) were also factors in being taunted or harassed.

 

The psychological damages associated with bullying are heartbreaking and can last into adulthood: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harming behavior, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suicidal thoughts.  Couple these dark emotions and behaviors with the heightened state of anxiety and concerns over safety that those with food allergies already experience as well as the very REAL and severe dangers of anaphylaxis and we’re facing a crisis that needs to be addressed immediately.

 

Profile of a bully:

According to psychologists, bullies share a few common traits:

  1. Typically bullies act for several reasons including power and perceived popularity;
  2. Their actions are deliberate, repeated and often involve a verbal component; and
  3. Because they tend to lack prosocial skills, they see themselves and their actions positively.  In essence, bullies don’t self-identify as bullies.

 

We’re all familiar with stories of generalized bullying.  But what makes food allergy bullying different?  A few things:

  1.  Bullies who use food to target those with food allergies may not understand the very serious consequences their actions will have;
  2. Teens who speak about being harassed often report that it’s not just their peers doing the bullying.  Parents and teachers who make it clear that those with food allergies are an inconvenience are sending a message that kids are receiving and taking personally;
  3. The line between a classmate jokingly waving a peanut at a child with food allergies without understanding the gravity and a bully who uses an allergen to threaten or harm a peer may seem clear.  But the psychological implications and possibility of rapid and dangerous health outcomes of both situations can result in the victim feeling unsafe and more susceptible to harassment in the future.

 

Although many cases of bullying occur at school because of the close proximity of peers, bullying isn’t a problem that can – or should – be resolved entirely by schools themselves.  Bullying is a communal problem and it’s one we all must work to prevent.

 

What can we do about food allergy bullying?

 

It all begins with education.

  • Students need to be taught about food allergies formally.  With two food allergic kids in every classroom, all students are exposed to this epidemic but few are equipped to truly understand it.  Food allergies are mentioned in school but not rarely formally taught.  For over a decade, I have taught preschool through 7th grade students lessons about food allergies; a lesson that includes a heavy dose of empathy which results in a stronger sense of fellowship.  Empathy is one the key skills psychologists recommend schools and parents teach their children to thwart bullying and build community.
  • But it’s not just the children who need a lesson in food allergies.  So do adults.  I recently gave a seminar to educators to raise their awareness of food allergies and help them protect their allergic students emotionally, socially, physically, and academically.  Identifying food allergic reactions and understanding protocols, preventing cross-contamination in the classroom, lessons of inclusion and empathy, and the psychosocial issues (like anxiety and stress) that both food allergic students and their parents face have been immensely helpful to teachers who are trying to cater to the whole child. And they have seen these seminars reap great rewards in their schools.
  • Parents of non-allergic children need to learn about food allergies to keep play dates safe and deepen their empathetic muscle so that they can impart those lessons to their own children.  Occasionally (and not infrequently), we hear stories of parents who feel their children are entitled to bring whatever food they want into school regardless of the dangers they might pose on another child.  These parents are missing the greater message – which is that we are a community; communities protect each other and THAT is what makes us all stronger.  Not peanut butter sandwiches or cheese puffs.

 

At home, parents of food allergic children need to emphasize and practice lessons in self-advocacy and problem-solving. Kids with food allergies face their fear of reactions several times, every single day. Empowering them to speak up and stand firm to protect themselves and others is an invaluable skill – for them and for life.

 

Keep communication open between you and your child.  Offer stories about when you were their age and include difficulties you may have faced and ways you overcome challenges.  Get your children involved in figuring out how you should have handled your childhood issues.  This reassures kids in many ways: First, it reminds them that they are not alone in their experiences.  Second, it shows them, by example, different perspectives on common issues.  And, it helps them self-identify as problem-solvers, instilling in them the confidence and perseverance they need to deal with sometimes complex obstacles.

 

Signs of Bullying:

Half of kids who have been bullied don’t talk about it with their parents or other trusted adult.  Parents and teachers: please take note if you see these classic signs of food allergy bullying occurring to your child/student.

  • food allergy reactions happening at school
  • excuses to stay home
  • physical signs (on the body, books, backpack, etc)
  • falling grades/loss of interest at school
  • behavioral/emotional changes (sadness, outbursts, excessive worry)

 

Bullying already in progress?

If you’re already dealing with a bully issue, there are a few extra things you may wish to do:

  1.  Stay calm and collected.  Reassure your child that you will help resolve this conflict.  Approach the school first if that’s where the incidents are occurring.
  2. Practice language they can use to deal with bullies without retaliation (which could escalate things).  Teach them to say, “STOP” and, ideally walk away.
  3. Identify trusted adults that your child can turn to if they have a problem at school (a teacher, a coach, administrator, the school nurse, etc).  In addition to you, are there other adults in your child’s life that could help?  It takes a village, now’s a great time to rely on that village.
  4. Children with food allergies are often protected legally under Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, Title II and the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  The argument is that harassment and bullying prevents equal access to benefits that education provides.  Section 504 covering disability harassment applies to children from elementary school through college and university.

 

 

SCHOOLS:

There are a number of ways schools can reduce the possibility of dangerous food allergy bullying.  Please contact me directly to discuss programs that work for each stage of education: erin@allergystrong.com

 

No Appetite for Bullying

No appetite for bullying Badge

Four food allergy non-profits led by kaléo Pharma have partnered to campaign against Food Allergy Bullying.  Please visit No Appetite for Bullying for further information and to stay informed of their upcoming programming.

 

 

 

 

 

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Allergy-Friendly Hanukkah Doughnuts: Buy Them, Make Them, Eat Them! December 12, 2017

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As a food allergy consultant to schools, I get asked all kinds of questions and involved in all sorts of projects.  Recently, I received a fun assignment!  My daughter’s school asked me to find a safe doughnut to help them celebrate Hanukkah while adhering to their strict nut-free policy.

 

Hanukkah is celebrated over eight nights – recognizing the miracle of the burning oil in the ancient Temple of Jerusalem.  Recognizing that miracle, celebrants everywhere look forward to the tradition of indulging in food fried in oil each night, including doughnuts!  I mean, if we must…

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Traditionally, Jews serve sufganiyot, a jelly doughnut during Hanukkah.  The Big Bang Theorys Mayim Bialik offers this awesome vegan recipe (which means it’s dairy and egg-free!):

Mayim Bialik’s “Unbelievably Delicious” Holiday Recipe – Hanukkah Sufganiyot

 

I will acknowledge, doughnut making can be time consuming and messy!  Preparing doughnuts from scratch is also tough if you’re trying to feed a crowd.  Krispy Kreme used to be the go-to Hanukah doughnuts for my own family as well as for the classrooms I teach in.  Now that Krispy Kreme donuts are decidedly not safe, where can you buy a nut-free doughnut?

 

Enter Katz’s Gluten-Free Donuts.  Sold in boxes of 6, these doughnuts are gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and soy-free!  You can find them in the kosher frozen food section of the supermarket.  There’s no preparation necessary – just thaw.  Or, for a mouthwatering experience, heat up for a few seconds in the microwave.  (I’m drooling as I write this…)

 

 

Be sure to check out our list of Allergy-Friendly BakeriesDun Well Donuts, The Donut Pub, Brandon’s Best Allergen-Free Sweets ‘N Treats and Amazing Donuts are just a few bakeries on our list that make doughnuts reviewers rave about.  There may be a bakery near you!  (And, if your favorite allergy-friendly bakery isn’t on the list, shoot us a note!)

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Deck the Halls: Allergy-Friendly Gingerbread House Round-Up December 4, 2017

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No one should miss out on holiday traditions.  But families with food allergies are hesitant to participate in activities that revolve around food, particularly baked goods.  Baked goods are often cross-contaminated with nuts and typically contain dairy and eggs – three of the top eight allergens responsible for 90% of allergic reactions.

 

Now with the options below, there’s no reason to sit out the holidays!  Check out these allergy-friendly gingerbread house ideas.  Everyone can gather together and decorate a gingerbread dream home safely!

 

BUY IT:

A&J Bakery’s Allergen Friendly Gingerbread House

If you’re lucky enough to live in Rhode Island, you might want to pop into A&J Bakery to grab their Allergen Friendly Gingerbread House Kit.  Otherwise, you’ll want to place an order now!  In addition to being vegan, these gingerbread houses are free from peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, gluten, wheat, soy and dairy.  The kit comes with the house (assembly required), five different types of allergen-friendly candy to decorate it with as well as some non-edible decorations.

 

Manischewitz Chanukah House

Finally, a Chanukah-themed house!  Manischewitz’s Chanukah House is made with vanilla cookie (a preferred flavor in my house).  Plus, it is nut-free, dairy-free and egg-free!  We have used this kit and it couldn’t be easier to put together and the walls are very sturdy – it surely could survive a candy hurricane (or a not-so-gentle little sister)!

 

MAKE IT!

Did you know that LEGO has a Gingerbread House!  It’s made of Legos, so it’s guaranteed to be allergen-free!

 

Melissa and Doug Mess-Free Glitter Christmas Tree and Gingerbread House

Baby, it’s cold outside!  Make today a craft day indoors with this foam decorating kit.  Kids can decorate it anyway they like without allergens OR mess!  A win-win for parents and kids alike!

 

If you’re determined to make the edible kind, you can use these easy-to-work-with Silicone Molds to create consistent and detailed gingerbread house parts.  [See below for gluten-free recipe!]

 

Sweet Ali’s Gluten-Free Bakery in Illinois has a great recipe posted along with How-To instructions for assembling a gluten-free gingerbread house.  Check it out!

 

DON’T FORGET!

 

There are all kinds of ways to make gingerbread houses using milk cartons, like we did in elementary school.  You can use icing to stick safe graham crackers to the sides of a small size carton of milk (8 or 16 oz size).  (Remember to wash the carton thoroughly before using if you are allergic to dairy.)  You could line the carton with candy canes or pretzel rods to make a delicious log cabin.  OR, you can line the carton in craft paper and decorate it with stickers, buttons, pipe cleaners, etc using glue!

A NOTE ABOUT ROYAL ICING and RECIPE:

 

Royal Icing (the kind used to stick candy to gingerbread houses) often contains egg.  But making royal icing is fairly easy and fun to do with kids.  Try this recipe:

2 cup *sifted* powdered sugar

4-5 tablespoons water

Combine sugar and 4 tbsp of water until smooth.  Continue adding small amounts of water until glossy and thick.

As I understand it, powdered sugar and water icings don’t do well in pastry bags (for piping).  We usually use a knife to carefully line the edges of the house parts and paint them directly on to the candy before sticking them on to our houses.

 

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

 

The Dangers of a Dairy Allergy November 17, 2017

cereal and milk pixabay StockSnap

 

Three year old, Elijah Silvera, was attending a regular day of preschool in New York City recently, when preschool workers fed him a grilled cheese sandwich despite school papers which formally documented his severe dairy allergy.  Elijah had a severe allergic reaction and went into anaphylaxis.  Standard procedure for anaphylaxis is to administer epinephrine and call 911 immediately.  Instead, the school called Elijah’s mother, who picked up her child and drove him to the hospital herself.  Doctors in the emergency room tried but were unable to save him.

 

Dairy allergy is the most common food allergy among young children.  And, although the peanut can produce some of the most severe allergic reactions (as well as some of the most tragic headlines), an allergy to milk products can be life-threatening.  The myth that a dairy allergy is not serious and doesn’t require as much vigilance causes great frustration to many who are allergic to milk, as does the idea that a food is “allergy free” if it does not contain nuts. To those who live with it, a dairy allergy requires an enormous amount of preparation and education since milk is an ingredient in so many products.

 

Dairy is cow’s milk and found in all cow’s milk products, such as cream, butter, cheese, and yogurt.  Doctors sometimes advise patients with a dairy allergy to avoid other animals’ milk (such as goat) because the protein it contains may be similar to cow and could cause a reaction.  Reactions to dairy vary from hives and itching to swelling and vomiting, to more severe symptoms such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis.  Strictly avoiding products containing milk is the best way to prevent a reaction.  The only way to help stop a severe food allergy reaction is with epinephrine; patients should always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors with them at all times.

 

Just like other allergens, cross contamination is a concern for those with a dairy allergy. Even a small amount of milk protein could be enough to cause a reaction. For example, butter and powdered cheese (like the kind you might find on potato chips) are easily spreadable in a pan, within a classroom or on a playground.  And, as with other allergens, hand sanitizer does NOT remove the proteins that cause allergic reactions.  Doctors recommend hand washing with good old soap and water – but wipes work in a pinch.

 

Those allergic to dairy must not only avoid food; they often have to look out for health and beauty products too.  Dairy can be found in vitamins, shampoo, and lotions.  It is critical to read the ingredient labels of every product you buy each time you buy it as ingredients and manufacturing procedures may change.

 

In the United States, any food product containing milk or a milk derivative must be listed as DAIRY or MILK under the current labeling laws (see The Ins and Outs of Reading Food Labels, Aug. 2016).  If you are living or traveling elsewhere, this list of some alternative names for dairy may be useful:

 

milk (in all forms: goat, whole, skim, 1%, 2%, evaporated, dry, condensed, etc)
butter (including artificial butter and margarine)
cream
buttermilk
sour cream
half and half
yogurt
cheese
ice cream
custard
sherbet
pudding
chocolate
ghee
whey (all forms)
casein
caseinates (all forms)
casein hydrolysate
lactose
lactulose
lactoferrin
lactalbumin (all forms)
diacetyl
rennet casein

 

Let’s spread the facts about dairy allergy so that our schools and teachers better understand how to accommodate and care for students with food allergies.   Any allergen can produce severe, life-threatening allergic reactions and all food allergies should be taken seriously and managed with attention.  I sincerely  hope that by informing others we can prevent another tragedy like the one the Silvera family was forced to experience.

 

The Language of a Food Allergic Reaction September 11, 2017

A food allergic reaction can vary from mild to severe and typically takes place shortly after eating or exposure.  All reactions require immediate attention.  But with severe allergic reactions, called anaphylaxis, minutes matter.

 

As kids head back to school and begin new activities, it’s important for EVERYONE to become familiar with the symptoms of anaphylaxis and what it language a young child might use to describe it.

 

Symptoms of Severe reaction

Some of the symptoms of a severe reaction are obvious: hives, vomiting, coughing.  But for others, we need to rely on verbal clues.  Young children may describe an allergic reaction a little differently than adults would.

 

Language of Food Allergic Reaction

 

Should you suspect that your child, or one in your care, is experiencing anaphylaxis, act immediately:

  1. Administer epinephrine, holding pen for 5-10 seconds in meaty part of outer thigh.
  2. Call 911.
  3. Contact parents.

 

Minutes matter when it comes to treating anaphylaxis.  Knowing the symptoms and the different ways it might be described will help you save a life.

 

 

New Snack Alert! Enjoy Life Granola Bars September 6, 2017

Note: Enjoy Life sent me their new granola flavors to sample.  I am reviewing because I truly enjoyed them and believe they are a good product for families like mine.

Your lunch game just got easier.  Enjoy Life recently released granola bars in a few new flavors – and they are anything but ordinary.  While on vacation with our extended family, we decided to have a taste test.  We’re a picky crew, because between us we are allergic to:  peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, dairy, eggs, pineapple, shrimp, salmon and gluten (celiac).

 

Amazingly, these were a big hit with everyone, allergic and otherwise.  Everyone had their own favorite flavor.  Mine was the Caramel Blondie.  Sweet and buttery, the caramel tasted fantastic dotted with chocolate chips.  Why hasn’t this flavor been created sooner?!

My cousin, a chef, loved the Carrot Cake granola bars.   The cinnamon-y, pumpkin spice flavor was just right balanced against the sweet carrot taste.  Your kids will LOVE eating their vegetables this way!  If only it counted towards their daily intake!

Her daughter, 6, preferred the Lemon Blueberry Poppy Seed.  What a sophisticated palate – clearly the child of a cook!  These were moist and delicious like the others.  The blueberry and poppy tastes were complimented by the citrusy lemon.  Yum!  I’d eat these for breakfast!  Is that a thing?!

 

Best of all, as always Enjoy Life is free from: gluten, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, soy, fish and shellfish and are Kosher and Halal and non-GMO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prep Your Meds for School: Refill Options July 28, 2017

Time to get your emergency medications ready for school.  Don’t worry:  there’s still lots of summer fun to be had!  But to maximize summer fun over back-to-school frenzy, there are a few things you can do.

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  1. Check the Date:  Check the expiration dates on your epinephrine auto-injectors.  If they are due to expire between now and December, it may be a good time to consider refilling your prescription.
  2. Know Your Options:
    • There are several choices of epinephrine auto-injectors these days and they all efficiently deliver the same life-saving drug (epinephrine) in different ways.  I’ll outline those different auto-injectors below.
    • Talk to your doctor and consider your lifestyle when choosing your auto-injector.
    • Be sure you, your school nurse, caretaker, and child are all familiar with how to operate the auto-injector(s) you choose to stock at home, school and elsewhere.
  3. Update Your Emergency Action Plan:  Your doctor may have provided you with one or you can take Allergy Shmallergy’s Emergency Action Plan to your doctor on your next appointment.  Make a copy for home, your car, on-the-go, and school.
  4. Ask Directly:  You may need to ask your doctor specifically for the auto-injector you wish to use.  Some doctors prescribe only one without discussion, but are certainly willing to write a prescription for the auto-injector that works best for you.

 

What ARE the options for epinephrine auto-injector:

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Auvi-Q:

Yes, it’s back on the market and better than ever.  Auvi-Q delivers epinephrine via a compact package that speaks to you.  You heard that right: it talks you through an injection, even counting down the length of time you are supposed to hold the device in place.  Plus, the needle automatically retracts, reducing the possibility of post-injection injury.  Each Auvi-Q is about the size of a deck of playing cards, easy to carry for everyone (especially teens, young adults and fathers – who can fit them in their pockets).

 

*Auvi-Q automatically ships and delivers their auto-injectors directly to you.  Initiate this process with your doctor.  To read more about their direct delivery service as well as their cost-coverage programs, refer to the Affordability program page.

 

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Adrenaclick:

Adrenaclick has a slimmer profile than the well-know EpiPen, but is about the same length. Adrenaclick is a no frills epinephrine auto-injector, often used as a generic for EpiPen.  In fact, responding to the rising costs of brand name epinephrine auto-injectors, CVS pharmacies (among others) replaced its stock of auto-injectors with Adrenaclick. In their words, “Patients can now purchase the authorized generic for Adrenaclick®… This authorized generic is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved device with the same active ingredient as other epinephrine auto-injector devices.”

 

*IMPORTANT, Adrenaclick operates differently than EpiPens and they DO NOT come with a trainer.  If you choose to use this useful auto-injector, be sure to also place an order for an Andrenaclick trainer.  And, do your research for best pricing locally.

 

EpiPen:

EpiPens are the most widely used and most familiar of the epinephrine auto-injectors.  In fact, its familiarity is what keeps many customers coming back.  School nurses and even non-allergic individuals may be more accustomed to its look and how to use it.  In addition, EpiPens are substantial – making them easy to find in a backpack or purse.  In 2016 Mylan, the manufacturers of EpiPen, released a generic of its own product in response to public pressure over its pricing.  Both products contain the same medication and use the same or similar injector mechanisms.  EpiPen’s price has not been reduced in any way and is the most expensive auto-injector on the market.  The generic version is less expensive, but still a price worth considering for many.

*Mylan does offer coupons which can be found on their website.