Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Join the Food Allergy Fighters – Race for Every Child June 3, 2019

 

**Registration is FREE until Wednesday, June 5th!**

 

Come join us!  All are welcome to join the team, The Food Allergy Fighters, for this year’s Race for Every Child.  The Race for Every Child 5K will be held on October 19, 2019 beginning at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.  You can participate in person or virtually, as a walker or a runner, individually or with the whole family.  Children ages 3 to 10 can also participate in the 100 yard Kids’ Dash.

 

When you support the Food Allergy Fighters, you are making a difference for all food allergy patients – here and around the world. Our team will specifically raise funds to advance food allergy research.

 

Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. is on the forefront of both clinical medical as well as psychological research as it pertains to food allergies.  They run an exemplary program that is always evolving for the better.

 

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Every dollar raised through the Race for Every Child enables Children’s National to advance pediatric health and provide world-class care to every child, regardless of illness, injury or ability to pay.

 

Please join us – register here!

 

Once you register, please create a profile and share with friends and family – all are welcome!

 

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at this meaningful, family-friendly event this fall!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Allergy Advocacy – A Day on Capitol Hill May 16, 2019

When you live with a chronic disease like food allergies and asthma, you need support – the support of family and friends, but also support from the outside world.  Fifty-eight million people suffer from either asthma or food allergies.  Every year, 3,600 people die from asthma.  And, every 3 minutes someone is rushed to the hospital suffering from a severe food allergy reaction.  They are both serious and life-threatening conditions.

 

There are so many issues that need our collective attention – including legislative ones that support and protect patients with food allergies, asthma and other atopic diseases. We expect and are entitled to equal access to healthcare, research funding and education among other things.

When given the opportunity to join the Allergy & Asthma Network and contribute to the effort to better the lives of all food allergy and asthma patients, I jumped.  Over the course of one day, we visited fifty percent of all Senators and nearly 100 member of the House of Representatives.  We heard from doctors and nurses, families who have struggled within the existing healthcare system and those who have lost loved ones prematurely, and we were inspired by others striving to make lasting change.

Among the issues that need our attention are:

  • Access to quality, affordable healthcare
  • Access to affordable prescription medication and treatment
  • Continued and increased funding for federal health and research funding
  • Accurate and up-to-date food labeling

These issues translated into support for the following pending legislation that pertain to food allergy:

H.R. 1243/S. 523: Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Act of 2019

Directs HHS to develop a national strategic action plan to help health professionals prepare for and respond to the public health effects of climate change.

My take:  Researchers are considering whether the way in which we produce and process our food has contributed to the rise in food allergies.  The nutrients that nourish our good bacteria in our microbiome has changed over the last 100 years.  Climate change has and will undoubtedly change the way we grow our food and the way in which our bodies respond to these changes.  

 

H.R. 2117:  Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act

Requires that sesame be added to the current list of allergens that manufacturers are required to label for.  The bill would also provide the CDC funding to conduct data on allergy prevalence.

My take:  Sesame is the 9th most common allergen (and one of the fastest growing allergies in terms of prevalence) and it’s a particularly difficult one to avoid.  Ground into flour and paste, used as oil in beauty products, in addition to whole seeds, current labeling guidelines allow for sesame to be hidden in ingredient lists under general terminology like “spices,” “natural flavors,” and “seasoning.”  Customers want transparency in their food and beauty products.  And, labeling for sesame would bring the US closer to the [more thorough and higher] standards set in the UK, EU, Canada and Australia.

For more information on sesame seed allergies, please see Sesame: The 9th Food Allergen?

 

H.R. 2468  School-Based Allergies and Asthma Management Program Act

Increases grant preference to states that implement school-based asthma and allergy management programs (including student action plans and emergency medication administration education/training for staff).

My take:  Schools are concerned with how to handle the increasing number of students with food allergies.  And they should be.  Studies show that 30 percent of stock epinephrine use was for students and staff with no known history of allergies.  But schools lack the funds to improve and increase training on the emergency medication [epinephrine] that will ensure administration when it’s so critically needed.  Immediate administration of epinephrine is associated with more favorable outcomes during anaphylaxis.  Familiarity with the signs and symptoms of a severe reaction leads to accurate, faster treatment, better protection for students and reduces school liability.

 

Not in D.C.?  How you can advocate from where you are:

  1. Call your state’s representatives and encourage them to support these and other legislation that protects patients.
  2. Start local!  There are towns, cities and counties across the country that are doing things right.  For example, there are a few places where police and bus drivers are trained to carry and administer epinephrine.  Is your town one of them?
  3. Work with your state senators and local representatives to allow stock epinephrine to be placed in public venues.
    • In Connecticut, Representative Robin Comey is trying to pass legislation that does just that through Senate Bill 706. If you live in CT, contact your legislators and ask them to support 706 to give entities access to stock epinephrine and the ability to protect those experience life-threatening reactions.
    • In New York City, Elijah’s law (NY S218A) proposes to mandate training  and establish emergency procedures for early child care centers and preschools in New York City.

 

It is an honor and a privilege to help improve rights for patient and families like ours and to play a part in our government at work.  By representing all our voices, it was clear we illustrated what is important to constituents and elevated these important issues for our representatives.

 

Find your own way to keep the momentum going!

 

 

The Impact of Adult On-Set Food Allergies March 25, 2019

People often think of food allergies as a childhood disease, where 1 in every 13 kids have a food allergy.  And, much attention DOES need to be paid to the developmental years to keep young food allergies patients safe.

 

But recently, Dr. Ruchi Gupta and her research team reported that 1 in 10 adults have a food allergy in the United States – that’s 26 million adults.  This more than doubles previous estimates putting the total number of patients with food allergies over 32 million people in the US.

 

Beyond the fascinating information presented in her study.  This has tremendous implications outside of the medical field.  This number changes the discussion in a variety of industries who should now be taking food allergies into account in a way they may not have before.

 

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To put it in all in context, food allergies affect:

  • 1,500 passengers that fly Delta daily
  • 260,000 passengers that the FAA serves daily in and out of U.S. airports
  • 520,000 visitors to Disney World annually
  • 15,000,000 guests at Hilton Hotels annually
  • 10,000,000 diners at fast food establishments annually
  • Almost 2,900 ticket holders at each and every Major League Baseball game
  • 72,000 fans annually at AT&T Stadium watching the Dallas Cowboys play
  • 400,000 teachers in primary and secondary schools
  • Nearly 95,000 people working as chefs, cooks and other food preparation employees

 

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But, these numbers aren’t exactly representative of all those who are affected by food allergies.  Parents, siblings, co-workers and friends all make decisions based on their companion with food allergies.  And, when handled well, those experiences flying, visiting amusement parks, staying at hotels, eating in restaurants, attending events, etc, leave a lasting impression that breeds customer loyalty.  Companies need to carefully consider food allergies and implement best practices to gain and retain this kind of loyalty.  If 32 million Americans suffer from food allergies directly, it may be safe to assume that as many as 120 million Americans are affected by them indirectly by enjoying time with allergic friends, family and co-workers.

 

Mistakes with food allergy do not only lead to uncomfortableness (such as hives), as many who do not have food allergies sometimes believe.  They can lead to serious emergencies as reactions vary from simple hives to fainting, throat closing, respiratory distress and cardiac issues and need to be taken very seriously in order to be managed properly.  This requires education across the board and thoughtful policies that offer patients a safe experience.

 

What can companies do to offer safe options to those with food allergies?  Where can they be more transparent?  What can they do educate their employees?  How will they prepare for a food allergic emergency?

 

It will be interesting to see which companies embrace these statistics and what they do to do be sensitive to this epidemic.

 

 

 

 

Food Allergy or Food Intolerance? January 14, 2019

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Following an illuminating study conducted by Ruchi S. Gupta and her colleagues Christopher M. Warren, et al, it is clear that most Americans don’t understand the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance.  The study found that in the U.S.  20% of adults claim to have a food allergy, but when evaluated by a medical doctor only 10% have symptoms consistent with a true allergy.

 

What is a food allergy? What makes it unique?

Food allergies are an immune system response to food.  When the body mistakes a food as harmful, it produces a defense system (in the form of antibodies) to fight against it.  These antibodies in the immune system – called immunoglobulin E (IgE), found in the lungs, skin and mucous membranes – release a chemical that sets off a chain reaction of the vascular, respiratory, and cardiac systems.

 

Food allergic reactions can vary from hives, swelling of the mouth, lips and face, and vomiting to respiratory issues (such as wheezing), drop in blood pressure, fainting, and cardiac arrest.  Anaphylaxis is a very serious and potentially fatal condition that is characterized by a sudden drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness and body system failure.  Epinephrine (administered by an auto-injector) is the only medication that can slow or stop anaphylaxis.

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The most common foods that cause a food allergic reaction are:  peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts, pistachios, pecans, etc), dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, fin fish (salmon, tuna, etc), and shellfish.  But almost any food can cause an allergic reaction.

 

 

What is a food intolerance?  How does it differ from a food allergy?

Food intolerances also make people feel discomfort.  However, this discomfort is not life-threatening.  Food intolerances are a digestive response that occur when food irritates the digestive system or makes it difficult for a person to break down the food.

 

Symptoms of a food intolerance can include bloating, gas, nausea, stomach discomfort/pain, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn, headaches, and irritability.  Dairy, or lactose intolerance, is the most common trigger.

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What are some other differences?

 

Food allergic reactions can occur with even the smallest amount of food ingested.  In addition to the range of major symptoms when ingested, it can also cause a skin reaction just upon contact.  A food allergy is a reaction to the protein contained in a food (such as gluten with a wheat allergy).

 

With food intolerances, amount of food consumed matters.   The more food consumed, the worse the digestive reaction.  Food intolerances occur because the body cannot break down the sugar in a given food (like lactose in milk).

 

Food allergies are diagnosed in several ways.  The golden standard is an oral food challenge – where a patient eats their suspected allergen under medical supervision to note the reaction.  Patients may take an IgE blood test or be asked to take a skin prick test to diagnose and monitor food allergy.

 

When a food intolerance is suspected, patients are often asked to keep a food journal or diary in which they note the foods they ate as well as the symptoms they experience.  Patients may also be asked to eliminate a particular food from their diet and note symptoms for a period of time.

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In both cases, a doctor will help give an official diagnosis and guide the patient through any changes that need to be made to their lifestyle.   Those with food allergies will also discuss issues like cross-contamination, emergency action plans, and epinephrine.  Those with food intolerances may talk about medications that can help to ease symptoms. Avoidance of problem foods will be suggested for food allergies as well as food intolerances.

 

Knowing the difference between a life-threatening food allergy and an uncomfortable food intolerance will help keep you safe, make appropriate lifestyle changes and get you the relief you need sooner.  

 

 

 

Food Allergy References May 7, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 10:55 am

Just in time for Food Allergy Awareness Week (May 13-20), here is the essential list of reading and graphics to help educate yourself and others.  Post these in your social media feed, forward appropriate articles to school and camp, and print graphics to hang up in school and elsewhere.

#FoodAllergyAwarenessWeek

 

1. Food Allergy Labeling Laws:  The Ins and Outs of Reading Food Labels

2. The Symptoms and Descriptions of a Food Allergic Reaction: The Language of Food Allergies

3. What to do in a Food Allergy Emergency to Maximize Success:  #Minutes Matter: Be Prepared For Severe Allergic Reactions

4. The Quiet Danger:  Food Allergy Bullying: Not Just a School Problem

5. The ONE Form Everyone Needs: Put This on Your To Do List Today: Food Allergy Action Plan

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Language of Severe reaction

 

Allergy Shmallergy Named Among Healthline’s Top Allergy Blogs May 4, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 9:15 am

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In advance of Food Allergy Awareness Week, Healthline has published its annual list of the year’s top allergy blogs.  Each blog offers a unique perspective and serves as a great resource to food allergy patients, their families, and their communities.

 

I am honored that Allergy Shmallergy has once again made this list!  Check us and the rest of the winner out here: Healthline Best Allergy Blogs of 2018.

 

Thanks, Healthline!

 

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A Gluten-Free and Egg-Free Passover March 19, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — malawer @ 9:00 am

 

Passover is almost here!  The 8 day celebration is a favorite celebration for a great reason: in commemorating the story of Moses, it honors freedom everywhere.  Modern day Jewish people refrain from eating leavened bread to reflect on the Israelites’ quick flight out of Egypt and their perseverance through the desert.  Given the restriction on yeast, many Passover recipes weave matzoh crackers or matzoh meal and eggs into delicious and inventive meals.

 

But of course, if you’re allergic to wheat or eggs, this holiday can be challenging. And finding safe products poses a problem for those who wish to observe the holiday and participate in the traditional Passover dinner, called a seder.

 

Thankfully, companies have begun to take note and gluten-free Passover products are MUCH easier to find today than they were when my son was first diagnosed with a wheat allergy almost 12 years ago.

From matzo crackers to graham crackers, creamy chicken soup to the ever-essential matzo ball soup, and desserts galore, gluten-free alternatives are finding their way onto shelves in supermarket and are available for shipment online.

 

Egg is often used more often during Passover to lighten dishes and replace traditional leavening ingredients.  But what if you are allergic to eggs?  Kugel, gefilte fish, matzo balls, and matzo brei are all held together with egg.  Not to mention desserts?!

 

Of all the Passover recipes, matzo ball soup (a year-round favorite as well) is the most loved.  And, the hardest to recreate without eggs.  Enter aquafaba  [read more about aquafaba here: “Okay, I Give… What is Aquafaba?”, Oct. 2016].

 

The Tablet magazine printed a recipe by Rebecca Klempner [“Matzo Ball Soup – And Hold the Eggs?!”, Aug. 15, 2015] that uses aquafaba combined with xanthan gum to solve our problem:

Egg-Free Matzo Balls

 

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In trying to recreate your favorite Passover recipes, remember that you can use aquafaba, banana, tofu or apple sauce in place of eggs depending on taste and method of preparation.

 

What are your Passover recipes?  Which Passover dish do you need help recreating safely? (Maybe another reader has mastered it!)