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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highlights from the Inaugural Food Allergy Fund Summit – April 2019 May 7, 2019

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If you couldn’t attend the Food Allergy Fund’s inaugural summit last week, you’re in luck because I took copious notes!  In addition to the highlights below, the Food Allegy Fund posted my official summary over on their site.

 

So many areas of food allergy converged at the Paley Center in New York City on April 4th:  research, immunology, pediatrics, psychology, product innovation, advocacy, professional chefs and restauranteurs.  And each attendee arrived with their own lens through which they view food allergies.  Needless to say, interesting people provoke interesting conversations.  I nearly filled a notebook with all the information I gleaned that day, but here are some of the stand-out highlights:

 

Dr. Patrick Brennan, recipient of FAF’s first $100,000 Innovator’s Research Grant, kicked the summit off by stating optimistically and quite matter-of-factly, “Food allergy is a solvable problem” and later continued to encourage patients about the future of food allergy research by declaring, “Innovation really comes through philanthropy.”

 

Next, Linda Herbert took the stage. As the Director of Psychosocial Program for the Department of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National Medical Center, I could listen to her talk all day.  Of the many, many fascinating things she said, here are two big ideas to think about:

  • Human nature dictates that we crave predictability and human connection. Food allergies get in the way of both of those innate desires.
  • With immunotherapy on the rise, it is expected that families will be more anxious and will need the help of mental health professionals even more frequently.

FAFSummit 2 Innovators Pitch

 

Susie Hultquist, CEO and Founder of the app Spokin, likened the current status of food allergy innovation to renting VHS tapes.  Of where innovation stands, she says, “We’re in the Blockbuster age.  We need to take this in the Netflix era.”

FAFSummit Parent Advocates

An emotionally charged panel of parents turned advocates dominated the stage, moderated with both kindness and generosity by CNN’s Chris Cillizza, a fellow food allergy parent.

  • Lianne Mandelbaum of No Nut Traveler talked about airlines and their policies towards food allergies:  “They are consistently inconsistent”.  
  • Clearly, we need practical procedures that can be consistently enforced across entire fleets and around the world.  For example, of carrying epinephrine auto-injectors on airplanes, Lianne stated, “We have the tools and we need to be able to use them.”
  • Georgina Cipriano of Love for Giovanni Foundation reminded the audience, “Please stress that epinephrine is safe.  Please stress that it only hurts you when you DON’T use it.”

 

The amazing Dr. Ruchi Gupta hit the stage to talk about the lens-changing research she and her team have accomplished and what they are working on next.  Importantly, if you have ideas for school and community-based food allergy research – let her know.

 

Dr Hugh Sampson, COO of DBV Technologies and Director Emeritus of the Jaffe Center at Mt. Sinai described the development of a new diagnostic tool to test not only for the presence of food allergy but for the possibility of reactivity as well as response to immunotherapy.  In other words – it could show how someone’s immune system sees each food and create a unique “fingerprint” for food allergic response.

FAFSummit 3 Chefs

Celebrity chefs and restauranteurs Elizabeth Falkner, Amanda Freitag and Ming Tsai took the stage with so much experience and a lot of humor.  Ming Tsai is a food allergy parent and pioneer; Amanda Freitag, allergic to hazelnuts, understands food allergies firsthand; and Elizabeth Falkner is a longtime food allergy advocate.  The chefs agreed that having a system in place to handle food allergies in a restaurants kitchen is critical.  “Five or six food allergy requests can shut down a line if you don’t have a system,” according to Ming Tsai.  Amanda Freitag spoke about her own family’s experience dining out with food allergies.  Like many families, she and her family are loyal customers of certain establishments. “We frequent these restaurants because they take care of us.”  And with refreshing perspective, Elizabeth Falkner stated that she welcomes food allergy requests in her kitchen, “As a chef, I like challenges! I view it as a creative exercise.” Don’t we wish every chef was more like her!

 

The Food Allergy Summit had something for everyone.  Thank you to the Food Allergy Fund and a special thank you to all the presenters and panelists for a very stimulating day.  For a full summary of the inaugural Food Allergy Fund summit, please read here.

 

Understanding the New Peanut Allergy Prevention Guidelines January 31, 2017

**Not a medical professional.  As always, please discuss specific recommendations for your child with your doctor.  The below is to inform you of pediatric guideline changes and their purpose.**

 

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Earlier this month, experts from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) issued new recommendations to help families prevent peanut allergies.

 

While there are a lot of intricacies involved in the research and its findings, the results are clear:  early introduction of peanuts can help prevent the development of a peanut allergy.  And, that’s big news!

 

Background:

Peanut allergies (and food allergies in general) are a growing problem.  The rate of food allergy has doubled in the last 10 years alone.  And, only 1 of every 4 children allergic to peanuts will outgrow their allergy.

 

Prior to 2000, doctors didn’t give new parents much advice about feeding their infants allergenic foods (such as milk, eggs, peanuts, fish, etc).  Beginning around 2000, the general consensus was that delayed introduction might help developing immune systems handle these proteins more efficiently.  In 2008, doctors didn’t really give parents a strong direction either way.  However, that same year, researchers compared the rate of peanut allergy among Jewish kids in the UK (where they delay introduction), to those in Israel (where they feed a peanut-based snack as some of their babies’ first foods) and were stunned to see the difference.  Children in Israel had a far smaller rate of peanut allergy than their counterparts in the United Kingdom.  It became clear doctors and researchers needed to revisit their guidance.

 

Thus, began the 5 year LEAP study (Learning Early about Peanut Allergy), one of the most successful allergy trials that has been conducted to date.  It took children with severe eczema or egg allergy and broke them into two groups: one group was fed peanuts early and one avoided them.  Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study revealed that early introduction of peanut reduced the incidence of developing a peanut allergy by up to 80% and had lasting effects.

 

Current Recommendations:

Based on their findings, the NIAID broke down their recommendations into three categories:

 

Guideline 1:

If the baby has an egg allergy (which is inexplicably related to peanut allergy) or has severe eczema (a persistent, scaly rash associated with allergy), speak with your doctor or a specialist about testing for peanut allergy.  And, speak with her/him about best ways to proceed with introduction.

 

In their own words, the NIAID states:

“Guideline 1 recommends that if your infant has severe eczema, egg allergy, or both (conditions that increase the risk of peanut allergy), he or she should have peanut-containing foods introduced into the diet as early as 4 to 6 months of age. This will reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy.

Check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding your infant peanut-containing foods. He or she may choose to perform an allergy blood test or send your infant to a specialist for other tests, such as a skin prick test. The results of these tests will help to determine if peanut should be introduced into your infant’s diet and, if so, the safest way to introduce it. If your infant’s test results indicate that it is safe to introduce peanut-containing foods, the healthcare provider may recommend that you introduce peanut-containing foods to your infant at home. Or, if you prefer, the first feeding may be done in the healthcare provider’s office under supervision. On the other hand, testing may indicate that peanut should be carefully introduced at a specialist’s facility or not introduced at all because your child may already have developed an allergy to peanut.

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for introducing peanut-containing foods to your infant.”

 

Guideline 2:

If your child has mild to moderate eczema, peanut-containing products can be introduced beginning at 6 months of age.  Check with your doctor or specialist to confirm that his/her case of eczema is considered mild to moderate and discuss introduction.

From NIAID:

“Guideline 2 suggests that if your infant has mild to moderate eczema, he or she may have peanut-containing foods introduced into the diet around 6 months of age to reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy. However, this should be done with your family’s dietary preferences in mind. If peanut-containing foods are not a regular part of your family’s diet (and your infant does not have severe eczema, egg allergy, or both), do not feel compelled to introduce peanut at such an early stage.

Your child’s healthcare provider can tell you whether your child’s eczema is mild to moderate. You may then choose to introduce peanut-containing foods at home. However, if you or your healthcare provider prefer, the first feeding can be done in the provider’s office under supervision.”

 

Guideline 3:

If your child does not have an egg allergy OR eczema, you may freely introduce peanuts with other solid foods.

 

The flow chart and summary from Science News, spells it out clearly if you need a visual.

 

 

How DO you introduce peanuts to an infant?  Do I need to look out for anything special?

  • First feeds should be offered after you have tried other first foods (such as rice cereal) so that the baby learns to suck and swallow these news textures and to ensure that your baby tolerates these typical foods.
  •  DO NOT feed babies whole peanuts as they pose a choking hazard.  Babies lack both the teeth and the development to properly manage peanuts.
  • Once introduced, watch for 10 minutes and up to 2 hours for signs of a reaction.  In a baby, you might see: hives, cough or gasping, vomiting, you might notice they are more cuddly and needy.  If you suspect a reaction, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Once tolerated, aim for regular ingestion.  The recommended frequency is 2g of peanut protein three times a week.

 

What does 2g of peanut protein look like?

In Israel, parents feed their children a snack called Bamba – a dissolvable, airy snack that contains peanut protein.  Shaped like a Cheese Doodle, 2/3 bag of Bamba equals 2g of peanut protein.  To begin, you can crush the Bamba and mix it with water to feed.

 

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photo by robinmcnicoll via Flickr – unaltered and posted according to Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

If you’d like to use peanut butter, 2g of peanut protein is equal to 2 tsp or 1 household spoon (as in, from your utensil drawer).  Mix SMOOTH peanut butter with hot water and COOL.  You can then mix it with fruit or vegetable puree before serving.

 

Two grams of peanut flour or protein is equal to 2 tsp.  Again, these can be mixed with fruit or vegetable purees.

 

(Peanut containing cereals were not specifically recommended because of the varying levels of peanut protein as well as sugar and sodium content by brand.)

 

A few notes: 

For those of you, like me, whose children are already allergic.  This is not instruction to begin feeding them peanuts.  DO NOT!

 

And for those of you, like me, who read these guidelines and felt guilty about eating peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding… or NOT eating peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding…  or delaying introduction (as we were instructed at that time):

 

You did not cause your child’s food allergy.  There IS no single cause of food allergies.  As Dr. Matthew Greenhawt of Children’s Hospital Colorado kindly offered, “This was nobody’s fault.  You followed the best data at the time.  Your avoidance didn’t cause [your child’s] peanut allergy.”  I’ll be honest, I welled with tears hearing this from an allergist.

 

This exciting news represents a paradigm shift in the prevention of food allergies.  Here’s hoping that future generations won’t be plagued by the same number and severity of cases!

 

Download NIAID’s full recommendation report here:  Addendum Guidelines for the Prevention of Peanut Allergy in the United States.