Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for 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.

 

Put This on Your To Do List Today: Food Allergy Action Plan October 15, 2014

Severe Allergy Action Plan

One of the most helpful food allergy documents I ever received first came, not from our wonderful allergist, but from our  pediatrician.  An Allergy Action Plan is a vital document for you and your family.  It clearly outlines what to do and who to call in a variety of allergic situations.  It spells out how much medication to give and reminds the reader if the patient is asthmatic.

We keep copies of our Allergy Action Plan everywhere.  I have one in our emergency medication basket in the kitchen, one in the car glove compartment, one in our Emergency On-The-Go Kit, one at school, one at religious school, and others at camp.  Now that I’m writing this, I think I should give a copy to my parents and in-laws so that they can familiarize themselves with the right course of action and know where to access this crucial information in case my son is staying with them (even if his On-The-Go Kit also contains one).

To complete your Food Allergy Action Plan today:

1.  First download Allergy Shmallergy’s:  AS – Severe Allergy Action Plan;

2.  Bring to your allergist or pediatrician to fill out.  This is not for a parent/patient to complete;

3.  Make more copies than you think is necessary to display/distribute to anywhere you/your child keeps epinephrine;

4.  Date the document and remember to update it every 12 months.

 

Auvi-Q vs. EpiPen: Which Is Best For You? October 4, 2013

Filed under: Preparedness — malawer @ 9:12 am
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As most of you are aware, there are many different types of epinephrine auto-injectors available these days.  Up until recently, EpiPens ruled the marketplace.  But recently, a new product, Auvi-Q, has been getting a lot of buzz.

 

So, if you’re asked which one you’d like to be prescribed, as I recently was by our allergist, which will you choose?

 

Here are the pros and cons to both as I see it:

  

EpiPens:

  • Because they dominated the market for so long, EpiPens are recognizable.  In an emergency, that might mean someone who does not have food allergies may know to look for one and may be familiar with what to do with it.
  • They are larger (especially because you’re carrying two of them), ensuring that they are easy to find in a purse or sports bag when seconds count.
  • EpiPens have been in use for a long time, making them tried and tested.  However, there have been some functionality issues that were addressed earlier this year (2018)
  • Because they are large and you must carry two, EpiPens are hard for men to carry.
  • In a panic, you have to either remember your injection instructions or read them on the outside of the pen itself – something that someone who is frazzled may have trouble concentrating on.
 

Auvi-Q:

  • There’s no doubt about it, Auvi-Q is sleek and small.  This is likely appealing to teenagers who may be tempted to leave their epinephrine at home.
  • The needle retracts after injection, eliminating the possibility of accidental pricks, scratches or lacerations.
  • It instructs you!  So, even if you’ve never touched an auto-injector before, chances are you could properly administer epinephrine using the Auvi-Q.
  • It fits in your pocket.  I think this will be very helpful to both adolescents and men.  Women carry bags, so no matter the size of the auto-injector, it likely fits.  But men… well, the “Murse” doesn’t look like it’s really catching on.  Dads can stick the Auvi-Q in their pocket while they’re out on the town with the kids.  My own husband is planning to leave it in his pocket when he coaches my son’s baseball team this weekend.
  • Auvi-Qs are about the size of a deck of cards. Remember: you need to carry two.
  • Again, this makes it convenient for a pocket, but less so for locating it in a large purse.
 

So, what do I decide to do?  Well, I chose both!  I want my babysitters and other visitors to my house to have the emergency instinct to go for what they know:  the EpiPens.  But, I love the convenience of carrying the Auvi-Q for my husband, in particular, ensuring that my son’s emergency meds are always on-hand.

 

Both Auvi-Q and EpiPens have a solid place in the marketplace.  Both administer epinephrine which saves lives!

 

Which one did you choose?

 

Sunbutter for a Sunny Day June 26, 2012

Here’s another review in favor of Sunbutter.  I had resisted buying Sunbutter, the peanut-free peanut butter made from sunflower seeds.  I had a reservation about introducing my peanut allergic son to Sunbutter and worried that he would have an impossible time distinguishing it from real peanut butter outside our house.  Let’s face it:  it generally isn’t served outside of a peanut-free house and I was concerned that this might set him up for disaster.

 

But recently I concluded that he’s old enough to know that this is special allergy-free spread.  And, I was craving peanut butter as a healthy (ish) snack alternative with apples and celery.  If Sunbutter worked as a substitute, at a minimum my husband and I could enjoy it!

 

And, I will say, we are split in our feelings about it.  I absolutely LOVE it!  It tastes almost exactly like peanut butter to me — so much so that I originally felt guilty about having it!  It is unbelievably nut-free, but you’d never know.  And, I suspect this would be perfect for baking as well – a very exciting prospect!

 

In the interest of balance, my husband wasn’t as enthusiastic about it.   Bummer.

 

That said, I would highly recommend it for a peanut-free household.  You may wish, as I did, to consider the unintended consequences of introducing a substitute peanut butter and weigh them against your child’s age, understanding of his/her allergy, responsibility levels, etc.  But I would also suggest any family dealing with nut-free restrictions consider Sunbutter – it is perfect for lunches at nut-free schools, camps and playdates.  And, it’s quite a treat for us non-allergic parents and siblings who don’t get to indulge in peanut butter very often.

 

Summer Camp With Food Allergies – Our Experience May 31, 2012

Filed under: Preparedness — malawer @ 11:25 am
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Last year, we enrolled my oldest son in Headfirst Summer Camp.  He was enthralled with the idea of his week at their all-sports program and even more ecstatic to be participating with one of his best buddies.

 

As excited as we were for him, I was – as always – a little apprehensive of sending him to a camp where lunch was involved.  Before enrolling, I called Headfirst’s administrative office to ask questions.  To my surprise, they couldn’t have been either more professional nor more prepared for handling food allergies.  Campers bring their own lunch – already a good start – and snacks were not served.  Phew!  There is a nurse on site (yay!), nut-free area for dining and the counselors carry each campers emergency medications (for us, EpiPens and Benadryl) in a fanny pack (poor counselors) or backpack with that child everywhere the child goes.  Headfirst was both prepared and thoughtful about food allergies (see the policy in their words) – I was impressed and happily signed him up!

 

We had one little snag for the whole week:  the camp wound up rewarding the kids with ice pops one afternoon – something that was not communicated to me, as a food allergic parent, in advance.  When my son came home and admitted to having the ice pop because he didn’t have an alternative snack and he was sure he had eaten the same kind before, I was concerned.  First of all, this wasn’t the protocol we taught him and secondly, ice pops occasionally contain dairy.  Thankfully, my son showed no allergic symptoms but I checked with the director before camp the following morning, confirming that the pops were, in fact, something my son had eaten before.  I let her know that food allergic parents should be made aware of this reward as they register on the first day of camp – giving them a chance to okay the product in advance.  She agreed and we both called the main office with this suggestion.

 

All said, my son had a fantastic week at camp!  The program suited my son (and his friend) soooo well.  They were excited going to camp each day and left wanting more.  And, I could send him off without worry knowing how well thought out the camp’s food allergies plan was.

 

What has your summer camp experience been like?


 

Nut-Free Pumpkin Seeds at a Discount! April 23, 2012

Finding nut-free seeds is like finding Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket.  Bizarrely difficult.

 

Enter Gerbs.

 

I’ve already tried the Toasted Onion and Garlic variety (see Found: Nut-Free Seeds).  And, now we can’t stop eating the Touch of Sea Salt.  Gerbs are addictively delicious!  And, a great way to satisfy those nut cravings in our nut-free household.  Plus, they are safe to send to school, camp, and playdates.  Too bad I have to share them with the rest of the fam!

 

If you want to try them, check their website for local retailers -OR- you can order online and receive a 10% discount on your entire order by using the code “SHMALLERGY”.

Let me know if anyone tries the trail mix!  Mmmm…..

 

Expired EpiPens? EpiPhany! October 21, 2011

After being inspired to clean out some spaces in my house that haven’t received much attention recently, I amazingly stumbled upon a large stash of expired EpiPens.  I was holding on to them with the thought that they might be useful in some way or in need of special disposal, but instead they simply sat in the back of a closet.

 

Suddenly I had an epiphany (an EpiPhany if you will).   Instead of throwing them out, I brought the EpiPens into our school nurse to help train other teachers, assistants, interns and substitutes on the administration of an EpiPen.  More than 15% of food allergic children experience a food allergy reaction while at school.  Given that statistic, emergency training with real EpiPens is only to everyone’s benefit (not least of which is my own son).

 

So, consider donating your expired EpiPens to your local school, preschool, camp or daycare facility and spread the word to any allergic adults you may know.  Our nurse was excited to use our old EpiPens and to store our old trainers for faculty food allergy training and I felt great putting them all to good use.