Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

6 Tips for Traveling with Food Allergies March 7, 2017

pool-690034_1920 via pixabay

 

Spring break is on the horizon!  Can you smell the fresh air already?  Are you mentally packing your bags? (I am!)

 

Here are a few tips when traveling with food allergies:

locking-knob-883059_1920 via pixabay

  1.  Call your airline and inquire about their food allergy policy in advance.  Ask specifically about early boarding and in-flight announcements.
  2. Most airlines will allow passengers to board the plane early in order to wipe down surfaces (this includes seat backs, seat belts, tray tables and knobs, armrests). Be sure to bring enough baby wipes or antibacterial wipes (such as Wet Ones) to cover all the legs of your travel.  Again, ask about pre-boarding at the gate.
  3. Carry your epinephrine auto-injectors and antihistamines ON BOARD.  Do not pack these away in your luggage.  [*ALLERGY SHMALLERGY TIP*: Zyrtec makes dissolvable tablets which eliminate the worry over bringing liquids through security as well as anything spilling in your bags.]
  4. If you’re traveling to a warm weather destination, you’ll need to remember to keep your epinephrine auto-injectors at room temperature – even while enjoying the beach or pool.  Pack a cool pack (like this one) and an insulated bag (like this cute lunch bag).  Store the cool packs in your hotel’s mini-fridge (who needs a $15 bag of M&Ms anyway!?) or plan on ordering a to-go cup of ice to keep the medicine cool poolside.
  5. A hotel or resort’s food services manager can usually help you navigate menus.  On our last vacation, the food services manager had food allergies himself and was invaluable in hunting down ingredients and safe alternatives for our family.  Befriend this fantastic person!
  6. If you’re planning on visiting an amusement park, taking a hike or being similarly active, consider packing a backpack into your luggage (or use one as your carry-on!).  You’ll need to bring your epinephrine auto-injectors wherever you go – especially on vacation when you’re away from home cooking, familiar restaurants and local knowledge of hospitals and doctors.  Backpacks can make carrying it easier depending on the activity – simply slip the insulated bag into your backpack and go!

 

amusement-park-237200_1920

 

Two more notes:

  • Airline travelers should bring their own snacks/meals on board flights to ensure their safety.
  • Refrain from using airplane blankets and pillows as allergen residue may reside there.
  • Bring a baby or antibacterial wipe to the bathroom to wipe down door  and knob handles.

 

 

 

Help Fund a Cure for Food Allergies January 10, 2017

boy-1636731_1280-pixabay

“Why can’t I just be like everyone else?”

If you have a child with food allergies, you’ve likely heard this heartbreaking sentiment from your kid.  We’ve all had to console this same child who just wants to put aside his/her food allergies and anxieties even if only for a single day.

Parents would go to any length for the sake of their kids.  Food allergy parents often do by preparing safe food, educating others, strategizing for school, holidays, play dates, and celebrations.

 

But how many of us have done 3,000 burpees for them?

 

That’s what fellow food allergy parent, Mike Monroe, plans to do on January 25th in order to raise money for ongoing research for a cure for food allergies.  Mike’s goal is to raise $50,000 to support cutting-edge research examining novel applications of cellular therapy for the millions of kids with food allergies being explored at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

 

marines_burpee-us-embassy-tokyo-flickr

marines_burpee by U.S. Embassy Tokyo via Flickr

 

What’s a burpee, you might ask?  It’s a combination of push-up/plank, squat and jump performed in combination.  Try one right now!  Do another.  I think you’ll agree: it’s NOT easy!  Mike plans to complete 3,000 of these in under 12 hours.

What can you do to support Mike?

 

1.  Watch this video about Mike’s incredible motivation – his son, Miles:

 

 

2.  Consider a donation:  Every little bit helps get us all closer to a cure for food allergies.

3K Burpee Challenge for Food Allergies

3.  Share this post!  Please share this with your family and friends, share via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media channels.  Let’s support Mike and researchers to help our own kids and the millions who face life threatening food allergies every day!

 

 

Donate:

http://childrensnational.donordrive.com/campaign/BurpeeProject

Blog:

http://www.3kburpeechallenge.com/

Facebook Page:

https://www.facebook.com/3KBurpeeChallenge/

YouTube Video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSVGTkFtnyk&feature=youtu.be

 

Allergy-Friendly Bakeries in the Metro DC Area May 31, 2016

Read below for our continually updated list of allergy-friendly bakeries in the DC metro area.

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With all the end-of-school, summer birthday, last sports game, graduation parties to be had, there’s no time to bake your own free-from desserts.  Let’s support these fabulous businesses who are trying to make life a little easier for families living with food allergies.

 

When you’re looking to buy baked goods for someone with food allergies, it’s feels almost impossible to find a safe option.  Here’s a list of some Nut-free, Gluten-free, and/or Vegan (read: Dairy and Egg-free) bakeries in the DC metro area to satisfy your sweet tooth.  (I’m salivating as I research these great places and now dying to go to each and every one!)

 

Cole’s Moveable Feast Picture
http://www.colesmoveablefeast.com/
Led by a former attorney turned home baker, Cole’s Moveable Feast serves the Northern Virginia area.  They offer custom cakes, cupcakes, cookies, seasonal breads, pastries, and pies baked to order without dairy, egg, nuts, gluten and/or any other allergens you specify.  Using custom gluten-free flour lends and egg substitutes, their biggest sellers are cakes and cupcakes made without gluten, nuts, dairy or egg, but they can accommodate nearly any allergen (including soy and corn).   NOTE:  they even have a weekly snack delivery option!
Free from:  Nuts, gluten, dairy, egg; can customize to exclude other allergens.
Phone/online orders only.

 

Baked by Yael
https://bakedbyyael.com/
A tree nut-free and peanut-free bakery in D.C.  Among their many products, they offer gluten-free chocolate cakepops as well as dairy-free gingersnaps and egg-free raspberry bars.  A great stop after a day at the National Zoo.
Free from: Tree nuts, Peanuts.  Some goods: Dairy, Egg, Gluten.

 
Dog Tag Bakery
dogtagbakery.com
A nut-free bakery and cafe with a mission to support veterans.  They serve everything from egg and cheese sandwiches to muffins, croissants, quick breads and desserts.
Located in Georgetown.
Free from: Nuts
 
 
 
Happy Tart BakeryÉclair
happytartbakery.com
We are a 100% gluten free French patisserie!  We do bread, cupcakes, tarts and other wondrous goodies! 
Located in Del Ray, Alexandria.
Free from: Gluten, Dairy, Egg, Soy, Nuts
 
 

Out of the Bubble Bakery
www.obubblebakery.com
Based in VA
We specialize in cakes, cupcakes, and cookies for those with food restrictions.
Phone/online orders only.
Free from: Dairy, Nuts, Eggs, Soy, Dye, Gluten and made without GMOs.  Vegan and organic.

Sweet Serenity Bakery
www.sweetserenitybakery.com
Based in VA
Every ingredient is meticulously checked and manufacturers are contacted for anything questionable.  We also do not use any artificial flavorings, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, or high fructose corn syrup.
Phone/online orders only.
Free from:  Eggs, Peanuts, and Tree Nuts

 
 
 

Cookies/Scooby.jpgThe Lemonade Bakery
A dedicated Egg-free, Peanut-free, and Tree Nut-free bakery.
Delivery of cakes, cupcakes, cookies, scones, and breads to the metro-DC area.
Phone/online orders only. Delivery optional.

 
 
 
Egg-Free, Dairy-Free, and Nut-free bakery  and can also make Gluten-free, Vegan, or Custom Allergy-free cupcakes.
See Allergy Shmallergy’s Happy Birthday post from December 2010.
Phone/online orders only.
 
 
   
  
 
  
 
 
 
 

Hello Cupcake in Dupont and Capital Hill, although not a nut-free facility, offers Gluten-Free and Vegan options.

1361 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Just south of Dupont Circle, across from the Metro

705 8th Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
3 blocks south of Eastern Market Metro

 
  
 
 
 
 

Fancy Cakes by Leslie, in Bethesda, offers some Gluten-free selections including cupcakes, cookies, and marzipan.

4939 Elm Street
Bethesda, MD  20814

  
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 

 Sweetz Bakery, located in a kiosk at the Dulles Town Center mall (near the food court), is a custom bakery that makes Gluten and Dairy-free cakes as well as Vegan flavors.

Dulles Town Center Mall

21100 Dulles Town Center Circle

Sterling, VA 20165

 
 
  
 
   
  
   
 
 
  
 
 

Sticky Fingers

An award-winning Vegan Bakery, also available at many retail locations including select Whole Foods in the mid-Atlantic and DC-metro area.  Everything they make is Dairy and Egg-free, and they also offer a few Nut-free and Gluten-free desserts (but are not a nut and wheat-free facility).

1370 Park Rd NW

Washington, DC  20010

   
  
 
 
 
 
 

 Sweet and Natural

An all-Vegan restaurant, also offers a selection of Vegan desserts – some of which are also available in local health food stores.

4009 34th St
Mt Rainier, MD 20712

 
 
  
 
 

Cake Love

Offers Vegan and Gluten-Free products.

Locations throughout the metro DC area including:

DC; Arlington, Tysons Corner, & Fairfax, VA;

Silver Spring, National Harbor, MD

  
 
 
 
  
 
  
 

Dama Bakery

Serves Ethiopian and French pastries in Vegan and Gluten-free varieties.

1505 Columbia Pike
Arlington, VA

  
 
 
 
  
 
 

 

Whole Foods sells “Safe For School” Nut-free cookies in their bakery section.

  
 
  
 
 
 
  

The Westbard Giant in Bethesda sells Nut-free cupcakes. According to one shopper, you can usually find them in the freezer located in the bakery (not the regular freezer section), but they are sometimes displayed in the bakery section. They carry a label stating that they were made in a nut free facility.  Convenient!

  
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 

 For even more Vegan bakeries located in and around DC, check out the list at VegDC.com and Urbanspoon.com.

 

‘Tis the Season: 504 Plans April 15, 2016

 

Fall and the start of school seem far away – I mean, who can think about going back to school when summer is just around the corner?!  That said, many of you are now sitting in front of a pile of forms thinking about 504 Plans for your children for next fall.

 

504 refer to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  These plans are set in place to provide accommodations to school age children with disabilities (food allergies are listed among the qualifiers) to ensure that they are afforded equal access to learning and academic success as their peers.

 

These plans are created in collaboration with your child’s school and spell out food allergy management.  In addition to a Food Allergy Action Plan, 504 Plans can cover a broad range of topics such as snacks and meals, storage of emergency medication, addresses classroom issues related to food allergies such as science projects and other manipulatives, as well as hand washing policies.

 

Many people, including school administrators, get 504 Plans confused with IEPs.  An IEP is an Individual Education Plan which allows students with disabilities (often learning or cognitive disabilities) to receive specialized instruction and/or related services.  IEP qualification is determined both at meetings and in conjunction with standardized assessments, as well as other data collection.  504 Plans are determined by looking at medical records. Both are federally funded programs: 504 Plans guarantee access to education while IEPs provide supplemental academic services.

 

I recently came across an incredibly thorough and helpful article written by Vivian Stock-Hendel on fellow blogger, Sharon Wong’s blog “Nut Free Wok.”  Entitled, Food Allergy 101: 1, 2, 3…504 , you will learn everything you need to know about completing a 504 Plan and what to do if you need both a 504 and IEP.

 

Keep in mind, both plans can be used at schools which receive federal funding.  If your child attends private school, ask someone in administration if the school makes food allergy accommodations through 504 Plans or by another means.

 

Best of luck!

 

Additional Resources:

FARE: Advocacy – Section 504 and Written Management Plans

Food Allergy Action Plan Template

 

Food Allergies and Family – Disagreements Not Break-Ups April 12, 2016

I hear stories all the time from food allergy parents that their family members aren’t taking their child’s food allergy seriously.  And, this – of course – can have serious implications.  I’m also saddened to hear when this difference in perspective leads to family disagreements – or worse, families cutting one another off completely.

 

Our parents (our children’s grandparents) didn’t grow up with this alarming rate of food allergy.  In fact, many of them didn’t know a single person with a diagnosed food allergy.  Times have changes and current parenting is more active and vigilant than it was 30 years ago.  I’ve explained to many a grandparent that the rise in food allergies is not a trend of parent over-sensitivity or as a result of over-protectiveness, but -in fact- an actual, black and white medical diagnosis.

 

Grandparents and other family members may not understand the amount of work and preparation it takes to safely raise a child with a severe food allergy: the advanced preparation when eating out; repeated education of others; familiarity with labeling laws (such as the FDA’s FALCPA in the United States), alternative names for allergens and a general sense of where it might pop up and cause problems; the worry about our kids and the exclusion we fear they face.  Let’s face it, none of us were prepared for the intense amount of work prior to our family’s first food allergy diagnosis.

 

If there’s one thing I know for sure though, it’s that a parent’s love for their child is fierce.  It knows no bounds.  As food allergic parents, that fierce love we have for our children and our instinct to protect them may come off a little strong.  And, understandably so when we feel like their lives are in danger.  But in the face of difficult decision-making, our anxiety over their well-being may not offer the patient, gentle voice that our family and friends need in order to truly hear our concerns.

 

It doesn’t help that food allergy parents feel disrespected when their own parents don’t fully abide by or outright disregard their guidance about how to feed (and therefore protect) their children.  Food allergy parents can feel betrayed when others are unwilling to make changes to protect their children.

 

So, what can you do when you’re at odds with your family over your child’s food allergies? 

 

First, have a kind but firm talk about the allergies and severity of the possible reactions.  Do this when your child is not present.  Expect a lot of questions, so come prepared with answers from your allergist or pediatrician.  Bottom line: be informative and remain calm.

 

Reminder: don’t put your parents (…siblings, friends…) on the defensive.  Remember the “I” statements you were taught in school.  Now’s the time to employ them.  In essence, phrase your emotions with “I feel…”  rather than pointedly, “You” statements.  “I’m worried that Charlie will have a dangerous allergic reaction because he’s a toddler who doesn’t know the difference between peanuts and raisins,” rather than “You’re not listening to me: put away the peanuts!”

 

Share your learning curve.  Relate to them by reminding yourself (and them) how overwhelmed you first felt when you first received your child’s diagnosis.  They probably feel this way too right now: they’re trying to take it all in and food allergies have likely seemed very far off and remote to them.

 

If necessary, spell out the seriousness.  It can be hard to truly admit – most especially to yourself – the possibility of a severe food allergic reaction and its real consequences.  I have a lump in my throat just writing about it.  Watch the Discovery Channel’s 2013 documentary “Emerging Epidemic: Food Allergies in America” with your parents and siblings (again without the kids present).  The first 10 minutes of this multifaceted documentary deal with an anaphylactic reaction and is a firsthand example of the dangers of food allergies.

 

Remember that old habits die hard.  Most habits are not malicious, but they can be dangerous.  My own father had a nightly habit of snacking on a bowl of nuts, which he continued to do unconsciously when we visited.  When my son could crawl, I reminded him again that this wasn’t safe.  I was frustrated having to restate this every visit, so to drive the point home, I told him, “These nuts are like arsenic for my child.  Leaving them on the table is the equivalent of leaving a loaded gun for my toddler to figure out.”  It clicked immediately.  My dad apologized profusely and has since been phenomenally careful with my son’s allergies.

 

Invite them to a doctor’s appointment.  Allow them to ask as many questions as they have.  Maybe give your allergist or primary care physician a heads up so they know to allow a little extra time for questions and answers.  Hearing the information from a medical professional often underscores what you’ve been saying all along.  You know how your kids listen to their teachers but not you?  Your parents might be the same way.

 

Remind them that as much of an inconvenience as it is for them to adapt to your allergy-friendly lifestyle, assure them that it is SIGNIFICANTLY more so for you and your family.  Make it easier for them to navigate by suggesting some of the tips in The Host’s Guide to AllergiesThe Host’s Guide: Part II; and the Host’s Guide: Part III.

 

Invite them to participate in your lives by organizing activities that DO NOT revolve around food or meals.  I know that’s hard when we talk of family because food and socializing traditionally go hand-in-hand.  But, there’s no need to sacrifice your relationship with even the most obstinate family member – just take away the point of contention:  food.  I know that tensions can flare in the process of trying to win over someone’s mindset, but – by doing other things and removing the obstacle – perhaps you will both come to an understanding about your different perspectives.

 

Families are important.  They are our best cheerleaders.  They remind us of who we are and where we come from.  And, they teach our children all kinds of lessons we can’t impart alone.  By trying to handle differing opinions over a difficult issue like a child’s food allergies in a calm and collected way, we are also modeling great conflict resolution to our kids who pick up on more than we’d like to believe.

 

Food allergy parents need support too.  Parenting is hard.  Parenting a child with life-threatening allergies to something as common as food makes it exponentially more challenging.  Families should be there to help out and pat us on the back for encouragement, to give us a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) after a particularly rough day.  And they should be available to envelope our kids in love, support and safety so they grow up to be confident, self-assured adults with loving families of their own.

 

 

 

 

Food Allergy Education: Allergy and Asthma Today Spring 2016 March 8, 2016

 

As you all know, I strongly support the need for food allergy education in school.  The non-profit Allergy and Asthma Network (AANMA) recently picked up one of my articles on the subject for their publication, “Asthma and Allergy Today.”

asthma allergy today spring 2016

Here’s a link to my article in their Spring 2016 issue:  Thank You For Being a Friend.

 

Or, read it below. And in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you!  Comment below, on our Facebook page, or email me: erin@allergystrong.com:

  • I’d love to hear your thoughts on:
  • What your school is doing right;
  • Any issues you or your child has faced as a result of insufficient food allergy information/education;
  • Suggestions you have for schools/teachers to create a safer, more inclusive school environment;
  • General comments.

Thank you as always for your support!

 

Thank You For Being a Friend
published in Allergy & Asthma Today – Spring 2016
By Erin Malawer

 

Walking through the halls of an elementary school, you might see inspirational bulletin boards, posters promoting “School Spirit Week,” perhaps a donation box for clothes or backpacks.

 

You would not expect to see a whole walnut rolling around on the floor. That’s what some students at my son’s elementary school found recently. At first they didn’t even know what it was.

 

One of the students bent down to inspect it. “Hey,” he yelled to my 10-year- old son, who is allergic to tree nuts. “Come over here. Is this a walnut?”

Feeling a little nervous, my son backed away, explaining that he, of all people, is not qualified to be a nut inspector. A classmate, a girl also diagnosed with food allergies, stepped in to remind everyone about my son’s allergies. Soon after, the kids began to file into their classroom. Somehow the nut followed them.

 

My son’s deskmate grabbed the walnut and teased him with it, waving the walnut close to his face saying, “Oooooh … A walnut.”

 

My son began to speak up – we had practiced for these types of situations at home. The same girl quickly interjected, “Are you crazy? He’s ALLERGIC to nuts! He could go to the hospital!”

 

My son wasn’t harmed. But he WAS upset when I picked him up from the bus.

 

“Mom,” he said, “I know I seem really tough – like my feelings are as thick as a wall. But inside, they can be as thin as paper.”

 

We discussed what he was feeling, things he would have liked to have said, how thankful he was to have a friend like the girl who stood up for him. He felt sure his classmates acted out of misunderstanding or lack of education, rather than malice.

 

This incident was innocent enough. The first boy was curious; the second boy truly didn’t understand the potential consequences of his actions. He thought my son would join in on the joke because they are friends.

 

I asked the school if I could come into the classroom to teach the kids about food allergies – and they agreed. The students were attentive and engaged, and had intelligent questions. They were very sympathetic to how difficult it is to manage food allergies.

 

Both boys apologized to my son, explaining they had no idea about the severity of allergic reactions.

 

In the end, the incident brought my son and his classmates closer together. Looking back, it’s very easy to imagine a different outcome. But as my husband rightly points out, “Kids WANT to do the right thing and be supportive. Sometimes they don’t have enough facts to know how.”

 

Statistically, there are two students in every classroom with food allergies.  But that number is growing.  We need to teach our kids the facts about this condition, so they can act appropriately. And we need to teach them to be supportive of each other.  A lesson in food allergies is a lesson in empathy – and it just might save a life.

 

If your school doesn’t include food allergy education in their health curriculum, I encourage you to volunteer your time to do it yourself.

 

 

Girl Scout Cookies Allergen Reference February 24, 2016

Thanks-A-Lot Girl Scout Cookies

I remember being a Brownie.  To me, selling Girl Scout cookies was kind of intimidating.  I didn’t like going door to door and asking people to buy things.  There wasn’t any opportunity to set up a stand with friends in my town.  I might have been braver in that case:  you know, power in numbers.

 

As an adult, I want to support those adorable, little Girl Scouts who are sometimes nervous just like I was.   Which is why I hate having to say no due to food allergies issues.

 

So, I did a little research in the hopes that it helps you all make good decisions and allows you to support your local Brownies and Girl Scouts… by buying delicious cookies!  Now that I’m armed with some information, our family may try some ourselves this year!

 

Girl Scout cookies are made by one of two manufacturers:  ABC Smart Cookies or Little Brownie Bakers.  To find out which manufacturer bakes your local Girl Scout cookies, you must contact your local council:  locate your council here.

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While Little Brownie Bakers do not list ingredients lists for their cookies on their website, their allergen statement looks thorough.  All it should take is a quick peruse of the ingredient list on the box to determine whether the box is safe for your family.  Here’s their allergen statement:

The allergen statement clearly states the top 8 allergens contained inside each package. We encourage consumers with food allergies to check the ingredient statement on each package for the most current ingredient information because product formulations can change at any time.

If the allergen in concern is not listed below the ingredient statement, we are confident that the product is safe for consumption. Please trust the labeling. We do use a may contain statement for peanuts and tree nuts when the product is produced on a line that shares equipment with another product that does contain peanuts or tree nuts. Scientific evidence has shown that consumers with peanut and tree nut allergies can have a severe reaction to amounts that are below the current detectable limits based on existing technology.

For this reason, we have chosen to warn consumers allergic to peanuts and tree nuts of the potential for extremely low levels by using a may contain statement. The equipment is thoroughly cleaned in between processes and we follow Good Manufacturing Practices in all of our facilities. Beyond the top eight allergens, all ingredients are declared within the ingredient statement. If you are concerned about a specific ingredient, please review the ingredient statement to determine if it is part of the product formulation.

 

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ABC Smart Cookies, the Girl Scout’s other cookie manufacturer, also seems food allergy savvy.  They produce gluten-free cookies in a certified gluten-free facility and have a well-educated allergen statement which reads:

 

Over a decade ago, ABC partnered with Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN™) to learn more about life-threatening food allergies and the impact of ingredient labeling and allergen warnings. We have also worked with the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program in association with the University of Nebraska to review our sanitation, handling, and training procedures.  ABC adopted what is known as “product-specific” allergen labeling. Product-specific labeling enables the allergy-affected consumer to make an informed decision based on information specific to that particular product.

Product-specific labeling requires strict compliance to good manufacturing practices to prevent cross contamination such as:

  • Segregation of known allergens from the general production environment
  • Color-coding of storage units and utensils
  • Curtained-off production areas
  • Designated lanes for transportation of known allergens
  • Swabbing and testing of allergen shared equipment

In addition, we call out all allergens on our packaging, order cards and web site and provide specific warning if a product is made on a line that also produces product with a common allergen such as peanuts. ABC’s proactive approach to allergens is an example of our commitment to producing the best quality Girl Scout Cookies possible for the millions of valued consumers who support Girl Scouting every year.

 

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A quick review of ingredients show that all of the cookies were egg-free; Thin Mints, Cranberry Citrus Crisps, Lemonades, and Thanks-a-Lots are nut-free; several were vegan and therefore dairy-free; and at least one variety was gluten-free.  Check out their sites and I think you’ll find, like I did, that Girl Scout cookies are far more food allergy-friendly than you think!  Now, get out there and say YES! to some Girl Scouts.  You’ll make their day!

 

 

Girl Scout cookies