Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

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.

 

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Advocacy: Sesame Seed Labeling September 7, 2017

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Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, I teamed up with Allergy & Asthma Network, a leading non-profit, to begin a discussion about adding sesame seeds to ingredient labels.  We met with committees on Capitol Hill who were receptive to our argument.  It’s a first step in a potentially long process – but a step in the right direction!

 

Sesame: the 9th Food Allergen? explains the rise in sesame allergy and the difficulty faced by those who are allergic.  When the Director of the Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dr. Robert Wood spoke to WebMD in 2012, he believed sesame seed allergy was so prevalent that it had likely climbed to the 6th or 7th most common allergen in the U.S.

 

Without required labeling, sesame seeds can be masked under many different names.  They appear in both food as well as hygiene and beauty products.  There is a relationship between tree nut allergies and sesame seed allergy – those allergic to one are three times as likely to be allergic to the other.  But unlike nut allergies, sesame oil can cause potentially severe reactions for those who are allergic.

 

Currently, only the “Top 8” allergens are required to be explicitly labeled in the United States.  Those allergens are:

Dairy

Eggs

Soy

Fish

Shellfish

Peanuts

Tree Nuts

Wheat

Many other industrialized nations already label for sesame seeds including Canada, the European Union, Australia, and Israel.

 

I will keep you posted on new developments as we continue to speak to decision-makers on this and other key allergen issues.

 

Food Allergy Retrospective: How Far Have We Come? May 17, 2017

When the term “food allergies” was first mentioned in our lives in 2005, my son was only a few months old.  Already suffering from severe, body-encompassing eczema and a family history of food allergies, my pediatrician mentioned that we’d have to approach first foods very carefully with him.  I thought she was being WAY overcautious.  Like a ridiculous amount.  I was told to avoid feeding him anything with peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, soy, shellfish, fish, strawberries, pork, and corn in it.  I remember thinking, who had ever heard of anyone allergic to corn?!  And, so much for Cheerios as a finger food!

 

Now twelve years later, I think about what a genius that same pediatrician was and what a long way we’ve come since that first discussion about food allergies.

 

In 2005, there were approximately 11 million Americans living with food allergies.  Today, there are 15 million. And that number is growing.  Back in 2005 there may have been 1 child with food allergies per class; now there are at least 2 in every classroom.

 

In 2005, there were no food allergen labeling laws.  Manufacturers could “disguise” ingredients under a variety of names.  If you were allergic to dairy, for example, you had to memorize over 45 different names of ingredients that contained milk protein (whey, cream, casein, lactose, curd, rennet, ghee, flavoring… read the complete list here).  There were no suggestions to include voluntary “may contain” statements.  And, manufacturers were not well informed about how to respond to customer service questions about the safety of their products.

 

In 2005, consumers had less choice of emergency medication but it was far more affordable.  A pair of EpiPens cost only about $50. Other epinephrine auto-injectors were hard to come by and Auvi-Q wasn’t even invented yet.

 

In 2005, I felt alone with my son’s condition.  I started writing about food allergies, in part, to reach out to other like-minded parents experiencing the same daily struggles and triumphs that I was.  There was no research about the psychological impact of growing up with food allergies.  I was figuring out how to parent a confident, competent kid AND how to safely navigate the world with food allergies all at once.

 

I am so thankful to you all today for being part of the Allergy Shmallergy community – for giving me feedback, reminding me that we’re not alone running into and overcoming food allergy-obstacles, and for supporting each other, helping to make each other’s lives simpler and happier.

thank-you-362164_1920 pixabay ryan mcguire

 

 

 

 

Best Allergy Blogs of 2017 May 8, 2017

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Healthline compiles a list of each year’s best allergy blogs each of whom serves as a valuable resource to its readers.

 

Allergy Shmallergy is once again thrilled to be on this list and amongst such fantastic company.  I’m an avid reader of many of my co-honorees!

 

Thank you to those at Healthline for being an excellent resource to us all.  And congrats to all those on the list!

 

Click here to check out all the wonderful and motivated writers, advocates and innovators who are trying to make life better and easier for those with food allergies.

 

 

Take the Reins in the New Year: Food Allergy Goals and Resolutions January 4, 2017

Filed under: Holiday,Uncategorized — malawer @ 8:00 pm
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It’s a new year!  A time to look ahead and move ever forward with our lives.  And with the beginning of each new year comes hope and possibility.

 

We’re moving forward into this new year with food allergies, so let’s do it with intention.  Let’s set some goals to color our journey and enrich our lives!

 

Here are some of my personal food allergy resolutions this year:

 

– Continue to foster a strong sense of self in my son. Empower him to speak up and stand strong.

– Arm him with enough information to help him make good, sound decisions – even as he approaches those risky pre-teen and teenage years.

– Teach my son cooking skills and creative work-arounds.  Balance his love of adventurous eating with a sense of both ingredients and process used to create various cuisines.  Asian fare with a sesame seed allergy?  Yes!  Dairy-free baking?  Of course!

– Continue to advocate for food allergy families everywhere – to make life easier and less stressful for everyone, ourselves included.

– Move forward in helping at-risk families with food allergies.  Learn more about ways to improve the lives of low income families, food insecure families, as well as those affected by natural disaster or other extenuating circumstances.

-Focus on food allergy education in schools and the greater community as well as positive parenting for food allergic families.

 

What are your food allergy goals for this year?  Let us know what you have on your radar for the year ahead.

  • Traveling with food allergies
  • Recipes and party ideas
  • Advocacy efforts
  • Latest research and treatment options
  • Empowering your child
  • Food allergies at school

 

What do you want to learn more about?

 

A Look Ahead: A Summary of Teens and Food Allergies December 3, 2015

I have a food allergic 10 year old.  I’m starting to see all those signs of tweeny-ness that my friends have been talking about.  And, although I could use a lot less eye rolling and smart alecky retorts, but I understand this is a (questionably) necessary right of passage into his more independent teen years.

Do you all remember being a teenager?  How many ill thought out decisions did you make?  My oldest child will be a teen before I know it and he’ll be faced with choices of his own.  The only way he’ll grow is to make mistakes, I know.  But when food allergies are a part of your life, small mistakes could be costly.

So, even if you don’t have a teen YET, please read on so as your kid ages you know what to look out for:

According to an article posted on Radio Canada International [Severe Allergy Risk Worse Among Teens, Young Adults], there are several issues at play during the teenage years that put them at greater risk for a severe food allergy reaction:

  1. They believe they are invincible.  Having had the minutia of their lives cushioned by their parents, teachers, etc up until these years, they feel they are unstoppable.
  2. They typically feel a strong need to conform to their peer group.  Admitting to a food allergy, needing to ask multiple and sometimes persistent questions at meals, not to mention carrying often bulky epinephrine doesn’t make them invisible.  If anything, it highlights their “differentness.”
  3. Teens are independent creatures.  They may balk against whatever makes them feel limited.

According to Dr. Scott Sicherer of Mt. Sinai in practical terms this means:

  • They fail to tell their peers about their condition.
  • They don’t want to/don’t know how to speak up to authority figures (such as teachers, waiters, etc) and alert them of their food allergies and dietary limitations.
  • Teens often leave their emergency medication at home – particularly when active and/or wearing something fashionable that leaves little room for autoinjectors.
  • They taste foods to see if it might contain an allergen, rather than reading labels.  My guess is that it may be harder for teens to reject an invitation to taste something “amazing” or even terrible, particularly if it means that behavior allows them to better fit in with their social circle.

The Radio Canada article goes on to quote Dr. Adella Atkinson, who offers a few helpful suggestions:

  • Start the conversation about food allergies early.  Without scaring them, very young children should be aware that some foods can make them sick.  Empowering young children will enable them to more confidently handle their food allergies as they age.
  • Provide choices.  [I thought this was the best suggestion I’ve heard in a while.  I can’t wait to implement it this weekend!]  Decisions about who and which kind of epinephrine autoinjector to carry, what kind of cuisine they’d like to eat, what their food plan is for outings without you will again empower them and force them to think through their food allergy roadblocks before they hit them.
  • In the WebMD article, Teens With Food Allergies Take Risks, Dr. Sicherer goes on to suggest educating friends as a secondary safety net.  This has already served us well [See That’s What Friends Are For] as my son’s friends help look out for him, are careful to make eating a more INCLUSIVE rather than exclusive experience, avoid eating my son’s allergen around him, and have been taught how to use epinephrine autoinjectors.
  • Teach your child’s friends how to use an autoinjector.  This is a great use of old EpiPens and Auvi-Qs and tweens and teens find it interesting.  By now, they’ve usually seen autoinjectors before and have loads of excellent questions.  Practice using autoinjectors by injecting them into an orange or grapefruit.
  • Buy/create several different accessories to help your tween or teen wear her epinephrine in all circumstances.  A dress with no pockets?  No problem!  Going skiing? We’ve got your covered.  School dance?  Don’t worry: there’s a way to wear it there too!  [See Your Growing Child: How to Carry Epinephrine]

But the most important thing you can do is keep up the conversation.  Not only are food allergies dangerous, they are stressful.  Keep talking to your tween and teen about them.  Make sure they know the door is wide open to discuss anything that comes up surrounding them.  And, present them with the big picture:  that you might want to fit in during your teens but you want to stand out in your twenties.  Encourage them to get a head start by being careful and responsible with their health!

 

Food Allergy Awareness Week: What You Can Do to Educate Others May 13, 2015

Filed under: Preparedness — malawer @ 8:00 pm
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FAAW.jpg

Happy Wednesday, everyone!  Check out my latest post over at ContentChecked for simple, easy things you can do to participate in Food Allergy Awareness Week/Month!

What YOU Can Do to Education Others

Excerpt:

Parents of children with food allergies live with certain challenges day in and day out.  We read labels, ask questions, and are prepared for any emergency.  And although we are adept at handling food-related obstacles, that doesn’t mean that the greater community is intentionally setting them up.  In fact, in my experience, most people are well meaning but simply don’t know enough about food allergies.  They want to be helpful, but don’t know how…. read more