Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

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
Tags: , , , , ,

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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

 

Thank You For Being a Friend – The Need for Food Allergy Education in Elementary School April 29, 2015

So we had a food allergy incident a couple of months ago.

There was a whole walnut rolling around the hall in my son’s school.  This, I can assure you, is a real anomaly.  So much so, that the kids didn’t know what it was. Having rolled underfoot, one of my son’s classmates bent down to inspect it.  “Hey!” he yelled to my tree nut allergic son, “come over here.  Is this a walnut?”

Feeling a little nervous, my son backed away about to explain that he, of all people, is not qualified to be a nut inspector when his friend, a food allergic girl in his class, stepped in to remind everyone that my son has an allergy to tree nuts.

The kids began to file into the classroom and 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, “Ooooo….a walnut.”  My son began to speak up, as practiced, when the same girl started yelling, “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’re like this [holding his palms facing one another, nearly touching]… they can be as thin as paper.”

We talked it through thoroughly: we discussed what he was feeling, things he would have liked to say, how thankful he was for a good friend like that awesome girl.  And, he was sure his classmates acted out of misunderstanding or miseducation rather than malice. The head of the school spoke to his grade and I came into his classroom to teach the kids about food allergies.  Both boys apologized to my son, explaining they had no idea about the severity of possible reactions.  Their regret was evident as was their interest in food allergy education (which I will discuss in a separate post).

This incident was innocent.  The first boy was curious.  The second was teasing, but truly didn’t understand the possible consequences of his actions.  In fact, he thought my son would join in the joke.  They were friends.  They’re all still friends.

I went into their class the following week and spoke about food allergies in general.  The students were attentive and engaged.  They had intelligent questions.  They were amazed at and very sympathetic about how complicated their food allergic classmates’ lives could be.  Interestingly, I think this incident brought my son and his classmates closer together.

While this is an example of a lack of education with no physical harm, it would have been very easy to imagine a similar case with a different outcome.  As my husband rightly pointed out, “Kids WANT to do the right thing.  Kind WANT to be supportive.  Sometimes they don’t have enough facts to know how to do so.”  Statistically, there are two kids in every classroom with food allergies.  We need to teach our kids the facts about this condition, so they can act appropriately.  And we need to teach all of our kids not only how to support their friends with food allergies, but how to support and look after each other in general.

— If your school (like ours) doesn’t include food allergy education in their health curriculum, volunteer your time to do it yourself.  I’ll post my 4th grade lesson plan shortly. Feel free to contact me should you need more information. —

 

Taking Food Allergies to School April 13, 2015

Filed under: School — malawer @ 8:05 am
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Pop over to Content Checked’s Food Allergy blog today to read our personal narrative about the first day of school with food allergies.

Content Checked Food Allergy Blog

Starting school can be a stressful time even under the best of circumstances.  Starting school with a food allergy can put parents and students alike over the edge.  This post outlines how doing your homework by completing a few small steps can set you all up for a whole year of wonderful school experiences.

I’m about to talk about this very topic with a school locally.  What kinds of questions do you have about starting in a new school with food allergies?  Happy to answer!