Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Visiting Amusement Parks with Food Allergies June 18, 2018

Headed to an amusement park this summer?  It’s a good time to plan your meals ahead so you don’t have a meltdown on your hands.  And, navigating an amusement park can be easy!  In fact, you may be surprised to see how many major amusement parks are well-prepared for guests with food allergies.  If you’ve recently visited an amusement park, please be sure to leave us a comment and let us know how it went!

 

Headed to an amusement park?  Consider these tips:

 

  • Pack (or ship to your hotel) snacks and hard-to-eat-safely items like breakfast, hamburger rolls, granola bars and desserts.
  • Bring a collapsible cooler (AND freezable cooler packs) to tote into the parks for the day.  They are great at storing safe food as well as keeping epinephrine auto-injectors cool during long, hot days.
  • ALWAYS carry two auto injectors.  Everyone wants to carry as little as possible to an amusement park, but two auto-injectors MUST come with you.  Consider a small backpack with a zipper so you’re not bogged down with a spillable purse or tote bag.  You’re going to need sunscreen anyway…!
  • Contact culinary services at least a week in advance to ensure you have a fun, easy and SAFE day at the park!

 

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Walt Disney World, Disney Land and Associated Properties

Disney is renowned for how it accommodates guests with food allergies.  They are truly the gold standard.  Guests can review menus and have access to chefs to obtain further information.  It is recommended that you discuss your food allergies with each server, as always.  There’s lots of excellent information and suggestions online, including contacting them prior to your trip should you have 4 or more allergens and how to bring safe food into the parks.

Disney Special Dietary Requests

 

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Universal

Universal Orlando recommends prepping for your trip by reviewing menus and discussing your allergies with a Guest Services advisor.  Plus, they outline how to bring your own food into the park should you need to!

If you’re headed to Universal Studios Hollywood, you’re in luck:  you can easily view what’s safe online.  Call Guest Services if you have multiple food allergies or further questions.

Universal Orlando Food Allergy info

Universal Studios Hollywood Dining Food Guide

 

Legoland

Legoland refers guests with food allergies to a Dietary Guide that doesn’t connect at the present moment.  They also suggest contacting  LLF-Food@legoland.com prior to your visit to answer specific questions.  Per their guidelines, outside food and drinks may be brought into the park for dietary needs.

Legoland Florida – Food Allergies

Outside Food and Alcohol Policy

 

 

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Seaworld

Did you know that Seaworld has designated dining facilities for visitors with food allergies?  There is at least one restaurant in each of their parks that is best suited to handle food allergy issues and preparation.  Click each link to read more about Seaworld’s food allergy preparations and policies.

Seaworld Orlando Food Allergy Info

Seaworld San Diego Food Allergy Info

Seaworld San Antonio Food Allergy Info

 

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Hershey Park

In addition to making allergen menus available at most of Hershey Park’s restaurants, dining for those with food allergies has just gotten easier with the addition of a gluten-free, nut-free, fish and shellfish-free restaurant.  Hershey notes that every nursing station is equipped with EpiPens, but – as always – remember to bring your own.

Hershey Park Food Allergen Information

Hershey Park Food Allergen Information

 

Sesame Place

Sesame Place keeps its allergen information to individualized questions.  They ask that guests ask specific questions to  AllergenfriendlySPL@sesameplace.com at least 3-5 business days in advance for additional information. A culinary representative will work with each guest to ensure a safe dining experience.  Guests with food allergies are allowed to bring in safe food.

Sesame Place Food Allergen Information

 

 

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Six Flags

Six Flags have a variety of restaurants at each park.  While you cannot see an allergen menu on their site, you may be able to get the name of food vendors and research ingredients that way (for example, Six Flags Great Adventure has a Panda Express that a visitor could research).  Should you have food allergies, you can bring food inside the park.  If you plan on eating at one of the parks’ restaurants, be sure to ask LOTS of questions about ingredients and prep including french fry oil and cross contamination.

Six Flags

 

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens seems to take food allergies seriously.  They answers a lot of excellent questions right on their website and provide ways of obtaining even more specific information should it be needed. Busch Gardens Tampa even offers allergen friendly dining facilities.  Again, collapsible coolers are allowed for those with dietary restrictions.

Busch Gardens Tampa Food Allergen Info

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food Allergen Info

 

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Cedar Point

Cedar Point’s website identifies dining locations that serve certain allergens as well as a few that do not serve certain allergens.  If you have multiple food allergies, this may take a little cross referencing to find a few things that are safe.  They do not list information about brining in safe food from outside – so you may have to contact them directly.

Cedar Point Special Dietary Needs

 

Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott’s Berry Farms follows the same process as Cedar Point in identifying products and locations that use allergens.  They also identify certain locations and products that are free from specific allergens.  Again, they do not list if you can bring in safe food from outside the park. Contact them directly should you need additional information.

Knott’s Berry Farm Dietary Needs

 

Canada’s Wonderland

Once again, Canada’s Wonderland follows the same process as Cedar Point and Knott’s Berry Farm in helping guests navigate the park.  They list dining options by allergen, so if you have multiple food allergies, expect to cross reference these lists.  They do not state whether or not you can bring in safe food from outside of the park.  Contact them directly with additional questions.

Canada’s Wonderland Dietary Needs

 

 

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Creative and Fun Non-Food Ideas to Fill Your Easter Eggs March 25, 2018

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Having food allergies can be limiting during food-centric holidays.  They are especially hard for kids during candy-themed holidays like Easter, Valentine’s Day and Halloween.  Children with food allergies are often left out or feel excluded from the goodies AND the fun.

 

But it can be easy to make sure Easter is enjoyable for everyone.  Many families fill the candy void by using non-food treats.  If you need some inspiration for how to fill your Easter eggs this year, look no further!

 

1. Glow Rings:  Boys and girls alike love glow rings.  They fit any finger and extend the fun into the night.  Maybe it will send the kids outside while you clean up dinner!

2.  Sticky Hands:  You can ball these up easily and fit them inside eggs.  Sticky hands are perfect – kids love softly slapping against windows and mirrors and stretching them as far as they can go!

3.  Squishy Animals:  I don’t know exactly why, but these little squishy animals are addictive.  They’re a great replacement for fidget spinners and fantastic for the kid who loves collections.

4.  Stretchy Ninja Flyers:  Okay, full disclosure… I want these right now – for me.  They look like so much fun! Small enough to fit in your pocket (or egg!) and great for an active kid.  Have a contest to see how far you can make your ninja fly!  Be the fastest to fling and retrieve your ninja!

5.  Emojis!  Everything emoji-related is so popular right now.  Yes, even the poop emoji.  Especially the poop emoji!

6.  Itty Bitty Nail Polishes:  This set of Frozen-themed nail polish could be divided and placed in a number of eggs.  It will be like finding a rainbow!

7.  Wind-Up Toys:  These are fun for everyone!  Plus, this pack comes with 28 assorted toys.  Use some now, save some for later!  And, these are fantastic to bring to restaurants or other places where your children might need a little diversion.

 

Happy Easter everyone!

 

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(Thank you in advance! A portion of the proceeds of affiliate links go toward AllergyStrong.org – an organization aimed at helping at risk families with food allergies.)

 

Food Allergies on the Big Screen February 12, 2018

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Sony Pictures and the creators of the upcoming movie “Peter Rabbit” are facing a backlash from parents across the globe after it was revealed that the rabbits use a gardener’s food allergy to attack and impair him.

 

Food allergies are among several disabilities that are used as cheap gags in movies and on TV.  Sometimes, such as in the movie “Hitch” and on the TV show “Modern Family,” they garner laughs because the symptoms of anaphylaxis are so severe and fast-acting that they take the audience by surprise.  Sometimes they are used to show weakness or to emphasize low social status, like nerdiness.  In a recent Party City ad slated to run during this year’s Super Bowl, having a food allergy was deemed “gross” to convey it as annoying.

 

What makes the “Peter Rabbit” use of food allergies particularly distasteful is that 2017 was speckled with stories of food allergy bullying across the world; including the arrest of two young teenagers who knowingly used a peer’s food allergy against her sending her into anaphylaxis and at least one death – that of a 13 year old at the hands of his classmates who had snuck cheese into his sandwich at lunch.

 

The exclamation point on the “Peter Rabbit” case is that the rabbits reportedly state that food allergies are “made up for attention.”  Unfortunately, this plays on some people’s already-formed perception of food allergies and undercuts how serious they truly are.

 

The use of food allergies to prompt laughter reinforces stereotypes, spreads misinformation and strengthens the idea that food allergies are a choice meant for self-importance or as an inconvenience to others.  The use of food allergies in children’s media prays on the worst fears of children with food allergies and their families.  [1 in 13 kids in the United States have food allergies – that’s nearly 20 kids – and about 80 family members – in every screening of “Peter Rabbit” who live with the anxieties of the very severe consequences that just a small crumb of an allergen can trigger.]  These children are watching their nightmare come to life on the big screen.

 

The food allergy community is accustomed to hearing food allergies become the butt of a joke. Jokes, as distasteful as they are to some, may have their place in adult-oriented films and television shows (as is the case with the movie “Hitch” and “Horrible Bosses”).  But when it’s placed in children’s programming, it becomes unacceptable.  Exposure to such imagery, dialogue and attitudes during such a formative time in their lives can affect young audiences with food allergies (and influence those without) both psychologically and socially.  It can scare and scar those with food allergies.  And, showing it “even in a cartoonish, slapstick way” (as Sony describes it in their apology) teaches others that food allergies are not to be taken seriously.  By watching “Peter Rabbit,” kids are learning that using someone’s food allergy against them is both humorous and without consequence.  Meanwhile, children with food allergies are watching – horrified – while the audience jovially cheers the rabbits on. It’s amazing that storylines, such as this one, pass through vast numbers of people for approval without being questioned for their impact on children.

 

Thankfully, Sony has issued an apology recognizing the insensitivity of the “Peter Rabbit” material.  Let’s hope that other production companies learn from this lesson.  Apologizing after the fact is the easiest thing in the world.  How can we ensure that this doesn’t happen in the first place?

 

Food Allergies: Overcoming Disagreements November 27, 2017

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The holidays are a magical time – filled with hope and kindness.  But when you have food allergies, holiday gatherings are sometimes filled with the possibility of being excluded, disappointed, or the fear of having a food allergic reaction.

As parents and patients, we feel like we are constantly educating others about food allergies.  Our extended families and friends surely should know by now how real and severe a food allergy can be – shouldn’t they?!  Unfortunately, many times our family and friends don’t understand.  They underestimate the severity of a reaction and the amount of time and energy we put in to preparing for a regular day – never mind a holiday!  We often feel let down and angry when others don’t take food allergies into consideration or are set on upholding their traditions at the expense of someone else’s health and safety.

These disagreements around the holidays can set off a chain of unhealthy interactions that could cause relationships to strain.  Don’t end your relationship with family or friends.  Try the techniques outlined in the article below first and see if you can teach them about what your life with food allergies is really like.

Please read this article I wrote, published in the magazine Allergy & Asthma Today by the Allergy & Asthma Network, for more information.

http://bit.ly/2ncAJHY

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Parenting Positively in the Face of Food Allergies September 29, 2017

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Last year, I had the pleasure of speaking with Lyndsay Edwards of Allergy Blog Awards UK.  In her podcast, she asked a lot of thought-provoking questions on the topic of parenting a child with food allergies.

 

Because of the challenges and risks associated with food allergic reactions, it is critical to raise food allergic children to be confident, resourceful, and self-advocating.  And all of that begins with a good attitude towards food.

 

Here is the transcript of Lyndsay’s well-crafted podcast [or listen here: Allergy Blog Awards UK – Allergy Shmallergy Living Positively with Food Allergies].

 


 

So, I know your son was diagnosed with a dairy allergy at 6 months old and other allergies by the time he was just 15 months old, can you just take us back to that time and what it was like for you getting the diagnosis?

 

Despite his eczema, acid reflux and asthma (conditions that I now understand to be related to food allergies), I was in denial.  Even though I followed her instructions to the letter, I scoffed at our pediatrician’s recommendation to avoid feeding my son a whole host of allergens as we introduced first foods.  “He’s probably not allergic to any of these!” I remember saying.

 

When she called us to discuss the results of my son’s blood test, revealing that he was allergic to eight different foods in addition to environmental allergens, I was completely overwhelmed.  I couldn’t stop wondering:

 

What does this mean Not only the test results, but also in a bigger sense:  what does this mean for his life?  Will he have a normal life?  And more importantly, what can I feed him for dinner tonight?!!

 

I found myself grieving for the hopes and dreams I had imagined for my child (like baking cookies and spontaneous trips to get ice cream), but then my husband snapped me out of it.  He reminded me that we would find work arounds.  And, if they didn’t exist, we’d create them!  Very quickly, THAT became my focus.

 

 

How do you cater for your son at home?  Do you all eat the same?

 

Because my son was allergic to so many foods, I had to learn how to cook (and fast!).  Unbelievably, he’s my most adventurous eater.  He loves everything seafood (no matter how crazy the dish), sushi…  and he’s consistently adding requests to his list.

 

These requests inspire me to learn how to cook all kinds of intimidating international cuisine.  No one who knows me would have EVER guessed that I regularly cook Chinese food or Persian or make all kinds of sushi.  In high school, I once burnt soup!  SOUP!

 

When he was a toddler (and an only child), I was making separate meals for my son.  But being a short order cook isn’t my strong suit and I didn’t want my son to feel like I was treating him differently because of his allergies.  In his own home, he should feel safe and included.  As I got better at reading recipes, swapping out his allergens for substitutes, I started serving only one meal (what a relief!).  I also began finding meals with optional parts (like tacos that you could stuff with cheese or not and make-your-own pizza night).  I now have quite a collection of tried and true recipes that are free of peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, dairy and in many cases egg (an allergy my son has since outgrown).

 

 

When did you start your blog and what inspired you to do so?

 

It was very important to us to raise a confident child who felt capable in the world.  Food allergies are very stressful.  I wanted to share simple solutions with other parents and put out useful information so that families can remain calm and make informed decisions.

 

 

One of the things that really stood out for me on your blog is how you focus on teaching your son about his food allergies in such a positive way so that he doesn’t feel left out or sad, can you just explain how you do that and what has worked for you and your son?

 

We have repeated the message that everybody deals with something – sometimes that “something” is invisible to the eye, like food allergies.

 

We try to downplay the importance and emphasis on food.  For example, we try to reward achievements with activities rather than treats.

 

And, we remind all of my kids that the best party of any party is always the company, hardly ever the cake.

 

Involve your kids in problem solving.  We can’t control the fact that my son has food allergies, but I can give some control OVER them by getting his input on overcoming obstacles.

 

Prepare, prepare, prepare to provide special treats in anticipation of special events.  Bring a gluten-free cupcake to the party; pack a sesame-free hamburger bun for the barbeque; carry a little dairy-free butter out to dinner.  Create positive experiences around food and demonstrate how easy it is to overcome challenges.

 

Let him vent!  We’ve taught my son the names for his feelings and encouraged him to talk about them.  First, children need to know the language to use to express their emotions.  Then they can engage in an open dialogue to release stress and give parents an insight into how they are experiencing the world.

 

 

Ok, before I get to my last question, can you tell everyone where they can find you on social media, your website, etc?

 

Yes, of course!

[You all know where Allergy Shmallergy is! shmallergy.wordpress.com]

Twitter: @shmallergy

Facebook:  Allergy Shmallergy

Instagram: shmallergy

 

 

And my final question is if you could give allergy parents one tip, what would it be and why?

 

Help prepare your child to negotiate the real world: practice asking questions, allow them to speak to a waiter, in short: EMPOWER them!  Give them the tools to tackle the world!

 

And, provide a safe place for them to come home to. A safe home environment (free of allergens) as well as a safe space psychologically where they can relay their triumphs and articulate their frustrations without judgment or anxiety and find support.

 

That’s two tips (sorry!), but I hope they’re both helpful!

 

Ask Me Anything! September 19, 2017

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My older child has food allergies.  Now, I’m afraid to introduce his allergens to his younger sibling.  I know I need to, but how can I do it safely?

 

Great question!  And, many of us can relate to your concerns.

 

What is the real risk?

Here’s something encouraging to keep in mind:  Most siblings of kids with food allergies do not develop food allergies themselves.  Studies by lead author Dr. Richi Gupta (2015) showed that siblings only have a minimally higher chance of having food allergies.  And, researchers warned against having siblings allergy tested before introducing food because it increases the odds of false positives, resulting in avoiding foods unnecessarily.

Bottom Line:  Most siblings have no greater risk of having food allergies than any other kid without a food allergic sibling.  That offers a little relief!

 

New Feeding Guidelines:

In January 2017, the experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) recommended feeding infants appropriate eggs, fish, dairy, peanut-containing foods (not whole peanuts for fear of choking), or other highly allergenic foods between 4 and 6 months after speaking with your pediatrician.  Contrary to advice many of us were given with our first child, research now shows that delaying introduction may actually increase your baby’s risk of developing food allergies.

 

[Please read: Understanding the New Peanut Allergy Prevention Guidelines for more information and a list of peanut-containing foods.]

 

Bottom Line: You’re actually HELPING your baby by introducing highly allergenic food on time by reducing his/her risk of developing food allergies.  Now’s the time to overcome your fear!

 

What’s the best way to introduce your baby to a food your older child is allergic to? 

After your pediatrician okays introduction and your baby consistently tolerates solid food, plan to introduce one food at a time waiting 3-5 days in between new foods.

  • For the first introduction, buy the new food in single serving size if possible.  This limits accidental exposure and cross contamination risk.  Be sure to store extras, if any, somewhere out of reach of your older child.
  • It might be easiest to introduce a new food when you are alone with your child, so that you can carefully serve the first food, clean up, and observe for reactions.
  • Consider taking your baby on a picnic or outing close to home to minimize your concern about crumbs in the house.
  • Bring your cellphone with you in the unlikely case of a reaction.
  • Remember, that dishwashers are an effective way (but not the only way!) to wash away allergens.  And, hand sanitizers do not get rid of food protein.  Wash hands with soap and water after handling your older child’s allergen.
  • Feed your baby the new food then wait 10  minutes, looking for signs of negative reaction: hives, swelling, behavioral changes or trouble breathing.  If no reaction occurs, continue feeding and monitor for about 2 hours.

When my younger two children were ready to try peanut-containing food, I bought snack size peanut butter cracker sandwiches.  I took each child separately to the local park and had a picnic.  We brought lots of wipes to clean hands and mouth before returning home without a reaction!  It was a special (and productive) day for us both.

 

How Do I Keep Allergenic Food Safely in the House?

Once you’ve established that your baby isn’t allergic to each new food, you may wish to continue keeping it on hand in your home.  Often it is necessary for him or her nutritionally to continue eating allergenic foods like milk, eggs, wheat, etc.  But, it’s important to store the foods your older child is allergic to safely so that your older child avoids accidental ingestion and reaction.

 

If you haven’t already done so, consider implementing a system to label the safe foods in your kitchen  Please read, Food Labels to see the simple system we use here at my house.

 

Think of what a relief it will be once you know your baby can tolerate each new food.  You can do this!  Good luck!

 

 

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.

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