Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Food Allergy Awareness Week May 9, 2022

Filed under: Health,Uncategorized — malawer @ 9:00 am
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AllergyStrong Food Allergy Awareness Month

Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW) brings attention to food allergies, a growing epidemic worldwide that affects up to 250 million people. But for those of us already living with this condition, FAAW is an excellent time to review important food allergy information, make changes to your food allergy routine and educate yourself on new information to improve your quality of life.

As the melodious Julie Andrews sings in The Sounds of Music, let’s start at the very beginning:

Food allergies are an immune system response to food. The immune system mistakes food for foreign substance and begins mounting an internal attack on it. For someone with a food allergy this results in a variety of symptoms that can range from mild to severe, to life-threatening.

To review symptoms of a reaction and anaphylaxis as well as how a young child might describe those symptoms, please see below.

The Language of a Food Allergic Reaction

There is no cure for food allergies. The most recommended treatment is food avoidance – that is strictly avoiding your allergens. While this sounds simple, food avoidance can be difficult to manage, time consuming, and costly.

For more information on US labeling laws and how to read food labels for allergies, please see below.

The Ins and Outs of Reading Food Labels

Some people with food allergies are pursuing a treatment called oral immunotherapy (or OIT). This is one of several treatments that offer “bite protection” for those with food allergies. This means, it would lessen or eliminate a reaction if someone with food allergies accidentally ingested their allergen. OIT and other similar therapies (like sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT), etc) offer protection but not a cure.

To learn all about OIT, please read the article below.

Food Allergy Treatment: OIT 101
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Food allergies are more common among adults than children. Studies show that 1 in 12 children have a food allergy whereas 1 in 10 adults do. Not only do food allergic kids grow to be adults, but adults are acquiring new food allergies in adulthood. These adults suddenly find themselves allergic to food they may have safely eaten their whole lives and navigating that change can be difficult.

To learn more about the impact of adults with food allergies, please see below.

The Impact of Adult On-Set Food Allergies

As we move through this week, we’ll explore several ways to make life a little better for you and the 32 million other Americans living with this chronic condition.

 

Can I Safely Get a Flu Vaccine with an Egg Allergy? October 15, 2021

Filed under: Health — malawer @ 11:40 am
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Flu season is upon us and it’s poised to spread like wildfire once again. Patients who are allergic to eggs want to be protected from the affects of the flu, but worry about the risk of anaphylaxis from the ingredients in the vaccine. Those of us with an egg allergy face the same challenge each fall: Can we safely get a flu vaccine?

Myth Busting

Concern about egg allergy and the flu vaccine is one of the many myths that surround vaccines that we can easily dispel. YES, you can get your flu shot even if you have an egg allergy. The amount of egg protein that might be in the shot is too little to trigger a severe reaction according to allergists and the CDC. If you also have asthma, it becomes even more important to get vaccinated as asthma can lead to more discomfort and serious complications.

Another myth worth dispelling: You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. The vaccine does not contain a live virus; the live virus used to produce the vaccine is killed, broken up, and purified to make the vaccine. This means, the flu shot does not have any ingredient in it that can make you sick or spread the virus as was previously thought. The components of the vaccine allow your immune system to form antibodies that will be ready to attack should you be exposed to the real thing.

A Little History

Vaccines have been produced using egg for more than 70 years.

When the flu vaccine was first introduced in the early 2000s, it contained a small amount of egg protein. At that time, doctors were concerned that those with an egg allergy might have a reaction. They were particularly worried that the nasal spray delivery method might overwhelm the immune system and trigger a response. For that reason, they used to recommend the injectable flu vaccine followed by a 15-30 minute observation period for anyone with an egg allergy.

…the scientific community has noted that only 1.31 people in 1 million will react [to the flu shot]. That’s 0.000131% for perspective. You have better odds of being hit by lightning.

Where We Are Today

Things are different today. Although the flu vaccine still contains a very small amount of egg protein (ovalbumin), studies have examined the use of both nasal and injectable flu vaccine in allergic and non-allergic patients and have recorded almost no reaction for those with an egg allergy. In fact, the scientific community has noted that only 1.31 people in 1 million will react. That’s 0.000131% for perspective. You have better odds of being hit by lightning. That’s great news!

There are some who react to vaccines. In the last 10 years, there have been several studies that have shown that most of these reactions are caused by another component in the shots, not the trace amount of egg.

As such, the CDC encourages those with an egg allergy to get the flu vaccine and no longer recommends an observation period. Now, you can get your flu shot and be on your merry way!

Severe Reaction to Eggs in the Past?

No worries! The CDC still recommends patients with a history of severe reaction get a flu shot, but they suggest doing so in a medically supervised environment. That could be at a clinic, doctor’s office, hospital, outpatient facility or anywhere else where healthcare professionals can respond to an allergic reaction in the unlikely event one should occur.

The CDC defines a severe reaction as any symptom other than hives, particularly cardiovascular (fainting, lightheadedness, etc), respiratory (wheezing, coughing, etc) as well as any reaction requiring epinephrine.

In Short/Recommendations

  • Doctors recommend that patients with an egg allergy get their flu shot.
  • If you have an egg allergy, the chances of having a reaction to the flu vaccine are incredibly low.
  • Both the flu shot and the nasal spray vaccine are safe for those with egg allergy.
  • Most patients with egg allergy no longer need to be monitored following their vaccine unless instructed by their doctor.
  • **If you have had a severe reaction to egg, be sure to get your flu shot in an inpatient or outpatient facility.**
  • The flu vaccine protects patients from serious illness.
  • If you have asthma, the flu shot is important to keep you from experiencing complications from the flu.
  • **If you have reacted to the flu vaccine in the past, talk to your healthcare provider before getting your next shot.**

Questions?

For more information, please see the CDC’s page Flu Vaccine and People with Egg Allergies.

Symptoms of the Flu

Should you experience any of the following symptoms, please stay home and call your doctor.

Symptoms of the flu – which range from uncomfortable to dangerous – can vary:

  • Fever/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Vomiting and diarrhea, *this is more common in children than adults

 

Food Allergies at the Food Pantry – Information and Resources for Food Pantries May 18, 2020

 

According to a study conducted by Dr. Ruchi Gupta and her colleagues in 2013, having a food allergy in the house costs an additional $4,000 per year.  Among the many factors that go into that figure is the cost of food allergy-friendly food.  Safe food can cost two to five times as much as their regular counterparts.  For example, a jar of peanut butter currently costs $1.19 and a jar of peanut-free sunbutter costs $6.29. It’s the same story with dairy-free milk and gluten-free pasta. These differences are enough to blow almost any budget.

 

 

Food banks and food pantries should be aware that about 10% of all of their clients and client families have a food allergy.  This doesn’t even include those with celiac disease which also requires a restrictive diet. When one family member has a food allergy, the food is often excluded from the home out of an abundance of caution. While food allergies directly affect 10% of the population, they indirectly affect the entire family by impacting their food selection.  This leaves food allergy families with few viable options when seeking out assistance.

 

As you can imagine, the inability to afford safe food disintegrates an already delicate situation quickly making mealtimes even more dangerous or sparse.

 

Resources for Food Pantries

 

  • Ask clients directly if they or a member of their household has a food allergy.  Some patients volunteer their food allergy diagnosis, but many do not.

 

  • If you hear a client describing their experience with food with any of the following symptoms, they will likely need to avoid that food and should seek advice from a doctor.

 

  • Symptoms of food allergy vary from reaction to reaction.  They include: hives, swelling, wheezing/trouble breathing, nausea/vomiting, fainting/dizziness, and tightness in the throat among others.  [Please see Anaphylaxis 101: Familiarize Yourself With the Symptoms for a full list of symptoms and what to do if they occur.]. These symptoms usually occur soon after eating.

 

 

  • U.S. food manufacturers are required to label for certain allergens by their common name. And “Made in a facility with…” or “May contain…” statements are completely voluntary.  Read about food labeling laws here [The Ins and Outs of Reading Food Labels] and offer this information to your clients who may have a food allergy.

 

  • If food is being prepared on site, please familiarize yourself with “cross contact” also referred to as “cross contamination.”  This occurs when an allergen touches another food directly or indirectly by touching a shared surface.  For example, this can happen on counters, cutting boards, in pots, on pans, cooking and serving utensils, plates, etc.  And although you may not be able to see the allergen with the naked eye, there may be enough protein present to trigger a life-threatening reaction.  It’s important to clean work surfaces, pots/pans, and cooking/serving utensils when preparing safe food for clients with food allergies.

 

  • When trying to remove an allergen, always use soap and water.  Hand sanitizer (which is effective in killing bacteria, viruses and germs) does not remove allergens  (which are made up of proteins) from hands or surfaces.  Always wash your hands before preparing a safe meal for clients with food allergies.

 

 

Free-From Manufacturers Who SHIP TO YOU! April 18, 2020

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Photo by Wonderland via Flickr, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

 

It’s rough getting groceries these days!  You never know what you’ll see or miss at the supermarket.  One day it’s bread, the next it’s chicken!  And, those empty shelves can be a little disheartening.  It is even worse when you rely on a specific product to keep you safe and out of the hospital.

 

While most consumers can get by with a different brand here and there, families with food allergies can’t.  They depend heavily on specific brands and products to keep them fed and safe from experiencing a severe allergic reaction called, anaphylaxis.  “Free-from foods” are often in smaller supply than their  regular counterparts without a global pandemic. Because many consumers are buying in bulk (or sometimes panic buying) as they shelter-in-place, it often means food allergy-friendly essentials are unavailable to those whose health depends on them.

 

Let’s take a look at how to get the food you or your family needs as they STAY HOME and shelter-in-place:

Good tip:  Some companies are running a little behind on shipment (only a week) so order BEFORE you need something urgently.

 

We’ve noticed that some big box stores are selling certain free-from items online and are willing to ship things like gluten-free pastas (whereas boxes of regular pasta are often “in-store only” products). It’s worth taking a quick peek at these sites if you need a product more urgently since they tend to ship food fairly quickly.

 

Cold products (those that need to be refrigerated or frozen) are best purchased directly at the store or through a local delivery service (such as Instacart, PeaPod, etc).

 

Some items that are hard to find in person, are easy to find online.  Some free-from/allergy-friendly brands are shipping directly to their customers.  Look at all the manufacturers who are working overtime to ensure you get the products you need!

 

If you’re looking for a big or little treat, why not try a food allergy-friendly bakery?  Some are local (for pick up) and others you can order online.  Here’s Allergy Shmallergy’s list of Allergy Friendly Bakeries.

 

Allergic Living also compiled an excellent list of how manufacturers are handling the increased need for their products during the coronavirus – read here.

 

(Do you have a free-from product you’ve been purchasing directly?  Leave us a comment and we’ll add it to the list for other families!)

 

Schar  – offers gluten-free products including breads, snacks and pasta

Enjoy Life – offers products free from the Top 14 allergens!  Enjoy Life makes snack foods as well as baking supplies (chocolate chips, flour, pizza flour, etc).

Vermont Nut Free Chocolate – this feels critical to me!  I’ve already had enough chocolate to become a living, breathing chocolate Easter bunny.

Namaste – recommended by a baker, this is a great resource for gluten-free and allergy-friendly baking and waffle mixes, soups and pasta mixes.

Made Good – known for their granola bars and cookies, Made Good is currently offering 35% off plus free shipping!

Ener-G – Known widely for its egg-free egg replacer and gluten-free products.

WowButter – a tree nut and peanut-free sunflower butter now ships directly!

The Gluten and Grain-Free Gourmet – offers gluten, dairy and soy-free products.  Paleo friendly.

Safely Delicious – snacks that are free from gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, soy, and egg PLUS they are donating a portion of their proceeds to SpokinCares and Food Equality Initiative.

Eleni’s New York – the delicious, safe nut-free cookies can be delivered right to your door!!

The Gluten-Free Bar – selling gluten-free granola bars and bites!  On sale now…. stock up!

Cherrybrook Kitchen – their gluten, dairy, peanut, nut-free baking and breakfast mixes have been a staple of many pantries.

No Whey Chocolates – Chocaholics rejoice.  These are dairy, peanut, tree nut and soy-free.

ZEGO Foods – These healthy bars and mix-ins are full of the good stuff with none of the allergens.  For real – they are free of the Top 14 (check out their allergen statement!)

OWYN – selling plant-based protein drinks as well as dairy-free milk!

Kate’s Safe and Sweet – free from peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, dairy and eggs (as well as pea, legume, sesame, chickpea and coconut-free!), Kate’s cake mixes, frosting, food coloring and accessories ship quickly straight to you!

Senza Gluten – This 100% gluten-free restaurant and bakery in NYC is closed through May 1st, but lucky for us they ship!

Kips – Who doesn’t love Top 8 free granola bark?!  Free from peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.

Baked Cravings – Too many amazing tree nut and peanut free treats to name!  Ships nationally!

Simple Kneads – Small batch baked goods in a dedicated gluten-free facility.  I can smell the bread from here!

Partake Foods – Makers of delicious gluten-free, vegan (dairy and egg-free) cookies.

 

But wait, there’s more!

Should you need an epinephrine auto-injector refill and wish to avoid the pharmacy, remember that many pharmacies are delivering prescriptions free of charge.  And, Auvi-Q continues to serve patients through its excellent home delivery program that ships straight to your door!

(more…)

 

Is it Safe? Chocolate vs. Food Allergies February 7, 2020

coffee dark candy chocolate

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Chocolate might just be the key to the heart.  But if you have food allergies, proceed with caution – Chocolate can contain a number of common allergens.  Although people can be allergic to the proteins in chocolate itself (often times to cocoa), patients typically react to one of the many other common ingredients in chocolate products.  These are dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and corn among others.

 

Under the U.S. Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, food manufacturers must label for the top 8 allergens (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish).  Sometimes, however, allergens are present in a food but not named on the ingredient list.  Undeclared milk is the most frequently cited reason for FDA product recalls and chocolate is one of the most common products that causes consumer reactions.

 

What about dark chocolate? That’s safe, right?

Dark chocolate can contain milk even when it isn’t listed as an ingredient.  In fact, in 2017 the Food & Drug Administration conducted a study, testing nearly 100 different chocolate bars.  Only 6 listed dairy as an ingredient.  Of the remaining bars, 61% contained milk.  Why is this?  Dark chocolate is often produced on the same equipment as milk chocolate which cross-contaminates it making it unsafe for those with dairy allergies.

 

The FDA also found that milk was present in 3 out of every 4 dark chocolate products with advisory statements, such as “may contain” or “made on equipment with.”  These advisory statements are voluntary, so be sure to call the manufacturer if you don’t see one present.

 

What if I’m not allergic to milk? How do other food allergies fair?

Although dairy is one of the most common causes of allergic reactions when consumers eat chocolate, it’s not the only allergen to be concerned about.  Candy, treats and dessert products are often processed on shared lines with other ingredients and cross-contamination is a problem.

 

If you’re allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, soy, corn, eggs and wheat you should also be careful – as should patients with celiac disease.

 

milk chocolates

White Chocolate?  Please tell me I can have that…!

White chocolate is made from cocoa butter, milk, sugar and vanilla.  Manufacturers also often add soy.  Just as with milk or dark chocolate, it can contain other common allergens such as wheat, corn, peanut or tree nuts that could cause a reaction.  If you are allergic to one of those allergens, you may wish to steer clear of white chocolate as well.

 

What IS Safe?  A lot actually!

If your mouth is watering just looking at square of chocolate, don’t despair!  Here are some allergy-friendly options to satisfy that sweet tooth:

 

Disclaimer: Manufacturers change their practices often and without warning. Always check the ingredient label and call the manufacturer should you have further questions.

 

[This is not a sponsored post.]

 

Andes Candies

These refreshing chocolate and mint treats are peanut, tree nut, and gluten-free and produced in a peanut, tree nut, gluten and egg-free facility.

 

Dove

SOME of Dove’s product line (Silky Smooth) are made free of peanuts and tree nuts in a peanut/tree nut-free facility (see link).  However, be sure to read labels carefully because Dove makes other products that contain nuts or could be cross-contaminated with them.

 

Enjoy Life

Enjoy Life’s products are always free from peanuts, tree nut, dairy, eggs, soy, wheat/gluten, fish, shellfish, sesame, sulfites, mustard, lupin, and crustaceans.  And you can sometimes find it in your local grocery store!

 

Free2B Sun Cups

For those with peanut, tree nut, and/or dairy allergies, these sunbutter filled chocolate cups are just as good as their peanut butter counterparts but SAFE!  All of their products are free of the top 12 allergens (dairy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, sesame, corn, mustard, and coconut).

 

Hershey’s

Contact Hershey’s to get the latest allergen information.  They have a fair number of gluten-free products.  Milk-chocolate Hershey’s kisses were processed in a peanut and tree nut-free facility on peanut and tree nut-free lines as of summer 2019.  Plus, Hershey’s utilizes good labeling practices, offering thorough ingredient and advisory labels.

 

No Whey Chocolate

No Whey Chocolate products are always free from peanuts, tree nut, dairy, gluten, egg, soy, and artificial colors and flavors. (Plus, they’re vegan and kosher!)

 

PASCHA chocolates

PASCHA products are free from peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, wheat/gluten, soy, sesame, fish, shellfish.  Check out their website where they clearly label their (lack of – *except soy*) cross-contamination list.

 

Safe Sweets

This family owned company makes treats that are peanut, tree nut, dairy, and gluten-free in a free-from facility. Many of their products are also soy-free – be sure to check their FAQ section to identify which ones.  (They are also kosher pareve and some products are vegan!)

 

Vermont Nut Free Chocolate

It’s in the name: nut-free chocolate that’s delicious and easy to order.  They are very allergy-aware and will label if a product is processed alongside anything in the top 8 allergens.  You can find these in stores or order online.

 

Antihistamines May Endanger Patients Experiencing Severe Allergic Reactions November 20, 2019

When to use antihistamines and epinephrine has always been a point of confusion for the food allergic patients and caregivers.  But a 2019 study out of New York helps to clarify the role of antihistamines in serious allergic reactions.

 

Severe allergic reactions, called anaphylaxis, are serious and can become life-threatening very quickly.

 

 

 

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A recent study by Dr. Evan Wiley et al. suggests that administering antihistamines, such as Benadryl and Claritin, to patients who may be experiencing anaphylaxis can put them at risk for a more serious reaction.

 

 

The four year study which was just presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference in October 2019, reveals that 72% of patients who use antihistamines at home to treat an allergic reaction delayed seeking medical care.

 

This puts patients at risk.  

 

Old, now outdated guidance, used to suggest that the first line of defense for an allergic reaction was Benadryl or another antihistamine.  No more.

 

 

We now know that delayed administration of epinephrine is associated with more severe reactions – reactions which require more medication and more frequent hospitalizations.  That means the longer a patient goes without epinephrine and the attention of emergency care, the worse their condition may be and the longer it will take to recover.

 

The author notes that epinephrine is the ONLY known lifesaving medication and a delay in receiving epinephrine can prove fatal.

 

IMPORTANT TAKEAWAY

At the first sign of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), patients and caregivers should use their epinephrine auto-injectors and seek emergency medical care IMMEDIATELY.

 

The new advice is “Epi first. Epi fast.”  And call 911.

 

 

Review the symptoms of anaphylaxis here.

Here’s how a child might describe an allergic reaction.

Symptoms of Severe reaction

 

“Spell It Out” PSA – The ABCs of Food Allergies September 10, 2019

Food allergies are a life-threatening condition that know no race, gender or economic status.  However, lack of awareness, education and preparedness are disproportionately affecting underserved families and communities where there is a higher percentage of dangerous reactions as well as higher costs of emergency care.

 

Filmed at a school that serves this population using real students with food allergies, “Spell It Out” is a public service announcement aimed at school children and their caregivers that addresses several key concepts about food allergies that are often misunderstood:

 

  1. Food allergies are real.  

Food allergies can be serious and life-threatening – different from a food intolerance which is an uncomfortable digestive condition but not life-threatening.

 

  1. Anyone can be allergic to any food at any age.

Food allergies are not simply a passing childhood condition. In fact, recent findings tell us that 1 in every 10 adults have food allergies, too.  And, despite their reputation, peanuts are not the only food to cause a serious reaction – you can be allergic to almost any food.

 

  1. Food allergies should be monitored by a doctor.

If you experience symptoms after eating, it’s important to talk to a doctor or nurse.  They can confirm a diagnosis, teach patients how to manage their food allergy, and help them get epinephrine – the only medicine capable of slowing or stopping a life-threatening reaction.

 

“Spell it Out” comes straight from the thoughtful and generous heart of Sammi Mendenhall, an Emmy-nominated producer who admits to being “that person who demanded peanuts on airplanes.” But after seeing the tragic story of Elijah Silvera on the news, she knew she had to learn more and educate others like herself.  She envisioned a project that could help and give a voice to those most at risk.  This project is a result of an amazing collaboration between several powerful advocacy organizations: End Allergies Together, AllergyStrong, Change for Kids, Elijah’s Echo, Natalie Giorgi Sunshine Foundation and Red Sneakers for Oakley.

 

Please visit spellitoutpsa.org for more information.

 

Feel free to share “Spell It Out” with your school – and contact us if you’d like information about an educational school visit for AllergyStrong or one of our outstanding partners.

 

Join the Food Allergy Fighters – Race for Every Child June 3, 2019

 

**Registration is FREE until Wednesday, June 5th!**

 

Come join us!  All are welcome to join the team, The Food Allergy Fighters, for this year’s Race for Every Child.  The Race for Every Child 5K will be held on October 19, 2019 beginning at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.  You can participate in person or virtually, as a walker or a runner, individually or with the whole family.  Children ages 3 to 10 can also participate in the 100 yard Kids’ Dash.

 

When you support the Food Allergy Fighters, you are making a difference for all food allergy patients – here and around the world. Our team will specifically raise funds to advance food allergy research.

 

Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. is on the forefront of both clinical medical as well as psychological research as it pertains to food allergies.  They run an exemplary program that is always evolving for the better.

 

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Every dollar raised through the Race for Every Child enables Children’s National to advance pediatric health and provide world-class care to every child, regardless of illness, injury or ability to pay.

 

Please join us – register here!

 

Once you register, please create a profile and share with friends and family – all are welcome!

 

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at this meaningful, family-friendly event this fall!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Allergy Advocacy – A Day on Capitol Hill May 16, 2019

When you live with a chronic disease like food allergies and asthma, you need support – the support of family and friends, but also support from the outside world.  Fifty-eight million people suffer from either asthma or food allergies.  Every year, 3,600 people die from asthma.  And, every 3 minutes someone is rushed to the hospital suffering from a severe food allergy reaction.  They are both serious and life-threatening conditions.

 

There are so many issues that need our collective attention – including legislative ones that support and protect patients with food allergies, asthma and other atopic diseases. We expect and are entitled to equal access to healthcare, research funding and education among other things.

When given the opportunity to join the Allergy & Asthma Network and contribute to the effort to better the lives of all food allergy and asthma patients, I jumped.  Over the course of one day, we visited fifty percent of all Senators and nearly 100 member of the House of Representatives.  We heard from doctors and nurses, families who have struggled within the existing healthcare system and those who have lost loved ones prematurely, and we were inspired by others striving to make lasting change.

Among the issues that need our attention are:

  • Access to quality, affordable healthcare
  • Access to affordable prescription medication and treatment
  • Continued and increased funding for federal health and research funding
  • Accurate and up-to-date food labeling

These issues translated into support for the following pending legislation that pertain to food allergy:

H.R. 1243/S. 523: Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Act of 2019

Directs HHS to develop a national strategic action plan to help health professionals prepare for and respond to the public health effects of climate change.

My take:  Researchers are considering whether the way in which we produce and process our food has contributed to the rise in food allergies.  The nutrients that nourish our good bacteria in our microbiome has changed over the last 100 years.  Climate change has and will undoubtedly change the way we grow our food and the way in which our bodies respond to these changes.  

 

H.R. 2117:  Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act

Requires that sesame be added to the current list of allergens that manufacturers are required to label for.  The bill would also provide the CDC funding to conduct data on allergy prevalence.

My take:  Sesame is the 9th most common allergen (and one of the fastest growing allergies in terms of prevalence) and it’s a particularly difficult one to avoid.  Ground into flour and paste, used as oil in beauty products, in addition to whole seeds, current labeling guidelines allow for sesame to be hidden in ingredient lists under general terminology like “spices,” “natural flavors,” and “seasoning.”  Customers want transparency in their food and beauty products.  And, labeling for sesame would bring the US closer to the [more thorough and higher] standards set in the UK, EU, Canada and Australia.

For more information on sesame seed allergies, please see Sesame: The 9th Food Allergen?

 

H.R. 2468  School-Based Allergies and Asthma Management Program Act

Increases grant preference to states that implement school-based asthma and allergy management programs (including student action plans and emergency medication administration education/training for staff).

My take:  Schools are concerned with how to handle the increasing number of students with food allergies.  And they should be.  Studies show that 30 percent of stock epinephrine use was for students and staff with no known history of allergies.  But schools lack the funds to improve and increase training on the emergency medication [epinephrine] that will ensure administration when it’s so critically needed.  Immediate administration of epinephrine is associated with more favorable outcomes during anaphylaxis.  Familiarity with the signs and symptoms of a severe reaction leads to accurate, faster treatment, better protection for students and reduces school liability.

 

Not in D.C.?  How you can advocate from where you are:

  1. Call your state’s representatives and encourage them to support these and other legislation that protects patients.
  2. Start local!  There are towns, cities and counties across the country that are doing things right.  For example, there are a few places where police and bus drivers are trained to carry and administer epinephrine.  Is your town one of them?
  3. Work with your state senators and local representatives to allow stock epinephrine to be placed in public venues.
    • In Connecticut, Representative Robin Comey is trying to pass legislation that does just that through Senate Bill 706. If you live in CT, contact your legislators and ask them to support 706 to give entities access to stock epinephrine and the ability to protect those experience life-threatening reactions.
    • In New York City, Elijah’s law (NY S218A) proposes to mandate training  and establish emergency procedures for early child care centers and preschools in New York City.

 

It is an honor and a privilege to help improve rights for patient and families like ours and to play a part in our government at work.  By representing all our voices, it was clear we illustrated what is important to constituents and elevated these important issues for our representatives.

 

Find your own way to keep the momentum going!

 

 

Yes, You Can Get a Food Allergy at Any Age October 1, 2018

Food allergies aren’t always something you’re born with.  Many believe that once they reach preschool age without a food allergic reaction, both they and their children are out of the woods.  Not so, says allergists.

 

Unfortunately, food allergies can begin at any age.  In fact, you can get a food allergy to any food at any age.  We can all agree; that’s a bummer!

 

Unfamiliar with symptoms and without epinephrine, many adults discover their allergy through a reaction.   My own father-in-law had enjoyed seafood for decades before having a severe allergic reaction (called anaphylaxis) on an airplane when he was in his forties.  Thirty thousand feet over the Atlantic Ocean, he was served shrimp – something he had eaten many times before.  No sooner had he finished his meal than his symptoms begin: swollen eyes and esophagus, itchy mouth and skin.  Thankfully, he made it to their destination with the help of an overwhelming amount of Benadryl.  But I think we can all agree, that’s no place to discover a food allergy.

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It can be confusing to adults (as well as to their families and friends), when someone can tolerate a food one day and react to it the next.  As with all families adjusting to food allergies, there is a huge learning curve that accompanies diagnosis.  Adult food allergy patients need to relearn how to shop, cook, order food and – importantly – they must learn to recognize symptoms of allergic reactions including anaphylaxis.

 

Just as with pediatric food allergies, symptoms range from mild to severe to include:

  • Itching or tingling mouth, lips and/or tongue
  • Hives, itching skin, eczema
  • Swelling of the tongue, throat, lips, eyes, face, or other parts of the body
  • Wheezing, nasal congestion or other trouble breathing
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting

 

Symptoms of a severe reaction (called anaphylaxis) include:

  • Constriction of the throat or tightening of the airway
  • A swelling or lump in the throat that makes it feel hard to breath
  • Shock, a severe drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sense of impending doom
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, loss of consciousness

*Emergency medical care is needed if experiencing any symptoms of anaphylaxis.  Even after administering an epinephrine auto-injector, seek immediate medical attention.

 

Busy adults sometimes miss symptoms of food allergies.  On occasion, adults experience vomiting without itching, swelling or hives – a symptom which imitates a virus or the flu.  After a suspected reaction, adults should meet with an allergist.  At their first appointment, patients should also discuss their other medical conditions as well as bring a list of prescription medication they take.  Specialists can help decipher between symptoms of one condition and food allergic reactions as well as give advice about any issues with administering epinephrine or taking antihistamines.

 

Too little is known about why adults develop food allergies.  Fifty-one percent (51%) of people with food allergies developed at least one as an adult.  Approximately 10.8% of adults live with food allergies in the United States (that’s about 26 million people).  The most common among them is shellfish (present in 54% of adults with food allergies), followed by milk, peanuts, tree nuts, and fin fish.  But adults suffer reactions to all kinds of food allergens.  Although you can truly get a food allergy at any age, most adult reactions occur between ages 30 and 40 and affect women more often than men.

 

There is an initial emotional burden of being diagnosed with food allergies.  This is common. Food allergies can be especially stressful as patients are adjusting to their condition and retraining their behaviors or overcoming a severe reaction.  Experiencing anxiety is normal to some degree [please read Managing Food Allergy Anxiety]; however, if the stress and anxiety of food allergies becomes overwhelming, it is recommended that patients reach out to a mental health professional and mention it to their allergist.  Both can work to give you practical and easy-to-implement strategies to reduce fears.

 

 

FDA Approves First Generic EpiPen September 6, 2018

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved the first generic EpiPen to be made by Teva Pharmaceuticals.  There are currently several brands of epinephrine auto-injectors available to patients:  Mylan makes EpiPen, EpiPen Jr. and its own brand-sponsored generic; kaléo offers Auvi-Q; and Impax Laboratories markets Adrenaclick.  However, this generic EpiPen by Teva Pharmaceuticals will be the first time a non-brand alternative is available.

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Obtaining approval from the FDA for a generic was complicated by the fact that both the medication (epinephrine) as well as the device itself had to be reviewed.  There is no firm estimate on when to expect this new generic on the market or the cost of the product once it gets there.

 

The competition generated by a generic should help the epinephrine auto-injector market. To date, Mylan’s EpiPen has nearly monopolized the market but its exorbitant cost has gained unwanted attention.  Mylan’s EpiPen price has risen over 400% in the last 10 years to over $600 a set.  To counter the negative press, Mylan created their own generic EpiPen which still average $300 per set.  Patients and families are hoping the introduction of a true generic device will drive down the cost of the absolutely necessary, life-saving devices as well as help to prevent epinephrine auto-injector shortages like the one we’re experiencing presently.  They’re also hopeful this generic will help expand options covered by their insurance plans.  Doctors, emergency workers and advocates are also optimistic that this may help get epinephrine in the hands of patients who may otherwise be unable to afford it.

 

 

 

In-Flight Free-From Meals – Airlines Addressing Dietary Restrictions August 29, 2018

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If you’re taking to the air soon, you may be pleased to be able to request a special meal from your air carrier.  Airlines all over the world are responding to calls for special meals ranging from low-sodium and halal (made without pork or alcohol) to gluten-free.

 

Requests for special meals have increased over the years.  Historically, passengers have asked for specific meals for medical reasons or those that adhere to their belief system.  Experts wonder if the number of requests has increased because of the popularity of certain diets or the idea that special meals may be healthier or better tasting than those regularly served.  While that remains to be seen, the willingness to offer such meals is uplifting to patients with food allergies.

 

Both domestic and international travelers can take advantage of special orders covering a wide range of meal choices, but which ones your airline offers will vary from carrier to carrier, ticket type and destination.

 

Here’s a sampling of available allergy-friendly meals by airline.  As you will see, the meals Click on each airline to be directed to their site more details, including their policies on nuts and other allergens.

 

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Domestic Flights:

 

American Airlines

Glutose-Intolerant

Lactose-Intolerant

Vegan

 

Delta Airlines

Gluten-free

Vegetarian

 

United 

Vegetarian

Gluten-Intolerant

United policy for passengers with food allergies

 

 

International Carriers:

 

ANA

Allergen-Free Meals (choice between the 7 Allergen Free Meal and the 27 Allergen Free Meal)

7 Allergen Free Meal for Children

Gluten-Friendly

Low-Lactose

Seafood Meal (does not contain meat)

 

British Airways

various Vegetarian Meals

Gluten Intolerant

Low Lactose

 

JAL 

Gluten-Free

Vegetarian

Seafood Meal

Minimal Allergen Menu Meals

 

Luftansa

Gluten-Intolerant

Lactose-Intolerant

Vegan

Vegetarian

 

Malaysia Airlines

Gluten-Intolerant

Low Lactose

Vegan

various Vegetarian Meals

Seafood Meal

Special Meals

 

Qatar Airways

Gluten-Free

Non-Lactose

various Vegetarian Meals (also excludes fish, seafood, eggs and dairy)

 

Singapore Air

various Vegetarian Meals

Vegan

Gluten Intolerant

Low Lactose

Non-Strict Nut Free Meal

 

Turkish Airlines

various Vegetarian Meals (also excludes fish, seafood, eggs and dairy)

Gluten-Free

Low-Lactose

 

 

Please comment below if you’ve had one of these meals and let us know how it was!

 

 
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