Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Identifying and Recognizing Emotions May 2, 2017

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As parents, we’re reliant on our children to express themselves.  And as food allergy parents, knowing how they feel is our best barometer for understanding how our kids are handling their food allergies, what’s going on around them vis-a-vis food and friends and what’s on their mind.  And, in order to do that, kids must first be able to recognize and identify those emotions.

 

But how (and when) do we begin?

There’s no such thing as too young to start this conversation.  Whether your kids are 2 or 22, getting in touch with how you’re feeling at a given moment can clarify almost any situation, reduce stress and make way for better decision-making.

 

Here are a few ways to get started:

1.  Puts Words to Feelings:  Let your children know that their emotions have names.  Point out those feelings as you see them.  “It looks like doing art makes you feel calm;” “When your brother takes your toys without asking, that makes you angry;” “Wow, you are really excited about going to the zoo today!”

 

2.  I Second that Emotion:  My own daughter (now 4) gets upset and will say, “I am feeling so mad right now!”  This leads me to a second point: validate their feelings.  Praise your children when they express themselves verbally.  When my daughter tells me she’s mad I usually respond by saying, “I’m sorry you’re mad about something.  BUT, I’m really proud of you for letting me know how you’re feeling.”  This lets her know that being mad is okay.  And, it encourages her to keep talking to me about her emotions.

 

3.  Read, Discuss, Repeat:  Books are great tools for learning and describing emotions as well as helping your child identify the feelings of others.  Some great books to start with are:

Today I Feel Silly, by Jamie Lee Curtis

In My Heart: A Book of Feelings, by Jo Witek

The Color Monster: A Pop-Up Book of Feelings, by Anna Llenas

The Way I Feel, by Janan Cain

 

But you don’t need a special book to talk about emotions.  Even when reading a child’s favorite, you can help him/her explore and identify how the characters are feeling.  Ask them, “How do you think Madeline felt when she fell from the bridge?”  “Is Trixie happy when she realizes she lost her lovey?” “What is Harry thinking and feeling when he’s living at the Dursley’s?” “How would you feel if you were a firefighter headed to a fire?”  With older kids, you can even pause a movie or TV show and chat about what a character might be experiencing psychologically.

 

4.  Touch Base:  Don’t ignore opportunities to check in with your child about their food allergies.  Parents often need to walk a fine line between acknowledging the pain, exclusion and frustration and keeping things *positive*.  We are quick to brush aside things that cause our kids pain and sadness and paint it over with positivity and sunshine.  But we need to recognize and call out those negative emotions too – because regardless of our rose-colored glasses, our kids are likely experiencing all of the emotions (good and bad) that come along with food allergies.

 

Recently, when my 12 year old son and I learned that his number one favorite treat, Krispy Kreme doughnuts would no longer be safe for him, we stopped to talk about it.  He acknowledged how insanely frustrated he felt and how disappointing this news was.  He felt depressed and disheartened – not over a doughnut exactly but rather over another example of food options that more-often-than-not shrink and exclude him.  After mockingly shaking our fists in rage and putting a name on everything he was feeling, my son was able to move on emotionally and focus on other special desserts he could look forward to.

(more…)

 

Help Fund a Cure for Food Allergies January 10, 2017

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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marines_burpee by U.S. Embassy Tokyo via Flickr

 

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

What can you do to support Mike?

 

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

 

 

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

3K Burpee Challenge for Food Allergies

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

 

 

Donate:

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

Blog:

http://www.3kburpeechallenge.com/

Facebook Page:

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

YouTube Video:

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

 

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. —

 

Stay Healthy This Winter – Flu Vaccine For the Severely Egg Allergic October 23, 2013

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Here’s some good news for everyone.  Researchers have come up with Flublock which uses recombinant DNA technology to prevent the flu.  Now available and approved for adults ages 18-49.

 

This is great news for those who are severely allergic to eggs!  Instead of using traditional vaccine components including egg, it uses an insect virus to help protect us from the dreaded flu.  Not only is it safe for those with an egg allergy, but it also protects those vaccinated against all strains of the flu and represents an advancement in the vaccine manufacturing process.

 

So, don’t cringe too much when you’re headed for your shot.  Relish in your good health and remember that you’re a part of the future of medicine!

 

And, if you’re looking to vaccinate those allergic to egg UNDER the age of 18, there’s more good news.  The CDC – endorsed by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology ( ACAAI) and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology – just recently updated their recommendations regarding flue vaccines for the egg allergic.  The October 2012 edition of the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology stated that special precautions (such as receiving the vaccine under a doctor’s care and remaining under observation for 30 minutes following the vaccine) are likely not necessary.

 

In emphasizing that the benefits of the flu vaccine outweigh the risk, allergist Dr. John Kelso, of the ACAAI, said, “In a large number of research studies published over the last several years, thousands of egg allergic children, including those with a severe life-threatening reaction to eating eggs, have received injectable influenza vaccine (IIV) as a single dose without a reaction. ”

 

**As always, contact your allergist with any concerns and for guidance specific to your individual healthy history.**

 

An Emerging Epidemic – Discovery Channel to Air Piece on Food Allergies September 3, 2013

Every parents’ worst nightmare just happened in California.  A young teenager, confident, responsible and well-educated about her food allergies took a bite of a typically safe snack that happened to be made this time with peanut butter.  She took every precaution; she didn’t even swallow it.  Her parents were there.  Her dad, a doctor, administered a usually life-saving dose of epinepherine — three times.  And, despite the arrival of the ambulance, she suffered cardiac arrest and died.  My heart breaks for the Giorgi family.  And, this story haunts not only me, but everyone touched by food allergies.

 

The widespread effects of food allergies among children has been gaining national attention these days.  Contributing to that conversation is the Discovery Channel who, in partnership with FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), produced a documentary about food allergies to air on the Discovery Channel on September 7th.

 

Narrated by Steve Carell, this educational program features interviews with the top allergists advancing the understanding of food allergies and those revolutionizing its treatment.  It reviews legislative efforts to protect Americans living with food allergies.  The documentary also interviews families who live with food allergies and those who are working to raise awareness about it.  My family was privileged to be among them.

 

The discussion surrounding food allergies is steadily growing, as evidenced not only by the Discovery Channel documentary but also by the New York Times Magazine article (“The Allergy Buster“, March 7, 2013) about the amazing work of allergists across the country and by Dr. Kari Nadeau in particular.  As most of us are well aware, the rate of food allergies is on the rise (over 50 percent in the last 20 years alone) as is the rate of hospitalization for food allergic reactions.  And, although rare and a fact all parents would like to ignore, the risks of fatality from this devastating diagnosis are real.

 

In my interview during the documentary, it was important for me to share our collective perspective as parents:

  • Food allergies are not the same as food preference – food allergies can be deadly – a fact that shakes us to our core;
  • Parenting a child with food allergies requires exhaustive vigilance to keep kids both physically safe and psychologically healthy;
  • We are committed to educating those people who don’t understand food allergies and eternally grateful to those who do.
 

My son, who is 8 1/2 lent a food allergic child’s point of view:

  • Living with food allergies isn’t easy and can even be downright difficult;
  • Having food allergies puts him in awkward social situations frequently that he must sometimes navigate without adults: at school, he eats at a separate peanut-free table for children but must still remain careful of their tree nuts and dairy items.  He brings his own cup cakes to birthday parties, having to refuse even the BEST looking birthday cake.  He cannot share in foods offered by well-meaning parents of his friends, which can exclude him from surprise treats at school, celebrations and holidays.
  • It can bring about a constant sense of concern.  In his own words to his grandparents, my son recently said, “The problem with being a kid with food allergies is that I can’t be careful [about food] only 70% of the time.  I need to be careful 100% of the time. “

I know you may have heard the same from your children and I know we all wish it wasn’t our child’s responsibility to feel this way.

 

This underscores my personal philosophy that in order to raise confident kids, we – the parents, teachers, siblings, grandparents, camp counselors, chefs – need to approach food and food allergies in a new and healthy way.  I am as committed as ever to helping simplify the lives of families managing food allergies in the hopes of reducing some of the stress surrounding food.   And, I will continue to lend my voice to further the understanding of food allergies.

 

Kudos to the Discovery Channel for recognizing the significance of this issue and the way in which the effects of food allergies are touching the lives of so many and kudos to FARE, Mylan Specialty L.P. and the Discovery Channel for bringing this to our collective attention.  

 

The documentary will begin its run on the Discovery Channel on Saturday, September 7th, 2013 at 8am and again on September 21st at 8am.  The program will also be available to download and for use by schools nationwide through Discovery Education.

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Free From Magazines March 23, 2011

My sweet and thoughtful friend bought me a copy of Living Without magazine the other day while out at Whole Foods.   Living Without is a magazine for people with restricted diets (focused mainly on gluten- and dairy-free nutrition).  Showcasing allergy-free recipes, the magazine also offers information regarding food allergies and sensitivities, celiac disease, allergy-free products and related health and lifestyle issues.

 

I find it informative and pick up a copy from time to time.  Living Without currently publishes another magazine, Gluten Free & More!  So before you check out from Whole Foods, check out these informative magazines or subscribe today on Amazon!

 

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

 

Helpful Smartphone Apps I Hope You Never Have to Use January 27, 2011

I just read about a few new smartphone apps that are worth it for every parent to download.  Those of us with food allergic children simply have an extra reason.

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The first is iTriage.  Performing on the Android and iPhone platforms, iTriage houses a comprehensive list of emergency rooms, hospitals and urgent care facilities – listing their distance from your current location, their address, phone numbers, directions, ratings and wait times.  Because it pulls them up based on your location – wherever that may be, this app is essential when you travel.  iTriage also helps users make informed health decisions offering information about symptoms, medical procedures, and even helps you locate a doctor.  This app is user-friendly and has a voice-input option to get you the information quickly.

 

http://www.itriagehealth.com/

iTriage Home Menu

 

Operating for iPhone only is the findER app.  Like iTriage, findER uses the phone’s GPS to search for and list the nearest emergency rooms and/or emergency departments (displayed either in map or list format).  With one-click, a user can obtain directions and with another click will be directed to the web to obtain more information about the medical facility.


http://itunes.apple.com/app/emnet-finder/id376928203?mt=8

findER Home Menu

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I hope no one ever has to use these apps.  But if you do, you’ll be glad you had them handy!

Pass it on!