Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

6 Tips for Traveling with Food Allergies March 7, 2017

pool-690034_1920 via pixabay

 

Spring break is on the horizon!  Can you smell the fresh air already?  Are you mentally packing your bags? (I am!)

 

Here are a few tips when traveling with food allergies:

locking-knob-883059_1920 via pixabay

  1.  Call your airline and inquire about their food allergy policy in advance.  Ask specifically about early boarding and in-flight announcements.
  2. Most airlines will allow passengers to board the plane early in order to wipe down surfaces (this includes seat backs, seat belts, tray tables and knobs, armrests). Be sure to bring enough baby wipes or antibacterial wipes (such as Wet Ones) to cover all the legs of your travel.  Again, ask about pre-boarding at the gate.
  3. Carry your epinephrine auto-injectors and antihistamines ON BOARD.  Do not pack these away in your luggage.  [*ALLERGY SHMALLERGY TIP*: Zyrtec makes dissolvable tablets which eliminate the worry over bringing liquids through security as well as anything spilling in your bags.]
  4. If you’re traveling to a warm weather destination, you’ll need to remember to keep your epinephrine auto-injectors at room temperature – even while enjoying the beach or pool.  Pack a cool pack (like this one) and an insulated bag (like this cute lunch bag).  Store the cool packs in your hotel’s mini-fridge (who needs a $15 bag of M&Ms anyway!?) or plan on ordering a to-go cup of ice to keep the medicine cool poolside.
  5. A hotel or resort’s food services manager can usually help you navigate menus.  On our last vacation, the food services manager had food allergies himself and was invaluable in hunting down ingredients and safe alternatives for our family.  Befriend this fantastic person!
  6. If you’re planning on visiting an amusement park, taking a hike or being similarly active, consider packing a backpack into your luggage (or use one as your carry-on!).  You’ll need to bring your epinephrine auto-injectors wherever you go – especially on vacation when you’re away from home cooking, familiar restaurants and local knowledge of hospitals and doctors.  Backpacks can make carrying it easier depending on the activity – simply slip the insulated bag into your backpack and go!

 

amusement-park-237200_1920

 

Two more notes:

  • Airline travelers should bring their own snacks/meals on board flights to ensure their safety.
  • Refrain from using airplane blankets and pillows as allergen residue may reside there.
  • Bring a baby or antibacterial wipe to the bathroom to wipe down door  and knob handles.

 

 

 

Help Fund a Cure for Food Allergies January 10, 2017

boy-1636731_1280-pixabay

“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.

 

marines_burpee-us-embassy-tokyo-flickr

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

 

The Future of Food Allergies: Recommendations from the Experts December 8, 2016

Last week, the National Academies of Sciences put out a report outlining the gaps in global food allergy management.  Titled, “Finding a Path to Safety in Food Allergy Assessment of the Global Burden, Causes, Prevention, Management, and Public Policy,” the authors made recommendations that would lead to significant change in the quality of life of patients and families living with food allergies.

 

This was an important and informative report which helps prioritize ways in which we may see adjustments to food allergy diagnosis, information and policy in the future.  I listened to the live presentation while furiously taking notes, but you can read the report for yourself at:

nationalacademies.org/FoodAllergy

#foodallergies #peanutallergy medical doctor government law

 

In case you missed it, here are the highlights and some reflections:

 

Prevalence of Food Allergies:

The committee noted that although no formal studies have been able to corroborate the information, doctors across the country have confidently noted the increased prevalence of food allergies.  Studies of this sort are difficult to conduct and expensive, Dr. Hugh Sampson of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York noted.  However, the true prevalence of food allergies would help lawmakers and other health-related institutions prioritize food allergies as the “major health problem” it is in this country.  It is currently estimated that between 12 and 15 millions American are living with food allergies.

Recommendation: The CDC or other organization conduct a food allergy prevalence test that will help inform us of current food allergy levels and serve as a baseline for future assessments.

 

Standardized Diagnosis:

 

This is no one, standard way to diagnose food allergies.  Some doctors use skin tests (otherwise known as “scratch tests”) and some use IgE blood tests.  Still others consider the use of IgG testing to detect food intolerances.  Each test varies in conclusiveness and none can accurately predict the reaction a person will have to an allergen.  Only an oral challenge can determine the type and severity of an allergic reaction.

 

[More on this testing in a separate post.]

 

Recommendation: Doctors follow a standardized set of tests and protocols to inform them of a patient’s allergy and future medical action.

 

Prevention:

While there has been much in the news about best strategies to prevent food allergies from developing, advice on the ground from doctors and within parenting circles is lagging.

 

Recommendation: Clear, concise and solid advice about the early introduction of food and its benefits would greatly help parents and patients alike.

 

Education and Training

Misconceptions still abound.  Some dangerous.  Timely, proper management of food allergies saves lives.

 

Recommendation:  The launch of an educational campaign to align doctors, patients and general public regarding the diagnosis, prevention and management of food allergies.  This is especially important in organizations that provide emergency services as well as in medical schools and other healthcare institutions.

 

Policies and Practices

 

The list of major allergens identified in each country has not been updated since they were established in 1999.  And, labeling laws (particularly those known as Precautionary Allergen Labels, PALs – “may contain” and “made on equipment with” are two examples) aren’t currently effective at helping consumers assess risk.

 

Recommendation:  Reassess the priority list of major allergens to better identify regional allergens. Develop a new, risk-based system for labeling – specifically to address issues related to PALs – and outline guidelines for the labeling of prepackaged food such as those distributed at schools, on airlines, and in other public venues. Additionally, the committee recommended that federal agencies re-imagine and standardize food allergy and anaphylaxis response training for employees who work at public venues (schools, airlines, etc).

 


 

I was encouraged to listen to the guidance from the committee in each area.  There is certainly a long way to go in getting federal and state-level attention for the growing epidemic that is food allergies.  But by identifying current gaps and taking action to improve communication of standardized, evidence-based information and advice, I am confident we can help improve the lives of those living with food allergies in the near future.

 

Managing Food Allergies In the Snow November 30, 2016

winter sledding in the snow, winter break

photo taken by Kevin Jarrett

Winter is an important time to get outside. It leaves you feeling refreshed and invigorated. Winter weather invites us to engage in all kinds of fun and unique activities. Ice skating and hot chocolate go hand in hand. Snow days beg for sledding down sleek hills. Cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, and even hiking are fabulous ways to appreciate the quiet beauty of the season.

 

And, of course, there’s my personal passion: skiing.

 

No matter what your winter passion is, please read Let It Snow! (below) for some important tips on how to carry your epinephrine auto-injector and how to manage your food allergies in the cold and on the slopes!

 

See our story and read how to enjoy – not endure – the season in the Winter 2016 edition of Allergy & Asthma Today:

 

Allergy & Asthma Today – Winter 2016

Or read it here:

Let It Snow!  Managing Food Allergies In the Snow

Our family loves wintertime and winter sports – skiing, sledding, ice skating, you name it. My son has multiple food allergies, so we always carry epinephrine auto-injectors with us, even in the cold, and we make sure they are safe and secure.

 

Epinephrine must be kept at room temperature in order for the medication to remain effective. When you plan to go outside in the cold, carry your auto-injectors in the inside pocket of your winter coat.

 

If you have no interior pockets, or they’re not big enough, get creative. We made a holder for our epinephrine auto-injectors using a pencil case and a lanyard – anything to keep the epinephrine close by and at the correct temperature.

 

Gone Skiing

 

When my son was old enough, my husband – an avid skier – was excited to get him on the slopes. But the idea of trying to manage his food allergies on a ski vacation seemed challenging.

 

Who could I track down to get ingredient information for food in the ski lodge cafeteria? How was I going to store and easily access snacks and lunches that were safe for my son? Could I rely on the ski school to look out for him and his food allergies?

 

During recent ski trips, we found food service employees were knowledgeable about food allergies. Several of my son’s ski instructors needed no introduction to epinephrine auto-injectors – some had food allergies themselves, which made them even cooler in my son’s eyes.

 

The staff walked him through cafeteria lines, read ingredient lists, and helped him find safe alternatives for group snacks – all at 10,000 feet.

 

If you’re planning a trip to a ski resort, here are some food allergy tips:

 

  1. Call ahead. Ski lodge operations may seem relaxed, but they do take food allergies seriously. We spoke with a food services manager at one ski lodge who outlined their offerings, looked up food suppliers and tracked down ingredients for us – all before we stepped foot in the snow. Ask about the lunch routine during ski school and what kinds of food students receive. Are they given snacks? Do they have free choice in the cafeteria?

 

  1. Show up for ski school classes early with your epinephrine auto-injectors. Talk with your child’s ski instructors and if necessary, teach them how to use an epinephrine auto-injector – and when to use it. Remind them they will need to store it in an inside pocket of their ski jacket to keep it close to room temperature.

 

  1. Consider meeting up with your child’s ski school class for lunch to help your child navigate the cafeteria line. But don’t expect to eat with them! Skiing creates fast friendships and your child will have more fun hanging out with their ski buddies.

 

  1. Pack some safe snacks and store them someplace readily accessible. Kids are often hungry when they get off the slopes and ski lodge cafeterias typically close right when the lifts do.

 

Now … Bring on the snow!

 

 

Breathing Easy On the Slopes

 

Many people with food allergies also have asthma. When outside in wintertime, cold, dry air can be an asthma trigger. Wrapping a scarf around your nose and mouth warms the air you breathe and helps keep the rest of you warm as well. Tuck a quick-relief bronchodilator inhaler into an inside pocket of your jacket just in case you start to cough or wheeze.

Food Allergies

Enjoying a fantastic winter vacation. Skiing in Park City, Utah.

 

Stock the Shelves for Families with Food Allergies November 22, 2016

With the holidays upon us, gratefulness should be at the forefront of our minds.  It’s certainly on mine.  And, while I am so thankful for so many things, I can’t help but think of those who may be enduring hardship.

 

cans-salvation-army-usa-west

unaltered photo from Salvation Army USA West via Flickr at http://bit.ly/2gcaVDo

 

In 2013 (and each year since), my sons and I have volunteered at a food assistance center in our area.  As I detail in my original post, Thankful (Nov. 2013), my eldest son – who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds and dairy – took me aside as we were sorting donations.  “I couldn’t make a meal out of anything in here,” he whispered.  He was concerned that if a kid like him had to rely on a food pantry for his or her meals, they’d leave hungry.  In reality, his worry is not unfounded.  Food insecure families with food allergies are forced to make difficult decisions every day.

 

So, let’s try to make things a little easier for those with food allergies who are in need this holiday season.  If you can, I encourage you all to donate food allergy-friendly food to your local food pantry or regional food bank.  When you do, please attach the forms below to request that your donation be set aside for another food allergy family or individual.

 

AllergyStrong/Allergy Shmallergy Food Donation Forms

 

And, if you or someone you know works at a food pantry, please ask them to contact us at erin@allergystrong.com.  We’d love to work with local and regional pantries to help them support food allergy families year-round.

 

Some Suggested Items to Donate

  • Sunbutter, Soynut Butter, Wowbutter, or other alternative to peanut butter
  • Gluten-free Pasta
  • Dairy-free, long shelf-life Soy, Rice or Coconut Milk
  • Rice or Corn-based Cereal
  • Gluten-free cereal and oatmeal
  • Rice-based meals
  • Ener-G Egg Replacer
  • Gluten-free, dairy-free or egg-free baking mixes (muffins, etc)

 

 

Focus on Fun: Thanksgiving Games November 17, 2016


Thanksgiving and other food-centric holidays are tough for families with food allergies.  Traditional foods may not be safe and allergic family members sometimes feel excluded from the celebration.

 

Time to interject fun, family traditions that won’t fill you up and are cross-contamination free-guaranteed!

 

One of my favorite ways to do this is to have the kids go on a scavenger hunt.  If you have a small group dining, the hunt could be for objects in the house or yard.  If you have a large group, the hunt could be for answers to questions from family and friends.  [See attached.]

 

Download here:

Focus on Fun – Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunts

 

Pinterest also has a ton of Thanksgiving crafts that kids can complete while watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade and waiting for the turkey.  The art work could decorate the dinner table or the dining room!  This is a great way to get food allergic kids involved with the meal without worry about allergens.

 

Perfect for indoor or out!  Download the ready-made Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt here:

Focus on Fun – Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunts

 

Updated: A Loaded Gun for Lunch May 9, 2016

Update (5/12/16):

Kellogg’s addresses some of the facts regarding their decision to add peanut flour to formerly nut-free snacks.   The public is still asking why, but this link should clarify some of what’s going on:

http://origin-www.openforbreakfast.com/en_US/content/nutrition/peanutflour.html

Again:  As it is not uncommon for formulations and manufacturing practices to change, this is a great reminder to check every label of every food you purchase every time.

————————————————————

In early April, Kellogg’s added peanut flour to eight of its previously nut-free products. Several varieties of Kellogg’s Austin and Keebler cracker lines – crackers that have been safe to families and individuals with food allergies for many years – will now contain peanuts. Kellogg’s didn’t issue a press release or alert their customers directly.  Instead, hoping consumers would find and read their advisories, they notified FARE and posted a statement on their website mentioning the change without citing a reason.  But many families and other individuals with – or responsible for feeding those with – peanut allergies remained in the dark.

This change comes at a time when food allergies are on the rise and public health officials fear an “epidemic.” Food allergies have increased 50 percent in the last twenty years, currently affecting roughly 15 million Americans. Peanut allergies are among the most dangerous, causing severe allergic reactions called anaphylaxis – a condition that can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and death. Approximately 300,000 ambulatory visits per year are attributed to severe allergic reactions.

According to the non-profit Food Allergy Research Education (FARE), “Most allergic reactions to foods occurred to foods that were thought to be safe.” Imagine the impact of Kellogg’s addition. It’s like slipping a loaded gun into a child’s lunchbox.

The fact that Kellogg’s did not alert their consumers appropriately is disappointing to those with food allergies to say the least – maybe even reckless. To make a change that will knowingly impact the health of some of their customers without issuing a press release is inconceivable. Families, schools, daycare centers, aftercare programs and camps that rely on readily available nut-free snacks are likely still unaware of the addition of peanuts to Kellogg’s crackers and could be putting children in a perilous position unknowingly.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that Kellogg’s did not initially alter the packaging of the new formula of crackers so that a consumer would be clearly alerted of the additional ingredient. It is virtually invisible. [Update:  Kellogg’s has now updated the packing with a “Contains” statement located at the bottom of the front of the package in white.]

To date, Kellogg’s has not given the public an explanation for their decision to change the ingredients of these crackers.  Without an answer, speculation abounds.  Perhaps they were trying to add protein to these snacks.  Perhaps the crackers are made in a facility where peanuts are processed and the inclusion of peanut flour in the ingredient list reflects that.  SnackSafely.com, who has been leading the charge in informing food allergic families and individuals about the sudden change and who started a petition asking Kellogg’s to reconsider it, has a theory: could Kellogg’s be adding peanut flour to avoid the cost of complying with new FDA regulations? In an effort to protect the nation’s food supply, the FDA has raised their concern about food allergy cross contamination to the same level as food-borne illnesses. In doing so, it has put stricter manufacturing codes in place. Companies have until September 2016 to implement necessary changes. SnackSafely wonders, could it be cheaper for them to add peanut flour to their products in order to reduce cost in complying with the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act?   Until Kellogg’s clarifies, the public is left guessing.

Kellogg’s has responded to complaints and petitions, by vowing to remove peanuts from one of the varieties of crackers affected beginning in September. This hardly constitutes a consolation after confusing and endangering their most vulnerable customers.

Let this situation serve as a reminder to all to check the ingredient lists of all the foods you purchase for yourself and your family every time you buy them.

 ———————————————————

After following this issue and reading the above, Fox 5 DC wanted to inform the public of this change:

http://www.fox5dc.com/news/140044884-story

http://up.anv.bz/latest/anvload.html?key=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