Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Allergy-Friendly Hanukkah Doughnuts: Buy Them, Make Them, Eat Them! December 12, 2017

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As a food allergy consultant to schools, I get asked all kinds of questions and involved in all sorts of projects.  Recently, I received a fun assignment!  My daughter’s school asked me to find a safe doughnut to help them celebrate Hanukkah while adhering to their strict nut-free policy.

 

Hanukkah is celebrated over eight nights – recognizing the miracle of the burning oil in the ancient Temple of Jerusalem.  Recognizing that miracle, celebrants everywhere look forward to the tradition of indulging in food fried in oil each night, including doughnuts!  I mean, if we must…

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Traditionally, Jews serve sufganiyot, a jelly doughnut during Hanukkah.  The Big Bang Theorys Mayim Bialik offers this awesome vegan recipe (which means it’s dairy and egg-free!):

Mayim Bialik’s “Unbelievably Delicious” Holiday Recipe – Hanukkah Sufganiyot

 

I will acknowledge, doughnut making can be time consuming and messy!  Preparing doughnuts from scratch is also tough if you’re trying to feed a crowd.  Krispy Kreme used to be the go-to Hanukah doughnuts for my own family as well as for the classrooms I teach in.  Now that Krispy Kreme donuts are decidedly not safe, where can you buy a nut-free doughnut?

 

Enter Katz’s Gluten-Free Donuts.  Sold in boxes of 6, these doughnuts are gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and soy-free!  You can find them in the kosher frozen food section of the supermarket.  There’s no preparation necessary – just thaw.  Or, for a mouthwatering experience, heat up for a few seconds in the microwave.  (I’m drooling as I write this…)

 

 

Be sure to check out our list of Allergy-Friendly BakeriesDun Well Donuts, The Donut Pub, Brandon’s Best Allergen-Free Sweets ‘N Treats and Amazing Donuts are just a few bakeries on our list that make doughnuts reviewers rave about.  There may be a bakery near you!  (And, if your favorite allergy-friendly bakery isn’t on the list, shoot us a note!)

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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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Important Story: FDA Warning to Mylan, Maker of the EpiPen, on Device Defects and Review November 6, 2017

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Earlier this fall, the FDA issued a warning to Mylan, the makers of EpiPens.  In a scathing letter, the FDA highlighted manufacturing defects as well as Mylan’s failure to conduct adequate internal reviews after receiving many complaints about the life-saving device, EpiPen’s malfunctions.  To date, there have been 7 deaths, 35 hospitalizations and 228 complaints about EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. devices this year.  [See F.D.A Accuses EpiPen Maker of Failing to Investigate Malfunctions, New York Times, Sept. 7, 2017]

 

Following an FDA inspection of the manufacturing plant, FDA’s letter to Mylan describes EpiPens that were leaking epinephrine and others that malfunctioned.  In March of this year, Mylan issued a recall of a small batch of EpiPen and EpiPen Jr devices.

 

While it is difficult to connect these defects to the deaths reported, as anaphylaxis itself can be deadly even with properly receiving epinephrine, these reports are not encouraging.

 

In February of this year, we had a frightening experience. [Please read the full story,  The Fire Drill- 5 Key Lessons from an Intensely Scary Night.]  Not long after eating at a restaurant, my 12 year old, food allergic son was rushed home, wheezing severely and coughing.  He was so weak and nauseous that he could barely stumble to the bathroom.  As I asked him questions, trying to evaluate the situation, it was becoming increasingly impossible for him to speak at all.  I wheeled around to grab my EpiPens just steps from where my son sat.  When I turned back around, he was blue.

 

This is every parent’s worst nightmare.  It was certainly mine.  Amidst the chaos of an increasingly critical and deteriorating situation, my only saving grace was that I held in my hand an EpiPen that would contain the correct amount of the life-saving drug, epinephrine and deliver it safely.

 

I can’t imagine being in that same moment now, knowing that the EpiPen in my hand may or may not save my son’s life.  That it may or may not have the right dose of medicine.  That the needle may or may not misfire.  Would the knowledge of EpiPen defects cause you to hesitate?  Would you instead call an ambulance that would take even more time to arrive?  When minutes matter, these short hesitations in action, improper delivery of medication, and any other complications that arise during anaphylaxis could be costly…. even deadly.

 

Bear in mind, Mylan has also increased the cost of EpiPen from $50 in 2008 to over $600 currently.  And, while the high cost of EpiPens are prohibitive, parents are still buying them, and they’re paying for one thing:  reassurance.  They pay for the firm knowledge that this product administers the correct amount of medicine properly every time.  If that can’t be demonstrated, there are plenty of other auto-injectors on the market with a proven track record of reliability to consider.

 

Despite these less-than-comforting reports, please continue to carry and use your EpiPens and other auto-injectors.  According to the FDA in a recent Bloomberg article, “We are not aware of defective EpiPens currently on the market and recommend that consumers use their prescribed epinephrine auto injector. We have seen circumstances in which adverse events reports increase once a safety issue is publicized, like a recall. We continue to monitor and investigate the adverse event reports we receive.”

 

I plan to keep you all informed as we continue to follow this story.

 

To read more on this story, please see EpiPen Failures Cited in Seven Deaths This Year, FDA Files Show posted on Bloomberg, Nov. 2, 2017.

 

Creating a Halloween for EVERYONE October 19, 2017

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Halloween is traditionally frightful.  Between the the ghosts and zombies milling about,  candy and party food shouldn’t be scary.  But the chaotic and exuberant fun of Halloween can be chilling for many families with food allergies.

 

Parents with food allergic children are justified in worrying when their kid comes face to face with his food allergy.  And, candy is full of allergens: dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, corn, egg…  It’s a wonder we survive!

 

Here are a few ways to keep your sanity during the craziest night of the year:

 

  1. Prepare your kids:  Remind them not to eat anything while they are trick-or-treating.  Reading ingredient lists on tiny packages in the dark is challenging (to say the least).  There’s plenty of time to taste test their candy when they get home.
  2.  Go with them to the front door:  Help little ones choose safe candy at the front door.  Your presence is also a good place to reinforce all those lessons on manners while you’re there.
  3. Cash in the allergens: Keep a variety of safe substitute candy or treats at your house.  Offer to trade your child’s unsafe candy for your pre-approved substitutes.  If you’d rather your child ditch most of his candy, The Switch Witch is a fun and magical way to cash his or her candy in for a small gift.

     

  4. Be reminded that sometimes ingredients and/or manufacturing practices change when candy is miniaturized.  Make sure you read ingredient lists of everything, including candy that has been safe in a larger size.
  5. Participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project:  You’re familiar with all those wacky blue pumpkins, right?!  Teal pumpkins mean that house has non-candy treats to offer for food allergic children. Move over orange, teal is the new black!  You can spray paint your own pumpkin or purchase one to reuse, like this one:

     

    • Teal Pumpkin Decoration For Food Allergy Awareness
    6.  Stock toys AS treats:  Instead of candy (or in addition to safe candy), consider stocking fun toys and tattoos.  Even kids might admit that there is a limit to the amount of sugar they can consume and something that will last past Nov. 1st will be fun!  This Halloween set gives you a variety of toys in one order – bonus!

 

  • 156 Piece Mega Halloween Toy Novelty Assortment; 12 Halloween Ducks, 12 Halloween Pencils, 12 Halloween Sticker Sheets; 48 Halloween Erasers; 72 Halloween Glitter Tattoos!!

7.  Don’t leave home without it:  Auto-injectors need to go everywhere with you – including trick-or-treating.  You know they’ll be carrying a bag!  Make sure that your child’s epinephrine auto-injector is in there with a flashlight.

 

8.  Allergy Shmallergy’s list of safe candy:  Sharing a holiday builds community.  Refer your friends and neighbors to Allergy Shmallergy’s list of nut-free candy to truly create an inclusive Halloween that EVERYONE can enjoy!

 

 

(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.)

 

Positive Parenting with 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 Help for Hurricane Harvey Families August 30, 2017

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Families just like ours need help.  They find themselves in the path of Hurricane Harvey and many are without resources.  Not only are many thousands of people evacuated from their homes, but those who remain will likely not have access to supermarkets or deliveries as roads and commercial buildings will be effected for days or weeks.

 

The folks at the San Antonio Food Allergy Support Team posted an update today about how to donate food allergy-friendly food to those in southeast Texas.  Monetary donations are the best way to make an immediate impact.  And, food allergy-friendly donations, particularly those that make feeding children easier, are greatly appreciated.

 

Here is Allergy Shmallergy’s link to Emergency Food Allergy Donations on Amazon.  I will continue to update this list throughout the upcoming days.  This is just to get us all started and is, by no means, an exhaustive list of needs.  Feel free to send your families’ favorite allergy-friendly foods, but remember that it should be shelf-stable and not require refrigeration.

Emergency Food Allergy Donations
Link: http://a.co/129iX7e

 

Please read below for details.  And, remember: there are MANY excellent organizations that need assistance now.

 

Thank you in advance: Your help is appreciated beyond words!

 


From the San Antonio Food Allergy Support Team:

[Post updated Wed. 8/30 at NOON CST]

Texas was hit very hard by Hurricane Harvey.

Many of the people who have been evacuated from the Corpus Christi area are already here in San Antonio. We have some evacuees from Houston, but are expecting thousands more.

If you’d like to help food allergy families, here’s how…

The San Antonio Food Bank is coordinating food efforts to help ALL of Texas hurricane victims right now. San Antonio is clear and sunny and having no issues with roads closures or mail delays (unlike Houston).

San Antonio Food Bank
FOOD ALLERGY FRIENDLY
5200 Enrique M. Barrera Pkwy
San Antonio, TX 78227-2209

(210) 337-3663
Info@safoodbank.org
Mon-Fri 8am-5pm
https://safoodbank.org/

The information on the “Hurricane Harvey Emergency Response” pops up on their main page…scroll down to see all options.

•Folks can donate “MONETARY DONATIONS” and put in the NOTES section (at the bottom) that they want their donation to go to “FOOD ALLERGY FRIENDLY FOODS” – this may make the most immediate impact.

•Food allergy companies or donors can send “MATERIAL DONATIONS” food allergy products directly to the San Antonio Food Bank (address above) and clearly mark them as FOOD ALLERGY FRIENDLY – If possible, include a clear message that it’s food allergy friendly on the outside of the box, in the second address line, and on the inside of the box.

•Shipments direct from AMAZON: If you are sending allergy-friendly items directly from Amazon.com, you can enter “FOOD ALLERGY FRIENDLY ” in the “Address line 2” field for the address and include it in a “gift message” which would be inside the box, to help with package sorting.

*San Antonio Residents – You can donate food allergy friendly items to the SA Food Bank or the City Council Offices listed. Please clearly mark them as “FOOD ALLERGY FRIENDLY” inside and outside and if possible pack them in a sturdy box. You can sign up to volunteer at the SA Food Bank (you must sign up ahead of time).

FYI FARE and KFA/AAFA have blog posts with additional details. Enjoy Life and Sunbutter companies are already planning to send donations. AAFA is working with someone from the EoE community. If you happen to have a personal corporate connection looking to donate, please have them contact Chad Chittenden, Director of Food Industry Partnerships at cchittenden@safoodbank.org (210) 431-8313, but I’m sure he’s swamped and other organizations are already reaching out to companies.

–Susan & Selena — San Antonio Food Allergy Support Team (volunteer leaders & FA moms)

P.S. There are many other organizations that need general help (including the Red Cross and Blood Bank). Thanks to any of you who are helping in whatever way works for you.