Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

The Impact of Adult On-Set Food Allergies March 25, 2019

People often think of food allergies as a childhood disease, where 1 in every 13 kids have a food allergy.  And, much attention DOES need to be paid to the developmental years to keep young food allergies patients safe.

 

But recently, Dr. Ruchi Gupta and her research team reported that 1 in 10 adults have a food allergy in the United States – that’s 26 million adults.  This more than doubles previous estimates putting the total number of patients with food allergies over 32 million people in the US.

 

Beyond the fascinating information presented in her study.  This has tremendous implications outside of the medical field.  This number changes the discussion in a variety of industries who should now be taking food allergies into account in a way they may not have before.

 

plane-841441_1920-1

 

To put it in all in context, food allergies affect:

  • 1,500 passengers that fly Delta daily
  • 260,000 passengers that the FAA serves daily in and out of U.S. airports
  • 520,000 visitors to Disney World annually
  • 15,000,000 guests at Hilton Hotels annually
  • 10,000,000 diners at fast food establishments annually
  • Almost 2,900 ticket holders at each and every Major League Baseball game
  • 72,000 fans annually at AT&T Stadium watching the Dallas Cowboys play
  • 400,000 teachers in primary and secondary schools
  • Nearly 95,000 people working as chefs, cooks and other food preparation employees

 

baseball-field-1149153_1920

 

But, these numbers aren’t exactly representative of all those who are affected by food allergies.  Parents, siblings, co-workers and friends all make decisions based on their companion with food allergies.  And, when handled well, those experiences flying, visiting amusement parks, staying at hotels, eating in restaurants, attending events, etc, leave a lasting impression that breeds customer loyalty.  Companies need to carefully consider food allergies and implement best practices to gain and retain this kind of loyalty.  If 32 million Americans suffer from food allergies directly, it may be safe to assume that as many as 120 million Americans are affected by them indirectly by enjoying time with allergic friends, family and co-workers.

 

Mistakes with food allergy do not only lead to uncomfortableness (such as hives), as many who do not have food allergies sometimes believe.  They can lead to serious emergencies as reactions vary from simple hives to fainting, throat closing, respiratory distress and cardiac issues and need to be taken very seriously in order to be managed properly.  This requires education across the board and thoughtful policies that offer patients a safe experience.

 

What can companies do to offer safe options to those with food allergies?  Where can they be more transparent?  What can they do educate their employees?  How will they prepare for a food allergic emergency?

 

It will be interesting to see which companies embrace these statistics and what they do to do be sensitive to this epidemic.

 

 

 

 

Nut or Not? Food Allergy Facts and Myths January 2, 2018

When you get a food allergy diagnosis, there is so much to learn… including what foods ARE and ARE NOT safe to eat. Let’s clear up some of the confusion surrounding different allergens and which food groups they belong in.  As always, speak with your allergist before adding any new food into your diet.

 

coconut-2592257_1920 StockSnap

COCONUT:  Coconuts are actually a member of the palm fruit family.  And, although they have “nut” in the name, they are not officially a nut.  That said, the FDA classifies them as a nut so you will see “TREE NUTS” listed on many U.S. product labels when coconut is an ingredient.

Verdict: While some people are allergic to coconut, most patients with a tree nut allergy can safely eat it.  Speak with your doctor before trying.

 

spices-2902439_1920 Mareefe

NUTMEG:  Nutmeg is a spice that comes from seeds, not nuts.  Again, although “nut” is in the name, it’s technically NOT a tree nut.

Verdict:  According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), it can safely be consumed by those with tree nut allergies.

 

ravioli-1949698_1920 Einladung_zum_Essen

PINE NUTS:  You may have heard the rumor that pine nuts are actually seeds.  And, that’s true.  BUT, there is some evidence of cross-reaction between pine nuts and peanut and almond allergies.  Doctors and researchers cannot isolate whether reactions to pine nuts are due to cross-reaction or to a separate pine nut allergy.  The FDA labels it as a tree nut.

Verdict:  Those allergic to tree nuts should AVOID eating pine nuts.

 

water chestnut3378853772_c14a8b65c8_o graibeard

WATER CHESTNUTS:  Another case of mislabeling.  Water Chestnuts are an aquatic vegetable.  They are named for their shape that resembles a chestnut.  Like any food, occasionally people find themselves allergic to water chestnuts.  But they are not tree nuts.

Verdict:  Those with tree nut allergies do NOT need to avoid water chestnuts.

 

cream-1464295_1920 jniittymaa0

SHEA NUT:  Shea nut butter and shea nut oil can be found in many skin and beauty products.  Both shea nut butter and shea nut oil are derived from the seed of the shea tree’s fruit.  The shea nut is a distant relative of the Brazil nut and, as such, FDA considers shea nut a tree nut and will label it as such on ingredient lists.  Per Dr. Sicherer (via Allergic Living, read more here), studies have shown that only trace amounts of protein reside in shea nut butter or oil and no reports of topical immediate reaction or ingestion have been reported.

Verdict: Although allergy to shea nut appears to be unlikely because shea nut butter and oil lacks protein, please discuss with your allergist to get individualized guidance.

 

argan-869756_1920 oceanverde

ARGAN OIL:  Argan oil comes from the nut of a tree commonly found in the Moroccan desert.  Because the oil is cold-pressed, it is likely to contain protein. Argan oil is becoming an increasingly common ingredient in hair products such as styling oil, shampoo, conditioner as well as other beauty products.  You should check out how they’re made; it’s surprising!

Verdict:  If you’re allergic to tree nuts, it’s probably best to avoid Argan oil until you discuss with your allergist.

 

butternut-74196_640 lebelsmittlefotos

BUTTERNUT SQUASH:  Again, it’s a misnomer:  there is “nut” in the name, but not in the product.  As you guessed, butternut squash is a vegetable.

Verdict:  Butternut squash is not only safe for those with tree nuts to consume, it’s also delicious!

 

THE BOTTOM LINE:  Most of the above products are safe for those with food allergies (woohoo!), but you should always discuss your particular allergies with your doctor before adding any food you are unsure of to your diet.

 

For your reference, here is the US Food and Drug Administration’s list of Tree Nuts:

  • Almond
  • Beech Nut
  • Brazil Nut
  • Butternut
  • Cashew
  • Chestnut
  • Chinquapin
  • Coconut
  • Filbert/Hazelnut
  • Ginko Nut
  • Hickory Nut
  • Lichee Nut
  • Macadamia Nut/Bush Nut
  • Pecan
  • Pine Nut/Pinon Nut
  • Pili Nut
  • Pistachio
  • Sheanut
  • Walnut/Heartnut/Butternut

Tree Nut or Not_

 

Get Started on Passover with an Egg and Nut Allergy April 9, 2014

Spring holidays are upon us!  And while they are festive, they can be very difficult for those with food allergies.  Particularly if you have an egg or nut allergy.

 

Have no fear:  Allergy Shmallergy is here to help!

 

Let’s first discuss Passover as that is the holiday approaching the soonest.   Passover is a week-long holiday highlighted by a huge feast marked with tradition called a Seder.  Because many families eat according to tradition by avoiding leavened bread, many cooks are improving with matzo this time of year.  This becomes a challenge for us egg-free families, since egg is often used as a binder in food containing matzo.

 

Below is a link to an Egg-Free Matzo Ball recipe I found a few years ago.  There’s nothing like Matzo Ball Soup (at Passover or anytime throughout the year), so this recipe comes in VERY handy!

 

Egg-free eaters, aren’t the only ones who struggle at Passover.  Nuts dot several traditional dishes and desserts, including one right on the seder plate:  Charoset.  The link below also includes a delicious nut-free charoset recipe that your guests will be excited to indulge in.

Allergy-Free Charoset and Egg-Free Matzoh Balls

 

For an egg-free, nut-free dessert, why not try my favorite Sorbet Pie or some other passover friendly filled pie?  I came across this recipe and can’t wait to use it on Monday.  I’m thinking Raspberry Sorbet AND Chocolate Mousse Pies…. Mmmm…

 

Pesach Pie Crust (via food.com)

Shmallergy Sorbet Pie

 

I’ll continue to post any allergy-friendly Passover recipes I come across.  In the meantime, you get cooking!

 

 

 

Cinco de Mayo – Pan de Polvo May 3, 2012

Here’s a little allergy-free recipe to help you celebrate Cinco de Mayo.   I think this will follow tacos nicely in our house.

 

Mexican Shortbread

Stars' Favorite Holiday Dishes - Eva Longoria Parker's Pan de Polvo (Mexican Shortbread)

 

2 Cinnamon Sticks

2 1/4 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

2/3 cups butter-flavored shortening (Crisco’s variety is amazingly dairy-free)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup, plus 2 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp ground cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a saucepan, bring cinnamon sticks and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil.  Let cool.  Discard cinnamon sticks.  Refrigerate liquid until chilled.

In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, beat shortening, vanilla, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup cinnamon “tea” until light and fluffy.  Stir in flour mixture.

Roll dough into 1″ balls.  Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet.  Bake 15 minutes or until slightly browned around edges.

In bowl, combine 2 Tbsp sugar and ground cinnamon.  Dip cookies while still warm in cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Makes 3 dozen.

*As printed in InStyle Magazine, May 2009*

 

The Nut-Free Easter Bunny April 5, 2012

Filed under: Holiday — malawer @ 12:15 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I’m dropping the Easter Bunny a note to suggest he acquire his chocolate bunnies and other goodies from the following allergy-free sources for our family:

 

Divvies makes nut, peanut, milk, egg, and gluten-free jelly beans, chocolate bunnies and ADORABLE chocolate bags (below):

 

And, if you’re only avoiding nuts and peanuts, try Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates makes nut and peanut-free Easter Bunnies which I understand taste rich and creamy.

 

Anyone else have a nut-free bunny recommendation?

 

 

Correction: Pizza Nut… I Mean Pizza Hut… February 18, 2012

Update:  While it appears that Pizza Hut has updated their allergen information to remove some of their peanut and tree nut designations on their menu, I was still surprised to see what allergens were present in non-obvious menu items.  For example, their sauce still contains egg, dairy, wheat, soy, shellfish and gluten.  The lasagna contains tree nuts.  I stand by my recommendation below to check their allergen list before visiting or ordering from a Pizza Hut if you have food allergies.

Updated Pizza Hut Allergen List

http://www.pizzahut.com/files/pdf/updated%20ph%20allergen%20list%2004.17.09.pdf

 —————————————–

I had heard through the grapevine that Pizza Hut’s sauce is not safe for people with tree nut allergies.   Sure enough, if you check on their website, not only is Pizza Hut’s sauce made on equipment commonly used to manufacture tree nut products, but also egg, milk, wheat, soy and shellfish products.   If you frequent Pizza Hut, it might be worth it to check out their allergen chart as I found many surprise cross-contamination issues.


 

Empowering Elementary Schoolers November 20, 2011

I go into my son’s class every year to discuss food allergies.  By educating the kids who do not have food allergies themselves, we enlist their help and heighten their compassion for their friends.

 
 

This year, I began by asking the kids to raise their hands if they knew anyone with food allergies.  Nearly every child raised his/her hand.  Not only does my son’s class have at least five allergic kids, but their teacher also has a food allergy.  The kids regaled me with stories of relatives and friends who were allergic to everything from peanuts to pollen, from dogs to dyes, and from cats to clams.

 

We spoke briefly about food allergies and what they are.  Considering their age (mostly 6), I briefly touched on a few key points:

  • Everybody’s body is different.  If you have a food allergy, it just means that you can’t have a particular food or dishes with that food in it.  Even a little bit of that food.
  • Allergies can make you feel sick.  If you have an air allergy (like pollen) it can make your nose sneezy and your eyes itchy.  If you have a food allergy, it can make your skin itchy (hives), your lungs cough, and your belly sick.
  • To help them stay safe, many kids with food allergies keep special medicine called EpiPens with them, their parents or the school nurse.
 

We synopsized the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea and continued by reading The Princess and the Peanut Allergy (see review, Book Review: The Princess and the Peanut Allergy).  The kids loved it so much they asked that I read it twice.

 

Afterwards, we all considered how Paula, the allergic character, may have felt when she learned of her friend’s plan to have peanut treats throughout the party.  My son bravely spoke up, mentioning how disappointing it is when you can’t eat something that looks delicious while everyone else can.  Many others echoed this sentiment.

 

We discussed what you can do to show you understand your friends with food allergies.  All the kids, allergic or not, had fantastic suggestions.  They were so thoughtful and considerate!

 

The class’ interest and questions regarding food allergies really surprised me.  I hadn’t wanted to get too in-depth since they are, in fact, in 1st grade.  But look at the questions they had for me:

  • Why do some people have food allergies?  How do they know they have an allergy?
  • How do you get better if you have an allergic reaction?
  • Can you have more than one food allergy at a time?
  • Can you “lose” a food allergy (outgrow one)?  Can you switch from being allergic to one food to another ?
 

This was night-and-day different from last year, when one kindergartener announced his understanding of food allergies like a lightbulb went off in his head.  “So,” he began, “if you were allergic to sno-cones and you ate a sno-cone, you could barf up a RAINBOW!”

Not totally incorrect, I guess….