Nut free ? Please identify yourself

We all know all know how exciting it is when we find an item at the store that is does not have nuts ! But what is even more exciting is when we find a product that specifically says MADE IN A NUT FREE FACILITY !!

Having been a member of several online social media groups I have had the opportunity to see allergy parents at work; post after post of how they called the manufacturer to verify the allergen statement .  It might state that the item is made in a facility with nuts or on the same equipment as nuts or it may not say anything at all . By law it doesn’t need to – FALCPA , the food allergy labeling and protection act of 2004 only requires the ingredients to be listed. So everything else is just a bonus – or a frustration in our minds .

When I see how my fellow allergy parents call to find out if an allergen is actually made with or contaminating the product they may be so lucky to find out – there are not even NUTS or the offending allergen in the facility ; why don’t you write that on the package ? Do you have any idea that we will buy it just because it says nut free facility ? That’s what allergy parents do ! So my mission is to get you to tell us in the first place ! We would be so excited and you can’t imagine the free advertising you would get from us !

Food allergies evolved ?

 

It’s a snow day here in Michigan (our first this school year). It’s been a very long time since I’ve blogged; kind of just got blogged out! Not to mention – started substitute teaching ; I love it ! Who knew ? It’s truly amazing how things can change over the years; like our interests – what we thought we wanted to do as a profession has evolved. Why now though ? We have evolved (especially 25 years after declaring a major at university). Food allergies; they can evolve and have for us. What was a typical food allergy as a young child has evolved into gastrointestinal issues for a teenager. Heartburn/swollen eyes, the new topic in our home and what use to be just carrying epinephrine/Benedryl  has become Tums/Rolaids  to provide any kind of relief.  There are times when I think this could be going in a positive direction as to the severity of the reaction – but we all know we don’t want to jinx anything so we keep plugging along and hoping and praying that it will all be ok 😌.

Please send me your thoughts ! Thanks !bookcover 2-1

 

Food Allergy Safe Establishments REQUIRE knowledgable staff

In light of all the new research and findings regarding when to give our children peanuts, I want to discuss the concept of food service -which in the past has been a very low skilled, low paying job in most situations. We have almost all worked in this sector for even a minute and it’s not always glamorous.

Once low paid entry level servers now really seem to NEED to be fully educated on Food Allergies. It is almost as if the industry now requires a degree to fully comprehend the severity of this topic. This rise in the knowledge necessary has created a question of how skilled does the restaurant worker need to be ? In essence are we willing to pay a premium for an experience that will make us feel comfortable and the staff understands our needs ? It seems as though we are. Food allergic families spend greater amounts of money even at the grocery level to ensure that the items they purchase come from facilities where cross contamination is non existent.

Currently, as a parent that takes their food allergic child out to eat about twice a week our normal method of control is the “exclaim allergens, inquire, carry epinephrine and pray” method.  This, it seems is how most families with food allergies dine out; if they dine out at all. So at what point will the restaurant industry see a need for this and realize they have a large customer base that wants to be catered to ? Because, I would like to make a reservation.

 

Little brother picks the restaurant

‘Twas the night before little Brother left for summer camp. Little brother has no food allergies but is so supportive of big bro who does. “Can we go for Sushi”? said little brother . It is his favorite food; but is it a good choice when big bro is allergic to ALL SEAFOOD ?

It was Monday and we had to choose a different Japanese steakhouse since the favorite was closed. My thought was to go with the chain since they tend to be more “allergy-friendly”.  When the waiter came by to get drink orders I choose tonic water as I thought it would go better with my Xanax ! By the time we ordered and I had explained the seafood allergy 2x in addition to the reservation explanation I’d given earlier the Xanax had kicked in, yet, my not so allergy supportive in laws were still two feet away. A few times raising my voice to the Habachi chef – ” please make the steak and chicken for us first then the shrimp after you finish! ” he still didn’t get it, but the nice people who were at the table with us couldn’t take the confusion anymore and just screamed “just make my shrimp at the end ” . We all walked out in one piece ! Though, I am still hoping my younger son will one day say – ” I hate seafood ” !!20140708-121357-44037106.jpg

Food allergies & the independent preteen

bookcover 2-1The sun is finally shinning in Michigan and my 12 year old is riding up to the gas station in the neighborhood with a couple buddies to get “Frozen cokes”. For most, this treat is pretty innocent, even those with food allergies. My son asks permission thankfully and I give him some money as I dash over to the kitchen counter to grab his epinephrine, ” It’s just pop mom I don’t need that”. my son replies. Thank you to the sweet buddy of his whom he has been friends with for 10 years who has the common sense to comment to my son that YES indeed he should take it.  I know it’s not cool – but it’s not “uncool” and anybody that knows him would be eager to have him be safe than sorry.

I got him the Auvi – Q – a new device that is way more discreet than an Epipen (especially for boys to carry). I mean I can’t make my son carry a man purse at 12? Can I ?  As I write this post and it is quiet in the house, I hear sirens and of course my mind starts going ( don’t tell me you don’t do this too !).  I’m casually waiting for the boys to come home safe and that I see no hives or any reaction on his sweet face that is growing up so quicky.  As the days go by I realize I have less and less control over his actions and I must make the right choices by keeping my fears in control. Although, if I don’t worry, who will ? Not my calm husband, thank goodness he is the voice of reason when I have already written a negative scenario of the next 2 hours.

I won’t wait till the Frozen coke run is over to finish this post; I will go about my business hoping that I made some good choices over the years in how I taught my son how to manage his food allergies.  I will not buy the iPhone app when it comes out that monitors my son’s blood pressure and alerts me when it is low.  I will be a calm, caring mother (not as calm as my husband) that has faith in her child to keep himself as safe as possible; because if I am not, what good will I be ? Oh, by the way – they just got back (I’m a slow writer) and I feel better :).

 

Oral allergy syndrome – that explains it !

While it’s no surprise that someone you know has Food Allergies , the question is the severity ? Children have been diagnosed with food allergies for decades now – some so severe that eating one bit can kill them. Others get itchy throats, hives and/or vomit and we have been trained by doctors to carry our epinephrine just in case..the reactions  getting more severe each time.

Yet, it’s not a new bit of information that humans have been eating things for years and having moments where they are thinking ” this just isn’t right, I’m not going to each these peaches, (for example) if they make my mouth feel weird and itchy.”So, we have gone on with our days uncomfortable and just learned to say “no thanks” when the offending food is offered to us.

My husband who has had food allergies as a child; (I saw his allergist report from 1969), just goes about his day with whatever discomfort he feels.  I remember the day on one of our first dates when he said ” No, thanks I try not to eat pineapple it makes my tongue itch – unless it’s covered in chocolate”. That was the first time anyone every described a food sensitivity and I was right there along for the ride with ” Me too – but I don’t even want the chocolate on it !” It wasn’t till after I got engaged I came out with the Balsamic Vinegar dressing issue ; which happens to be due to the mold in the vinegar and my intense mold allergy**.  Thank goodness for chewing gum and little mints which seemed to be a somewhat useful remedy.

Now 15 years later, 11 years after hours of research, surfing the web and getting a food allergy training “certification”; the world is crying out ” I have Oral Allergy Syndrome”- it actually is real and there are pages of  information on the internet.  So maybe I am not severely allergic to walnuts, but I am NOT  going to eat them due to the fact that I can’t feel my mouth for 30 min afterward.

Below is a link to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, please click on it to learn more about OAS(Oral Allergy Syndrome).  Also, please continue to carry your epinephrine if prescribed and see an allergist if you feel you have any of these issues.  While there is no doubt that the world’s food supply has been altered throughout the years it doesn’t mean that Cleopatra and George Washington didn’t get itchy mouths occasionally – they just didn’t want to complain about it !

**http://www.acaai.org/allergist/allergies/Types/food-allergies/types/Pages/oral-allergy-syndrome.aspx

Helpful tips/finds for food allergies

Whether you are a new food allergy parent or just figuring out as an adult that you might be allergic to something, here are some items/tips you might want to consider that will be helpful in your journeys :

* allergic to milk/ dairy – a brand called “#Tofutti ” has some great products

* trying to avoid gluten/wheat – be aware that items like NUTS could be in many of the ingredients

* have multiple food allergies – go to chain type restaurants; their menus are published with allergens and their staff is USUALLY trained

* for safe quick snacks to send to school for the parent that doesn’t have loads of time – “#Enjoy Life” foods has many options

* want to have a special treat for someone with food allergies that looks great and carries well – “#Divvies”

* some things are obvious as far as allergies go – but, salad dressings, soups, salsa, and cold salads could have hidden allergens like milk, fish, egg and/or nuts.

* a candy brand that is made in a nut free facility – “#Tootsie Roll” , they also make “#junior mints”

* keep your epinephrine and benedryl tablets together by attaching blister card with pill to Epinephrine case.

* to keep babysitters and grandparents aware and make it simple put any offending allergens you may have for yourself way up high and label them Not safe !

* keep up on the latest in allergy news and new products by visiting “FARE- food allergy research & education “

Getting Big Business involved with Food Allergies

For over 11 years I have been trying to figure out what would make our lives a little bit easier regarding caring for a child with food allergies.  We as parents have done everything at the first diagnosis from reading every Food allergy website, purchasing food allergy books for our kids, ordering special cakes and cookies from great local bakeries, carrying around unlimited amounts of antihistamine and epinephrine.

As I look around my beautiful home which I am so thankful for, what I see mostly is my children’s possessions; toys they love so much, stuffed animals they will not give up and it has finally dawned on me that these “toys” our children adore, these television shows they request to watch so often – they are products of large, multimillion dollar corporations that without our support and patronage would not exist.  So here is what I need now – I need you (Big Business) to produce a product that I, as an food allergy parent can procure easily !  I need a ready to bake/frozen NUT free cookie in my grocers freezer !  I will bet it can be done – at least 15 wonderful folks are baking items night and day in their homes, in their tiny facilities, with small amounts of help from banks and startup programs.  Some small business activists may find this offensive that I am asking to run out entrepreneurs, but don’t forget #food allergies are expensive; with parents spending at least $25 billion dollars a year* to keep our children safe and not feeling left out at school events and birthday parties.

The food business is hard, not pulling in tons of profit and the liability for this sort of item could be very high – I know I have a B.S. in Food Economics. May I remind you I have paid $7 for a cookie so my child would not feel left out.  There are endless amounts of qualified people to assist and fortify a business in this arena; most of whom right now are baking products in their own kitchens under cottage laws selling locally. So I am asking those that head up large corporations, especially ones related to children’s products to start cooking. We might be able to make a working parent’s life easier caring for her allergic child and I bet you will at some point profit.

 

*LA times, Karen Kaplan- Sept 16, 2013

Food Allergy 101…..

It’s your first day home from the doctor’s office and you just found out your child is allergic to a specific food or even more interesting – multiple foods.

Where do you start ?

Well, here are some tips*:

1.- If your doctor prescribes an Epipen(epinephrine auto-injector) get it filled at the pharmacy right away.

Also, make sure you have an antihistamine( ie, Benadryl). More importantly make sure you have asked

when and how to use them and to get new ones when they expire!!

2.– Move all the offending allergens away from your child’s reach, or even better, remove them from your home.

3. Do your research; go online to the resources your doctor gave you….FAAN ( Food Allergy Anaphlaxis Network) www.foodallergy.org

 

Food Allergy Initiative www.faiusa.org or Kids with Food Allergies www.kidswithfoodallergies.org.

These resources are great and where you will learn most of your information!

4.- Go shopping for substitutes for the foods that are allergic (this information is also available online with the websites listed above).

5.– Write it down, make an informational list for grandparents, caregivers, friends along with your emergency phone #s, etc

….and remember there is an entire food allergy community out there to help you ! :)

 

*Disclaimer – This is not medical advice, please talk to your doctor, OK 4 ME 2 EAT, My Food Allergies is not responsible for any allergic reactions, etc.

 

 

Hardest job in the world plus food allergies

No matter how much we prepare; all the diapers, all the organizing, even all the babysitting we have done in the past we are never truly prepared to be a mom. We also never realized how much we would fall in love !

We ask ourselves how will we ever get this sweet baby through the day, keep them content, not loose our cool and still have the energy to give our helpful 21st century husbands a hug or kiss ? It gets done, it works out – baby steps.  So here you are 3 days in; the nursing was a flop; failed that. Now your kid is telling you the formula isn’t working -he is allergic to milk ? Oh, I get it – he has food allergies – Ok no problem, SOY it is then !

When I look back at the challenge of a food allergic child and consider what we have conquered and learned over the years it really has been quite simple in the beginning; your baby is allergic to MILK- you keep it away or if breastfeed, mom stops eating it. As a toddler, you might find out there is an EGG allergy and once again you are still in charge.  By 3 or 4 years you might find out your family has been chosen to have the PEANUT or TREE NUT allergy and we vigilantly alert the media and all those dealing with the child to never give a NUT to our kid – no matter what.  Even at 6 years when your child decides he loves SHRIMP – but it doesn’t love him, you arm yourself, your school and home with Benedryl, Epinephrine and medical bracelets and Allergy action plans. You are a great parent and these are the simple times when YOU WILL BE IN CHARGE of what your child eats.  As the years move forward and your child is not glued to your hip and is becoming a young adult; this is where the major stress comes in. This is when, we as parents need to take everything that we have learned, add a dash of medical and/or psychological assistance  and begin to put those skills in our child’s mind and hope that they make smart choices about what they will consume.