My thoughts on Food Allergies in Italy

What can be more exciting than going to beautiful Italy ? Not much, yet nothing can be more anxiety producing than traveling to a foreign country when you have food allergy. Some may decide to stay at home and never go anywhere; but if we want to live and see the world we need to prepare ourselves to be ready for whatever obstacles may be in our way; such as language.

Now, my first time in Italy I was prepared for a language barrier so I learned the basics such as hello, goodbye and I am allergic to nuts – “Sono allergico alle noci”. Of course, what helped was a translator app – the one I used was called English Italian Offline, it was free and it gave me a real boost. Since I went to Rome, Florence and Venice I realized there was a lot of english spoken as to the amount of tourists that visited these cities. Going on a few side trips/tours into wine country the english component was not as prominent. It was on these side trips where I packed my own snacks. Meals in the city seemed to be a bit less confusing; actually 90% of the food establishments we ate at or looked at menus had food allergy references on the menus and most had the TOP 14 allergens posted on the wall ! The menus had a list of the 14 allergens ( including celery, mustard, sesame, sulfites and lupin) in the back of the menu and the items on the menu had the correlating allergen numbers next to them. I was quite impressed. The nicer restaurants we ate at sent over the staff with the best English and took our order to insure accuracy. I must say I was dealing with one allergen as opposed to multiple allergens as my son has. Yes, I was still stressed ; yet, aren’t we also stressed about our allergies going to Aunt Susie’s house on the holidays ?

As always, it is SO important to carry your Epinephrine, antihistamine or inhalers that your physician suggests for your particular allergy. Air flight is always a concern; which is why you should always carry your medicine with you and not pack it in your suit case – usually baggage areas on a plane are 35-45 degrees fahrenheit – much to cold for epinephrine ! Many airlines are not serving peanuts anymore and if you discuss the allergy while booking the flight an announcement will be made and no nuts served. The meals on overseas flights were labeled with allergens on the packaging and there were at least 3 choices.

Traveling can be such a wonderful experience and yet it can also be stress producing, if you are an individual with food allergies and you are ready to take on the world you will be pleased to find out that places even out of our comfort zone can accommodate our needs ; yes, you can even get Gluten free pizza and pasta in Rome !






Nutty mom breakthrough

Welcome to my comeback – well ,I just really took a short sabbatical. You understand, right ? I mean after 16 years as an allergy parent it gets pretty old and depressing talking about all of the things that your kid can’t eat. We focus our entire lives around those things we need to run from (e.g., nuts) and all those things we need to make sure we take with us (e.g., epipens) ; it gets a little tedious , doesn’t it ?

Let’s not even mention those family members we ignore because we are so focused on worrying about one person. It is then little brother with no allergies and/or our spouse that gets totally forgotten about. Full time working moms – I don’t know how you do it !  I mean when I work twice a week I am so concerned about looking at my phone to make sure my allergic child doesn’t need me that it’s amazing anything gets done. See, I’m complaining again which is what I said I wouldn’t do, so now I need to figure out how I can loosen my load of worry and let my allergic teen take on the responsibility without being “not available mom”  – I mean we will aways worry, we are parents.

So as I sit at the local coffee shop (ok Starbucks) writing this because I can’t get anything done at home without getting distracted by the fact that the house needs attention – I am going to make a few resolutions to make my life less stressful (maybe) and empower my son.

  • Research local places he might go out to eat and share with him so he can make the right menu choices.
  • Teach/reteach him how to read labels/may contain statements
  •  Make sure we have adequate epinephrine ( I know it’s so expensive –    heard there is generic now) so he doesn’t have to search for it. A set in his backpack and a set on the counter for when he goes out with his friends-next to car keys/wallet.
  • Communicate with him that he may have to make a concession and skip eating something while he is out if it’s not safe and I will try to find a substitution for that craving he has .
  •  Be there for support 😌

Now since it is finally sunny and 75 degrees in the Midwest , let’s go out there and try to enjoy the day, but don’t forget to share your thoughts – we all can use them.

Nuts are allowed

How crazy is it that as a mom I have spent 90%of my child’s life trying to keep him safe from the tree nuts he is allergic to ? Now , after a successful oral challenge at 15 years old at the allergist’s office he is now eating Almonds like they are going out of style. I can’t quite wrap my head around it and I know it’s safe now , yet to change my way of thinking so fast will require a bit of time .

This happened at age 8 with Dairy & age 9 with Egg ; yet for some reason the Nuts did not come with a smile for me . The allergist then told me that I can challenge Cashews, Pistachios and Pecans in the privacy of our home – WHAT ? I don’t need privacy! I need the doctor there with us !

He managed to get through Cashews successfully, yet I watched my son like a hawk for the next 8 hours and even my husband realized I need a week off till we try another nut.

Next week we tackle Hazelnut at the allergist’s office … I will let you know how it goes ; I’m sure I will be the one sitting on the doctor’s table again . 

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 !


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 “