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January 25, 2006

Mad As Hell? What can we reasonably expect?

In a UPI article yesterday, we learned about a show down in Nashville, where officials declared a boy's peanut allergy does not entitle him to long-term home schooling at the taxpayers' expense.

The story is about a 9 year boy who suffered a near fatal reaction reaction from his food allergy at his school back in September 2005. School officials said they had taken all steps possible to make Stratton Elementary School as safe as possible for the boy.

The district had provided short term home schooling for the fourth grader but would not continue the program into 2006. And when he returns to school, officials say they can not guarantee a peanut-free environment for the boy. His mom is "mad as hell" and considering legal options.

This is a tough situation. We all want to keep our kids safe. Sure, we just want them to be treated as regular kids at school but safety must come first. Here the 4th grader experienced a very scarey situation and his mom wants more assurance from the school.

On the other hand, what is reasonable when 1 or 2 kids at the school have a severe child food allergy? Home schooling for all funded by the taxpayers? A guaranteed peanut free environment? I'm not sure what the answer is.

What I do know is that we, as parents and our child's protector, need to communicate clearly, calmly and often with those who also care for our children. Schools, churches, camps, karate class... all of these situations require education of the leaders in those programs. I think all we can really hope for is well-educated, caring people who put forth a genuine effort to keep our kids safe.

Posted by David at 5:45 PM

January 22, 2006

Great allergy free cake and cookie mixes!

Isn’t it frustrating trying to find easy-to-make desserts without eggs, milk, tree nuts, peanuts and/or wheat? Here’s much deserved kudos to an allergy friendly company! Cherrybrook Kitchen offers baking mixes just like the ones Betty Crocker and Pillsbury have. Their mixes are free of most allergens and SO EASY to make! Just add oil, water and vanilla and voila, “cookies, cakes and frostings that will have your family and friends with or without allergies asking for more!” You don’t even need to get out the heavy mixer, just a wire whisk does the trick. How much easier and more convenient can you get?! They are reasonably priced and if you check out their website, you can even print a coupon.

I make a batch of cupcakes and freeze them. When there is a birthday celebration in my daughter’s class, I just take one out of the freezer for her to bring to school. I frost and decorate the cupcakes differently (vanilla or chocolate frosting, with or without sprinkles) so she can choose which cupcake she wants. It helps her feel happier even though she can’t eat what the rest of the class is eating. I also do the same thing with their cookie mixes. The sugar cookies can be eaten plain, rolled in sugar or frosted and they all taste good. We sometimes even put a Hershey’s Kiss on top for a special treat.

I also need to say that these are by far the best wheat and egg free cakes, cupcakes and cookies that my family has ever tried! Yes, even my children without food allergies ask to have more of these treats. It makes my daughter with food allergies feel good that her sisters want “her” food for a change!

These mixes make baking so easy that I sometimes put a wheat, egg and nut free cake in the oven when we sit down for dinner and we have a great dessert that EVERYONE enjoys. I can’t say enough good things about this company. Their customer service department has always been helpful and their website makes ordering online quick and easy. I encourage you to check out cherrybrokkkitchen.com and see for yourself! I am always happy to pass on even just one thing to make our jobs as allergy-free chefs a little bit easier! : )

Posted by Ann Marie at 2:23 PM

January 19, 2006

Genentech stops a clinical trial of an allergy reaction drug

source: truthabouttrade.org

Genentech, Inc., recently ranked the #1 company to work for by Forbes magazine, stopped a clinical trial of a drug it hopes can be used to prevent peanut-allergy reactions, citing safety concerns not with the drug itself but with an allergy test.

The South San Francisco, Calif., biotechnology company said two children in the 150-person trial experienced "severe hypersensitivity reactions" when given a trace amount of peanut protein, an initial step designed to gauge the severity of a patient's allergies. Neither child had received the drug, called Xolair, the company said. Xolair is on the market, approved as a treatment for allergic asthma.

"We had always been very nervous about that study," said Susan Desmond-Hellmann, head of product development for Genentech. "We are not going to do that anymore."

Cancellation of the Xolair trial means that an approved treatment for peanut allergy remains years away at the earliest. Dr. Desmond-Hellmann said Genentech may explore the possibility of moving straight to a large-scale trial that wouldn't involve a peanut "challenge," as the allergic-reaction test is called. Instead, such a trial might track volunteers over an extended period of time, to determine if those receiving Xolair experienced fewer accidental peanut reactions than those taking a placebo.

"It's going to take a long time, and it's going to be hard work, but it's better than exposing someone we know to be allergic" to peanuts, Dr. Desmond-Hellmann said.

The setback is the latest delay in a long and fitful effort to find a drug that can blunt the serious consequences of peanut allergy. The condition, which affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans, can lead to life-threatening anaphylactic shock if allergic individuals ingest even a trace amount of peanut flour or oil. In November, a 15-year-old Canadian girl with the allergy died reportedly after a kiss from her boyfriend, who had earlier eaten a peanut-butter snack.


Posted by David at 1:41 AM

January 18, 2006

Anna's Awesome Wheat and Egg Free Oatmeal Cookies

Are you baking for a child with food allergies? It can be time consuming and frustrating! I have been trying and creating allergy-free recipes for many, many years now (not all successful!). I find the combination of wheat and egg-free desserts to be the most challenging. I have a great oatmeal cookie recipe that all my children like, even the ones without food allergies. So I will pass it on to those who may enjoy it (and really need it)! Please note, as with most of my egg-and-wheat-free baking, I play around with the flour amount until I get the right batter consistency. Good luck! :-)

Anna’s Wheat and Egg Free Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) margarine
2 ½ to 3+ cups oat flour
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. cinnamon
*2 egg substitute
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

* mix together 3 TBSP water and 2 tsp. baking powder until fizzy, then add 3 TBSP oil

Heat oven to 375^ F. Beat margarine, sugars and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Add egg substitute, beat on high for several minutes (this makes the cookie fluffier). Stir together the rest of the dry ingredients except the rolled oats and gradually add to margarine mixture, beating until well blended. Add oats and blend well. Add enough extra oat flour until you get the “right cookie consistency.” The stickier the batter, the flatter and crunchier the cookie.

Drop by teaspoons on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool and enjoy!

From: Ann Marie

Posted by David at 9:46 AM | Comments (1)

January 17, 2006

Mixed Nut Recall Because of Peanuts?

Fisher recently issued a warning regarding Fisher Brand Deluxe Mixed Nuts and are recalling the nuts due to undeclared peanuts in the mix. We always appreciate when manufacturers step up and take care of problems.

In this case, if you have a peanut allergy, you surely are not eating from a "deluxe" mix of nuts... are you? We thought not. Our readers are much too bright for that. ;-)

Posted by David at 8:10 PM

January 14, 2006

Teens with Food Allergies and Peer Pressure

You can picture the situation... When a boy knocks on your front door to take your daughter out on her first date, he had better brushed his teeth and flossed, used mouthwash and scrubbed his face and hands.

(Quick note, just the thought of him need to wash his hands makes me cringe as a father! OK, I'm ready to continue....)

Just a small trace of peanut on her date’s lips or hands could cause her to go into anaphylactic shock. And if the boy doesn't know/care enough about the allergy, what are the odds he'll know what to do with the epinephrine shot if she cannot adminster it herself?

First dates for food allergic teenagers means not only having to worry about what to wear, what to order but also but what his/her date has eaten or touched hours before they showed up. Asking about it is a little embarrassing. Not asking could be deadly. The death in November of a 15 year old with a peanut allergy after she kissed her boyfriend, who had eaten peanut butter, has given parents of food-allergic teenagers cause for concern.

In those early dating years, parents should plan to have a frank discussions with all of their son or daughter's dates. Working with their child on how to approach the topic may help to alleviate some of the stress and embarrasment. This LAST thing you want to happen is your teen to be so embarrassed that they simply go out with their friends and meet their "date" at the mall or restaurant in order to avoid the embarrasment of mom/dad asking questions.

Posted by David at 12:49 PM

January 13, 2006

Helping the Substitute Teachers Keep Your Child Safe

Okay, so you've done a great job educating staff at the beginning of the year. Ran the in-service showing how to use the epi-pen. Sent a letter home to the class parents. All is good, right? Well, until the teacher ends up with the flu and is out for two weeks!

It happened to us... 4 different substitutes over a 2 week period. Every morning meant being ready for a quick in-service before class starts. Sure, the sub should have all the info in the "sub folder", but what if the previous substitute teacher took it home the day before by mistake? Better to have multiple copies in the school office (nurse's office?), just in case.

A one page action plan plan should includes signs and symptoms, and instructions for administering the EpiPen. The EpiPen instructions should include bullet pointed, easy to follow instructions. In an emergency situation, you don't want a substitute teacher trying to replay your verbal instructions in their head.

Posted by David at 8:42 AM

January 11, 2006

Food Allergens Other Names

The new federal labeling law requires manufacturers to more clearly identify ingredients associated with the top eight food allergens. Here is a guide that identifies the other names for these allergens. Remember, this is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Peanuts is also known as: natural and artificial flavoring (yes, we know that isn’t much help).

Egg is also known as: albumin, lysozyme, globulin, ovumucin, vitellin, Simplesse™.

Milk is also known as: calcium, whey, lactose, casein

Fish is also known as: shellfish, agar, carrageenan.

Soy is also known as: guar gum, vegetable protein, lecithin, carob, starch, emulsifiers, flavorings, stabilizers (again, not much help).

Wheat is also known as: gluten, semolina, modified food starch, MSG, vegetable gum.

Tree nuts includes: cashews, almonds, pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, filberts, pine nuts, pistachios, macadamias, natural and artificial flavoring.

source: food allergy network

Posted by David at 8:35 AM | Comments (1)

January 10, 2006

New Candian Law to Protect Children with Allergies

The Ottawa Sun published an article about the new Ontario law that went into effect this week. The law, known as Sabrina's law, was the result of a mother's effort to make sure her daughters death was not in vain. The law seems to take a prudent approach to handling the sensitive issue of kids at risk of anaphylactic shock due to child food allergy, bee stings, or other causes.

Highlights of Sabrina's Law:

- Every school board will establish and maintain an anaphylactic policy in accordance with the law.

- The policy will include strategies that reduce the risk of exposure to things that cause anaphylactic incidents in classrooms and common areas.

- A communication plan for the dissemination of information on life-threatening allergies to parents, pupils and employees.

- Regular training on dealing with life-threatening allergies for all employees and others who are in direct contact with pupils on a regular basis.

- A requirement that every principal develop an individual plan for each pupil who has an anaphylactic allergy

- Principals must ensure that, upon registration, parents, guardians and pupils will be asked to supply information on life-threatening allergies.

- Principals must maintain a file for each anaphylactic pupil and copies of any prescriptions and instructions from the pupil's physician or nurse and a current emergency contact list.

Posted by David at 8:32 AM

January 9, 2006

Don't try to scare them

I saw an article from a small town paper in Michigan and a quote from there really got me thinking...

"I talk to them about peanut allergy and honestly I try to scare them," she explained. "I tell them 'you're going to be the one who has to save their life.'"

I know the intent of this mother educating the staff and stressing the importance of their role in the emergency care... I get that. It's just that we need to be careful how we educate. I don't want school staff to be scared, I just want them to be prepared.

One important key is an emergency "action plan," something that we strongly encourages parents to create along with the school nurse. Our kids with a severe child food allergy each have their own education flyer that is easy to read and has clear emergency plan steps including a picture of our child and our cell phone numbers (to be dialed AFTER 911, of course). The flyer is so helpful at the beginning of school, the start of a new semester and especially when there is a substitute teacher.

An action plan is an important part of keeping a child with a food allergy safe. Education and preparedness are the keys.

Posted by David at 8:34 AM | Comments (1)

January 6, 2006

Allergy-Free Recipes Cookbook Available

Penny Webster's Allergy-Free Recipes Help Millions at Risk Avoid Serious Food Threats

Edited by Beverly West

ROCKVILLE, MD (SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE) -- Penny Webster, author of "Allergy Free For All Ages: Milk-free, Egg-free, Nut-free Recipes" offering safe food alternatives for severely allergic kids and adults that are delicious enough to satisfy the whole family, today announced that millions of individuals are now living on restrictive diets due to food allergies or intolerance.

"For many people, simply consuming food is a risk. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to attend a birthday party, or go to a restaurant without the threat of dangerous foods lurking around the corner," said Penny Webster, author, allergy-free chef, and the mother of a severely allergic son. "These social gatherings can be very stressful for those with food allergies because one bite of the wrong food could result in an anaphylactic reaction."

Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that can result in death. Those with peanut and tree nut allergies are particularly at risk. These allergies can be so severe that even the smell of these nuts can result in an allergic reaction. Strict avoidance of these threatening foods is imperative, which can make it difficult to keep menus interesting for the whole family.

"It is possible to live a normal, healthy, productive, life, even with food allergies," said Webster. "It requires extra time reading ingredient labels to ensure product safety, but locating safe and delicious foods that will satisfy the whole family is possible."
Instead of concentrating on a severe food allergy diagnosis and the possible threat that this represents, Penny Webster has chosen to focus on helping others who have allergies similar to her son's. In her cookbook "Allergy Free For All Ages" Webster points out that it can be difficult at first to find safe foods for multiple food allergy sufferers, but her new cookbook is designed to make it easy to find and prepare tasty meals that everyone can enjoy whether they are allergic or not.

"When my son Christian was just a few months old, I had a business selling my homemade pecan pies at a local food market," Webster explained.

"My pecan pies were very popular, but when I found out that my son had nut allergies I had to quit making pecan pies altogether because I couldn't have the ingredients in the house as I would endanger my son's health. So from the very first, my journey with allergy-free cooking has been a search for safe ingredients that were as delicious and exciting as my famous pecan pie. All of the recipes in 'Allergy free for All Ages' are satisfying enough for non-allergic family members yet completely safe even for these who, like my son Christian, have multiple and severe food allergies."

Praise for "Allergy Free for All Ages: Milk-free, Egg-free, Nut-free Recipes"

"Great for those struggling to find safe, yet fun meals and snacks that everyone in the family will enjoy." - Jay Berger of Allergygrocer.com

"These recipes are fantastic! They range from gourmet to kid-friendly. Finally, a resource that will help thousands of children, and their families who suffer from food allergies. " - Allergist Dr. Vincent J. Vaghi

The "Allergy Free for All Ages Cookbook" ($17.95 ISBN 1413798527) includes recipes for such safe taste treats as: Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie, Flank Steak Fajita Feast, No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies, and even Chocolate Cake. The book also includes helpful hints from The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network and coupons for recommended food allergy grocery stores. The book is available on the publisher's site at www.PublishAmerica.com, or on Amazon.com.

"Writing this cookbook has been such a rewarding experience for me," said Webster. "It brings me joy knowing that this book is making a difference for so many families at the dinner table."
For more information on managing food allergies visit the author's website.

Posted by David at 8:56 AM

January 5, 2006

Safety within reason and being food allergy-aware

With the introduction of the new food labeling law here in the U.S., we've seen a lot of press coverage on the topic. Most articles are, well, pretty pedestrian in terms of really providing value to the reader. However, today I read an article from the Times-Herald Record and felt pretty good about what and how they covered this issue of managing child food allergies at school.

In the article, they describe school food allergy emergency plans, which are developed between the school nurse and the allergic child's parents. In addition to education about the particular food allergies, the school trains staff members in emergency procedures in case a child has a severe reaction to an allergic food. The approach of working closely with the school nurse is something we've seen work time and time again. The nurse can be a huge ally in your efforts to keep your child safe, so protect that relationship.

One school follows "safety within reason" guidelines. There is no school ban on nut products, however, for those young kids with severe food allergies, an adult may accompany them through the lunch line to keep them safe from the wrong foods. The article says many kids who have child food allergies don't eat foods prepared by cafeteria staff anyway. This approach seems prudent and should be acceptable to any reasonable school administrative staff person.

Another school has a portion of the cafeteria designated as a "no-nut" zone and children who have a lunch containing nuts sit in the back of the cafeteria. The principal is quoted as saying, "We can't claim to be a nut-free zone. We call it nut-aware. Our goal is really just to minimize risk to the greatest extent possible."

I'm not sure if the "back of the bus" approach is fair to the non-allergic kids but it great to see the school taking reasonable safety measures.

It is this level-headed approach to education and safety that will promote harmony between the schools and families and really works to benefit all of us who strive to educate other regarding the dangers of child food allergies.

Posted by David at 8:14 AM