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February 27, 2006

Outgrowing a peanut allergy?

We just got home from our child’s allergy appointment. She is almost 10 and has been allergic to peanuts since before her 2nd birthday. I know because I witnessed a pretty strong reaction! I didn’t know enough to be scared at the time, but if it happened again today, my heart would skip plenty of beats! Since she was being tested for respiratory allergies, the doctor tested for, among other things, peanuts, “just to see.” The skin prick was NEGATIVE! Huh? Now what? Is it possible that she outgrew her peanut allergy?

We are in no hurry to find out clinically. We are not changing our ways. She will continue to avoid peanuts and everything containing traces of peanuts, just like she always has. If avoidance helps a child outgrow a food allergy, then she is definitely in the running! I’m a bit skeptical though, and here’s why.

We have another daughter with many food allergies, including wheat since she was 7 months old, old enough to chew on a teething biscuit. We did the strict avoidance thing and we were really good at it! So, years later, we were not terribly surprised when her skin prick was negative! So slowly, we introduced wheat into her diet. Things went well for about 6 months, long enough for her to acquire the taste of “regular” bread, crackers, pizza crust and cereal. Then she started getting hives again every time she ate wheat. Even to be around the mixer when we were making cookies with white flour gave her a really bad stuffy nose, enough that she had to get Benadryl and go outside to relieve the symptoms. We eliminated it from her diet again (a lot harder after her taste buds found out what wheat carbs tasted like!), and the hives disappeared and her eczema improved a bit. We’re still playing the balance game of “how much wheat can she have without getting hives or terrible eczema flares?”

So what do skin pricks really mean? For us and the wheat thing, it was more of a nuisance. For us and the peanut thing? Well, we’re going to give it more time. Life is not that hard steering clear of peanuts. And besides, do we really believe that this child, who has been programmed her entire life to stay away from peanuts, will actually eat something with peanuts? Our hope is that someday she'll only react slightly (if at all) by eating peanut products. That someday will have to wait because, for now, we still choose to be "peanut-free".

Posted by Ann Marie at 2:55 PM

February 26, 2006

Who knew I’d be talking to a preschooler about kissing!

I am well aware of the talk that I will need to have with my girls as they approach the pre-teen years about kissing boys. And since they have food allergies (most scarily, nuts and peanuts), I really need to stress the safety issue as well. But it never occurred to me to have that talk with my preschooler!

You see, I was talking to some preschool parents and they informed me that their kids recently started “licking tongues” with the other children as a kind of game. Of course, the teachers would stop this immediately if they saw it, but even the best teachers can’t supervise every activity every minute on a playground full of children!

My first reaction to this new game was, “Gross! Think of the germs being passed.” Then a bit of panic set in, and I thought, “Oh, my gosh! This could send my kid to the ER (or worse)!” I was especially on edge because of the recent stories about a teenager dying from kissing her boyfriend who had eaten peanut butter. I have, of course, talked with all of my children about the practice of licking tongues! We will keep this game out of our family for now. I just wonder what else I should be teaching my children that I’m not even aware of. We can only teach what we know so I will continue to educate myself and thank God for my children’s safety everyday. And I know, in the not-so-distant future, I will be discussing the birds, the bees and food allergies!

Posted by Ann Marie at 5:39 PM

February 23, 2006

A Fantastic Kids' Book Find!

YEA!! There is a new food allergy book written for kids that is FANTASTIC!! It’s by far one of the best kids’ food allergy books that I’ve read (and I’ve read many over the last 8 years!) It’s called Peter Can’t Eat Peanuts by Nadine O’Reilly. She is a school psychologist and a mother of a peanut allergic child.

The book has cute pictures and fun, rhyming text. It covers the basics of having an anaphylactic food allergy at a level even young kids can understand. The book talks about having a reaction and going to the hospital, carrying an Epi-Pen, reading ingredients, talking with teachers, not sharing food at school and most importantly, learning to say “No, thank you.” Your kids will really identify with Peter. When learning about his allergy, he feels sad and asks “Did I do something bad?” The doctor answers, “Of course not” and explains how all bodies are different and this is just Peter’s thing.

The book is available at her website, access4allergickids.com. Also available at the same website are note cards that read: Thank you for accommodating our child’s food allergy…

I wish this book was written 8 years ago! It’s a great book for preschool and early elementary school teachers to read to the class. And it is a definite must-have in your food allergy library.

Posted by Ann Marie at 1:41 PM

February 21, 2006

What should McDonalds do now?

So now at least 3 families are going after fast food giant McDonalds over its announcement last week that its french fries contain wheat and milk.

One suffers from celiac disease and is seeking unspecified damages for gastrointestinal symptoms. Another is a vegan and is suing claiming that she would not have eaten the fries had she known they contained milk. And another family has a wheat-intolerant young daughter, who got pretty sick after eating the fries.

All of this came about due to McDonalds updating the ingredients likst on its website. The changes on the web were made following the new law regarding labelling that came into effect in January thanks to the US Food and Drug Administration. The new law requires companies to label common food allergens in their products.

So, what should McDonalds do now? How does this affect a pretty good relationship between the fast food companies and food allergy sufferers? Does this resemble the spilled coffee incident? McDonalds is a pretty big target with deep pockets.

Posted by David at 2:52 PM

February 15, 2006

Peanut Allergy article - a good overview

Although a bit dated, here is a pretty good article from teenshealth.com about Nut and Peanut Allergy...

Oh, nuts! They sure can cause you trouble if you're allergic to them - and a growing number of kids are these days. So what kind of nuts are we talking about? Peanuts, for one, though they aren't truly a nut. (They're a legume [say: leh-gyoom] like peas or lentils.) A person could also be allergic to nuts that grow on trees, such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, and cashews.

When you think of allergies, you might picture lots of sneezing and loads of runny noses. But unlike a mild allergy to spring flowers, a nut or peanut allergy can cause difficulty breathing and other very serious health problems. That's why it's very important for someone with a nut or peanut allergy to avoid eating nuts and peanuts, which can be tough because they're in lots of foods.

Why Does the Body Go Nuts Over Nuts?
When someone has a food allergy, his or her body sort of misfires. Instead of treating a nut or peanut like any old food, the body reacts as if the nut or peanut is harmful. In an attempt to protect the body, the immune system produces antibodies (special chemicals designed to fight infections) against that food.

The antibodies then cause mast cells (which are a type of immune system cell in the body) to release chemicals into the bloodstream, one of which is histamine (say: his-tuh-meen). The histamine then causes symptoms in a person's eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastrointestinal tract.

A person with nut or peanut allergies could have a mild reaction - or it could be more severe. An allergic reaction could happen right away or a few hours after the person eats it. Some of the first signs that a person may be having an allergic reaction could be a runny nose, an itchy skin rash such as hives, or a tingling in the tongue or lips. Other signs include:

* tightness in the throat
* hoarse voice
* wheezing
* cough
* nausea
* vomiting
* stomach pain
* diarrhea

In the most serious cases, a nut or peanut allergy can cause anaphylaxis (say: ah-nuh-fuh-lak-sis). This is a sudden, severe allergic reaction in which several problems occur all at once and can involve the skin, breathing, digestion, the heart, and blood vessels. A person's blood pressure can drop, breathing tubes can narrow, and the tongue can swell. People at risk for this kind of a reaction have to be very careful and need a plan for handling emergencies, when they might need to get special medicine to stop these symptoms from getting worse.

How Is a Nut or Peanut Allergy Diagnosed?
If your doctor thinks you might have a nut or peanut allergy, he or she will probably send you to see a doctor who specializes in allergies. The allergy specialist will ask you about past reactions and how long it takes between eating the nut and getting the symptom, such as hives. The allergist also may ask about whether anyone else in your family has allergies or other allergy-related conditions, such as eczema or asthma. Researchers aren't sure why some people have food allergies and others don't, but they often run in families.


Posted by David at 8:59 AM

February 10, 2006

Can't join em? Start your own school

I read this article and thought, "We'll I guess if you can't join 'em, start your own."

A recent Harvard study is showing the majority of child food allergy reactions occur during school hours. So what are schools doing to make it more safe?

Some experts believe schools need to be much more prepared for allergy incidents. In fact the problem is so bad some parents have taken matters into their own hands. If you cant get the school to work with you, should you start your OWN school? In the case of 3 year old Ben Andres, who sufferers from multiple food allergies, that's what his parents did.

"Ben is allergic to wheat, egg whites and peanuts. We have to make sure that he does not get exposed to those at any time," said Craig. At home the Andrews can control what Ben eats and keep him safe. But outside all bets are off. "Anything could happen," said Christie. "He could accidentally eat a piece of bread or a peanut and have a serious allergic reaction."

So, his parents created a safe school for Ben.

"We do not allow any outside food sources into the building," said Laura Shulte. Shulte designed the St. Stephen Early Childhood program in south St. Louis as a safe haven for allergic children because of her own son's experience.

At St. Stephen, no foods known to trigger allergic reactions are allowed. All the common food allergens are banned and diligent hand washing is required. Some schools tend to work with parents and train the school nurse and teachers on emergency procedures. Another classic strategy for safety is creation of "peanut free" tables because of how common and serious most peanut allergies are.

Although the new food labeling law, that requires that common allergens be clearly identified, should make it easier for parents of children with food allergies, education is still the key.

Posted by David at 7:07 AM

February 3, 2006

Is YOUR school nurse prepared?

I read a disturbing article awhile back about a student who suffered a severe peanut allergy reaction. The student smelled peanuts while he was eating lunch at school and later reported to the nurse’s office when he started to have trouble breathing.

The student began reacting after lunch and went to see the school nurse, who was aware of his peanut allergy. The nurse gave the student ibuprofen and released him.

When the reaction continued to worsen, he returned to the office and said he really needed something stronger. He reported that he couldn't breath and his face was flush. The school nurse eventually administered a shot of adrenaline.

Ibuprofen? Why would that be administered in this situation? Look folks, it sure doesn't sound like this school and the nurse were well prepared to handle a food allergy reaction. As far as I know, Ibuprofen is simply NOT used to aid in situations where someone is having difficulty breathing. Wrong solution.

It is our responsibility as parents to make sure that school staff are clear on what the procedure is in case of a food allergy related emergency. This story highlights the need to reinforcement training as well. Don't think the discussions you had with the school nurse back in August are still fresh in her mind.

Let this be a reminder to all of us... continuing education is the key to keeping our food allergic kids safe.

Posted by David at 8:27 AM | Comments (1)