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September 28, 2006

Easy Screening Test for Food Allergies

ALCAT Worldwide Introduces Fingerstick Screen for Food Allergy Testing
Wednesday September 27, 8:05 am ET

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla., Sept. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- ALCAT Laboratories, a division of Cell Science Systems, has launched the 20 Food Fingerstick Reflex Test to their product line. This reliable food intolerance test is now the most convenient and affordable way to check for food sensitivities. The test panel scans for apples, barley, beef, broccoli, cane sugar, carrot, corn, cow's milk, garlic, gluten, lemon, orange, peanut, pork, rice, soybean, sweet potato, tomato, tuna and turkey.

"Taking an active role in your own healthcare has never been easier," said Lee J. Rolnick, ALCAT's Director of Sales and Marketing. The kit includes everything needed for at-home testing including a pre-paid Federal Express Clinical Pack with easy to use instructions.

In addition to the 20 Food Fingerstick Screen, the laboratory also offers sensitivity testing for over 150 additional foods, environmental chemicals, molds, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications and even food additives and food colorings.

In the October 2006 issue of The Health Sciences Institute (HSI) newsletter "Members Alert," the ALCAT Test® was reviewed in depth by writer Alicia Potee. " ... we've given you several updates," wrote Potee, "explaining the science behind the test a little further and sharing the stellar results coming in from HSI members ... "

The 20 Food Fingerstick Reflex Test costs $99 plus shipping and handling and laboratory results are returned within 10 business days. All tests can be ordered over the phone or via the website and administered in the privacy of the home by contacting ALCAT at 800-872-5228 (US ALCAT) or www.alcat.com.

Posted by David at 2:03 PM

September 26, 2006

What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor? (and other field trip questions)

We've just returned from a 5th grade field trip and managed the food allergy issues without a problem. We went up to Dana Point, CA and stayed overnight on the Brig Pilgrim. The Pilgrim is a full size replica of the hide brig immortalized by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. in his American seafaring classic novel Two Years Before the Mast. The ship is a national award-winning living history program to over 16,000 students a year. The kids were the crew and were in the hands of the actors playing Captain and a hard-edged First Mate. Having attended many a field trip, this one is head and shoulders above the others.

What was the key to our success in making this a safe trip for our daughter? Communication and education (that usually does the trick).

My wife started early in the process with a quick email note to the teacher just giving him a heads-up that we'd like to speak with him. It went like this...

----- Original Message -----

From: Ann Marie

To: 5th Grade Teacher

Sent: Wednesday

Subject: Pilgrim Ship

Hi. I would like to talk with you more about the Pilgrim ship and the food served. Our daughter reads ingredients and makes choices about the foods that she can and cannot eat; however, they are the foods that are prepackaged, usually snack foods and cookies. Since I don't understand what the food is or how it is prepared on the Pilgrim, I am a bit apprehensive. My husband, David, would be happy to join you as a parent chaperone. This obviously eliminates our uncertainty because he can go into the galley and speak with the chef directly and read ingredients from the food packages. At back to school night, I saw a long list of parents who would like to join you on this field trip, so I understand you'll need to pare down the list.

Would you please let me know a good time to meet for a few minutes to discuss this? I am available both before and after school.

Thank you very much!
Ann Marie


I think he knew Ann Marie to be a level headed, open minded parent from the first couple weeks of school. Keep in mind that she had already had the one on one meeting to discuss our daughters food allergies and how to keep her safe (including a lesson with an expired Epi-Pen and an orange). Her practical, yet concerned tone came through in her email. Notice she didn't use any "life threatening allergy" language or other alarm ringers.

I was choosen as one of the chaperons for the trip, so first problem solved. We then called the administrator of the program and she said that they had removed all nut ingredients from the meals because of other children that had nut allergies over the years. It's always comforting to know we aren't the first ones bringing the concerns. I was able to speak to the "first mate" on the ship as well as the captain and the cook (aka the doctor, beacause he has all the knives!) :-)

I read the ingredients used in preparing the spice cake and the beef stew (basically salt, meat, potatoes and carrots - nothing fancy for the crew). And, as it turned out, the teacher had assigned me as the parent "Safety Officer" for the Galley Crew (the team of kids preparing all the meals).

The thought of a field trip can be so scary for a parent of a child with a severe food allergy. I felt so greatful for both our teacher and the ships crew. I felt they truly understood our concerns and were clearly doing all they could to keep our daughter safe. I attribute the strong teamwork to an open communication starting from Day 1.

Posted by David at 3:33 PM

September 23, 2006

What About Siblings Without Food Allergies?

We have four children. Two of them have life-threatening food allergies and we've know that since they were babies. Our other two have been free to eat any type of food we serve.

Somtimes, as a parent, I feel like maybe we are depriving the two without food allergies. Doughnuts at church? "No, they likely have eggs or nuts and your sisters cannot have them. So, it wouldn't be fair."

Now, I need to tell you that I have taken my non-food allergic kids to Krispy Kreme before. I admit its fun to see there faces light up at all the choices they have when they walk in. On the other hand, if we did that on a regular (or even semi-regular) basis, those two may look like the "average American" child and tip the scales more than kids should.

What we choose to do is to look for alternative foods that make everyone as happy as possible. Sometimes its homemade. Sometimes its a order from Cherry Brook Kitchen or another allergy friendly manufacturer. Sometime... get this... it's just fresh fruit with a small squirt of whipped cream on the side. I believe it has to do with the presentation - how much fun you have serving and they have eating it.

Posted by David at 7:19 AM

September 21, 2006

Food Safety Symposium Includes Food Allergies

Food Safety Symposium by Ecolab and Nation's Restaurant News Brings Leaders Together During Food Safety Month
source: Business Wire

ST. PAUL, Minn.--Avian flu, foodborne illness, terrorism threats and food allergy awareness were among the significant issues on tap at the Ecolab-sponsored Nation's Restaurant News Food Safety Symposium on September 15-17 at the Charlotte, N.C., campus of Johnson & Wales University. This first annual two-day event was held as part of National Food Safety Education Month in September and attracted foodservice operators interested in food safety, security and quality assurance.

"Food safety is one of the most significant challenges faced by our industry today. Ecolab believes it is important to partner with Nation's Restaurant News in bringing together top companies and leaders to share our combined knowledge and experiences, and collaborate on solutions that benefit everyone," said Katherine M.J. Swanson, vice president of food safety for Ecolab. "Ecolab is committed to helping customers recognize potential food safety threats before they become major problems. Our 360(degrees) of Protection(TM) program applies a comprehensive approach to help protect the most critical aspects of foodservice operations, and the Food Safety Symposium complements the work we do every day with the goal of using our collective intellect to discover new food safety innovations."

The keynote speaker at the Symposium on Sept. 16 was Steven F. Grover, vice president of food safety, quality assurance and regulatory compliance with Burger King Brands. In his address, "Food Safety and Risk Management: What You Need to Know," Grover provided a big picture presentation covering current food safety issues affecting the foodservice industry such as Avian flu, foodborne illness (E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, norovirus), terrorism, BSE (mad cow disease), foot-and-mouth disease and food allergy awareness and alert strategies.

Other topics at the Symposium included a panel discussion on "Best Practices in Supply Chain Management," moderated by Peter Romeo, executive editor of NRN Online, featuring Ecolab's Swanson; a panel discussion on "Best Practices in Food Safety at the Unit Level," moderated by Al Liddle, managing editor of conference and technology at NRN; "Crisis Management" and "Solutions Oriented Roundtable Discussions." In addition, the attendees participated in an interactive hands-on workshop on the Johnson & Wales campus in Charlotte, where they cooked their own dinner with an emphasis on implementing best practices in food safety.

With 2005 sales of $4.5 billion, Ecolab is the leading global developer and marketer of premium cleaning, sanitizing, pest elimination, maintenance and repair products and services for the hospitality, foodservice, healthcare and industrial markets.

Ecolab shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ECL. Ecolab news releases and other investor information are available on the Internet at ecolab.com.

Posted by David at 10:02 AM

September 19, 2006

Communication is the Key

Education is key to protecting kids
by Jennifer Decker
Staff Reporter for the County Press

Awareness about food allergies among parents and caregivers can be the difference between life and death for some children.

While frequent reports of peanut allergies in children are in the news, Dr. Pacita Tanhehco of the Asthma, Allergy and Immunology Center in Lapeer said they can be severe in nature, though she hasn't heard of any local cases. She also did not know why allergies seem to be on the increase in children—especially to peanuts.

Many allergies are genetically based, Tanhehco explained. Therefore, getting a new patient's medical history is crucial. Symptom-wise, allergies can cause hives, vomiting, and diarrhea, to name a few.

"Environmentally, people should close their windows during high humidity and when outside be careful," said Tanhehco.

She added those with allergies should carry an injector.

Local school districts take precautions for students whenever necessary in an effort to accommodate them.

At Orchard Primary School in Almont, staff there have taken a pro-active approach to handling student allergies, principal Roger Pauley said.

Tuesday was the first day the school used a former office space to accommodate five students with food allergies. Pauley said the room is run as a "special restaurant" so the students who eat there don't feel ostracized from those without allergies. Before the designated "special restaurant," which Pauley said the school is trying out on a trial basis, two lunchroom tables were designated as peanut free.

Currently, the list Orchard Primary has distributed to staff include 33 different allergic reactions are listed, Pauley added. Those allergies range from Kool-Aid, shaving cream, hand sanitizer, grass, weeds, pollen, peanuts, milk, bee stings, Latex, chocolate, soybeans, and pets, to name a few.

For the first time ever, Barb Klocko, principal of Weston Elementary School in Imlay City, has four students with peanut allergies. "We're working on a food allergy plan based on recommendations from the doctor. Whatever we can do—we'll do," Klocko said. "In the classroom, you're looking at birthday treats (possibly containing peanuts). In the lunchroom, you have your standard peanut butter and jelly sandwiches."

Imlay City School Superintendent Tim Edwards said information is being gathered for a plan at Weston. In the past, such allergy issues have been handled on an individual basis.

Dryden School Superintendent Tom Goulette also said educators there are handling student allergies on a case-by-case basis.

"We sit down with parents and students and come up with a plan," Goulette said. "We have to provide an appropriate educational environment."

At Mayfield Elementary School in the Lapeer Community Schools, Principal Jim Whitlock said he's not aware of any problems with student allergies.

"It's a common sense way of dealing with it," Whitlock said. "If there's a problem—we're willing to work with people."

At Maple Grove Elementary School in Lapeer Township, Principal Elaine Loughead said a new point of sales system makes for much efficiency and the daily lunch line goes much smoother.Ô"We don't prepare food differently," Loughead said. "We give students choices. We give students choices and punch their name into a point of sales system. It comes up if they have an allergy to what they're purchasing. What's also good is when students get free or reduced lunches, that comes up on the system too."


Posted by David at 9:47 AM

September 15, 2006

A Letter to Class Parents About Food Allergies

There is a general sigh of relief for all those parents who have sent their kids off to school. For those of us who have children with food allergies, sometimes the sigh is more of fear than liberation. We all have our own way of preparing the schools and helping them create a safe environment for our children. Over the years, I have learned new things and tweaked my process. Class parties seem to constantly present a challenge. I try to explain my child’s food allergy without seeming too over the top; because then other parents seem to disregard what I say. Below is a letter I recently sent out to my child’s class. It is in a generic form. Feel free to copy it word for word, or change it around a bit to fit your style. I hope this helps.

Dear Parents of Mrs. Smith's class,

My name is Sally and I am Jane Doe's mom. You might have heard from your son or daughter that Jane has food allergies. She is in fact allergic to peanuts, tree nuts (which are the rest of the nuts like walnuts and almonds), and a few other foods. Mrs. Smith has been great in keeping our classroom environment safe for Jane. Jane has a snack bag at school which she can choose a treat from if the class is eating something she cannot have.

In regards to our class parties, we would greatly appreciate it if the treats people bring in do not contain nuts or peanuts (i.e. peanut butter crackers, cookies with nuts, peanut M & M’s). We also have a son with food allergies; and over the years, friends and classmates' parents have offered to make or buy something that is "allergy free." Although we so much appreciate that, we find that the safest thing for Jane is that she just eat the food we bring from home. Truly, if nut-free cookies are baked on the same cookie sheet after a nut-containing or peanut butter cookie was baked, and Jane ate one, that could be enough to set off an allergic reaction. In the same regard, if Jane eats Oreos at one party and a parent brings a package of Oreos to the next party, the ingredients could have changed without a warning statement to contain an ingredient to which Jane is allergic. This is why I hesitate to give a list of "safe" treats, because we never know when ingredients might change. To avoid accidental exposure to an allergen, I will either send in a treat for Jane that is similar to what everybody else is eating, or she can simply choose something from her snack bag.

I will most likely be in contact with the parent in charge of a party to see what's on the menu. That way I can decide party by party what will work for Jane. And please do not feel sorry for Jane. It has always been her way of life, and it is something she accepts (most of the time with a smile on her face!).

Thank you all very much for your understanding. I am very approachable if you have questions or concerns. I check email frequently, (insert email address here) or you can call me at home, (123) 456-7890.

Thanks again,
Sally Doe

Posted by Ann Marie at 8:51 AM

September 14, 2006

Study Finds Peanut Allergy Can Return

In an article on About.com, we find a surprising study that found peanut allergy reactions can returns after a child is diagnosed as out growing a peanut allergy. I think this takes the relief of a clear diagnosis and tempers it with ongoing fear.

Here is what the article says...

Many children who develop an allergy to peanuts at a very young age can outgrow the allergy before school age, but a surprising study has found that peanut allergies can resurface at a later age.

Researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City have reported three children in whom peanut allergies disappeared and then returned later. All three were boys who first developed peanut allergies between a year and 18 months of age. Their peanut allergies disappeared, but then returned when the boys were between six and 10 years of age.

"No one had ever reported that anyone who outgrew an allergy grew back into it again," Dr. Scott Sicherer, a pediatrician at Mount Sinai's Jaffe Food Allergy Institute told reporters. "The remarkable thing was they not only had symptoms but they developed increased sensitization."

Sicherer said these findings, which were published in The New England Journal of Medicine, demonstrate that allergists who find that peanut allergies have subsided in their patients should not necessarily recommend that they can resume normal consumption of foods containing peanuts.

The researchers did not determine whether or not this same "rebound" effect might be true of other foods which cause allergic reactions, which children also can outgrow.

"What it reminds us is that when we're talking about peanut allergy we have to start from scratch and assume nothing," Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder and chief executive officer of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, told reporters. "We always have to be ready that it might come back."

In the United States, food allergies account for between 150 and 200 deaths a year and an estimated 30,000 emergency room visits. Approximately one in 150 Americans are allergic to peanuts. Allergic reactions to peanuts can range from mild to life-threatening.

source: About.com

Posted by David at 9:49 AM

September 12, 2006

More than Just Common Sense is Required When Eating Out

"Takeaway dish nearly killed me." That's a quote from an article about a woman who ate take out Chinese food after being told it should be safe.

Rebecca Dale, 24, who lives in Broxbourne, suffered a severe allergic reaction when she ate food contaminated with peanuts from Taste Of China in High Street, Hoddesdon.

Miss Dale says she stressed her potentially fatal condition to the takeaway when she placed her order over the phone. She ordered one of the set meals, but asked for the single dish containing nuts - satay chicken - to be swapped for something else or left out altogether. The member of staff reassured her that everything would be OK.

But Miss Dale ended up eating a spare rib that had been separated and hidden from a nut-containing satay chicken meal by just a lettuce leaf.

Her mouth, throat, tongue and lips all swelled up and her boyfriend, Stuart Bates, 26, called an ambulance, but an adrenaline injection and ice reduced the swelling and she did not need to go to hospital.

Miss Dale, who has had her allergy since birth, said: "I could have died. It really did frighten me.

"If they couldn't guarantee that it was going to be nut-free then they shouldn't have taken my order."

I'm sure Miss Dale is an intelligent woman who has successfully managed her severe food allergies for years. When I read stories like this, I can't help but think, "It's Chinese food! What did you expect?"

I would consider taking my daughters with peanut allergy to an Asian restaurant if that particular establishment advertised a 100% peanut free menu. That is - they catered to the food allergy public. But a regular Chinese menu is going to be filled with peanut and other nut products. So, why take the risk?

Add this to the list of things in life I just don't understand.

Posted by David at 11:26 AM

September 11, 2006

Food Allergy Cures Around the Corner?

I saw this article by Anne Robertson online at EarthTimes.org and couldn't help but read about the potential of finding a "cure" for child food allergies. Predicting food allergy cures is a bit like predicting the weather. I'm always interested in progress on cures for food allergies. Even if not a complete "cure" anything that lessens the risk of death is a great advance in my opinion.

In the next few years, you might be able to wolf down a whole bag of peanuts and step out in any climate even if you suffer from allergies or asthma, experts have revealed at the British Association Festival of Science in Norwich.

A leading expert, Dr Ronald van Ree of Amsterdam University, said that a vaccine without side effects was being developed to help those who are unable to do a lot of things because they were allergic to substances or suffered from asthma. Asserting that the claim was not 'science fiction', but 'realistic', Dr Ree said the development of anti-allergy pills and injections are on. Such cures are more than welcome considering that the prevalence of asthma has gone up 100 per cent in the last two decades, with hay fever and severe allergic reactions posting an upward trend. As many as 3,000 people in the UK are hospitalized with severe allergic reactions annually, with 20 having succumbed to the health ill in 2005.

About 30 per cent of adults and 40 per cent of children in UK suffer from allergies to some substance or the other, the Royal College of Physicians said, adding that food allergies like those related to peanuts were on the rise. In 1996, one in 200 children was allergic to peanuts, which has now increased to one in 50. “At present the only treatment for food allergy is avoidance and rescue medication. Avoidance is difficult and sometimes even impossible. The one thing we really need for food allergy patients is a treatment that can cure the disease,” Dr Ree said.

According to him, scientists are scrutinizing the possibility of using genetic engineering to render the proteins that cause allergic reactions ineffective. The drugs developed through these techniques will work on the immune system to make it stronger to fight allergies. It is also possible that scientists will modify the protein in the allergenic foods to develop other variants of foods that do not cause allergies.

They are also using weaker variants of the allergenic proteins to develop anti-allergy medicines. “This allows scientists to develop hypo-allergenic variants of these molecules for application in safer immunotherapy that will induce little or no side effects,” Dr Ree said. Some of the foods that are known to cause severe allergies are eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, wheat, and nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, cashew and others.

Dr Ree said that cures for food allergies are likely to hit the market in the next seven to 10 years.


Posted by David at 2:15 PM

September 7, 2006

Who Do You Trust With Your Child's Food Allergy?

My 10 year old daughter is scheduled for an overnight field trip later this month. She's looking forward to staying on a large sailing ship and experiencing it the way the original settlers did.

Part of that experience is eating what they used to eat as well... mush and the likes. All sounds fun except when you have serious food allergies.

Now, here's the deal - normally, I would simply volunteer to chaparone on the trip and also contact the "galley" crew ahead of time to make sure food is safe for her. In this case, there are twice as many parent volunteers as needed. Why should I get preferential treatment? Easy, my child has a condition that requires extra safe measures. Not that easy....

The school nurse is a parent of a child in that class as well. She is the one "on call" all day long at the elementary school, so it would stand to reason that she should be able to keep my child safe away from school too, right? Hmm. I'm not so sure.

A field trip situation is very different from on the school grounds. At school, we packed her lunch, we spoke with her teachers, we spoke with the Principal and the lunch supervisors. Each of these people has a one page flyer that continuously reminds him/her about my daughters allergies. On a field trip, there is a kitchen preparing her foods and no adult trained on talking to waiters, the manager or the chef. The ship's crew knows nothing of my daughter's allergy (yet) and who knows how often they deal with this. Is "cross contamination" part of the galley speak?

So, I volunteered to join the class, sent an email to the teacher and will have a follow up conversation with him. At this point, I am inclined to say, either Dad goes or daughter misses the trip. Which would be a shame, however, I will error on the side of keeping her safe. Who knows, maybe they will allow her to bring a packed meal? Sure, everyone else gets mush while my daughter gets a ham sandwich, some chips and a nice piece of fruit.

I say, "Let them eat mush!" :-)

Posted by David at 9:30 AM

September 6, 2006

Increasing Food Allergy Awareness in Schools

Here's an article written in June of this year in the San Diego Union Tribune. A good discussion of how schools are addressing the emergency aspect of child food allergies.

Food allergy awareness sought
Groups want schools to be equipped for emergencies

By Helen Gao

Everywhere Andrew and Carolyn Brown take their 5-year-old son, Drew, they carry a medical rescue pack containing EpiPens and Benadryl.

Buu Luong, 13, an eighth-grader at Mann Middle School, sampled an oatmeal raisin cookie during a taste test Friday. Students also tasted sunflower seed butter. EpiPens are syringes filled with epinephrine, an emergency drug used to counteract life-threatening allergic reactions to food and insect bites. Benadryl is for treating mild reactions.

Drew suffers from peanut and tree nut allergies. When he enters kindergarten at Jerabek Elementary School in September, he will be one of about 20 children at the Scripps Ranch campus with a severe allergy.

Pointing to a rising number of children with food allergies locally and nationally, a group of about 30 San Diego parents, including the Browns, recently created The Alliance for Nut Allergic Children.

The group plans to lobby the San Diego school board Tuesday to adopt protocols districtwide to prevent and respond to food-related anaphylaxis, the medical term for a severe reaction. Advocates also are working at the state and national level on legislation to address food allergies at schools.

The parent alliance wants to ensure epinephrine is readily accessible at schools and during school-sponsored activities and that adults are trained to administer it. It also wants to remove and prohibit peanuts, tree nuts and related products from cafeteria menus, and prevent students and teachers from eating or using them for projects in classrooms.

Alliance members say they don't have a problem with children bringing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school, as long as the food is consumed outside the classroom.

Peanuts, a legume, and tree nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, are leading allergens. Peanut allergies doubled between 1997 and 2002, according to a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Other foods frequently blamed for allergic reactions are wheat, soy, milk, eggs, fish and shellfish.

Food allergies affect 12 million Americans, according to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, an advocacy group. They cause about 30,000 emergency room visits each year, and 150 to 200 people die annually, the network estimates.

Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include difficulty breathing, vomiting and loss of consciousness.

Andrew Brown said many people still don't understand the severity.

“When you tell them it's life or death, they think you are exaggerating,” he said. “They are think you are being overly sensitive because it's your child.”

That may be changing.

A bill pending in Congress calls for the federal government to develop guidelines for managing the risks of allergies and anaphylaxis in schools.

The West Coast Allergy and Asthma Network, a Pleasanton-based nonprofit group, is working on state legislation to ensure all schools carry epinephrine, as well as nebulizers and albuterol, which treat asthma. Children with multiple food allergies also may suffer from asthma.

A small number of districts, including the Chula Vista Elementary School District, buy and stock epinephrine at all their schools.

“Rarely a year goes by where we haven't used an EpiPen for a child in our stock. We have saved lives,” said Dale Parent, health services coordinator for the Chula Vista district.


Posted by David at 10:23 AM

September 5, 2006

Good Introductory Article from San Diego on Child Food Allergies

Parents adapt menus for son's food allergies
source: San Diego Union Tribune
By Triveni Sheshadri

When he was 8 months old, after eating a meal of cereal and macaroni and cheese, Nathan Wagner had to be rushed to the emergency room with a swollen face and skin that had turned bright pink.

A follow-up visit to a specialist confirmed Sue Wagner's suspicion that her son had food allergies. But instead of the one or two triggers she was expecting, the doctor reeled off a long list of foods that could harm Nathan.

Chief among them are mustard and peanuts, which in some people can cause severe anaphylactic reactions such breathing difficulty. For those who have food allergies, milk and milk products, eggs and soy can cause hives, swelling, vomiting and anxiety.

“When I heard the doctor, I was thinking, 'What do I feed him when he gets hungry 20 minutes from now,?' ” Wagner said.

Nathan, now 5, is among the 12 million Americans who suffer from food allergies. Of those, 3 million are schoolchildren. The leading triggers are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.

Nathan's family has adapted to his needs. All of his meals are prepared at home. Wagner packs a lunch bag, epinephrine and antihistamine even on a short trip to the supermarket. Nathan's 3-year-old sister, Aubrey, makes sure she washes her hands after eating a bag of Cheetos. Wagner and her husband have learned to read food labels, a task complicated by multiple names for foods.

“It's bit overwhelming,” Wagner said. “Milk can be lactose and eggs can go by albumen. At that point you don't think about what you can't have. You switch to the positive and think about what you can have. You start with your staples, your building blocks.”

Nathan is a healthy and active kindergartner who loves animals. His favorites are reticulated pythons and boa constrictors. “I want to be a herpetologist,” he said.

His parents try to find a balance between keeping Nathan safe and allowing him to do the things he loves, such as playing soccer and attending Padres games. On trips to Petco Park, Wagner and her husband make sure people sitting near them don't throw peanut shells in their direction. They are always on the alert for triggers that lurk in unexpected places, such as toys and toothpaste.


Posted by David at 10:20 AM

September 4, 2006

'Peanut-mom' shares perspective on allergy

source: TownOnline.com
By Jennifer Geraghty

As a new academic year begins, parents are busy preparing backpacks and planning meals and snacks for their children to take to school. This year, I am too, but from a very different perspective than the years before. Last May, my 7-year-old, peanut-allergic son passed a food challenge, which cleared him of his potentially deadly food allergy. Only about 10 percent of kids with peanut allergy ever outgrow it, and mine did. The joy our family feels comes from what seems like a miracle, even though it is most likely merely a developmental change in my son.

As I've shed my "peanut-mom" identity, thoughts have swirled around in my mind, and feelings have erupted in my heart. It feels strange to be in the other "camp" - the throngs of parents with kids who must abide by the rules that food allergic kids' parents and Hingham schools have set to help prevent dangerous reactions.

When I think back to six years ago, after I resurfaced from the crushing news of my son's peanut allergy, I realize that my life settled into a steady stream of strategy, preparation, training, and vigilance. Reading every label on every food item going into his mouth; interrogating restaurant staff at every restaurant we patronized; stocking classrooms with peanut-free snacks; baking dozens of safe goodies for every special event; negotiating birthday party cakes and treats with other families; safeguarding Halloween treats; educating my extended family, other parents, teachers and school staff, babysitters on the use of life-saving Epipens to be kept with my son at all times; working with schools, camps, and after-school programs to create a safe environment for food allergic kids, was at times exhausting, frustrating, and eye-opening. Overarching these emotions was the horrible fear that my son could die from the bite of the wrong cookie.

By now, most families with children in school know of at least one of the 5 million children in America struggling with food allergy. Many people know now that the smallest trace of peanut especially, eaten, touched or inhaled, can send a child into anaphylaxis, during which the throat can close. Unfortunately, at times I encountered adults who didn't get it. I would tell myself it must be the deadliness of food allergy that eludes some people; why else would anyone ever have a problem with any changes that keep food allergic kids safe? A lack of empathy? In my experience, those who bristled or even protested against the inconvenient measures we "peanut moms" must take to keep our kids alive were greatly outnumbered by kind, concerned, careful people who did wonderful things to protect my son and others with food allergy. Those who were able to sacrifice the convenience of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, wipe down their tables and countertops, or buy their birthday cakes at certain bakeries displayed the best of human compassion. Such goodness was overwhelming to me, even when these wonderful people would downplay their efforts.

The school community needs to continue their efforts to keep these brave kids well.

Posted by David at 6:12 PM

September 2, 2006

Crazy Neurotic Parents and Child Food Allergies

I recently read an online article from Slate.com regarding overprotective parents of kids with food allergies.

It told an interesting story, yet I wasn't sure how to react to the following pieces of the article...

Parents who ask for more accommodation than their kids really need do a disservice, I think, by making the rest of us unsure of when we need to strictly comply. It's a form of crying wolf. Or at least that's how it has felt to me on occasion. One summer, my older son Eli, then 4, got sent home from preschool with a stern note, because the granola bar I'd given him for a snack was made at a factory that processed other products that contain tree nuts. The next day I sent Eli with a plastic baggie full of cheese crackers made by Annie's, the organic pasta company. Their factory stamped out organic macaroni and crackers, I thought—no nuts.

But the father of the boy in the class with the nut allergy wasn't so sure. He asked me to take the crackers home. I'm sure this seemed like a minor concession to him. But to me, it seemed unfair and a little ridiculous. My son and his son didn't sit at the same snack table. They'd never shared food. His son's allergy had never been triggered by airborne particles, and it was no longer particularly serious. And if I couldn't give Eli his crackers, then he wouldn't have a snack. For the second day in a row. So, there was a cost, however small, for doing as asked.

I left the crackers with Eli. They provoked no allergic reaction in his preschool classmate. When I got home that night, I checked the Annie's box. There was the telltale warning: "Produced in a facility that also manufactures products containing peanuts and tree nuts." So, what's the moral of this story—that I'm inconsiderate, or a reasonable risk-taker?

It's hard to justify potentially jeopardizing the health of someone else's child (even if it means your own kid goes a bit hungry). But it would be a lot easier to accommodate allergies graciously if I felt like I could tell the rationally neurotic parent with the extremely allergic kid from the crazy neurotic parent with the slightly allergic one. And I can't....

Now, our readers know that I am a proponent of good communication and education but not of sounding the alarm too loud regarding child food allergies. So, on that front we are in agreement.

What really threw me for a loop was the part about being a "reasonable risk taker". Risk taker? Now, that might apply if it were your own child but not someone else's. Hard to justify is an understatement. Let's see... if that child needed to cross the street alone would you just let them run out without guidance? C'mon, they may or may not get hurt. Of course you wouldn't do that.

Then the comment about getting home, seeing nuts on the snack label and saying "they provoked no allergic reaction in his preschool classmate" almost makes it sound like because he didn't react, the mother can say, "See, I told you this was going overboard." What if the child DID react? Then what would she have said?

I would feel terrible if I knowingly rolled the dice with the safety of someone else's child and lost. It's simply not worth the risk.

Posted by David at 4:54 PM | Comments (1)

September 1, 2006

Arthur and Binky Sign a Deal to Help Food Allergic Kids

Kellie's Candies Nut-Free Confections Signs Licensing Agreement with Marc Brown Studios, Creator of the Childrens Charachter ARTHUR The Aardvark

Martha MacDougall, President and Owner of Kellie’s Candies Nut-Free Confections Inc., announced today their signing of a licensing agreement with Marc Brown Studios of Hingham, MA, creators of the popular children’s television program, Arthur™. The Woburn confectioner will produce nut-free chocolate bars bearing the likenesses of characters created by local author, Marc Brown. Sales of the nut-free bars have already begun at Kellie’s Candies website, www.nutfreecandy.com with proceeds being donated to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) of Alexandria, VA, and other groups that provide food allergy education and awareness programs. Last year, WGBH-TV in association with Marc Brown Studios, produced an episode of the famous cartoon titled “Binky Goes Nuts” where one of the characters, “Binky Barnes” learns he has a life-threatening peanut allergy. Martha MacDougall appears on the show with her daughter Kellie, who is the inspiration for the company and also suffers from a peanut allergy.

Kellie’s Candies Nut-Free Confections is a family owned company, with President Martha MacDougall and her husband, Tim, both of Wilmington, MA, running the daily operations from their new facility in Woburn, MA. All of their confections are nut-free and safe for the more than 3 million Americans with peanut and tree nut allergies. The signing of this licensing agreement with Marc Brown Studios will coincide with the launch of a new web page at www.nutfreecandy.com called “Helping Others” where profits from the sale of these products will be donated to specific charitable organizations. For further information, please contact either Martha or Tim MacDougall at 1-781-569-0601, or by email at info@nutfreecandy.com.

source: SBwire.com

Posted by David at 4:40 PM