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November 30, 2006

Good News Regarding Peanut Allergy Research

This is good news. I recently read a WebMD article about a two-year pilot study conducted by researchers at Duke University and the University of Arkansas regarding gradually introducing food allergens into the diets of children who are highly allergic in an effort to desensitize them.

A study is under way involving children with peanut allergies, which more often trigger potentially life-threatening allergic reactions. I seem to recall similar studies about 5 years ago that were called off due to the death of a subject after being exposed to a miniscual amount of peanut protein. I pray that this research continues to make progress and that all the children are kept safe.

Early findings suggest that this gradual challenge approach increases tolerance to problem foods. At the begining of the peanut allergy study, kids children were given the equivalent of 1/3,000 of a peanut. Within six months, most of the subjects were eating a peanut a day with little reaction.

Researcher A. Wesley Burks, MD is quoted as saying, 'Some children who had allergic reactions to literally a thousandth of a peanut at the beginning of the study had no reaction later on when challenged with 15 peanuts.' Sound like they are making great progress on the food allergy research front and I look forward to further results.

Posted by David at 8:22 AM | Comments (2)

November 29, 2006

Changing of the Guard - When someone new is in charge of your food allergic child

We all know how much work it is to create a safe, well informed environment outside of our home for our children. With regard to child food allergies, sometimes it takes years of education and diligence to get comfortable with our school, our church or our karate studio. So, what happens when there is a changing of the guard, so to speak, at one of these places?

Here's the situation... the person at the top (a principal, a director a studio manager) moves on to greener pastures and a new leader comes in. Maybe this leader is well versed in the dangers of child food allergies, maybe they're not. Maybe they say they know "all about food allergies" and what they know and what you know are two very different things. Maybe they say, "oh, my brother had a peanut allergy when he was a kid, so don't worry about it, I'm very familiar with allergies." What does that mean really?

I'll tell you what it means to me... squat! Look, I'm not excited about having to "re-train" someone, however, I don't take anyone's word for it when they say they know all about children with food allergies. I'm from Missouri when it comes to that... show me. Demonstrate to me that you understand food allergies by asking the right questions of me. How do you deal with menus and cross contamination? Explain to me your specific experiences with a food allergy emergency. Talk to me about the training you've received and how to administer and Epi-pen or Twinject.

A changing of the guard to me is an opportunity to brush up on our communication skills and make sure our epinephrine isn’t expired.

Posted by David at 10:04 AM | Comments (1)

November 28, 2006

Communication During a Food Allergy Reaction

As you may already know, one of our daughters has a pretty severe egg allergy. She had a skin reaction this week that came on pretty sudden and strong (she's not experienced anaphylatic shock from a food allergy reaction). We gave her Benadryl and an oatmeal bath and the reaction subsided. Going through this experience highlighted for us the need to communicate with our child during the reaction.

This turned out to be a pretty mild reaction that we got under control relatively quickly (not as quick as the food allergy reaction kicked in, of course!). Our daughter is 6 years old. She's old enough to tell us exactly how she is feeling and be clear about her symptoms. A few years ago, she would have simply started crying and we would have discovered her condition at a pace in accordance with her volume level. I find we move pretty quickly if the volume level is high and the cause is unclear.

This time, we were able to tell her what was going on and talk her through the meds and the bath treatment. Now, if it were peanut exposure, the situation may have been a bit different - although, I'd like to think our level of communication with her would be similar - especially during an ambulance ride.

It's something to think about. I believe we owe it to evolve our communication style as our kids grow older. Don't they deserve to hear more than just "it's going to be okay, honey"? They deserve to hear more information with regard to what's happening to them and how we are taking care of the situation.

And don't forget the hugs... I believe the size of our hugs need to grow right along with our kids.

Posted by David at 9:14 PM | Comments (1)

November 22, 2006

Extra Baking with Food Allergies for the Holidays

As I sit and write this, my wife and daughter are downstairs filling our home with the wonderful aroma of homemade pumpkin and apple pie. There may even be a spice bread in the works. The smell reminds me of how lucky I am to have a wife who cares so much for the family that just about everything that comes out of the oven in our house is food allergy friendly. I say just about everything because we have different allergies to manage and, even though one of our daughters cannot have eggs, there is an occasional omelet or cake that includes eggs.

Now, when there is a special treat such as a cake, there is always an egg-free version as well. In our home, treats are served with great care to make sure no one feels left out. This means either serving everyone the egg-free cake or baking two different cakes. I must admit, I'm not a huge fan of egg free cakes (I've learned that if you eat them right after they cool down, they are much more palatable). When it comes to cake, I'm not too picky but when my sweetie is willing to put in twice the effort, I am thankful.

I hope your Thanksgiving Holiday is food-allergy-reaction-free and fun!

p.s. I am in charge of the sweet potatoes tomorrow. Let's hope I don't make any rookie mistakes!

Posted by David at 6:20 PM | Comments (2)

November 14, 2006

A Child Food Allergy Thank You

I saw that Anne Munoz-Furlong, CEO and founder of The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), sat down with a local CBS News station for an interview in New York. It reminded me that a big thank you is in order for all the work she's done regarding child food allergies.

No single person has done more for the food allergy cause than Anne Munoz-Furlong. Her efforts started out as a concerned mother's drive to make life safer for her daughter. What it's blossomed into is a substantial organization that has made tremendous progress in keeping all of our food allergic children safe. It has supported and reported on research and lobbied on behalf of kids across the United States.

She has taught us that, as parents, we must balance the need for control with empowering our children to manage their own food allergies and make their own decisions. She has stressed the importance of education - education both of our children and of those who are responsible for our children when we are not around. Educating friends, family, teachers and child care providers about how to manage food allergies has become easier based on her work.

She's also pointed out some of our biggest mistakes. "Parents sometimes let their fear of a reaction cloud their judgment. This gets in the way of communicating with others and eliciting their help and cooperation. They may be perceived as being demanding or unreasonable to those who don't understand the unending stress of managing a food allergy. When we approach food allergies in the spirit of seeking a win-win solution and as "we're all in this together", parents in the community and non-allergic children can help develop creative solutions to keep all children safe. Sometimes we need to remember, and to remind others, that at the end of the day--none of us wants to see a child hurt-working together we can achieve this goal."

About FAAN, the organization Anne founded

FAAN has a number of award-winning educational materials, including cookbooks, videos, books, and booklets to help manage food allergies on a day-to-day basis. FAAN's three websites: www.foodallergy.org, www.fankids.org and www.faanteens.org are chock full of information, resources, links to other organizations and feedback from parents, young children and teens.

Posted by David at 5:33 PM | Comments (0)

Pushy Food Allergy Parents

I just read this article about parents working/fighting with schoold districts about accomodating their food allergic child at school. Folks, this is yet another example of how some parents go overboard in keeping their child safe. Here's some of the scoop...

The article said one parent "is on a mission to get her son’s school, a public primary school... and eventually the entire Vernon School District, to... take the necessary steps to make the district 'peanut free.'" She says, 'I would like the district to ban it... I feel it should be a district ban not just one school.'

Remember the old saying about getting big things done? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I feel that getting a district to ban peanuts is not productive. As you've read here on ChildFoodAllergy.com, research shows that touching traces of peanuts is unlikely to envoke a full blown anaphylactic reaction. So, if a reasonable accomodation, such as peanut free tables, is possible, then why ruffle so many feathers trying to get a district wide ban of all peanut products? It's likely to backfire on you and build more opposition to the child food allergy than support. Remember, for the non food allergic child, peanut butter is an inexpesive and nutritious food. See what another parent wrote in response to the peanut ban request...

'Instead of using valuable time that should be used on educating our children wouldn’t it make more sense to take the time to safeguard your child. If you’re worried about people not knowing, then you need to write letters and call everyone that would have contact with your child, teachers, and support staff alike and make sure they’re aware of this allergy. Your child should be given food from home rather than expecting teachers and other parents to keep your child from these foods. Your child should be wearing gloves to keep from oils being transferred to his skin or if your child is that severely allergic, he should be kept from the public schools and put into a home school environment where you will be able to monitor him 100%.'

And don't dramatize to make your point. This parent was quoted as saying, 'In our district they managed to take all the snacks and vending machines out of the schools because they were unhealthy but yet we have to fight to get something that can kill our children out, it is amazing.' We've talked about this before. If you are trying to garner support to help keep your food allergic child safe, don't use overly dramatic language or examples (remember the peanuts are like a loaded gun comment?). Instead of educating, your simply building walls and pushing other parents away by using this tactic.

Use education, not drama to build support for managing your child's food allery. Raise awareness and provide educational tools to help other people help you.

Posted by David at 4:50 PM | Comments (3)

November 7, 2006

Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover

I clicked through to this article today Ways To Prevent Food Allergies only to find a generic description of food allergies. Yet another reminder that just because its published on the web, doesnt make it good. I was hoping to see some new information based on some research or personal experience. Not so with this author.

So, I decided to look up the author and guess what other articles I found by him?

Health Insurance – Peace Of Mind That Money Can Buy
The Risks Of Getting Your Body Pierced
Learning To Grow Bonsai Trees In Your Garden
Things To Have In Mind When Buying A Toolbox
Choosing The Right Pair Of Gold Earrings For Your Sweetie

Not exactly a food allergy expert. Hey, how about adding some value to the web? Now there's something to write about!

Thanks for letting me vent a little.

Posted by David at 11:00 AM | Comments (2)

November 6, 2006

Island Camping with Child Food Allergies

As you've read before, I camp on a regular basis with my kids. This weekend I took two of my daughters with a large group of dads to Catalina Island, about 25 miles off the coast of Southern California. This is a special trip that my kids alway look forward to. It's also a special trip from the perspective of managing food allergies.

One of my daughters is allergic to eggs and nuts... severely allergic. On this campout, unlike most of our trips, there is a catering service, which sounds like a great benefit to most of the dads but to us it's simply more work. Managing ingredients and the serving process can be a challenge to say the least. However, the staff at Catalina were more than happy to work with us.

We've been to this campsite once before, so at least we knew where to start. Because they were so helpful last time, we were pretty confident in the staff's ability to safely serve our daughter's meals. One phone call plus an email is all it took to kick off the process. I sent a copy of the 1 page flyer that has a picture of my daughter and explains her food allergies in plain and simple terms. Then I followed up with a phone call to Becky, the woman who was running the show, so to speak. She was friendly, understanding, sensitive to our concerns, and open to suggestions. Basically, if it was possible they would do it for us. I spoke to her when we arrived on the island and she sought me out at every meal the rest of the weekend to make sure everything was on track.

Now, I am WELL aware that many kitchen staffs, chefs, managers are not that helpful. If the staff at Catalina would not have been helpful in this situation, we would have taken a different path. I would have filled a cooler with more than enough food for my daughter for the weekend. I would have brought all my own utensils and made sure none of her food came in contact with others'. I would have been more watchdog than dad at that point and it would have taken away some of the fun from the weekend.

Happily, for this campout, we were treated well and my daughter's food allergy taken very seriously. For that I am thankful.

Posted by David at 5:00 PM

November 3, 2006

Eggless Noodle Receipe

Here's a receipe for eggless noodles. Haven't tried it yet but for those with egg allergy, it's probably worth the effort. Check it out here.

These are noodles without egg, rice, corn, margarine or butter. And, I hear, they taste great.

Posted by David at 7:01 AM

November 2, 2006

Another Safe Halloween for Peanut Allergic Kids

Halloween night was a lot of fun. Despite two of our kids having food allergies, we look forward to Halloween. Our kids trick or treat just like every other kid out there. At the end of the night, they dump out there loot and trade with their friends. The trading actually adds to the excitement.

One of our young neighbors asked our oldest (10 yrs old) daughter, "Why do you have so many candies you can't eat?" She replied like a champ by explaining how her body doesn't like those candies and it makes her very sick. The explaination worked for him and they just kept on trading.

So, for those of you who are newly diagnosed and wonder how you will ever get through Halloween with child food allergies, hang in there. You can have as much fun as anyone else.

Posted by David at 8:05 AM | Comments (2)

November 1, 2006

Back from Vacation with Food Allergies

Well, we're back from a week in Palm Springs... what a great time (except for the fires on the horizon, of course).

We went back to an old stand by for dinner, The Yard House. These folks serve great food at moderate prices and are absolutely attentive to child food allergies. (We knew this, that's why we always go back.)

The manager came to our table and explained how they manage food allergies. He said that all managers are required to work in the kitchen at some point so they understand the process. He asked us to tell our server about the allergies. The server marked our order as a food allergy and the kitchen staff is trained on how to prepare the meal.

Long story short, we had a great tasting, safe meal. The Yard House has locations all over the west coast and you can call your local location to talk to the manager about your particular food allergy situation.

Posted by David at 4:54 PM | Comments (2)