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January 29, 2007

Crazy food allergy solutions

So, have you heard about the "simple test" you can do if you think you have a food allergy? Here's how it theory goes... if you suspect that you are allergic to a specific food, record your pulse rate after consuming the food in question, then wait fifteen minutes and take your pulse again. If your pulse rate has increased more than ten beats per minute, then you are allergic.

Are you kidding me? In this day and age, with all the information available regarding the dangers of food allergies, some people actually think this is a good idea? Once again, I just shake my head and hope that the people who do this sort of thing do it to themselve and not their kids.

Anybody else hear of crazy food allergy "solutions"?

Posted by David at 5:41 PM | Comments (2)

January 19, 2007

More Ideas for a Food Allergy Safe School Environment

Here are a few more ideas to think about for a safe school environment for your child with a severe peanut allergy.

> Establish a peanut free zone. Identify a table or two in the cafeteria or classroom where not peanut products are allowed. Mark the zone with brightly colored signs.

> Ask that no peanut butter sandwiches or other foods with peanut derivatives are sold in the cafeteria of schools where students are allergic. Other kids can pack peanut butter in their lunch, they just cannot eat in the peanut free zone.

> Have a special sticker, color, or symbol identifying a food allergy on the student's identification card. Make it eye catching enough so that a bored cafeteria worker doesnt just plop down some food item on your child's plate without thinking.

> Practice potentially unsafe situations with your child. Walk through actions that could accidently expose them to peanut products. Help he/she learn how to stay safe. It will raise his/her confidence and your level of comfort when he/she is at school.

Posted by David at 5:11 AM

January 14, 2007

Banning Peanuts Due to Allergies is Not the Answer

If you have been reading our blog for awhile, you know that we try to take a reasonable, practical approach to managing our childrens' food allergies. Every time I hear about parents demanding a "peanut free" school environment for their kids, I just shake my head.

The concept of a peanut-free school gives a false sense of security.
It leads people to believe that the because the environment is "peanutfree," no exposure could happen. And when it does happen, it leaves the adults responsible for a child a bit... well, flat footed. "Is this really a reaction? Should we give the Epi-pen? Maybe we should wait." The result could be disasterous.

How would you really enforce a ban on peanuts in a situation where other kids bring their own lunch or snack? Peanut police? I can hear the radio chatter now... "Ah, that's a 10-4 there, we've got a 10-28 here in sector 15. It's time to move in."

Further, the concept of telling another parent that they cannot feed their children peanut butter at school is just asking for a fight. You want other parents to understand your child's food allergy and want to help. Telling a parent what his/her child cannot have doesn't exactly envoke a spirit of cooperation. Your goal should be to work with the school staff to raise awareness and provide education about food allergies and the truth about anaphylaxis.

So what could you do that is a bit more practical? Take common-sense measures to minimize the risks and to keep your child from feeling isolated. Asking for peanut-free tables in classrooms and the cafeteria is a good start. Most importantly is training school staff how to recognize a reaction and how to administer the Epi-pen in an emergency. That usually starts with the school nurse.

Also, you'll need to spend some time at the school. Look for new risk factors like the peanut free table being wiped with the same cloth that was just used to wipe down the other tables. Suggest a different color cloth (bright, easy to remember) and maybe even go out and buy them for the school.

Make sure any notes sent home to parents asking them not to send food containing peanuts is written with a concerned but not panicked tone. People don't really go out of their way to help "that mom."

And please show sincere appreciation to teachers and the school's staff for their efforts. They are your eyes and ears when you can't be there. Your child's safety at school depends on them.

Posted by David at 8:00 AM | Comments (3)

January 10, 2007

Time Magazine article on Food Allergies

Allergies at the Dinner Table
source: Time.com

For children with food allergies and their parents, an allergy isn't just a medical condition, it's a psychologically taxing way of life

Stuffing. Candied yams. Baked ham. And lots of cakes and cookies. For most of us, the holidays are largely about food, and that s what makes them so enjoyable. But for families with food-allergic children, the holidays are all about food—and that's what makes them so terrifying.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology estimates that 6 to 8% of children suffer from severe food allergies, and though no one can agree on exactly why, the number of young sufferers has grown significantly over the past couple of decades. Nearly 90% are caused by milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish or tree nuts. On January 1, a federal law took effect requiring food labels to state clearly whether a product contains any one of those main eight culprits. But significant difficulties—not necessarily medical—remain. A food allergy diagnosis has a tremendous impact on the psychological wellbeing of the entire family, says Anne Muñoz-Furlong, founder and CEO of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), a nonprofit patient advocacy group.

The holidays are especially difficult, says Remi Hahn, whose 4-year-old daughter Olivia is severely allergic to dairy, eggs, mustard and sesame. The most stressful thing is the lack of control, Hahn says. One undetected wrong morsel and her daughter could be on her way to the hospital.

Several hospitals around the country are in the process of developing psychiatric programs specifically for families with food allergies. According to Anaphylaxis: How Do You Live With It?, a 2005 article in Health and Social Work, coping with a child who has a severe allergy is similar to dealing with a chronic disease. In a study of 17 families with children with anaphylaxis, the authors describe the profound psychosocial impact on parents of knowing an illness can cause death. "I was completely shocked and surprisingly emotional," says Stefanie Jones, who burst into tears when daughter Darby was diagnosed four months ago with egg, milk, wheat, and peanut allergies. "I realized I'm going to have that weird kid at the party with the dairy-free, prune juice cookies."

Children, of course, bear the brunt. "The emotional toll is huge," says Muñoz-Furlong. "It tends to wear them down, particularly after they have a reaction." Some children lose the ability to trust people. They may want to stay home all the time within a controlled environment. If they have a reaction at home, they may become afraid that even their parents can't control the allergy. Others are fearful of food or develop eating disorders. They might become hypochondriac, phobic, or suffer from panic attacks or post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Many see counselors who teach them relaxation tips and how to speak up about their allergies.

For Jill Mindlin, watching her 5-year-old daughter suffer—more times than any parent should—through an anaphylactic reaction to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, or seeds is torture because she sees the effect it has on Maya. One of the symptoms of food allergy is dread, Mindlin explains. She knows something is very wrong and literally tries to jump out of skin. It's unbearable to watch. As a result, Maya tends to shut down around food and new people. Some of Maya's first words, her mother says, were "Read the 'gredients."

And that's just what her daughter goes through. To cope with her own stress, Mindlin not only founded a local support group, she attends allergy conferences and lobbies local and state governments to protect food-allergic kids in school. One parent in Mindlin's support group had to ask the principal to intervene when kids at her child's elementary school were bullying her son, chasing him around the schoolyard with peanut butter.


Posted by David at 1:02 AM | Comments (2)

January 7, 2007

A Small town takes big steps in protecting kids with food allergies

I just read the article about a small town school system in MA that adopted a new policy, spelling out procedures for dealing with students who have severe food allergies. The school officials realize that food allergies can be life-threatening and will follow plans laid out in the policy.

Here are the highlihts of the policy:

School nurses will be responsible for forming individual health care plans for students that would include warning signs, types of allergen, emergency care and medications to be administered.

The nurses and parents or guardians must sign the individual health care plans, which will include documentation from physicians spelling out the medication needed.

Teachers, coaches and those running programs after school will be provided with copies of these plans.

Parents and guardians are responsible for obtaining orders for medications, such as epinephrine, and for any changes to a student's medical protocols.

For better identification, parents must provide three copies of photographs of the students to be distributed not only to the school but to bus drivers.

Parents and guardians must also supply these students with a medical alert bracelet or chain for identification.

Other precautions include requiring students with severe food allergies to sit in the front section on school buses and having teachers notify nurses at least two weeks in advance of any field trips so arrangements may be made.

This seems like a pretty good approach and something other parents can borrow when talking to their local school officials.

Posted by David at 7:50 AM

January 4, 2007

Peanut allergy growing concern in schools

source: The Times-Herald

To many youngsters, a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich is an all-American part of growing up.

For some of their friends, the same sandwich is potentially deadly. Approximately three million people in the United States have an allergy to peanuts or peanut products, according to Julie Campbell, founder and president of the Illinois Food Allergy Education Association.

Some 12 million Americans have some type of food allergy. Allergies to peanuts are among the most common. "It's one of the most fatal food allergies," according to statistics, Campbell said.

Peanut allergies have the attention of local school officials. Coweta School Superintendent Blake Bass said there are 132 students in the Coweta County School System who are allergic to peanuts or peanut products.

"We are working with each one of them," he said.

"Allergies to peanuts can be very serious — and to other things, too," said Smith Pass, a longtime school board member who has served as chairman of the board's safety committee. Pass said the system got an e-mail from a parent thanking the local schools for their efforts on behalf of students with peanut allergies.

Sally Millians, who directs the school nurse program, "is working with these schools and with these students and parents," Bass said.

The process includes educating other students about the dangers, involving parents and teachers in working on plans for dealing with any problem and sending a letter to all parents in the school.

"We're asking that they not send peanut products to school, but if they do, to make sure they're labeled," Bass said.

"We've gone as far as making sure there's a peanut-free zone in the school where they can eat their lunch," Bass said. Bass said teachers who have students with such allergies are also trained in using an epinephrine pen which can be used in an emergency.


Posted by David at 7:42 AM

January 3, 2007

Treatment just a few bites away?

Food allergy treatment may be a few bites away
source: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON— Elizabeth White’s first encounter with peanuts — a nibble of a peanut butter cracker at age 14 months — left the toddler gasping for breath. Within minutes, her airways were swelling shut.

A mere fifth of a peanut was enough to trigger an allergic reaction.

So it was with trepidation that her parents enrolled Elizabeth, at 4 1/2 , in a groundbreaking experiment: Could eating tiny amounts of the very foods that endanger them eventually train children’s bodies to overcome severe food allergies?

It just may work, suggest preliminary results from a handful of youngsters allergic to peanuts or eggs — and who, after two years of treatment, seem protected enough that an accidental bite of the forbidden foods is no longer a huge threat.

Now 7, Elizabeth can safely tolerate the equivalent of seven peanuts. For the first time, the Raleigh, N.C., girl is allowed to go on play dates and to birthday parties without her parents first teaching the chaperones to use an EpiPen, a shot of epinephrine that can reverse a life-threatening reaction.

“Our whole worry level is really gone.”

Don’t try this experiment on your own, warns lead researcher Dr. A. Wesley Burks of Duke University Medical Center. Children in the study are closely monitored for the real risk of life-threatening reactions.

But if the work pans out — and larger studies are beginning — it would be a major advance in the quest to at least reduce severe food allergies that trigger 30,000 emergency-room visits and kill 150 people a year.

“I really think in five years there’s going to be a treatment available for kids with food allergy,” says Burks.

Millions of Americans suffer some degree of food allergy, including 1.5 million with peanut allergy, considered the most dangerous type. Even a whiff of the legume is enough to trigger a reaction in some patients.

Moreover, food allergies appear to be on the rise. Peanut allergy in particular is thought to have doubled among young children over the past decade, prompting schools to set up peanut-free cafeteria zones or ban peanut-containing products.

There’s no way to avoid a reaction other than avoiding the food, something the new research aims to change.

Allergies to pollen and other environmental triggers often are treated with shots called immunotherapy. A series of injections containing small amounts of the allergen builds up patients’ tolerance, reducing or even eliminating symptoms in many people.

Shots proved too dangerous for food allergy. So Burks and colleagues at Duke and the University of Arkansas developed an oral immunotherapy.

Here’s how it worked: First, youngsters spent a day at the Duke hospital swallowing minuscule but increasing doses of either an egg powder egg or a defatted peanut flour, depending on their allergy. They started at 1/3,000th of a peanut or about 1/1,000th of an egg, increasing the amount until the child broke out in hives or had some other reaction.

Then the children were sent home with a daily dose just under that reactive amount. Every two weeks, the kids returned for a small dose increase until they reached the equivalent of a tenth of an egg or one peanut — a maintenance dose that they swallowed daily.

After two years, four of the seven youngsters in the egg pilot study could eat two scrambled eggs with no problem, and two more ate about as much before symptoms began, researchers report in the January edition of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

In the peanut pilot study, yet to be published, six of the children challenged so far could tolerate 15 peanuts, Burks says; Elizabeth’s limit was seven.

“We thought it would make some difference. We’re surprised about the amount of difference it made,” says Burks. “From one peanut to 15 peanuts is basically a huge difference.”

But will it last? more

Posted by David at 7:38 AM