February 20, 2008
Bringing Food is a Good Idea
There is so much to remember when dealing with our child’s food allergies. I used to think that if I had the Epi-Pens, I’d be all set. With safety being my number one priority, this was true. But then I was burned a few times when we stayed someplace longer than we thought or there was food in an unexpected place. I’ve lived and learned and now I tend to pack safe snacks everywhere I go with my kids. So no matter where we’re off to, I throw food in a bag.
A couple of years ago we hit some rough weather while flying over the Midwest. We ended up circling over an airport for over 4 hours before we could land! Everyone was miserable, except my kids. I had packed enough food for an emergency meal, thankfully. Many parents were asking me how I thought to bring so much food. I was thinking, how could you not think of it? As food allergies become a way of life for us, some things become routine; and two of my most engrained routines are grabbing the Epi-Pens and packing at least one small, allergy-free snack before we go anywhere!
Below is the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis website's list of reminders.
"Cooking and Dining Dos and Don’ts
• Don’t forget that egg substitutes may contain egg whites; egg replacers do not.
• Do prepare the allergy-free dishes before preparing foods containing allergens, cover them, and keep them separate from the cooking area.
• Do bring a “safe” dish with you when visiting a friend or a relative; he or she will appreciate it, and you’ll rest easier, too.
• Do ask about ingredients and cooking methods used whether you are in a restaurant, friend’s home, or about to serve a dish someone brought to your home.
• Don’t eat “high risk” foods, including desserts, sauces, pastry-covered dishes, and fried foods, when eating away from home.
• Do stock up on key ingredients.
• Do use parchment paper as a liner for your countertops when mixing or blending foods that may cause a reaction. Throw the paper away when you are finished."
February 19, 2008
MedicAlert vs. Medical Alert Wallets
While I was browsing the web for information on child food allergies, I came across a site that sells medical alert wallets. My daughter used to have a MedicAlert bracelet, so I was curious. Here is what I found:
Medical Alert Wallets is a good idea. The company “strives to provide the best products and service to our customers… Medical Alert Wallets provides top-notch quality wallets with a Medical symbol … each Medical Wallet comes with a Medical Information Card, for you to fill out.” It is a wallet with an information card that each individual fills out. While this would be useful in an emergency if somebody actually finds the wallet, do not get it confused with the services from MedicAlert.
MedicAlert builds “on nearly 50 years of experience in protecting and saving lives. MedicAlert's Emergency Response Center handles emergency calls providing instant access to identification and vital information. MedicAlert provides a 24-Hour Emergency Response Center, supported by on-site medical professionals. MedicAlert will relay your vital medical information to emergency personnel.” MedicAlert offers a variety of bracelets and necklaces engraved with a MedicAlert symbol along with their phone number and a patient identification number.
EMS responders recognize the MedicAlert symbol and can call the Response Center to obtain a patient history, i.e. anaphylaxis to nuts, prior allergic reactions, treatment that has worked or not in the past. MedicAlert offers jewelry which is easily spotted by EMS responders; whereas a wallet might not be seen until it is too late.
While both are pretty decent safety precautions, I urge you to do your homework and see what best fits your situation.
If you’re interested, MedicAlert also has a KidSmart program, which “provides comprehensive Kid Smart services that can safeguard and identify your child in an emergency. With a single phone call, emergency response personnel can access medical history and records, protecting your child against potentially adverse treatments or medication conflicts.
The Kid Smart program also ensures that designated family members will be notified should your child, in your absence, require emergency medical treatment. In addition, you have the reassurance that any time a lost child wearing a MedicAlert ID has been located or rescued, MedicAlert will contact you.”
I hope you never need these services, but it’s nice to know what’s available.
February 17, 2008
Kudos for great allergy-free cookies
I have kudos to share for a great allergy-free company! I buy several varieties of Enjoy Life cookies for my daughter with food allergies. The best part for us is that they are free of all of the top allergens, including wheat. They are great to throw in a lunch box or for a treat when others are eating foods that are off limits. Even though they are store bought, they are soft and NOT gritty (as many wheat-free foods are).
Another testimony to these cookies comes from my children without food allergies. Even though they can choose anything to eat, they consistently want the Enjoy Life cookies. Yes, they are that good!!!
February 9, 2008
Valentine's Day lunch exchange
I have more thoughts for keeping our food allergic children safe during Valentine's Day celebrations. One way our teachers have made the day special is by having a secret lunch exchange. Each child fills out a "Favorites for lunch" menu, including a main dish, fruit/veggie, snack (chips, crackers), one small dessert and a drink. And yes, there is a space that asks for food allergies. The kids then secretly draw names. Each child is asked to bring in a lunch prepared with the suggestions from the favorites sheet. The lunches come in homemade, decorated boxes or fancy bags to make it more fun. The kids reveal who their secret lunch person was during lunchtime the day of the party.
The first time I read about this "assignment," I freaked out a bit. We ended up having the teacher draw my child's name so I could provide the lunch. My now sixth grader informs me that she thought it wasn't fair that the teachers always drew her name. So we came up with a better idea. My daughters now put their "Favorites for Lunch" in the drawing with all of the other kids. I write in the space provided for allergies that my daughter has multiple food allergies and I would like the parent to call me (I list my phone number). I tell the parent that I will provide my daughter's lunch in a plain brown paper sack. The teacher can put the brown bag inside the box or bag the child has decorated. Since most of the parents remember the letter about my daughter's allergies from the beginning of the year, they are more than happy to help in this way. And over the years, the other kids end up putting a small, non edible treat in the bag too, as an extra surprise.
I write down my daughter's favorites that she handed in (so I remember what she wrote), then I secretly pack her lunch the morning of the exchange. I staple the brown bag closed and decorate it with a few stickers. I staple it so she knows that what's inside came from our house. I find this is the best way to keep it both a surprise and safe! I'd be paranoid that a child would drop a few pieces of candy in the bag because they felt bad for my daughter. And since my daughter didn't help pack the lunch, she might think that the candy came from home. So if she sees the bag stapled shut in the morning, and it looks the same way at lunch, then she can eat the food without worries.
I set it up with the teacher that she puts my daughter's lunch bag inside the decorated box form the child who drew her name. That way she still gets to participate in the fun of guessing who had her name and the other child still has the chance to decorate a bag.
It works out well and has taken away the stress and worry.
February 7, 2008
Pencil grams for school Valentine's Day celebrations
As parents of children with food allergies, doesn't it feel like there is always a party or event at school that involves food? Valentine's Day is no different. At our elementary school, there have been a couple of fun ways to celebrate the day that seem manageable to those of us concerned with food allergies. Our school used to offer candy grams, where kids could pay 25 cents to send their friend a written note with a little piece of candy. I used to dread these, knowing full well that I had no control over what candy would be given to my child. With an increased awareness of food allergies, and health of children in general, our school now offers pencil grams. So the kids can still send their friends notes, but now, instead of a piece of candy, the note comes attached to a Valentine's Day pencil.
Here's how it works: the Student Council sets up tables during recess and lunch the week before Valentine's Day. They have small pieces of paper xeroxed with space for the child's name, teacher's name and a special message. Kids can purchase one pencil gram for 25 cents. They then write their friend a note in the space provided. The Student Council then organizes the pencil grams by class, attaches each note to a pencil and on Valentine's Day, distributes the pencil grams to the appropriate classes.
We also encourage parents to send their child a pencil gram so that all kids get to share in the fun of the event. Everyone has fun and there is no food involved!!!
February 5, 2008
Valentine's Day Tips
While browsing the web for kids with food allergies, I found a well-written to do list for your child's school Valentine's Day party. In a nut shell, it recommends that you attend the party, bring your child's treat, communicate with the teacher and even other parents about the food allergy and afterwards, make sure you thank those who helped keep your child safe.
As my kids get older, I don't feel the need to attend every school party anymore. I of course still plan ahead and take all the same precautions. I like to foster my child's independence in a relatively controlled environment; that is, with a teacher who is very aware of the allergies and has been managing them at school all year. I figure as my kids get older and go off to junior high and high school, they will need to know how to handle their own allergies. So practicing in elementary school makes sense.
For my second grader with food allergies, I send in a treat bag with popular but safe Valentine's Day candy (so she feels like she can eat the same candies as the other kids). I also find out what the main treat will be (usually a cookie or cupcake), and I send in something similar. If the kids will be doing their own decorating, I send my daughter in with frosting (and a plastic knife or spoon to spread it with), sprinkles and candies of her own. She knows not to eat anything else at the party, and when she gets home, we go through the candy and treats together. I usually have a small stash of treats she really likes, so I have something to give her when she trades in unsafe candy.
As for my sixth grader, she is totally independent at school now. I usually make her favorite treat (brownies) for her to bring to school. For Valentine's Day, I also give her some candy hearts since that's a popular candy. Then she makes her own decisions at the party. If there is a treat that has ingredients, she'll read them and determine if it's safe to eat. She never eats homemade or bakery treats because that's been drilled into her head since before she could talk!
This works well for our family and we no longer feel stressed out when it is party time at school!