December 18, 2008

An Interesting Editorial about Peanut Allergy

I just read an interesting editorial on the "War On Peanuts." Here's an excerpt: "Officials [in North Carolina] recently sent letters home to parents asking that they no longer pack peanut-butter sandwiches or cookies in their kids' lunches." They go on to say, "We're all for keeping kids free of lethal food reactions. But in the case of peanuts there appears to be an overreaction. Some parents have even gone out and bought peanut-detector dogs for their kids....CDC data show food allergy deaths are extremely rare, with peanut-related deaths almost nonexistent." They claim that although the numbers are increasing, overall, the percentage of children with true food allergies still isn't that big. The author continues, "Punishing other kids for such an extreme minority is, well, nuts. The health benefits of peanuts to the other 99% far outweigh the risks."

Ten years ago, when my child was first diagnosed with food allergies, I would have been livid reading this editorial. The author is too flippant about food allergies. When my daughter was first diagnosed, I thought peanuts should be banned from all of her environments, including daycare and extended family's homes. The information I had at the time paralyzed me with fear. Now that we've lived with food allergies for awhile, I have a different perspective. Peanuts are a part of everyday life, and isn't it my job as a parent to help my children learn how to manage their food allergy in everyday life? I can't control their environment forever, but I can equip them with common sense about food safety.

Reading this editorial actually made me feel kind of embarrassed. Was I the parent who completely overreacted? Did I make people think that I needed a peanut-detector dog? (if there is even such a thing!) I wish I had my perspective now back when my child was first diagnosed. I'd be a little more relaxed but still vigilant. I'd educate and work as partners with people instead of request a removal of all peanut products.

I still feel strongly that I am doing a lot of things right to keep my children safe and teach them how to manage their own allergies. I wonder though if in another ten years, I'll look back again and wonder if I should have done things a little differently. This is where it's helpful to band together with other parents dealing with child food allergies. We can lend perspective to those who have a more recent diagnosis, and we can learn from those more veteran than us. It feels better to know that we're not alone!

Posted by Ann Marie at 1:25 PM | Comments (1)

July 19, 2007

This May Hurt A Little - A Story of an Anaphylactic Reaction

I found an interesting and somewhat entertaining article online from The Independent, a UK based news site. I think you will appreciate it. Double splendid.

What's behind the rise in allergic reactions?

Steve Rowland didn't even have any allergies. Then an anaphylactic attack nearly killed him. Severe reactions like his are on the rise in Britain - so what's causing them?

Plenty of other things could have killed me over the years: stress, high blood pressure, liver disease due to heavy drinking, injuries sustained in misjudged pub fights due to heavy drinking, my wife garnishing my food with shards of glass due to my heavy drinking. But not this - surely I couldn't be dying from an allergic reaction? Bar hay fever, I had never shown intolerance towards any-thing. In fact, I had always had a slight disdain for people who said they were allergic to wheat or milk or peanuts or shellfish. Yet here I was in A&E, with a nurse massaging my thigh, preparing it for a shot of adrenalin two hours after I had been eating cockles. I had a steroid drip in one arm and an oxygen mask on.

"This may hurt a little."

"Uhthonemine," I said, meaning I don't mind. Speaking properly had become a problem: my tongue was several times its usual size and my lips had taken over my face, which was decorated in an exotic-looking rash. It took immense concentration and will to swallow...

read the entire article

Posted by David at 2:34 PM

January 10, 2007

Time Magazine article on Food Allergies

Allergies at the Dinner Table

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)

October 16, 2006

Trust Your Instincts

Instinct seems to be what drives our decisions these days when it comes to managing our children's food allergies. If we are presented with a social opportunity, we can pretty quickly gauge the difficulty of providing a safe situation for our daughters. If we are out for dinner and our requests are met with hesitation and the manager or chef isn't available, we simply won't take the risk, we'll walk.

Why is this? Well, simply stated, 9 years experience of keeping our girls safe has honed our intuition when it comes to managing child food allergies. And by safe we don't mean sheltered.

Our kids travel on planes across country on an annual basis. We camp with a large group (with shared meals) 6-8 times per year. School field trips are part of the routine (yes, they attend public schools). We go to sporting events (the Globe Trotters are still entertaining) and the girls play on soccer teams.

I don't list these things to brag (although I'm always glad to talk about my kids), I list them for those newly diagnosed families that are feeling frightened about what the future holds for their kids. You can manage this thing and your kids will learn along the way to how to keep themselves safe. And special occassion and events will call for a little extra attention but won't make your child feel excluded - if you just trust your instincts.

Posted by David at 2:17 PM

June 6, 2006

Could I have a Food Allergy? Don't diagnose yourself.

We've met many people who, after hearing about our children's life threatening food allergies, say "Yeah, I am allergic to ____." Then of course we ask, "Well, do you carry an Epi-Pen?" And most respond, "What's that?" Oh my.

If you develop symptoms shortly after eating a specific food, you may have sensitivity or a full-blown food allergy. Some symptoms may include hives, swelled lips, and wheezing. In severe reactions, you may have low blood pressure and a swollen throat.

We advise never trying to deliberately cause a reaction by eating a food that you may be allergic to. Food introduction tests should only be done under the supervision of a qualified medical professional.

The food causing the allergy can be identified by:

> Food elimination diets.

> Skin tests by an allergist.

> A blood test to identify elevated antibody levels.

Again, seek the advice of a competent professional rather than self diagnosis.

Posted by David at 1:46 PM

May 15, 2006

New at home Food Allergy Test Kit Available

The latest advancement in the screening for food allergy, food intolerance and Celiac Disease is available through US-based Optimum Health Resource Laboratories. With an estimated 70-80% of the world's chronically ill population suffering from medical conditions either caused and/or aggravated by immune responses to foods, it is anticipated that for many these laboratory innovations will be the key to gaining optimal health.

"Our collection kits are a convenient, reliable and cost-effective method for an individual or medical professional to identify the hidden culprits behind many chronic ill-health conditions of unknown origin. Additionally, our collection kits can be administered in the comfort of one's home or at a doctor's office," says John Kernohan, Director of Optimum Health Resource Laboratories.

For food allergy and food intolerance, a unique collection kit is used by simply pricking the end of the finger to collect the tiny sample of blood required for testing. According to Charlotte Newbury, Optimum Health Resource Laboratories' Operations Manager, "The absorbent pad safely preserves the specimen until it reaches the laboratory, which is then tested against 96 foods. In addition to the results and a 48-page support program we produce for the patient, we also include 12 months of telephone and Internet support at no additional cost!"

"For Celiac Disease, our kit detects the antibodies associated with CD and gluten intolerance by displaying results within 10 minutes of collecting the blood - there is no need to send the specimen to the laboratory for analysis," states Kernohan.

For further information about Optimum Health Resource Laboratories and its kits for food allergy, food intolerance and Celiac Disease, visit or contact John Kernohan at (888) 751-3388 or


Posted by David at 2:04 AM

May 8, 2006

Does my child really have a food allergy?

According to the American Dietetic Association, only about 2 percent of Americans have a real food allergy. Yet, so many more think the have a food allergy.

Many symptoms of food allergy can be uncomfortable. But sometimes they can be severe, or life-threatening. Depending on the culprit, a true food allergy, requires you to do a little investigating.

If you think your child may have a food allergy, see your pediatrician first. Make sure you are prepared for the visit. Here are some things you will want to bring to your visit:

1) Keep track of events. Record your child's symptoms and what he/she ate or drank before they occurred. Also, note times and settings.

2) Write down your family history. Does anyone else have food allergies? Often there are family connections. Even though neither of us has food allergies, we definitely have connections in our families... both from Mom and Dad's side.

3) Record the bigger picture. Does anything else bring the symptoms out? Be very specific. Going outside in the spring? Traveling to the mountains or desert? Hard physical activity?

Now, a final word about those early days of diagnosis. Many pediatricians are not fully up to speed on diagnosing food allergies. You will want to see an allergist to fully understand the situation. Our experience is that there is still a fair amount of art to this science of child food allergies. Be prepared for a lot of learning about allergies, your child and your doctors.

Posted by David at 8:14 AM

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 15, 2006

Peanut Allergy article - a good overview

Although a bit dated, here is a pretty good article from 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

December 11, 2005

Food Allergies and Anaphylactic Shock

Some food allergies can create a very serious reaction referred to as Anaphylactic Shock. Anaphylactic Shock is a medial emergency where symptoms may include a feeling of impending doom, warmth or flush, tingling of the palm of hands or lips, faintness, bloating and chest tightness. This condition can progress into seizures, respiratory distress and even shock.

If you've seen Anaphylactic Shock in progress, you'll never forget it - it's a scary situation. THIS is why we take such great care of children who have severe food allergies.

Posted by David at 7:20 PM

December 5, 2005

Breastfeeding and Infant Food Allergies

In most cases, the best nutrition for an infant is from the mother, via breast milk. Breast milk contains antibodies that help protect the baby from infections and reduces the possibility of future allergies.

That said, since the protein from cow’s milk can cross into breast milk, it’s possible for breast-fed infants to have symptoms of a cow’s milk allergy. The mother can eliminate all natural dairy products from her diet and adds alternative supplements. Keep in mind, an infant could also react to formula. Ask your pediatrician to prescribe one specifically for your child. Most allergists will recommend that infants with milk allergy stay away from dairy for 2 years. Then small amounts of milk can be reintroduced into the child's diet with doctor supervision.

Posted by David at 8:22 AM

December 4, 2005

Most Common Food Allergies & Finding Help

The most common food allergens are not always the biggest problem. According to the AAAAI, six foods cause almost all food allergy reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat and tree nuts.

Not all reactions are anaphylactic. Reactions may include diarrhea, vomiting, colic, abdominal pain, constipation, bronchitis, asthma, sneezing, coughing, eczema, hives, excessive crying, sweating, sleeplessness, and headache.

When our 3rd child was 6 months old, she spent many a night screaming and we had no idea why. Turns out she was allergic to milk and, because she was breastfed, was getting that milk via mom's diet. Make sure you get proper medical care and advice. Our family doc at the time was not that well educated on child food allergies.

Our experience is that your family practitioner is not enough, you need a specialist. Find a recommended allergist in your area and develop a good relationship. Your allergist can be a trusted advisor through the many trials and tribulations of raising a child with severe food allergies.

Posted by David at 8:20 AM | Comments (1)

December 3, 2005

Growing out of child food allergies?

According to the Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 80-85% of kids allergic to eggs, milk, and soy outgrow the reaction by the age of 10. When it comes to peanut allergy, the fact is that only about 20% of children grow out of them.

An allergist can test your child, and if the reaction levels are high, then he/she can be rechecked a year later. If the allergist's test shows that your child has no, or even low, antibody levels for a particular allergen, then YOUR DOCTOR can introduce the food right there in the office. That way if your child reacts to the food, he/she will be in the very good hands of a professional.

Posted by David at 10:11 AM

October 17, 2005

Child Food Allergies and Autism

I just read an article about a parent whose child has autism and how it relates to his child's food allergies. I admit, I know very little about autism outside of some personal relationships with parents whose child has it. The article said that managing food allergies had made a huge difference in the child's disorder and his pediatrician failed to recognize.

The parent had his child checked for food allergies and the result was a long list of problem foods. Gluten and casin turned out to be the major offenders and resulted in a intestinal disorder which triggered problems in his behavior as well.

The writer goes on to say, "There are thousands of parents of children with autism who had or still have no idea that a simple change in diet could make a world of difference." He suggests seeing an allergist, nutritionist and a gastroenterologist. So, if behavioral problems persist, you may want to take this advice.

Posted by David at 7:30 PM