Food Allergy Living Blog Tagged Results


food allergic reaction

How many EpiPens® should your child have on hand?

Posted 6.28.11 | Rob McCandlish, RDN

While we usually write about common food allergy symptoms, such as diarrhea or eczema, more severe reactions like anaphylaxis are possible for many children and adults with allergies. Allergens that cause anaphylaxis include food, insect stings, drugs, latex, and even exercise.  When anaphylaxis happens as a result of contact with an allergen, a rapid immune reaction occurs that can quickly make breathing very difficult.  For those patients an immediate injection of epinephrine can prevent very serious complications.  Sometimes even the few minutes it takes emergency medical care to arrive is too long, and a personal device with automated injectable epinephrine, an auto-injector, such as the EpiPen® Auto-Injector, is essential.

The EpiPen, made by Dey Pharma, works by delivering a quick shot of epinephrine to the thigh.  There are also similar devices available, such as the Adrenaclick® and TwinJect®, both made by Shionogi Inc. Twinject is unique in that it has a built-in backup dose of epinephrine, which can take the place of two auto-injectors in an emergency.

Epinephrine helps the body to keep the airway open so that breathing does not become as difficult, allowing time for emergency medical care to arrive. But many parents worry that one auto-injector might not be enough or that something might go wrong that could require additional auto-injectors. For instance, someone nearby might experience a severe allergic reaction and need to use your child’s auto-injector. Or what if your child’s only auto-injector was unknowingly broken? What if the auto-injector were accidentally put in the fridge or left in the sun? What if the contents were cloudy? Or if it had expired? So many scary possibilities!

So, what is the right number of auto-injectors? The answer to that question depends on a number of factors. Bear in mind that the Twinject has two doses of epinephrine, but according to the company the second dose should only be used as a backup to the first dose and should not be saved for future allergy emergencies.

How Many to Carry?

On their websites, Dey Pharma and Shionogi recommend that patients at risk for allergic emergencies carry two doses of epinephrine. This is because up to 20% of patients who have an allergic emergency requiring epinephrine will require a second dose. At all times the injector should be kept close to room temperature, out of sunlight, and replaced by the expiration date. You can even sign up for an expiration date reminder on either of the websites. It’s a good idea to occasionally check the solution in the auto-injector to make sure it hasn’t discolored, which can be a sign of a possible loss of effectiveness.

If a long trip is planned, especially one overseas where similar products may not be readily available in pharmacies; two auto-injectors (or one that contains two doses) may not be enough.

Should you or your child carry more than two auto-injectors? Not necessarily. Additional backups would likely be for peace of mind. A second dose of epinephrine may be needed in an emergency, but more than two doses during an emergency should only be given with medical supervision. Some caregivers choose to carry two auto-injectors from different lots for added precaution.

Multiple Locations

Some patients who use auto-injectors prefer to carry the standard two with them and also keep backup injectors in one or more strategic locations. These might include an extra one or two at work, school, daycare, and/or a relative’s house. These are great because they can serve as backup in case someone forgets their daily go-everywhere auto-injectors. Just make sure you follow the recommended storage instructions everywhere you keep an auto-injector and check your backups for discoloration and expiration dates. Knowing that you have extra auto-injectors in places like this, in addition to the daily carry-with auto-injectors you have, may bring you more comfort.

How about you? How many auto-injectors does your family keep on hand, and where? Please share your thoughts in the comment section of this blog post.

- Rob

 

 


Experts Say When in Doubt, Emergency Teams Should Use Epinephrine

Posted 10.1.15 | Nutrition Specialist

In a recent article published by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), a panel of allergy experts and emergency physicians advise that emergency medicine teams should administer epinephrine to any patient they suspect is experiencing an allergic reaction.  This challenges previous recommendations that the decision to use epinephrine should be weighed more carefully.

Epinephrine is considered by doctors to be the first line of defense in an episode of anaphylaxis, or a life-threatening allergic reaction. In the past, medical teams might have hesitated to administer epinephrine to patients unless the patient’s reaction met multiple criteria. Now, experts are looking at it a different way.

“The consequences for not using epinephrine when it’s needed are much more severe than using it when it might not be necessary,” said Stanley Fineman, MD, ACAAI.

Fineman and fellow panel members also say epinephrine should be given to patients at risk of an anaphylactic reaction.  At-risk patients are those who have had a previous severe reaction, or those who have ingested a food known to trigger an allergic reaction. Emergency medicine teams should administer epinephrine regardless of whether symptoms are apparent.

Additional key recommendations to emergency medical teams include:

  • When in doubt, administer epinephrine.
  • Epinephrine, in appropriate doses, is safe, and there are no absolute contradictions for its use in treating anaphylaxis.
  • It is not necessary for the established medical criteria to be met to administer epinephrine.
  • Patients treated in the emergency setting for anaphylaxis or for severe allergic reactions, or those who are at risk of a future event should be provided with a prescription for epinephrine autoinjectors and an action plan for their use before discharge from the hospital.
  • Patients should be referred to an allergist to assist with diagnosis confirmation, trigger identification, and continued outpatient management.
  • Use epinephrine as the first-line therapy for anaphylaxis, for severe allergic reactions, and for mild symptoms following a suspected exposure to a trigger that has previously caused a serious allergic reaction.

As a caregiver, what should you do?

Watching someone close to you have a severe allergic reaction is scary, and preparing in advance is the best thing you can do. Put an action plan in place today, and start by talking to your healthcare team to get their guidance on how to handle suspected allergic reactions. Make sure anyone involved in caring for your loved one also knows the plan. If you believe that your loved one may be experiencing an episode of anaphylaxis, don’t hesitate to use epinephrine and call 9-1-1. For more information, you can read the full publication here.


Non-GMO and Neocate

Posted 11.9.11 | Christine Graham-Garo


A question we are getting more and more from parents is whether Neocate uses ingredients from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The answer to that is ‘No’! To be REALLY specific, Neocate ingredients are certified by suppliers to be non-genetically modified through the use of modern biotechnology, compliant with EC regulations 1829/2003 & 1830/2003 (those are European regulations).

GMO ingredients are ingredients from a food item (or even an animal) derived from a food crop that has been altered in some way using genetic engineering. Many food manufacturers or distributors in the United States have not commented on the GMO status of the ingredients used in their products. It's important to note that many scientists and healthcare professionals do not see GMO ingredients as a big concern. Genetic modification can be thought of in many cases as a speeding up of the traditional process of plant or animal breeding, and has done wonders to increase crop yields over the past several decades to help alleviate world hunger.

Research on the use of GMO ingredients is relatively new and is finding to be controversial.   

One of the main concerns of using GMO ingredients and/or foods in our community is that the altered ingredient or food item may contain new allergenic substances due to the introduction of new and different genes. In fact, a proposal to incorporate a gene from Brazil nuts into soybeans was abandoned because of the fear of causing unexpected allergic reactions.1  This concern holds the most weight with scientists in regards to possible human health risks in using GM foods and ingredients. 

Another concern is that genetic engineering often involves the use of antibiotic-resistance genes as "selectable markers" and that this could speed the development of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains that are resistant to available antibiotics we have today.2  

Other research looks to the potential benefits of GMO food items as they may help to decrease hunger and starvation to millions because GMO crops can produce better yields, and can be more resistant to drought or pests.

The labeling of GMO foods is also a hot topic. There is much debate as to whether companies should be required to label that a food has GMO ingredients or not. This is an ongoing debate and we will have to wait and see what comes of it. If consumers show preference for GMO labeled foods over non-labeled foods, then industry will have the incentive to regulate itself or risk losing the customer.

Because this is still being investigated, more will have to be studied to understand the true implications of GM ingredients. But for the time being, we hope that the information we provide about the ingredients used in Neocate products is helpful.

- Christine

1. Identification of a Brazil-nut allergen in transgenic soybeans New England Journal of Medicine, Vol 334, No 11, pp 688-692, 1996).
2. Bakshi A (2003). "Potential adverse health effects of genetically modified crops". J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev 6 (3): 211–25.


Cross Contamination: Safety Tips for Those with Food Allergies

Posted 2.2.12 | Mallory West

Cross contamination is a big concern among food allergy sufferers.  According to Kids with Food Allergies, cross contamination can be defined as “a food being inadvertently contaminated with food proteins other than those listed on the food label during the course of its being prepared, stored or served”.

During Manufacturing and Production:

One way that cross contamination may occur is during the manufacturing of a food. For example, when a safe food is manufactured on the same equipment as an unsafe food, there is a chance for trace amounts of the unsafe food to end up in the safe food. For those with food allergies, even trace amounts of an allergen can lead to serious allergic reactions.

Although the Food Allergen Labeling and consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) requires manufacturers to clearly list the top 8 allergens on the food label, this rule does not account for cross contamination. Sometimes you will see “may contain (allergen)” or “made in a facility that also produces (allergen)” on a label but the manufacturers are not required to list this information. If you have any doubts, call the manufacturers and ask about the possibility of cross contamination. If your child’s allergies are severe and the manufacturer can’t guarantee it is safe, its probably not worth the risk.

By the way, this is why we are proud to say that Neocate is the only amino acid-based infant formula prepared in a 100% milk-free manufacturing site, eliminating the risk for cross contamination!

At Home:

Cross contamination can also happen in your home. Kids with Food Allergies provides some helpful tips on minimizing this risk: http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/resourcespre.php?id=65.

Eating Out:

Eating out can be intimidating for those with food allergies because you have less control over how foods are handled and efforts to minimize cross contamination. For helpful tips, check out this article from Food Allergy Gourmet.

Food Safety for Everyone:

The risk of cross contamination is not limited to allergy sufferers. Cross contamination of bacteria from foods (such as raw meat, seafood and eggs) is a concern for everyone. To keep you and your loved ones safe, follow these tips from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service.


Have any of your children experienced an allergic reaction as a result of cross contamination?  Any advice to offer other parents?
 

-Mallory


Conditions where Neocate is used - FPIES

Posted 3.1.12 | Christine Graham-Garo

Based on clinical research, Neocate has shown to be successful in the management of a number of GI and food allergy

related conditions including:

·         Cow and soy milk allergies

·         Multiple food protein intolerance

·         Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS)

·         Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE)

·         Malabsorption

·         Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

·         Other GI disorders

We have blogged about each of these conditions, but one area we wanted to focus on was the “Other GI Disorders” section. Other GI disorders can include conditions such as Colic and Failure to Thrive.

One ‘other GI disorder’ that has been getting a bit more notice recently is a condition called Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (or FPIES pronounced ‘F- pies’ for short). FPIES can be a serious condition if not managed properly. Unfortunately, FPIES is a condition that is often under-recognized and misdiagnosed despite studies suggesting that the prevalence of FPIES may be increasing.

Management of FPIES is to avoid the offending protein (which is usually milk or soy) and supplement with a hypoallergenic formula, such as Neocate (if breast milk is not available).

There is a strong need for more healthcare professionals to be educated on this condition. Happily, there are doctors out there who are striving to do just that. The hope is to reduce prolonged suffering of patients, reduce hospital admissions, and to save money and time.

If your little one has FPIES, check out the International Association for Food Protein Enterocolitis (IAFFPE). This can be a great forum to learn more and connect with other families managing FPIES.

Does your child have FPIES? What resources helped you to best manage the condition? We would love to hear so we can share with other families!

-          Christine

 

PS. Feb 29, 2012 was Rare Disease Day! We would like to send a special recognition to those with rare diseases including FPIES.

References:

Jean-Christoph Caubet & Anna Nowak-Węgrzyn, Current understanding of the immune mechanisms of food protein-induced Enterocolitis syndrome. Expert Rev. Clin Immunol.2011.7(3). 317-327


Allergic Reactions to Foods in Infants and Children

Posted 7.18.12 | Mallory West

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published a study titled “Allergic Reactions to Foods in Preschool-Aged Children in a Prospective Observational Food Allergy Study”.  Since this is a topic near and dear to most of your hearts, I wanted to summarize their findings in today’s post.

The authors studied 512 infants and preschool-aged children with likely egg or milk allergies to learn more about the frequency and circumstances of food related allergic reactions and to determine how these reactions are being treated.  Below are some of the key findings.

  • 94.8% of all allergic reactions were caused by ingestion rather than inhalation or skin exposure.
  • 50.6% of all allergic reactions were attributed to food not provided by parents, including other family members and teachers.  This suggests that there needs to be education for all caretakers, not just parents.
  • Circumstances ofaccidental allergic reactions to milk, egg, or peanut:
    • 64.9% due to lack of vigilance (failure to check ingredients, forgetfulness, child taking the food, etc)
    • 15.8% due to misreading labels
    • 15.1% due to cross-contact in meal preparation
  • 11.2% of all allergic reactions to milk, egg, or peanut were caused by purposeful trial of the allergen (allergen re-introduction). Families should always discuss reintroduction with their child’s healthcare provider before trying it on their own, especially if there is a history of anaphylaxis.
  • Only 29.9% of severe allergic reactions were treated with epinephrine. Many caregivers reported that they were hesitant or afraid to use it even though they thought it was indicated. This suggests that there needs to be better education about how to use epinephrine and the safety of using it in needed situations.

The authors refer families to the Consortium of Food Allergy Research website for more information and education materials.  To view the full study, visit http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/1/e25.long.

What do you think about the findings?  Have your children had an accidental reaction from food given by another caregiver (teacher, relative)?  Do you feel confident using Epipens when necessary?

-Mallory

 

(Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dbrekke/199228315/)


Antimicrobials: Are they linked to food allergies?

Posted 8.23.12 | Mallory West

Today, antimicrobials are added to many personal care products, such as soaps, mouthwash, toothpaste, hand sanitizers and disinfectants.  If your purse is anything like mine, you have a miniature bottle of hand sanitizer with you at all times, especially during cold and flu season.  But some experts worry that our society’s overuse of antimicrobials could have some negative effects.  These chemicals can be absorbed through the skin when used and end up in the blood stream, breast milk, urine, and eventually sewage and water systems. 

A 2011 study found that children and teens with high levels of triclosan, a common antimicrobial used in personal care products, had a greater likelihood of being diagnosed with hay fever and other allergies.  This may support the “hygiene hypothesis”, the theory that our society’s overly sterile lifestyle prevents normal stimulation of the immune system and makes us more prone to allergies and allergic diseases.  The hypothesis suggests that early exposure to common organisms (germs) is necessary to build proper immune responses. The theory also suggests that lack of this exposure may lead to an overactive immune system that mistakes harmless substances (such as food proteins or pollen) for pathogens, triggering an immune response we know as an allergic reaction. 

An NIH-funded study out of Johns Hopkins University, which was published in this month’s edition of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found an association between children’s exposure to antimicrobials and the development of food allergies specifically.  The researchers found that in comparison to children with the lowest urine levels of triclosan (the common antimicrobial we discussed in the paragraph above), children with the highest urine levels also had the highest levels of IgE-mediated food allergies.  In fact, children with the highest triclosan levels had more than twice the risk for food allergy, in comparison to the children with the lowest triclosan levels.  The researchers say that their findings are consistent with the hygiene hypothesis.

It’s important to note that these findings don’t mean that the use of antimicrobial products causes the development of allergies, just that there is an association between the two.  More research is needed to know exactly what relationship exists.  Antibacterial products certainly play an important role in preventing the spread of illnesses.  Like most things in life, the key is to keep their use in moderation.  For example, keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer around to use when hand washing isn’t possible is still a good way to keep your kids healthy but when you are at home; good old soap should do the trick.  Similarly, cleaning with a disinfectant spray is useful when a family member is sick and you are trying to keep germs away from the rest of the family but a cleaning spray without disinfectant may work fine for normal circumstances.  Keep an eye on antimicrobial additives in your personal care products and limit them where you can.

 

-Mallory

 

Sources:

Savage JH, Matsui EC, Wood RA, Keet CA. Urinary levels of triclosan and parabens are associated with aeroallergen and food sensitization. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2012;130:453-460.

Clayton EMR, Todd M, Dowd JB, Aiello AE 2011. The Impact of Bisphenol A and Triclosan on Immune Parameters in the U.S. Population, NHANES 2003–2006. Environ Health Perspect 119:390-396.

Photo: Flickr user

 

 


School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act

Posted 8.28.12 | Rob McCandlish, RDN


Today we want to sharUnited States Capitol buildinge some information on a piece of legislation that could affect you, the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act (“The Act”).  We’ve shared tips for epinephrine at school and thought that this was a great topic to share since it’s something Neocate families can help to turn into a law.

 

The Act

The Act matters to all families that are concerned about anaphylaxis during school.  If you have ever witnessed an anaphylactic reaction, you know how fast and scary it can be.  An epinephrine auto-injector can provide temporary, immediate help before an emergency team arrives.  Epinephrine auto-injectors can help people without food allergies too, such as when an insect sting causes anaphylaxis.  Having an epinephrine auto-injector available at school can save precious minutes when any child or staff member has an anaphylactic reaction, much like the AEDs that are now available in many public spaces and offices to help during a heart attack.

 

The Effort

The Act is being considered thanks to the efforts of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, or FAAN.  Many of you might know FAAN already, since FAAN is a great resource for families dealing with food allergies.  You can read more about FAAN’s efforts relating to The Act here.  The Act would not require all schools to keep epinephrine auto-injectors on site, but it would provide incentives to states to require schools to do so.

FAAN has been working with representatives in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to bring attention and support to The Act.  The Act is still under consideration in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, so it isn’t a law yet.  Lawmakers may not be aware of how important this issue is to their citizens.

 

What You Can Do

Especially in an election year, it’s easy to think that one person’s actions cannot make a difference.  But this is something that matters to many Neocate families, and we can all make a difference!  Help us to help FAAN by making sure you let your legislators know how important it is to you to see The Act turned into law.  FAAN pulled together some excellent template letters that you can use, and they included links to locate your legislators.  You can find all of the great resources on the middle of this page on FAAN’s website.

This can be a great chance to discuss where laws come from with your child, especially if she or he is learning about government in school!  The website for an organization called GovTrack provides a good summary of The Act here, which can help your child to understand and follow The Act on its journey.  You can help your child write letters to your legislators to help illustrate how the voices of individual citizens can be heard.  Your child may also be able to use The Act as part of a school project.

 

Would you feel more at ease if your child’s school kept an epinephrine auto-injector on hand for anaphylaxis emergencies?

- Rob

 

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Ticks and Food Allergies

Posted 8.30.12 | Christine Graham-Garo

A few months ago, I read an interesting article about tick bites causing food allergies in humans.  Specifically, a bite from the lone-star tick will cause humans to have meat allergies.  Reactions to the meat can occur anywhere from 3-6 hours after ingesting the food.  Reactions can show as hives all the way to full blown anaphylactic reactions.  These newly allergic cases are showing up all along the East coast of the United States.

Allergists have found that people with these meat allergies have high blood levels of antibodies for galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose or alpha-gal for short, which is a sugar found in red meat, lamb, and pork.  Often times when we think of food allergies, we think it’s an allergic reaction to the proteins in food, not sugar!  But this allergy is triggered by the sugars in the meat.  This type of food allergy reaction is affecting more than 1,500 Americans.  All known patients who have alpha-gal have had at least 1 tick bite.  One person stated that his IgE levels rose several hundred points after he had multiple tick bites from a hike.

What is also unique about alpha-gal is that it is the first known case of delayed anaphylaxis.  Typically, anaphylaxis reactions show up immediately after eating the allergen.

As we know, the only way to manage any food allergy is to avoid the specific food. A lot of these now meat allergic people are becoming vegetarian to avoid the reactions. More is being investigated on this matter to help us better understand food allergies.

What do you think of these findings?

- Christine

Another link to the report from June 2012.


What Are GMOs?

Posted 11.28.12 | Nutrition Specialist

In our latest video, on our YouTube channel, Nutrition Specialists Christine and Mallory explain what GMOs are and how to look for them in the food we eat everyday.

To learn more about GMOs check out one of our other blog post: Non-GMO and Neocate

 

 


Auvi-Q: A New Epinephrine Auto-Injector

Posted 5.7.13 | Rob McCandlish, RDN

NOTICE: Auvi-Q products have been voluntarily recalled. Read more here.

Many Neocate families are on constant “high alert” for severe allergic reactions, especially when away from home. For many children and adults with severe food allergies, coming into contact with a food they don’t tolerate can cause a number of reactions, including anaphylaxis, or shock. Anaphylaxis hits fast, and causes breathing to become very difficult, very quickly, or even worse. If you or a loved one has ever had an anaphylactic reaction to food or an insect sting, your healthcare team may have prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector to keep on hand as an extra precaution. An injection of epinephrine can buy time while emergency medical care is on the way in the case of anaphylaxis.

A new development in epinephrine auto-injectors debuted recently. If you haven’t heard about it yet, it’s the Auvi-Q auto-injector, made by Sanofi. The Auvi-Q works the same way as other auto-injectors, by delivering a quick shot of epinephrine to the thigh. What makes Auvi-Q unique is that it provides voice instructions, which can guide the patient or a bystander through the injection process. Each Auvi-Q auto-injector contains a single doses of epinephrine.

Many families might prefer an epinephrine auto-injector with spoken instructions, since use of an auto-injector might be scary or difficult, especially for someone unfamiliar with anaphylaxis. If you’ve been carrying an epinephrine auto-injector and are interested in the Auvi-Q, you can view a video demo on the Auvi-Q website. Still want to know more? Ask your allergy team for more information.

- Rob

Nutricia North America does not promote or sell the Auvi-Q epinephrine auto-injector

[Image Source]


Lowering Risk Factors on In-Flight Reactions to Peanuts and Tree Nuts; A New Study

Posted 5.21.13 | Christine Graham-Garo

 

Previous to this study done this year, there had only been 3 studies regarding passenger reports of in-flight allergic reactions to peanuts and tree nuts. This study shows that the reactions are an international problem. Passengers’ nationality differentially affects what preflight notifications or in-flight preparations allergic passengers will make, however it doesn’t affect the odds of using an Epi-Pen. What is hopeful is that certain passenger initiated behaviors may reduce the odds of experiencing a reaction in flight.

The study was done to look at international in-flight experiences and determine the efficacy of certain risk-mitigated strategies. They did this my using a questionnaire through websites and social media.  The results showed that 349 reactions were reported out of 3273 respondents from 11 countries; only 13.3% received epinephrine as a treatment! Flight attendants were notified about 50% of them. Sixty nine percent reported making preflight accommodation requests, although just 55% of reactors (those who had an allergic reaction) did so versus 71.6% of nonreactors. Those who made accommodations requested peanut and tree nut-free meals, wiped their tray table, avoided airline pillows and blankets, requested buffer zone and asked other passengers to not consume peanut/tree nuts containing products. These people had significantly lower odds of reporting a reaction!

Studies like these can put hard science behind the importance of making appropriate accommodations before a flight for people with food allergies.  

What tips do you have for people living with food allergies when it comes to flights?

Safe travels this season!

 -Christine


It takes a Village to Raise a Child….with Food Allergies - An article review

Posted 7.11.13 | Christine Graham-Garo

It is pretty obvious raising a child with food allergies is no easy task. It takes lots of preparing and research to get the management down. But another area that is hard to control is when your child is at school/daycare or at a friend’s house.  You have to  make sure your child doesn’t drink the milk, or eat the allergen filled cookies.   In this article written by a Registered Dietitian, it looks at the fact that parents with kids with food allergies must rely on the “villagers” in their community to help best manage the food allergy.  As we know, many families dealing with food allergies find supportive communities online through Facebook and online support groups. What about the friends across the street or those in your child’s class?  Even for families unknowledgeable about food allergies must make the effort to ensure a food allergic child is in an allergen safe environment at all times. This article guides “non-food allergy” families on how to best manage food allergies.

The article first emphasizes to take food allergies seriously. It is important for non-food allergy families to understand that these requests are not “food preferences” but a medical necessity. As most may know, food allergy reactions could be extremely serious. Every three minutes, someone goes into the ER for food-related reactions.

Another point made is to encourage sharing….of toys, not food!  It’s best to educate and encourage children to not share food unless the caregiver of the food allergic child gives the ok. More and more, communities are being more responsible during classroom parties by providing tokens such as stickers or coloring books instead of cupcakes or cookies. Not only will this reduce the amount of high calorie/nutrient-void sweets the children will get, but it will encourage more intellectually enriching items to be given out as party gifts.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, is to educate the community. In a recent study, researchers suggest 33% of kids with food allergies have been bullied because of their allergy. Even though any form of bullying could leave deep emotional scars, the type of bulling seen in children with food allergies can take a more serious turn. The more educated the community is, the better support we can all be to ensure the environment will be a safe one for our food allergic “villagers”. 


How to Develop a Food Allergy Action Plan for Your Family

Posted 1.23.14 | Mallory West

A Food Allergy Action Plan outlines the recommended actions to take if your child experiences an allergic reaction. It is important to create a Food Allergy Action Plan for your child and provide it to their school, camp, coaches, other parents, or anyone else who may need to assist your child in case of a food allergy-related emergency. If you are new to food allergies, you may be wondering where to start. We’ve compiled some resources and templates you can use to develop a thorough plan for little one.

Action Plan Templates:

Other Resources:

We’d love to hear your advice and experiences with creating a Food Allergy Action Plan for your little one!

-Mallory

 

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22986659@N04/3641404138/sizes/n/


Asthma Medication Aids in Immunotherapy for Food Allergies.

Posted 3.27.14 | Christine Graham-Garo

On a similar topic to a blog I did on Food Allergy Reversal, another study has recently came out showing an asthma drug accelerates the process of desensitizing patients with food allergies to several foods at the same time. The study was done by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. The study provides the first scientific evidence that a promising new method for treating people with multiple food allergies works.

Patients took the asthma drug and became desensitized to multiple food allergens within 18 weeks; those who did not take the asthma drug took 85 weeks to become desensitized.

Oral immunotherapy is still experimental and is a slow process, generally. In other studies, patients took as long as 3 years to become desensitized to 1 food. So not only did these researches desensitize patients to multiple foods at once, they also quickened the time with the use of the asthma drug injections.

Science is so interesting. :)

  • Christine

15 Most Allergy Friendly Restaurants

Posted 6.12.14 | Christine Graham-Garo

AllergyEats (www.allergyeats.com) is a free, peer-based website and app where people find and rate restaurants based solely on their ability to accommodate food allergies. AllergyEats recently announced its 2014 List of the Most Allergy Friendly Restaurants in the US. The rating is based on how well the restaurant accommodated food allergic diners.  The restaurants were broken up into large, medium, and small chains. Below are the top 15 Food Allergy Friendly Restaurants. Let us know of a positive expereince you had while eating out with food allergies.

Large:

 Medium:

 Small:


Food allergies, food allergies go Away!

Posted 3.26.15 | Nutrition Specialist


Thumb-sucking, diapers, and baby talk are outgrown at some point by most children. So what about outgrowing food allergies?

Allergies are the result of the immune system gone awry, when the body mistakenly believes a food to be dangerous and overreacts to protect itself. Food allergies can be short-lived or can last a lifetime. Today, there are more kids with food allergies, fewer kids are outgrowing them, and for those who do outgrow them, it’s happening later in life. Food allergies that are outgrown may even resurface later in life. It would be great if food allergies were like a Houdini act and we could make them disappear! Sometimes food allergies are a guessing game, but we know of a number of factors that we think influence food allergy longevity and when a child outgrows them. Here are just a few standouts.

Influencing factors

  1. The Food Culprits
       There seems to be a pecking order to outgrowing food allergies. Milk, eggs and soy tend to be outgrown more easily and earlier than allergies to nuts and seafood. Research findings point to the easy breakdown of milk and egg proteins in food preparation, especially in baking as the dry heat is able to break down the proteins. Other food proteins are built tougher, are more resistant to breakdown, and are thus more allergenic even after cooking.
     
  2. Mean Genes
       Ethnicity, gender, and genetics may impact whether and when you see diminishing or disappearing food allergies. Odds are stacked against African American children, females, children with multiple food allergies, those with more severe food allergic reactions, and those with food allergy that develops later in life.
     
  3. Location, location, location!
       Where you live may play a role in your allergy profile too. This may be associated with different environments and eating habits of your home and neighborhood. Southern living in America may find you more prone to developing allergies than your Northern countrymen, and urban dwellers may be more prone to allergy than their rural counterparts.

Treatment, testing and tolerance

Approaches abound for tolerance testing and even inducing tolerances to certain allergies. Following are a few of the trending tests and tolerance inducing approaches. These should always be conducted under medical supervision, as potential for severe reactions is possible.

  1. Under the tongue
       Known as sublingual or oral immunotherapy (SLIT or OIT), this is a method associated with allergy testing and may also be effective in building tolerance to certain foods. A small amount of offending food is placed under the tongue or in the mouth and reaction monitored. Ask your allergy care team if this is an option for you.

     
  2. Bites of baked goods
       Sometimes called the baked good challenge, children are given samples of pancakes, muffins and other baked goods with incremental increases in the portion size offered when positive tolerance is demonstrated.

     
  3. Early Exposure
       Recent research has suggested that offering foods that are common allergens to infants when they are ready to start solid foods may actually help prevent the risk of developing food allergies for some. This is counter to the still common approach of waiting until later ages (1 to 2 years old) to introduce these foods, which may actually increase the risk of developing a food allergy for some individuals, especially those deemed at high risk for food allergies.

Efforts continue to explore the science behind the basis of food allergies as many mysteries remain. Still hard to explain is the who, what, when, why, and where of allergies. As it is, there is no magic pill, potion, or trick that can make food allergies go away. Yes, some children will have their food allergies diminish and disappear and some children will outgrow them. While waiting for Houdini to make them go away for good, there are support and resources that can help.

Consider the following organizations:

What has your family’s experience been with outgrowing food allergies?

-Jody L. Benitz, MS, RDN


References:

Painter K. Food allergies outgrown by more than one in four kids. USA Today website. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/11/10/food-allergies-outgrown/1695451. Accessed March 23, 2015.

NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel, Boyce JA, Assa’ad A, et al. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of food allergy in the United States: report of the NIAID-sponsored expert panel. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010;126(6 Suppl):S1-S58.

Gupta RS, Springston EE, Warrier MR, et al. The prevalence, severity, and distribution of childhood food allergy in the United States. Pediatrics. 2011;128(1):e9-e17.

Food Allergy Sensitization — New Study Finds Geography Plays a Role. By Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN, LD.Today’s Dietitian, July 2014, Vol. 16 No. 7 P. 12.

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Preparing Your Child with Food Allergies for Summer Camp

Posted 6.4.15 | Nutrition Specialist

Summer camp season is right around the corner! For the nearly six million children in the U.S. with food allergies, it is important that camps have established food allergy policies. We understand that it takes a little bit more prep and work to send your child off to camp when they have food allergies. Therefore, we are here to make your life easier and have provided some tips and information to help ensure that your cutie has a safe and fun camp experience.

·         Consider enrolling your child at a camp that is designed specifically for children with food allergies.  Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) provides a thorough list of 2015’s “Food Allergy-Friendly Camps.”

·         Notify the camp of your little one’s food allergies by filling out and providing them with FARE’s Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan.

·         Watch Kids with Food Allergies’ free educational webinar called "Off to Camp with Food Allergies", which includes information on: 

·         How to choose a camp

·         Questions to ask the camp staff

·         How to store epinephrine at camp

·         Food allergy management at camp

·         Educate your child on how to properly manage their food allergies at camp and ensure that they are aware of:

·         Safe and unsafe foods

·         Strategies for avoiding exposure to unsafe foods (i.e. NEVER trade food with other campers)

·         Symptoms of allergic reactions (i.e. NOT to go off alone if symptoms are beginning);

·         How and when to tell an adult about a possible allergic response

·         How to read a food label (if your child is younger, plan with the camp how to handle this)

·         How to use epinephrine 

Feel free to share with us any other resources that you have used in prepping your little one with food allergies for summer camp!

Have a great summer!

-The Neocate Team 

 


How to Explain Food Allergies to Relatives AND Help Them Understand Why They’re Important

Posted 9.17.15 | Nutrition Specialist


Food allergies can be really tricky to understand. Do you remember the first time you learned about your loved one's food allergy, and how many questions you had? Now imagine trying to explain food allergies to someone else, especially someone with no knowledge or experience of food allergies. Sounds tough!

Eventually we all come to a time where we really, really need someone to understand our loved one's food allergy. Especially when serious reactions are a possibility, we can't afford misunderstandings or mistakes. Think you'll be able to protect your child at all times? Think again! What about when you have company over for a pot-luck dinner party, send your child to spend the night at a relative’s house, or have a new baby sitter? And those are just a few examples!

A lot of families think about these example milestones as exciting, but for you they might be terrifying. When you hit these for the first time it becomes absolutely essential that you explain your child’s food allergies. Relatives and caregivers need to know what to do to manage food allergies, and how to handle the situation if your child experiences an allergic reaction in their presence.  

This conversation can be a difficult one to have. Often, relatives might not fully understand the severity of food allergies, especially when they have never experienced a reaction first hand. So, how do you go about having this conversation the right way?

Here are some tips that will make explaining food allergies to relatives easier.

  • Be direct. Don’t leave anything open to interpretation. Be as clear as possible when explaining your child’s food allergies. Walk through what can go wrong and how severe reactions can be so they know what they're dealing with. You know how serious food allergies can be, make sure they do too!
     
  • Be detailed. Assume that they don't know anything. Give them the most basic details you can think of, even if you think those details are common sense.
     
  • Be thorough. Let them know that certain foods have different names on labels. Write those names down for them so they know what foods to avoid buying. For example, if your child has a peanut allergy, your family should know all the ingredient names on a label that indicate peanuts, unrefined peanut oil, or peanut protein.
     
  • Give examples. Tell a story of a time your child had a terrible reaction to a certain food in front of you. Adults, especially, learn well with examples. This will help them understand how severe the allergy is, how scary it is to witness and the possibility of dangerous consequences.
     
  • Prepare them. Tell them what to do if they are caring for your child when an allergic reaction happens. It’s not just about explaining that your child has food allergies; you also need to tell your relatives how to handle an allergic reaction. They need to know what your child’s allergic reaction looks like, and when and how they should react. If your child has an epinephrine auto-injector, walk them step-by-step through how to use it. Make sure they have emergency contact information, and explain exactly when they should call 9-1-1. Have them repeat instructions back to you to ensure they get it!
     
  • Put it in writing. Even though you think they understand your verbal explanation, give them everything in writing. It's not cheating! Have you ever experienced a moment of panic where you forget what you thought you knew? Assume they might too. Giving caregivers instructions in writing isn't overkill, it's smart.

    If they forget important details, they will have your written instructions to fall back on. Just make sure you don't skip the step of explaining it to them as well. Want to save time in the future? Type it out, so you can print it multiple times for additional babysitters, family members, or caregivers!
     
  • Ask for questions. You may think you've explained everything, but you won't know what you missed until you ask! If they don't have any questions, then you should consider becoming an allergist! The more experience you have explaining your child's food allergy and how to manage it, the better you'll get.

You can’t control whether or not your child has food allergies, but you can control the amount of information the people in your child’s life have about food allergies. Talking about food allergies with your relatives and friends isn’t always an easy conversation to have, but it is absolutely necessary. Hopefully, these tips will help make that conversation easier for both you and them.

Do you have any tips on talking about food allergies with relatives and caregivers? We would love to hear them!

-The Nutrition Specialist team

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Common Signs of Cow Milk Allergy (Part 2 of 4)

Posted 10.15.15 | Nutrition Specialist

Cow milk allergy (CMA) can be difficult to understand. Children with CMA often experience multiple unpleasant symptoms. However, without fully understanding the reason behind these symptoms, it is hard to know how to manage them.  Being able to recognize the symptoms of cow milk allergy can lead to a faster diagnosis and, in turn, more potential solutions, which sometimes include an amino acid-based formula such as Neocate.

A few of the most common symptoms of cow milk allergies are listed in this short video. Although it does not talk about every possible symptom associated with CMA, the video lists eight of the most common symptoms.

As a follow up to our post on Tuesday about the common symptoms of cow milk allergy, today’s post focuses on two additional symptoms: skin rashes and extreme fussiness.

Skin Rashes

Skin rashes can be caused by a number of things, one of which is CMA. Babies with skin rashes related to cow milk allergies may itch and scratch nonstop, and experience extreme discomfort. This may be worse shortly after feedings. Rashes often appear on the face, but can appear anywhere on the body. Remember, it is important to check with your child’s physician if you suspect the rash to be related to cow milk allergy. For more information about skin rashes, read this post.

Extreme Fussiness

When your child is experiencing extreme fussiness, it can be very hard to pinpoint the reason behind it. However, if your infant is crying uncontrollably, it is possible that it could be due to a cow milk allergy.

Fussiness has been described in the past with the term "colic." For example, you might hear someone say that a baby who cries frequently is a "colicky" baby. Doctors are moving away from using the term colic because it's controversial. However, even if we don't have a great definition for colic, there's still something underlying the crying. For some infants, the crying can be due to digestive pain, which can be caused by a cow milk allergy.

When should you suspect that it might be described as colic or the crying could point to something underlying? Typically, if your baby is crying for more than three hours a day for more than three days in a week, over three weeks, then you should speak to your doctor. It is possible that your little one is experiencing gastrointestinal pain.  Extreme fussiness can also be associated with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), so be sure to keep this in mind when speaking to your child’s doctor about the possibility of CMA. For more information about GERD: http://bit.ly/1jApXUy.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series of common cow milk allergy signs and symptoms. 

Part 1 of 4 - Diarrhea, Vomiting
Part 3 of 4 - Slow weight gan, Gas (Flatulence)
Part 4 of 4 - Respiratory symptoms, Failure to thrive


Common Signs of Cow Milk Allergy - Respiratory Symptoms & Failure to Thrive Symptoms (Part 4 of 4)

Posted 11.3.15 | Nutrition Specialist

As we continue with our series on possible cow milk allergy (CMA) symptoms, today we will be looking at respiratory symptoms and failure to thrive (FTT) symptoms. 

But first, you may want to refer back to our first segment in the series and to the video Rob and Mallory created (8 Common Signs of a Cow Milk Allergy) that’s been pivotal to each of our discussions.

Respiratory Symptoms

Children may exhibit different types of respiratory symptoms when they have a cow milk allergy. These can generally fall into two types; either mild or severe.

Mild forms of respiratory issues- These include runny noses, sneezing, and small amount of nasal congestion. These are symptoms similar to what you might see when your child has a cold.

Severe forms of respiratory issues- While colds don’t appear to be an alarming concern, a child experiencing a severe respiratory symptom such as shortness of breath or wheezing needs immediate attention.  Shortness of breath may appear as sudden and/or severe gasping or difficulty breathing.  Your child may look to be in pain and frightened.  Wheezing is a symptom noted by a whistling or rattling sound in the chest when a child is trying to breathe.  Both symptoms indicate a child's air passages are obstructed.  If your child appears to be having a severe respiratory symptom, you should seek medical assistance right away.

Severe respiratory issues are also symptoms experienced with asthma.  Mallory has written several previous blogs related to allergies and asthma that may be worth another look.

When we think of food allergies, the most severe respiratory symptom of all is the shortness of breath that can come with anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a sudden reaction to a food allergen that requires immediate attention, as the trouble breathing can escalate quickly into a life-threatening situation.

Failure to Thrive

Last week, Kendra talked about the CMA symptom of slow weight gain,  which can lead to the diagnosis of Failure to Thrive.   FTT is a condition in which a child’s weight or rate of weight gain is significantly below other children of similar age and gender, or if a child is losing rather than gaining weight.  Most infants double their weight in 6 months, and triple it by 12 months.  Not growing and/or losing weight is a serious condition. We have several previous blogs that provide more detailed information on this condition.

The root cause of FTT can vary.  It could be a faulty use of nutrients, or perhaps an increased need for nutrients.  Contact your child’s health care provider for assistance in determining the cause, and directing the treatment path for this condition.

 

-  Jody Long-Benitz, M.S., R.D.

Part 1 of 4 - Diarrhea, Vomiting
Part 2 of 4 - Skin rashes, Extreme fussiness
Part 3 of 4 - Slow weight gan, Gas (Flatulence)

 

 Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=weight%20scale&license=4&advanced=1

 


Top Ten Food Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Chains

Posted 12.8.15 | Nutrition Specialist


Dining out should be an enjoyable experience. C'mon, who doesn't love having a great meal where everyone gets something they like and nobody has to clean dishes afterward? Great food, good times, no stress, right?

Unfortunately, dining out can be super stressful when a member of your family has food allergies or a related condition. You not only have to worry about the ingredients used in the dish for your loved one, but also about how the kitchen staff handles those ingredients. Especially when severe food allergy reactions are a possibility, the risk of cross-contamination in the restaurant kitchen can cause stress.

Thankfully, Allergy Eats! has come to the rescue with their annual list of the Most Allergy-Friendly Restaurant Chains nationwide. Be sure to check often to look for updates!

Wait: Who is 'AllergyEats' and why should I trust them?

If you're not familiar, AllergyEats describes itself as "the leading guide to allergy-friendly restaurants in the United States." That's a big claim? How can they possibly back this up? 

AllergyEats is a free, peer-based website and app (for both Apple and Android devices) where people find and rate restaurants based solely on their ability to accommodate food allergies. The site, app and related social media forums allow families with food allergies to help each other reduce guesswork and limit some of the anxiety surrounding dining out with food allergies. We're all about free, and you can't beat social support systems where you can get input from families like your own!

AllergyEats has a goal to help members of the food allergy community make informed decisions about where to dine. By being able to read about how well or poorly a restaurant has accommodated other diners’ with food allergies, you can narrow done which restaurants you might like to visit. AllergyEats lists more than 750,000 restaurants across the country and invites people like you to rate them.

You can easily search restaurants in AllergyEats platforms by your location, so you can find allergy-friendly restaurants near home or around the country when you travel. As always, it's still important for you to ask questions of restaurant staff to make sure you're comfortable. Another family managing a less-severe food allergy might report that the restaurant met their needs, but their needs may not be the same as yours.

Bear in mind, the restaurants on this list are restaurant chains. The chains on this list hold the highest ratings on the AllergyEats website and smartphone app, per feedback from the food allergy community. AllergyEats restaurant ratings are based solely on how well restaurants have accommodated food-allergic diners, and not on other factors, such as ambiance, service or food quality. And each chain's score is an average of scores for all locations in the chain.

Allergy Eats broke down the highest-rated restaurants, and grouped them into two categories; large chains and small chains. The large chains have 50 or more locations, while the small chains have less than 50. Check out the honorees below, and check AllergyEats for updates!

Most allergy-friendly large chains:

  • Chipotle Mexican Grill (4.41 rating)
  • P.F. Chang’s China Bistro (4.39 rating)
  • Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (4.39 rating)
  • Outback Steakhouse (4.32 rating)
  • Mellow Mushroom (4.29 rating)

Most allergy-friendly small chains:

  • Maggiano’s Little Italy (4.74 rating)
  • Burtons Grill (4.69 rating)
  • Legal Sea Foods (4.64 rating)
  • Joe’s American Bar & Grill (4.63 rating)
  • Not Your Average Joe’s (4.63 rating)

AllergyEats says that “While no restaurant chain receives universally great reviews from every diner, AllergyEats incorporates all positive and negative ratings to determine which restaurants are deemed most allergy-friendly by the food allergy community as a whole. The establishments on our list have proven themselves to have best-in-class food allergy procedures & protocols, training and knowledge, receiving high overall ratings and positive feedback from food-allergic diners that have comfortably eaten at their restaurants.”

We think that's at least a great start when you're looking for a restaurant that might be able to accommodate your needs. As always, consider giving the restaurant a phone call first to ask them how they can meet your specific requests.

The next time your family wants to dine out and enjoy a nice meal, be sure to keep these restaurants in mind. And consider leaving your reviews of restaurants that you visit on AllergyEats to help other families managing food allergies and related conditions. You can read more about the restaurants that made the list here http://bit.ly/1N7Isdp

What restaurant chain has given you great service that you think should be on next year's list?

-Nutrition Services team

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Food Allergies and Cross-Reactivity – Do You Have to Avoid Related Foods?

Posted 6.8.17 | Nutrition Specialist

 

Learning that you or your loved one has an allergy to a food often sparks a long list of questions.  One common question that many families have is “If my child is allergic to one item, what else are they allergic to?”  Another common question is “Where should I start when either trying new food items or adding foods back into my diet?” If you are facing these questions, you are not alone!!  Each of us is unique and there is no substitute for individualized guidance and recommendations from your healthcare team. Let’s take a look at something called Cross-Reactivity to help you get the conversation started with your healthcare team if you are facing these questions.

Finding the Food Allergy?

An allergy to food is typically an allergic reaction, or overreaction by your immune system to the protein piece of the food.  For example, children often have a milk allergy which more specifically is a cow milk protein allergy. Proteins found in one food item can also be similar to the proteins in other or related foods, and sometimes your body cannot tell the difference. The question becomes if you are allergic to one food item, will you also be allergic to the protein in a related food. This concept is called “Cross-Reactivity”.  But what does this mean for you?

Food allergies can involve many types of responses; you may get a rash when eating a certain food or it could be life threatening, like anaphylaxis.  The most common immune response to a food allergy is when your body makes something called IgE antibodies to the protein of the food allergen.  You see this in a variety of physical reactions or symptoms such as skin itching, hives, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulty such as wheezing or coughing, or the life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. 

As you likely well know, diagnosis of food allergies is not an easy process.  Experts at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute in New York recommend that diagnosis of food allergies include careful interpretation of a variety of factors including physical examination, skin test or RASTs, detailed patient history, and oral food challenges or elimination diets. This extensive testing and the possible conflicting results are just one of many reasons why individualized treatment and recommendations are needed, and why there is no substitute for the individual guidance you will receive from your healthcare team.

What is Cross-Reactivity?

So where should you start when either trying new foods or adding foods back into your diet? To help allergist identify related foods of concern, research was conducted into how likely people with a given food allergy are to react to other related foods. Family allergists may use this data to help determine what advice to give their patients about where to start when either trying new foods or adding food items back into your diet. If you want to read the review of the clinical data, the full reference is noted below.

In some cases, the data reveals a significant chance of having an allergic reaction (or at least a positive allergy test) to a new food when the protein is related. For example, if you are allergic to cashews, you may also be allergic to pistachios and/or mango.1 There are many families of foods that may be linked, so it is best to consult with your healthcare provider to determine the extent of your food allergy and the potential for cross-reactivity. As noted above, your healthcare team will offer guidance for you specifically after all the information has been collected and evaluated. 

How to Spot Foods That Might Cause Cross-Reactivity?

The table below shows some of the potential cross-reactivity revealed by this research review, and was developed by an allergist at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Clinicians might use a table like this when determining where you might start when either trying new foods or adding food items back into your diet.

A clinician would look for your known food allergen in the left column. The column on the right gives an indication of the risk that there will be an allergic reaction to one of the foods that are listed in the center column. For example, for a patient allergic to cow milk, the available research shows there is a 92% chance the patient will have an allergic reaction (or a positive allergy test) to goat milk, but only a 4% chance of an allergic reaction to mare (horse) milk and a 10% chance of an allergic reaction to beef and beef products.

As always, follow the guidance and recommendations from your healthcare team.

What is the best way to introduce new foods to the diet?

Once your healthcare team has a plan for you, the next step is trying the food items suggested.  Again, your healthcare team will likely have a very specific plan for you.  They may suggest that you try foods at home, starting with a small amount and then wait a few days before trying the food item again or even moving on to the next food item.  If you have had sever food reactions in the past, then they may only recommend new foods be tried as an oral food challenge. This should only be done under strict medical supervision (e.g. in a doctor’s office) and involves trials with small amounts of the food causing the allergy or a potential cross-reactive food.  Depending on your results, the healthcare team will guide as you continue to explore and try new food items.  

Oringally published  12/22/15 by Ellen Avery, MS, RD, CNSC2.

Updated 6/8/17 by Kristin Crosby MS, RDN, LDN

References

Sicherer SH. Clinical implications of cross-reactive food allergens. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2001;108(6):881-90.

 

 

 


3 Easy Steps for Success when Explaining Food Allergies to your Toddler

Posted 6.7.16 | Nutrition Specialist

Okay, I admit it.  I don’t always know what to say when I am trying to describe a health condition or diagnosis to someone else.  I find this to be true when talking to my patients but even more so when trying to explain my own personal health to my family and friends.  Putting aside the emotions that come along with many health situations, I often struggle to find the right words to accurately describe my health so loved ones understand and can support me if needed, while not creating unnecessary concern.

So if I have a hard time talking about my health to my family and friends, how can you as a parent find a way to explain food allergies to your child? It is an essential conversation, and often one that needs to happen quite early in your child’s life to make sure your little one understands why their food choices are important.  It can be even more critical to prepare them for times when you are not there to guide them and oversee their food choices.  

Quick overview of how to Explain Food Allergies:

 

Now let’s dive a bit deeper on where to start:

Talking to toddlers can be tricky since they usually have a short attention span with lots of emotions.  You will want to get your point across to your toddler while not scaring them or creating fear about what they are eating.  Well fear not!! We have 3 quick and easy steps to help make this a breeze for you as a parent.  

Step 1: Pick Your Key Words

You will want to make this conversation simple and quick, so the first step is to pick your key words to communicate which foods are okay and which ones to avoid.  Perhaps words like “safe foods” and “unsafe foods”, or maybe “green light foods” and “red light foods” might work for your family.  Even something simple like “yes foods” and “no foods” will help your toddler know quickly which foods they can eat and which ones to avoid.

I personally do not like to use “bad foods” because this can make foods and/or meals negative. I like to always focus on the positive side of any situation, and this is especially true when talking about food restrictions. Maybe because I am generally a positive person, but I also think this helps people to think of food as pleasurable and meals as a fun time. You may find other foods that will need to be added to the list of “red light foods” after new foods are introduced into your child’s diet.

Ask your healthcare team for tips and suggestions for key words that they like to use, or even other parents who have children with food allergies.  Make sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any suggestions to share with other parents that worked well for you.

Keep in mind, most toddlers are very visual. For your conversation, think about incorporating visual aids to help make it smooth, clear and non-scary. Another way you can start the conversation is by reading a book or viewing a video about your child’s food allergy. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started. There are tons of resources available to find the one that is right just for you and your family:

Step 2: Make a List

You will want to make a list with all the critical points to include during your conversation. This will help make sure you cover the most important pieces of information clearly and effectively. You know your child best, so think about what items are the most important to include or maybe what they need to know so they are prepared and confident. You may also want to ask your healthcare team where you should focus or ideas on what to include on your list as they will likely have wonderful tips for you. They also know your toddler so they will know what is important for your child if you need more ideas.


Here’s a list of ideas that can help your conversation planning:

  • Key Words. You will of course want to explain the Key Words that you have chosen to identify foods. You might also want to discuss which foods are “green light foods” or “red light foods” or perhaps where you might keep a list of foods for them and others as a reference.

  • Symptoms or Reactions to Food Allergens. Your toddler will need to know what will happen if they eat something they are allergic to. This point will not only help them understand why this is an important topic, but also help them learn about their body.  Does their tummy hurt, does their skin itch or turn red? Or perhaps there is a more immediate reaction such as trouble breathing you will want to cover.

  • What To Do/Who to Tell if They Feel Funny. Who should they talk to or what happens when they start to have allergy symptoms? Which person do they need to alert about how they are feeling so they can get the care that is needed? It is important to make sure they know accidents can happen, but also know what to do so they feel confident about the foods they are eating. This can be especially helpful if they are still trying new foods so they can quickly communicate how they are feeling if anything changes.

  • Any Specific Rules for Eating. Is there an adult that they must check with before eating? Perhaps there are other rules for your family at mealtimes, or maybe rules you want them to follow when eating away from home to keep them safe.

Step 3: Practice and Repeat

Practice the conversation with another family member or friend. A trial run is always helpful to make sure your thoughts are organized. This final step will also help you to be clear and effective. Once you are ready to have a conversation with your toddler, remember this is an ongoing topic. You will want to repeat the information many times. As the parent of a toddler, you already know that you must repeat yourself many times before the information starts to sink in. Repetition is necessary for learning at this age, so be sure to enlist the help of the entire family and your support system to make sure everyone has the same message and uses the same key words. These 3 easy steps will help prepare you for success when explaining food allergies to your toddler.

I am always entertained by what kids say and how they see the world around them. Let us know how your child describes their food allergies to others, or perhaps how you were able to successfully explain food allergies to your child in the comments below.

--Kristin Crosby, MS, RDN

 


About Us

Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.