Food Allergy Living Blog Tagged Results


food allergy safety

Which came first: atopic dermatitis or food allergy?

Posted 3.17.11 | Rob McCandlish, RDN

In food allergy circles, we usually think of symptoms and side effects as results of food allergies, not the other way around. In most cases that’s true. Science has shown a strong link between food allergy and atopic dermatitis, a form of eczema. Last month Dr. Jon Hanifin, a respected dermatologist, gave a talk to colleagues discussing the link between atopic dermatitis and food allergies. The research he presented suggests that for some patients it may actually be atopic dermatitis that comes first and acts as a precursor to food allergies.

Atopic dermatitis is often one of the first signs that a parent or caregiver notices in their child which helps lead to the diagnosis of food allergy. As Dr. Hanifin explained, about 6-10% of children are diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, and of those about a third will be diagnosed with a food allergy. Which begs the question: If parents notice signs of atopic dermatitis first, and an allergy diagnosis comes later, couldn’t atopic dermatitis be causing some instances of food allergy?

What We Know:

-In cases of food allergy, offending foods cause reactions in the body which involve the immune system

-Immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) are immune substances which are normally in our bodies at low levels, but are higher with food allergy

-Allergy symptoms often involve the skin (including our digestive tract, which is like an inside skin), an important barrier that keeps most outside “things” from getting inside

-One factor of atopic dermatitis is “holes” in the barrier our skin provides

What Dr. Hanifin Proposed:

In the past it was assumed that food allergies came first, causing both high IgE levels and atopic dermatitis. Dr. Hanifin suggested that in some patients atopic dermatitis is caused by “gaps” in the skin (likely due to genetics), which means that foreign substances can enter the skin and cause adverse reactions. He thinks it may be proteins that get through these gaps which allows the body to become sensitive to certain foods, leading to a food allergy.

What does all of this mean? The biggest message here is that patients with atopic dermatitis, especially those under five years, should be tested for food allergies. While avoiding food allergens may not help improve atopic dermatitis, it could certainly prevent or improve other serious side effects of allergies. The second message is that more research needs to be done into the causes of atopic dermatitis and its relationship to food allergies. Any research that leads to better health, through reducing instances of atopic dermatitis and/or food allergies, is good research! Tell us about your experience: Was atopic dermatitis the first sign that you saw of your child’s food allergy?

- Rob


Celebrating Valentine’s Day Safely

Posted 2.10.11 | Rob McCandlish, RDN

Not so many years ago, it was pretty common for kids to give classmates valentines with candy, bring in baked goods to share, and have a Valentine’s Day party at school. While a lot of classrooms have cut back on such activities, it’s still a great idea to play it safe this Valentine’s Day and avoid the risk of allergic reactions.

Preparing

Since Valentine’s Day falls on a school day this year, the best thing you can do is to remind your child’s teacher(s) of allergies ahead of time. If valentines are going to be exchanged or a party is planned, the teacher can help share information with other parents to ensure that everyone remains safe from potential allergens. Feel free to offer to send a “safe” treat in with your child if they won’t be able to enjoy other foods.

If your child is going to a friend’s house for a Valentine’s Day party, make sure to check in with the host parents to make sure they are aware your little one has a food allergy and ask what will be served ahead of time. Remind your child that they should keep an eye out for allergens: even if a party has a menu, there’s no guarantee other parents won’t send unplanned treats.

Hosting

Are you a teacher? If so, remember that the safest valentine for a child with an allergy is one that doesn’t include candy. You may find it easiest to institute a “cards only” rule if valentines are exchanged. A Valentine’s Day party can be great without the snacks by involving fun games or crafts. You could also keep the food and ensure it’s safe by purchasing or preparing snacks yourself that you know are safe and instituting a “no treats” rule for parents.

If you’re a parent who’s hosting a get-together for some of your child’s playmates, it’s best to check ahead of time with other parents to ask about allergies. Other parents may be more than happy to contribute allergen-free foods to the menu, or you can forgo food altogether and host the party away from mealtime with some fun activities instead.

Giving

Whether your child has an allergy or not, make sure he/she is giving valentines that are safe for other students in their class who may have an allergy of their own. Lots of valentine multi-packs include candy, which most kids enjoy. However, to keep the valentines your child hands out safe, you might consider sprucing up a “traditional” card-only valentine. You can add to the “cool factor” by including valentine-themed tattoos, stickers, or other approved favors in place of edible gifts.

Have a child that can’t enjoy chocolate or the usual treats? Try out our recipe for a knock-out knock-off of chocolate pudding. Also consider family-friendly activities that don’t involve food. Finally, a t-shirt, CD, game or even small vase of flowers could be the surprise gift your child wasn’t expecting!

What tips do you have to keep Valentine’s Day worry free?

- Rob


Halloween with Food Allergies

Posted 10.26.10 | Sarah O'Brien

We shared our top 4 Tips for Celebrating Halloween Without a Food Allergy Scare. But with Halloween coming up this weekend we wanted to share a round-up of all the great “Halloween with Food Allergies” tips we’ve seen recently. Here is some more great advice from our favorite blogs and advocacy groups!

Tips for a Food Allergy Safe Trick or Treating

  • Kids With Food Allergies recommends pre-positioning safe candy at friends houses along with other advice for safe trick-or-treating and school parties.
  • Gina Clowes of Allergy Moms has 15 Halloween Safety Tips in her latest newsletter. She recommends pulling a “switcheroo” and buying two of the same treat collectors, letting your little one trick-or-treat, but then swapping their loot out with the safe version once you get home.

Have you read any great ideas for having a safe, but fun, Halloween? Be sure to share the links!

- Sarah


5 DIY Allergy-Friendly Play-Doh Recipes for National Play-Doh Day

Posted 9.16.16 | Nutrition Specialist

September 16th is National Play-Doh* Day! Did you know that Play-Doh was originally a wallpaper paste that became popular due to its ability to be molded into a variety of shapes? It originally came in 3 colors – red, yellow and blue – from which many other colors could be formed. Now Play-Doh is available in over 50 different colors!

National Play-Doh Day was started in 2006 and has been celebrated every year since! But, for children with food allergies (including wheat), Play-Doh may not be a suitable option for a modeling compound. Don’t despair; our team took on a challenge of compiling allergy-friendly recipes you can make at home with your family.

Gluten-Free Baking Soda Play Dough

This recipe is an adaption of the Arm & Hammer Play Clay recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Directions:

  1. Mix ingredients together in a sauce pan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. If you have older kids, they may get a kick out of doing this part.  During the heating process, baking soda makes the mixture fizz for quite a while before it starts to thicken. When it starts to thicken, beware! It goes really fast.
  2. Take the mixture off the heat as soon as it’s thick enough to start wanting to stick together. Let cool, partially covered until it can be handled.
  3. Next comes the fun mixing part. If you want your mixture to come in different colors, separate into balls and start adding your favorite food grade colors. I used Wilton®** icing gel colors left over from my cake decorating days and really loved the results. Beware – the icing colors may stain your hands but can be easily removed with a baby wipe.

2-Ingredient Silky-Smooth Play Dough By Our Best Bites

This silky-smooth 2-ingredient play dough can be made in just a few minutes with stuff you already have in your house--hair conditioner (or lotion) and cornstarch!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup hair conditioner or lotion (don't use the expensive stuff, but I recommend something that is either scent-free or a scent that you/your kids like)

Directions:

  1. Place the cornstarch in a large bowl.
  2. Mix in the beauty product of your choice with your hands--it will just start coming together and it will be pliable and very, very smooth.
  3. You may need to add more conditioner/shaving cream/lotion as you go. Use food coloring to color as desired. Keep covered when not in use.

Some tips from our mixing experiments:

For this recipe, don't use the expensive hair condition or lotion. Additionally, we recommend something that is either scent-free or a scent that you/your kids like. Bonus, if you decide to use a lotion for this mixture, you might notice very soft hands!

Gluten & Corn Free Play Dough Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 firmly packed cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 Tablespoons oil
  • 1 Tablespoons cream of tartar
  • Food coloring as desired

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients into a medium sized saucepan.
  2. Stir continuously over a medium heat until the mixture congeals and forms a ball, approximately 3-5 minutes. Continue to turn the ball over on the heat for another 1-2 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and turn dough out onto a board or bench top.
  4. Allow to cool completely and then knead until the dough is smooth. Sprinkle with a little rice flour as you knead if the dough feels at all sticky but be sure to only add a little at a time to prevent your dough drying out.

Hints & tips:

Although it can be difficult to wait, I find so often when cooking with alternative flours it’s best to let the mixture cool before handling. Waiting allows the ingredients to bind fully.  One way you can speed up the cooling process is by breaking the mixture into smaller pieces.

Liquid food coloring can be added to the pot or kneaded into the cooled dough. It’s best to add your coloring one drop at a time. Doing so will help you achieve the desired color and may help to keep the dough from getting too sticky. If you find yourself in the situation where your dough did become sticker than anticipated, adding a bit more rice flour may help.

Store play dough in an air tight container or wrapped tightly in a plastic bag.

No Allergy Edible Play Dough

This recipe might be a better alternative for younger children who may want to eat the play dough! Added bonus, it’s super easy to make.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sunflower seed butter (Sun Butter Spread)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  •  2/3 cup arrowroot powder ( or organic corn starch)

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together and play!

Rice Flour Play Dough

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups rice flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • food coloring or sparkles (optional)

Directions:

  1. Mix flour, salt, and cream of tartar in a large pot. Add water and oil.
  2. Cook over medium heat until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan (about 5 minutes), stirring constantly.
  3. Add vanilla extract (for smell, not taste). Mix thoroughly. Put play dough on a clean surface. When cool enough to handle, knead lightly.
  4. Store in airtight container.
  5. Add food coloring to the water to make colored play dough. Add sparkles during the hand-mixing time for sparkly play dough.

- Ellen

*Play-Doh is a registered trademark of Hasbro™ and not affiliated with Nutricia North America

**Wilton is a registered trademark of Wilton Products Inc. and is not affiliated with Nutricia North America.

 

             


EpiPen Safety: How to Keep a Child Safe at School

Posted 2.25.10 | Nutrition Specialist

EpiPens, for any child with allergies, can be a huge life saver. However, sending your little one to school with their EpiPen can be rather stressful for a parent. There are a thousand questions that might go through your mind, “Will they be safe even with the EpiPen?” or “Will someone know how to use the EpiPen?”.

EpiPen and Anaphylactic Shock Basics

For those of you who don’t know, anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock can be a life-threatening allergic reaction to specific triggers, such as food proteins and medication. This results in hives or swelling of the throat or tongue, which can lead to constricted airways and/or a dramatic drop in blood pressure.

An injection from an EpiPen is imperative when anaphylactic shock occurs and can save a person’s life. An EpiPen is a premeasured dose of epinephrine, which is injected into someone’s body during a severe allergic reaction to avoid or treat the onset and symptoms of anaphylactic shock, which provides a window of time to seek further medical attention. 1

EpiPens at Schools

If you are a parent of a child who is at risk for anaphylactic shock, you probably carry his or her EpiPen with you at all times, in case they are exposed to an allergen to which they are allergic. This is excellent for when you are with your child; however, your child could be exposed to many more allergens at school when you and your EpiPen aren’t there!

In fact, one study of children and adolescents found that 10 out of 13 fatal or near fatal anaphylactic reactions occurred outside the home. All the fatalities did not have an EpiPen and those who survived received an EpiPen shot before or within 5 minutes of developing severe symptoms.2

So, what does this mean? EpiPens can save lives! You need to ensure that the other adults who spend time with your child are trained and able to assist in any situation if you’re not around.

Don’t worry, this isn’t as difficult as it sounds! I suggest sitting down with your child’s teacher in the beginning of the school year to set up a 504 plan. This will ensure he or she receives proper care and attention when you aren’t there and that all adults that are around your child have the proper training to use an EpiPen if an emergency situation arises.

Also, there is good news for all you Massachusetts residents! Thanks to your persistent neighbors, starting March 2010, all newly hired school bus drivers in the state of Massachusetts will be required to have EpiPen training. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t mandate the existing school bus drivers to be trained; however, it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully the other 49 states will follow suit. Good work Massachusetts!

How have you been able to ensure that your child is safe and can receive the proper care if they go into anaphylactic shock? Did it involve a 504 plan or EpiPen training?

- Nita

References:

1. www.epipen.com/
2. Sampson H, Mendelson L, Rosen J. Fatal and near-fatal anaphylactic reactions to food in children and adolescents. N Engl J Med. 1992;327:380-384.


Food Allergy News Roundup

Posted 11.3.09 | Christine Graham-Garo

While I’m always paying attention to stories about food allergies, I’ve noticed lately there have been even more articles than usual in the media, which is great. More stories helps to increase awareness and educate the public about how serious food allergies can be as well as some of the signs/symptoms people should look for if they suspect an allergy. Below are just a few of some of the articles and posts about food allergies from the past few weeks that have caught my attention.

How – and How Not – To Diagnose A Food Allergy

Have you been thinking about having your child tested for food allergies? Before heading to the allergist check out this entry from The Washington Post’s “Checkup” blog. It talks about the benefits of formal allergy testing and gives some helpful information about the different types of diagnostic tests from the Food Allergy Initiative.

A Family That Takes It’s Food Allergies Seriously

I always think it is amazing when kids are out in the community raising awareness about their food allergies. The Boston Globe reported last week on Spencer and Zoe Cohen. Between the two, they are allergic to nuts, fish, soy, mangoes, bananas, carrots, broccoli, and lettuce! The siblings traveled to the FAAN Kids Congress last month where they met with lawmakers to lobby for the FAAMA Act which could help fund more food allergy research.

A Next-Generation Epi-Pen is unveiled

Dey Pharma, the makers of Epi-Pen, released a new more user-friendly Epi-Pen. If your little one needs one, don’t forget to read our tips for Epi-Pen safety. Hopefully you will never need to use one, but it is always best to be prepared for an emergency situation!

Trained Dog Warns Child with Allergy to Peanuts

We blogged about a new furry trend in food allergy safety - food allergy dogs - a few weeks ago. Now USA Today is telling the story of the Rine family whose adorable Portuguese water dog Nicco helps their son Ethan avoid peanuts. Right now these dogs are expensive because of the high cost of their extensive training, but they are helping keep kids safe. Perhaps as they become more common, the cost will go down and they will be more affordable.

Have you read any interesting news or tips recently? If so, share them with us in the comments!

-Christine


Safe and Spooky Halloween Tips

Posted 10.13.09 | Mallory West

Halloween With Halloween just a few weeks away, your little ones are probably getting excited about their costumes, class parties and trick-or-treating. And while these can be fun experiences for children, they can be potentially dangerous for those with food allergies.

Fortunately, with a little advance planning, you and your little ones can have a safe and spooky Halloween without the risk of an allergic reaction. Here are some tips and safe treats to help you prepare:

Halloween Parties

For Halloween parties (especially at school), it always helps to be involved in the planning process and to attend. You can also volunteer to bring your child’s favorite sweet treat for everyone to try. Some safe options include this recipe for Dairy Free Caramel Apples or these delicious dairy and gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Trick-or-Treating

Most important when trick-or-treating is to examine your children’s candy before they eat any of it. Depending on the severity of their allergy, you may want to have them avoid putting their hands into candy bowls (since candy wrappers could be contaminated with allergens like nuts or dairy). Have neighbors drop the candies into their bags directly, or incorporate gloves into their costume design.

Consider creating a “swap-out” bag of allergy-safe treats, DVDs or books that they can enjoy at home. Divvies Chocolate Ghosts and Bats are delicious gluten, dairy, nut and egg-free treats. If there are other children in your neighborhood with food allergies, you can set an example by handing out non-food goodies like stickers.

What tips do you follow for a safe Halloween?

-Mallory


Faster Food-Safety Alerts

Posted 9.15.09 | Christine Graham-Garo

We have written about the dangers of food contamination for allergic children before, and last week the FDA implemented a new system to help identify potential problems much faster.

Companies will now be required to use an electronic food registry to alert the FDA within 24 hours of finding good contamination that could cause people to become severely ill or die. This is a huge improvement over the past, when the FDA was only notified of contamination when people became ill. If a company fails to report potential food-borne outbreaks within 24 hours they will face an injunction, fines or other punishment.

Luckily for parents, the makers of infant formula are already required to report contamination problems to the FDA through a separate electronic system. However, it is nice to know that now ALL of our food will be subject to more intense scrutiny.

-Christine


When Cookie Dough Becomes Dangerous

Posted 9.10.09 | Mallory West

I came across this article the other day in The Washington Post about a woman in Las Vegas who has been fighting for her life since eating a tube of cookie dough contaminated with E. coli bacteria. The article highlights the real dangers of food contamination. While this is always a concern for those with food allergies who could have severe reactions to food that is contaminated with unknown allergens, the general public now also runs the risk of bacterial contamination in the food supply.

Fortunately, as the article reports, Congress is taking action:

“In July, the House approved legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration broad new powers and place new responsibilities on food producers. The bill would speed up the ability of health officials to track down the source of an outbreak and give the government the power to mandate a recall, rather than rely on food producers to voluntarily pull tainted products from the shelves.”

This bill also gives the FDA the power to act quickly in response to food that contains undeclared allergens, which is great news for those living with food allergies. Hopefully this important legislation will be passed by Congress and help prevent tragedies like this one.

-Mallory


11 Tips for Your Allergic Little One’s First Day of School or Daycare

Posted 8.19.09 | Nutrition Specialist


The first day of preschool or daycare is an exciting time for young children. It's usually also an exciting time for parents, too! But introducing little ones with food allergies and related conditions into a new environment can be scary and, depending on the severity of the allergy, even a bit dangerous. If this situation is one you'll be facing soon, it is important to educate and remind your child's teachers and caregivers about food allergy precautions and safety BEFORE they begin their new adventure. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

In this post we're going to outline some simple steps that you can follow to make sure that the transition into a new environment is a safe one for your child. We think these steps will also give you some much-needed peace-of-mind, not to mention we think your little one's teacher and/or caregivers will appreciate it! With each tip we'll give you some additional suggestions on how to really set yourself up for safety success.

  1. Schedule a back-to-school check-up with your pediatrician and/or allergist.
    Why, you ask? This is the perfect opportunity to make sure that your current allergy management plan is still effective. For example, do you have enough epinephrine auto-injectors, if that's part of your plan? The healthcare team will ask the questions experts think of to make sure you're prepared. You can also let them know you’ll be asking the preschool or daycare about a care plan (more on that below). Check!
     
  2. Start the discussion with the preschool or daycare team about creating an individualized care plan. Ask how the school can work with you to develop a written plan to ensure your child’s needs are met and he/she and participate and be safe at school. In the United States this is known as a 504 plan, and in Canada some provinces may require something like this. The school may ask you to provide medical information or other documents from your child's healthcare team.

    In the US, a 504 plan (or accommodation plan) is a written plan that describes exactly how the school will ensure your child’s needs are met and allow your child to participate safely during all parts of the school day. A team at the school will ensure your child qualifies for a 504 plan. You may need to provide medical information and/or recommendations from your child’s allergist and/or pediatrician. If the team finds your child eligible, they will create a 504 Plan.
     
  3. Provide teachers and caregivers with brochures and information on your child's allergy to prevent accidents.You've probably seen brochures like this at the allergist's office or on websites for families managing food allergies (such as this site in the US or this one in Canada). Why not grab one while you're at the appointment you just scheduled, and put it to good use! These brochures are often written to help people who are less familiar with the condition to get a basic understanding. While you're at it, write your child's name on the brochure to make sure it stays in the correct file!
     
  4. Document your child's food allergies and related conditions and any treatment plans in preschool or daycare paperwork. Many preschools, schools, and daycare operations have sophisticated systems to keep track of important items like this. Ask them in advance what you can bring to include in your child's file (e.g. "Should I bring a printed document or a flash drive? Do you need copies of any medical records? Do you have forms I can fill out in advance?"). This way you can be certain that they have the information you want them to have in the place and format that will be useful for them. Scratch that one off the list!
     
  5. Create an Allergy Card. This is a one-page “cheat sheet” with information about your child’s food allergies and related conditions for substitute teachers or new employees. Your child's teacher or caregivers will thank you! Make this cheat sheet short, simple, and to-the-point. Remember: it's a cheat sheet, not a novel! You want it to get across important, relevant information quickly, and you want it to be read, not skimmed over. Are you considering using bold text, bright colors, and lots of exclamation points(!!!)? We're not going to stop you!
     
  6. Have an in-person discussion about what to do in case of an emergency. This will be covered in your child’s 504 plan. It's helpful when you provide information in writing, but a lot of adults learn well through verbal communication. This is your opportunity to really stress the most important points to your child's teacher or caregivers. If they remember nothing else, they need to know what to do in an emergency.

    If your child will keep an epinephrine auto-injector at preschool or daycare, be sure to train the caregiver on when and how to use one. Train them on when to call 9-1-1, and make sure they have all of the important phone numbers for your family and your healthcare team.
     
  7. Make sure that your child fully understands what can trigger their allergy. We understand - lots of parents want to be with their child at all times to ensure their safety. Parents of children with allergies are no exception! Don't worry; we won't go so far as to call you "helicopter parents." But if you haven't had this conversation with your child yet, don't wait! At preschool or daycare, your child will be away from you for several hours at a time in an environment that presents risk of exposure to allergens. Start now, don't wait, and help your child to help herself!
     
  8. Look at upcoming lunch or snack menus and identify options, and provide the preschool with a list of foods that your little one can enjoy at any time. Many preschools and daycare operations have to plan their menus in advance and provide them to a state agency to ensure they meet certain nutrition standards. So don't worry, asking them for a copy in advance shouldn't require a lot of effort on their part! They will likely appreciate your help, too. Giving them a list of foods that don't contain your child's allergens at the beginning of the year could even help them with their menu planning!
     
  9. If no suitable menu options are available, pack food from home and make sure your child knows not to swap with his classmates. First, make sure they preschool or daycare knows you'll be doing this, and ask if they have any requirements (they may require you label and date items, for example). Make sure to give clear instructions to the teacher or staff about storage, for example if your child's lunch needs to be kept separate from allergen-containing foods. Last, explain to your child that he has his own special lunch, prepared with love by you!
     
  10. If the school allows, offer to bring in allergy-safe treats for holidays and special events. This way you know that your child is safe, and she won’t feel excluded from the fun! (Some schools now do not allow fresh baked items, and require caregivers to bring in packaged items.) If parents are expected to provide treats for a holiday or birthday, consider a treat that doesn't involve food for your child's day. If treats are a regular occurence, you can give the teacher or staff a bag with several treats at the beginning of the year so that they can use them one-by-one as needed for your child.
     
  11. If your child has a special formula, ask what you need to provide. Some preschools or daycares require formula to be brought to them already prepared. Others are okay if you proved pre-measured powder and clear preparation instructions. Have this conversation before your child's first day so that you aren't caught off-guard when you drop your child off. That would be bad! If your child uses Neocate Splash, you could always bring a few extra drink boxes to keep as an emergency supply.

We've reviewed some of the top steps you can take to prepare for the first day of preschool or daycare for your child with food allergies or related conditions. Taking these steps will not only prepare her for success and safety on the first day, but throughout the year! We hope these tips are helpful to you. Start now, and check them all off!

Do you have other tips to share for families facing the first day of preschool or daycare? Let us know what else you are doing to prepare your child for his or her first day so that we can share that with everyone!

-Nita Parsnani
-Rob McCandlish, RDN

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Safer Food is Just Around the Corner

Posted 8.19.09 | Mallory West

Great news! The House of Representatives recently approved a food-safety bill that aims to improve safety standards on food production in the U.S.

Although the bill wasn’t aimed at allergies specifically, it tackles some big problems that have arisen in recent months due to contamination and lax safety procedures. The author of the bill, Representative John D. Dingell, says it “will fundamentally change the way in which we ensure the safety of our food supply.”

The most important part of this bill? It gives the FDA a lot more power to recall food if the manufacturers haven’t followed safety procedures. This should help parents of food allergic children, who have to worry about food contamination even more than the rest of the general public. The bill also aims to prevent contamination problems before food is distributed, which means people won’t have to get sick to prompt a recall and inspection.

Now more than ever it is important to bring policy matters related to food allergies to the attention of lawmakers. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act (FAAMA) has been reintroduced to Congress. To find out how you can ask your representatives and senators to help, please visit the Food Allergy Awareness Network Web site.

What other food allergy-related issues do you hope Congress addresses soon?

-Mallory


Does the General Public Misunderstand Food Allergies?

Posted 7.30.09 | Christine Graham-Garo

Have you experienced problems with people who do not fully understand what it means to have a food allergy? From the waiters at your favorite restaurant to a schoolmate on the playground, those who do not understand the severity of food allergies could unknowingly put your food allergic child in harm’s way.

A report published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows that food allergy knowledge in the general public is poor, especially when it comes to knowing the difference between food allergy and food intolerance.

One of the most alarming misconceptions highlighted by the report is that “almost half of participants erroneously believed that a cure exists for food allergy, and more than two thirds stated that a daily medicine could be taken to prevent a food allergy reaction. They also tended to overlook the necessity of strict allergen avoidance: more than 40 percent of participants indicated that other means exist to prevent life-threatening reactions.”

Unfortunately, it is up to the food allergy community to raise awareness and educate others about the severity of the condition. Here are a few tips to help you inform others about your little one’s food allergies. The more people know about food allergies, the more likely they are to be vigilant about helping your child avoid potential allergens.

  • Schedule a meeting with your child’s teachers and caretakers to go over the basics and put a plan into place to help avoid an emergency.
  • Ask teachers and students to participate in the “Be a PAL” Program, which teaches five simple steps kids can take to keep their classmates safe.
  • When you dine out, bring “chef cards” with you to alert the wait staff and those in the kitchen of your child’s allergies.
  • Remind people that a food allergy is different from food intolerance, which does not involve the immune system and is typically not life threatening like a food allergy.

Have you had experiences with the general public not understanding the severity of your child’s allergy? I encourage you to help support other food allergy families by sharing some of your stories here and telling us how you handled the situation and any additional recommendations you may have.

-Christine


Camp T.A.G. – Safe Summer Fun for Food Allergic Children and their Siblings

Posted 7.23.09 | Nutrition Specialist

Has your child missed out on summer camp fun due to his or her food allergies? If so, he/she may soon be able to have the traditional camp experience in a safe environment. Starting in the summer of 2011, food allergic children and their siblings will be able to attend Camp T.A.G., a weeklong day camp in Illinois, Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland and Texas.

The food allergy-friendly camp will feature a Registered Nurse on staff, allergy-safe snacks, educational activities, games, sports and crafts, and a Parent Education Day.

To learn more about Camp T.A.G., and to request a camp in your location, visit the original post on GoDairyFree.com.

-Nita


Help Pass FAAMA in 2009!

Posted 7.14.09 | Nutrition Specialist

The Food Allergy Awareness Network (FAAN) is working once again to push the Senate to enact the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act (FAAMA). FAAMA outlines voluntary national guidelines to help schools manage students affected by food allergy and anaphylaxis.

As some of you might already know, FAAMA was passed by the House in 2008, and earned support from 42 Senators. Unfortunately, FAAMA was not taken up by the Senate before it adjourned.

FAAN provides some great talking points for reaching out to your US Senators and US Representative and asking for their support as well as contact information. If you’re interested in getting involved, check out FAAN’s Web site at http://bit.ly/19x8zk.

Feel free to keep us updated on your activities and share any responses you get.

-Nita


Picnics, Cookouts and Trips to the Beach...

Posted 6.30.09 | Mallory West

Now that summer has officially begun and the 4th of July is quickly approaching, you’re probably beginning to worry about upcoming picnics, cookouts, and days at the beach. Can your child with a severe allergy safely join in on the fun? Of course! With some careful planning and the right attitude, you and your child can enjoy the summer. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Develop a list of your little one’s medications – including those taken only in an emergency

When preparing for an outing, it’s often easy to forget some of the smaller items that you keep stocked at home. To ensure you have everything you need, make a list in advance of the medications your little one uses – on a daily basis and in case of an emergency.

Prepare allergy safe food for your child in advance

If you’re picnicking with friends or family, make sure to bring some meals and snacks that your little one can enjoy. Not everyone shares your caution in handling certain ingredients, so go ahead and prepare the food yourself before leaving. And remember, to label all food carefully – it’s easy for someone to grab the wrong item, possibly leaving your child with allergies without a meal.

Make sure whoever is hosting the summer activity knows about your child’s allergies

Many times people are so busy preparing to host a group of people, that your child’s specific allergies might slip their mind. Play it safe -- even if the host knows you and your child well, it never hurts to provide a friendly reminder about what your child can and cannot eat.

Keep it clean

Avoid eating directly on park picnic tables – you don’t know who was there prior to your visit and what food residue might be leftover. Instead bring a table cloth and some plates that everyone can eat on. Disinfectant wipes are also great for quickly wiping down areas.

Have an emergency plan

No matter how much you plan, it’s still possible that your child will accidentally come into contact with a food that causes an allergic reaction. If and when this happens, it’s easy to panic and forget what you need to do to help your child. Prior to your outing, write down what needs to be done in case of emergency – this will not only help you but can also serve as a guideline for any other adults onsite who can offer a hand.

HAVE FUN!

While it’s important to plan for your outing to ensure your child’s safety, summer is about having fun! Remember to bring activities such as coloring books and games so that food is not the primary focus of the outing.

What summer plans do you and your little ones have?

- Mallory


Product Recall Alert – Pilgrim’s Pride Frozen Poultry

Posted 6.18.09 | Mallory West

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced that Pilgrim's Pride Corp., a Texas firm, is recalling 608,188 pounds of frozen poultry products that may contain undeclared milk, soy, and wheat allergens. The products were shipped to Kroger® establishments across the country. The undeclared allergens were discovered by the company, and although the USDA has not received reports of health problems due to the products, it advises those concerned about allergic reactions to consult with a doctor.

The recalled poultry products’ plastic bags are embossed with establishment numbers "P7091A," "P13477" or "P13485A" near the zip seal on the packages as well as the USDA mark of inspection. Each bag also bears the "Best By" date of "JUL 25, 2009" through "JUN 8, 2010", a UPC code "0 11110 97158 6," and Julian dates of "8207" to "9159."

The USDA has classified this a “Class I Recall,” indicating a high risk factor, and that it is “a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”

For the entire story, click here.

And for questions and concerns call the USDA’s toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. E.T., Monday-Friday.

- Mallory


EpiPen Safety and Accidental Injection

Posted 5.12.09 | Nutrition Specialist

Knowing when, how and where to use an EpiPen safely and correctly is of the utmost importance when you have a child with food allergies. What you’re probably not thinking of when you pick up the EpiPen, however, is your own safety. This is when accidents can -- and unfortunately do -- happen.  Check out this blog entry from the Consumer Reports health blog. Nicole A. Sarrubbo, editorial associate at Consumer Reports, wrote about an experience she had going to babysit a 7-year old boy with severe allergies to a number of foods, including milk, eggs and nuts. As practice, Nicole injected an orange with an EpiPen so that she would know what to do in case the boy had an allergic reaction. However, while the boy’s mother was teaching Nicole how to use the EpiPen, she accidentally injected herself with it!
 
Fortunately, this particular mom only felt a bit jittery after the accidental injection, but in some cases it can cause extreme discomfort. According to a review of 26 studies in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, there were nearly 70 incidents of unintentional EpiPen injections over the course of 20 years. However, it is believed that the accidental injection rates are highly underreported.
 
As Nicole suggests in her blog, practicing using an EpiPen is important so that if an allergic reaction was to occur, you feel prepared. However, it’s a good idea to always be prepared by keeping extra supplies on hand, incase you accidentally inject yourself. And remember to handle the EpiPen with care, even if you are only demonstrating how to use it.
 
- Nita

Food Allergies Still Top Priority for FDA

Posted 4.28.09 | Christine Graham-Garo

Good news — According to the latest issue of FDA Week, precautionary allergen statements on food packages are still a top priority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) met with the FDA in March to discuss concerns that the FDA’s food safety priorities might have changed because of the peanut contamination issues. However, the FDA assured FAAN that food allergy labeling is still of the upmost importance to the agency.

Back in September, my fellow blogger wrote an entry on the allergy labeling public hearings that occurred. Anne Munoz-Furlong, FAAN Founder, said the FDA is currently reviewing the public comments they received before, during and after that meeting.

Any food allergy label updates on your end?

- Christine


Food Safety Getting Even More Media Attention

Posted 4.21.09 | Christine Graham-Garo

Last week, my fellow blogger wrote an entry on the latest issues in food safety brought to light with the peanut and pistachio scares. This continues to be a topic covered by the mainstream media, and I think this continued focus is great for raising awareness about food safety and hopefully will benefit the food allergy community who is always on high alert.

Here are a few follow up articles on the food safety topic that are worth reading:

“Local, State Agencies Lack Resources to Ensure Food Safety” in the Washington Post: This article is on a study by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services that determined that local and state health officials ¾ not federal ¾ are the ones doing the bulk of the food safety work. However, their performance is lacking because of scarce resources and weak leadership from the federal government. To read the entire study, click here.

“To Fill Food Safety Gap, Processors Pay Inspectors” in the New York Times: This article discusses the industry specific need for agency oversight when it comes to food safety that wasn’t provided for them by the federal government. Therefore, many industries sought out their own agencies for oversight. However, many food safety experts are now troubled with leaving safety standards to industry discretion.

Food safety affects all of us, and we can only hope that this increased awareness will put pressure on the government to make food safety a top priority.

Have you read any interesting articles on this topic?

- Christine


Food Allergies: Top Story on CNN.com

Posted 4.9.09 | Nutrition Specialist

While it makes me sad to see stories like Teddy’s, a 4-year-old boy with extreme food allergies who was featured on CNN.com last week, I am also glad to see that food allergy stories are getting more coverage. And that means that food allergy awareness is growing, which is a great thing.

Teddy is allergic to milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts and tree nuts, and has to stay away from all places where allergen exposure is possible - that means no baseball games or ice cream parlors. However, Teddy’s parents have worked hard to keep him safe, and have even found several foods that are safe for him to eat: meats, vegetables, fruits and most grains.

While it’s been hard for Teddy and his family, they are making it work. I particularly like their idea of labeling the foods in their house with stickers so they know what’s “Teddy safe” and what’s not.

To read the entire story on CNN.com, click here.

As we know, food allergies are on the rise. However, as awareness increases, hopefully safety measures will increase as well.

For more food allergy safety tips, click here to read an entry my fellow blogger wrote on a new food allergy safety resource.

Do you have any interesting food allergy safety tips?

- Nita


Food Allergy Safety Update

Posted 3.18.09 | Nutrition Specialist

I’ve been following the food allergy labeling debate for awhile now. Back in September, we blogged about a hearing held by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop a long-term strategy to clear up accidental-allergy warnings that are misleading consumers. According to a study released this weekend at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s annual meeting, this is still a safety concern for all food allergy parents.

The study found that a small number of food products with the “may contain” label actually do contain allergens. 5.3 percent of randomly selected grocery store food items with this label contained detectable levels of egg, milk or peanut and 2 percent of food products with no such warning also contained allergens. In all, 399 products were tested.

To read the entire US News & World Report article on the study, click here.

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 required new labels for packaged foods containing major allergens, but the “may contain” labels were not covered in this Act.

As we’ve said before, be very vigilant when purchasing food products for your little ones that you have not made yourself. Unfortunately, potential allergens may still be in a food product, even if it’s not on the label.

On a positive note, President Obama has vowed to help with food safety in his recent weekly address. He announced his appointments to the FDA and covered the recent salmonella scare in the Georgia peanut plan. Click here to check out a Wall Street Journal article on the topic.

Any questions or comments? I’d love to hear them.

- Nita


New Food Allergy Educational Resource

Posted 3.5.09 | Christine Graham-Garo

As an allergy parent, you’re most likely always looking out for new information and tips on how to prevent allergic reactions and keep your little one safe.

Food Allergy Safety 101 is a new Web site that was launched for food allergy parents. It covers everything from how to avoid allergens and ingredients to stay way from to cross-contamination prevention. It also has a list of newsletters and blogs to check out.

To view, visit www.testforallergy.com/FAS101.

What do you think about the site? I’d love to know!

- Christine


New Food Allergy Legislation in the Works!

Posted 3.3.09 | Nutrition Specialist

Last week, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) announced his co-sponsorship of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act of 2009, a bill introduced by U.S. Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN). If passed, the Act would help schools protect the more than 2.2 million allergy prone little ones in the United States.The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act of 2009 would provide voluntary, consistent food allergy guidelines for schools and incentive grants to schools that choose to implement these guidelines. The guidelines would be developed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Education within one year of the enactment of this Act.

To read a one page summary of the legislation, click here.

This legislation is supported by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, the National Association of School Nurses, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Food Allergy Initiative and the National Restaurant Association.

If you have any specific questions regarding the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act of 2009, contact (202) 224-2823.

- Nita


UPDATE: Tainted Peanut Plant

Posted 2.26.09 | Christine Graham-Garo

A few weeks ago, I posted an entry on the recent peanut product contamination scare from a Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Georgia. Since then, the news has been filled with articles on this topic. I’ve gathered a few of these articles to give you an update on the situation.

Check them out below:

- The makers of peanut products not affected by the salmonella outbreak are spreading the word that their brands are safe. To see a few safe brands and to read the entire article from CNN.com, click here. (Insert: http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/02/10/peanut.butter.makers/index.html?iref=newssearch)

- The Peanut Corporation of America plant located in Plainview, Texas is closed and all products manufactured from this plant are recalled. To read this article from USA Today, click here. (Insert: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-02-12-salmonella-recall_N.htm)

- Even parents that don’t have allergy prone little ones are now wondering what to pack their kids for lunch. An article in the Washington Post discusses America’s confusion and frustration with the outbreak. To read the entire article, click here. (Insert: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/13/AR2009021301946.html)

- Hundreds of items have been recalled by the U.S. Drug and Food Administration. Click here (Insert: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/peanutbutterrecall/index.cfm) to view the entire list of recalled products. You can also search for specific products by typing in the brand or product name in the search box.

- The government is working hard to prevent any future outbreaks, including routinely collecting samples for bacterial testing whenever they go into a manufacturing facility. For all of the steps the government is taking to prevent future outbreaks, click here (Insert: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29158355/) to read the entire article from MSNBC.com.

As an allergy parent, you already know the stress that goes along with protecting your child from what seems to be a safe food. The rest of America is unfortunately now experiencing the same thing.

What are your thoughts on the current peanut scare? I’d love to know.

- Christine


Tainted Peanut Plant

Posted 2.5.09 | Christine Graham-Garo

Over the last few weeks, the news has been filled with articles on the tainted peanut plant in Blakely, Georgia.

Click here for a CNN.com article on the topic.
The FDA is now saying that the Peanut Corporation of America knew one of its facilities had tested positive for bacteria. How scary!
As a food allergy parent, this story highlights the importance of food allergy safety! Reading food labels carefully, checking expiration dates and looking into manufacturing facilities are a great way to ensure your child stays away from those pesky allergens.
It's important to know where and how your child's foods and formulas are being manufactured. To be on the safe side, only purchase foods make in a 100 percent allergy-free environment (and if you're not sure look on the manufacturers Web site or give them a call). For example, Neocate, an amino acid-based formula made for children with milk protein allergies, is manufactured in a 100 percent dairy-free environment.
Health officials are recommending that consumers throw away all products that were recalled and avoid consuming any products not verified as safe.
The tainted plant makes peanut butter as well as peanut paste. The peanut butter is sold to institutions, such as cafeterias and the peanut paste is used in items such as cookies and ice cream. To see a list of safe companies compiled by the American Peanut Council, click here.
 
- Christine

Breaking News: Cadbury Chocolate Contains Milk!

Posted 1.29.09 | Christine Graham-Garo

I know, I know. This is not a big surprise, especially since the brand name contains the word ‘milk,’ and there is an image of milk on the wrapper. However, to comply with labeling laws, Cadbury announced that it is adding warnings to its Dairy Milk Chocolate wrappers and to its Dairy Milk Whole Nut bars.

If you’re not familiar with the story, check out this clip from foodqualitynews.com.

The company is adding a warning “to inform milk-allergic potential customers” that its products contain milk.

While this might be obvious, we all know food labels can be tricky and I personally think this is a step in the right direction for food allergy labeling. And with the FDA still in the process of developing a long-term labeling strategy, it’s nice to see companies already responding to their food-allergic children and their parents. Click here to read an entry I wrote a few months ago on this topic.

As an allergy parent, how do you feel about Cadbury’s labels? I’d love to know!

- Christine


Halloween: Focus on the Fun, Not the Food

Posted 10.14.08 | Nutrition Specialist

Costume? Check. Pumpkins? Check. Chocolate bar? Oh no! If your little one has food allergies, unfortunately, this is probably what you are thinking.

Holidays like this – with so much candy and goodies – can be tough for kids with food allergies (and tough for parents who want to make sure their child enjoys the day). Many of the candies and foods during Halloween contain milk, milk products, and other food allergens. But it is possible to make sure Halloween is both safe and fun for your food allergy kids.

Of course, safety always comes first. But our goal is for you and your family to have a healthy and happy Halloween! Check out the following tips.

First, let’s talk about safety:

- Be prepared in case an emergency happens. Have a set plan in place that all participating people know about before the activities begin.

- Be sure to talk with teachers/other parents about what needs to be done to ensure your child’s safety at any Halloween parties or school activities.

- Remember, even a little bit of a food allergen can cause a reaction. Talk with your child so that he/she understands the dangers of taking just a small taste of a food he/she might be allergic to.

- Always have Epinephrine on hand in case your child has a severe reaction to one of the food allergens.

Now to the fun stuff:

- Have non-food items on hand for your kid to have fun with. Think dollar store toys, stickers and coloring books.

- Plan an alternative activity from trick-or-treating. You can have a Halloween slumber party or a scavenger hunt in your allergy-free home.

- Prepare a container full of safe treats to give your child after he/she has gone trick-or-treating. That way, they can have something to look forward to while out with their friends.

- Consider having a “swap-party” where your child can swap candies he cannot have for “allowed” candies. This way everyone gets what they want!

- Some kid’s food allergies are so severe they rely on an elemental formula like Neocate®—which means they either can’t have any food at all or limited food amounts and types. In these special cases, you can put their formula in a festive cup or mix it with ice for a fun slushy, but you really want to focus on the activities.

To prepare further for Halloween and the upcoming holiday season, check out more tips/resources from Kids with Food Allergy and Allergy Moms.

Any spooky questions? I’d love to answer them!

Be well,
Dr. Y


Settling In To A Food Allergy Life

Posted 10.2.08 | Guest Blogger

Gina Clowes is the founder of AllergyMoms.com. We would like to thank her for guest blogging for us and sharing her family's allergy story.

Note: This article was originally written for Health Central: My AllergyNetwork.com. To view the article there, click here.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Where To Start: Tips for New Food Allergy Parents when adjusting to life with food allergies. Soon after your child is diagnosed, you will realize how food is the focal point of every social occasion. So this week, I'll share some tips for socializing as well as some ideas for a safer kitchen area.

Setting Up a Safe Kitchen

Your child's age, the severity of his/her symptoms, your family composition and your own comfort and stress level will determine how you manage your home now. Some ideas to consider are: Removing all foods to which your child is allergic from the home. Removing only the most allergenic foods or the foods that have caused severe reactions.

Keeping "unsafe" foods in a different location (such as a high shelf or locked cabinet) or labeling unsafe foods. Keeping a special cupboard and refrigerator shelf for "safe" foods for the child and/or labeling the "safe" food. It's also a good idea to have your children decide on a certain seat at the table. Make it a habit to sit in the same seat for every meal. This will cut down on confusion if you may be serving unsafe foods at any time.

The important thing is to agree on what will work best for your family and to make sure that your spouse and other children understand the new house rules.

Entertaining in your home

Some families accommodate the allergic child more than others. When we entertain in our home, I usually make everything safe for my son. Truth be told, the food is not always as tasty as it might have been in the past, but I have never felt that any of my friend or family noticed or cared.

At first, I tried having Thanksgiving with all of the regular dairy, egg, and wheat-laden fare. Then I'd make separate "safe" versions for my son. I was cranky and exhausted before the meal was even served. The past two years, I've made one meal. I make a cornbread stuffing, dairy/gluten free gravy and we have gluten/dairy/egg and nut free cakes and brownies for dessert. (I haven't mastered a gluten/dairy free pie yet.)

I am so relaxed and happy that I don't have to move dishes away from my son or worry that he might sneak a piece of some yummy looking dessert.

Visiting Others

If you are a new food allergy parent, I would recommend you carry snacks with you all of the time. A few safe juice boxes or water bottles along with some individually packaged allergy-friendly snacks are something you can keep in your diaper bag, purse or car and you'll always be ready.

Remember that others are not living in our "allergy world", so even though you said your little guy could have a Popsicle, your hostess did not realize that a creamsicle was out of the question for him.

I thought lemonade was always a safe drink for my son until one mom surprised me with kiwi-lemonade.

When visiting a friend's home, you need to slip on your "allergy-colored glasses." You are on the look out for toddlers dripping sippy cups, or leaving a trail of finger food that contains dairy, wheat, egg or nut products. Keep an eye out for pets and their food which can contain allergens, even peanut. And during any holiday season, there is even more of a chance of candy or cookie treats left out.

It is hard for others to grasp the notion that a tiny trace of food can be deadly. So until your friends really "get it" and you are sure that they can safely prepare foods for your child, bring your own snacks. And if you can, bring some to share!

- Gina Clowes

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It’s National Food Safety Education Month…

Posted 9.11.08 | Nutrition Specialist

And what a perfect time to start blogging! My name is Ulrike Reichert, and I’m joining the baby health blog team. I’m very excited to start blogging and looking forward to getting to know the online allergy community a little better.

Here’s some information about me:
I studied nutrition and received my degree from the University of Bonn in Germany. Since then, I’ve truly enjoyed the medical side of nutrition which is partly why I came to Nutricia North America. I’ve been there for the past 11 years and now manage our Nutrition Services Department. Along the way, I’ve also had two beautiful children, my 7-year-old son Julian and my 2-year-old daughter Isabella.

In over 12 years of working in the nutrition field, I have gained a lot of experience about food allergies. And with September being National Food Safety Education Month (NFSEM), it’s an exciting time to bring allergy awareness to the rest of the world. I love taking care of our customers and helping them with their needs, so this year’s theme is perfect for me. It’s "Take Action to Prevent an Allergic Reaction." When it comes to being an allergy parent, there is nothing more important than that!

I am sure you all know how challenging it can be to go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner with a little allergic kid, so I am thrilled to see that the Restaurant Association is taking this issue seriously. The NFSEM web site has great educational posters and activities that emphasize the importance of food allergy awareness. Check out their material—it can easily be used to hand out when you go out for a dinner or for your daycare or school cafeteria.

Click here for another good site to share with anyone interested in food allergy information. It gives some great tips for all types of food allergies and even has food allergy materials for children.

I receive calls from parents on a daily basis worried about all things food allergies. There is nothing better than when, at the end of the call, you can hear the relief in their voices because we’ve helped them understand allergies a little bit better. This month, you can help too! Share food allergy information to help keep all the allergy little one’s out there safe.

I am very excited about all of my upcoming entries. 

- Ulrike


Play Date Prep!

Posted 9.9.08 | Guest Blogger

Gina Clowes is the founder of allergymoms.com. We would like to thank her for guest blogging for us and sharing her family's allergy story.

Moms or no moms? That is the question. Chances are if moms are invited, your child is a little tyke. If so, it’s okay to be protective and you’re less likely to be labeled neurotic when you want to wipe off toys or remove bowls of HoneyNut Cheerios from the play area.

Socializing equals food so when your little one gets invited to a play date, you can count on snacks, drinks and possibly some anxiety on your part. Let’s look at some of the variables and how you can make your child’s next outing a safe one.

Consider calling the hostess ahead of time to ask if you can bring the snack so that your child will be safe. Bring a safe, labeled sippy cup for your child and lots of wet wipes.

Sending your child on a play date without you can be more of a challenge so here are some points to consider before leaving your child in someone else’s care.

Who will care for your child and does the parent “get it?” When you explain the vigilance required to keep your little one safe, do they seem receptive?

What will the children eat? Until you are 100% certain the caregiver can safely prepare foods for your child, bring your own treat and have enough to share. Learning about label reading and cross contamination issues can take awhile. Don’t risk it when you’re not available.

One boy was given a “safe” Popsicle at a play date. Within minutes he started to react even though the ingredients on the box indicated the treats were safe. The boy needed an EpiPen injection to stop the reaction. He later learned that the hostess stashed a few remaining dairy treats into the popsicle box to save space in the freezer. She had completely forgotten about it when she offered the popsicles to the dairy allergic child.

Where will they play? Survey the environment carefully through your “allergy-colored” glasses. Do they have pets? Pet food can contain allergens. There are now peanut butter filled dog treats. Are there babies or toddlers who will have sippy cups, bottles or snacks with foods to which your child would react?

When will they play? Schedule the play date so that you don’t have to coordinate a whole meal. Keep in mind that Valentines Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas time are all celebrated with an abundance of candy.

How do I train caregivers? Caregivers need to be given an overview of food allergies, your child’s Food Allergy Action Plan, his/her medications and safe snacks. You will need to go over the Food Allergy Action Plan in detail and train the adult on administering epinephrine. Make sure to bring it every time and let your child know that this is part of the routine.

As your child gets older, more of these responsibilities will be passed along to her. For now, remind him or her to eat only what you have provided, and to let the caregiver know right away if she feels sick.

Why am I doing all of this? It may seem like more work than planning a wedding yet your child’s social and emotional development is as important as her safety. Our challenge is to balance the need for safety with the need for a “normal” life. Stay positive and you’ll find friends and family who will go the extra mile to take care of your child.

Sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised at friends, relatives and even strangers who become our closest and dearest friends because they rise to the challenge of learning about food allergies and how to help us to protect our kids.

- Gina Clowes



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.