My daughter has a new allergy and you might be surprised at this one

Posted on May 21st, 2012 by Alison | Posted in Food Allergies, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | Read 60 Comments - Add Your Own »

Lentil Allergy Reaction

About a month ago, I gave my daughter a new soup to try: Amy’s Lentil Soup. It is delicious with quality ingredients and she ate it up one day after school, before gymnastics. I added cooked rice to it and it made a great powerhouse snack! The next week I made it for her dinner, again with rice. I think she ate two bowls, she liked it so much. Then it all went downhill…

Within a minute of finishing the soup, her voice changed and she began to have trouble breathing. She was having an asthmatic reaction. No hives, no redness, but she instantly didn’t feel well and wanted to go to bed (it was still early). I immediately gave her Benadryl and as we headed to her bedroom, she said, “Mom, bring my emergency kit.”

Because I grew up with asthma, I recognized the asthmatic breathing she was experiencing, and got an inhaler that we had been prescribed by our pediatrician but had never used. I thought to myself, “If this doesn’t work, I’ll use the Epi.” And I was racking my brain as to why she was having this reaction, though my instinct told me it was lentils since everything else in the meal was foods she had had many times before. I also knew that lentils are a legume and since she is allergic to peanuts which are also legumes, I thought there could be a connection.

After a few puffs on the inhaler, her breathing began to normalize, but slowly. Eventually her breathing was clear as she fell to sleep, exhausted by what her body had just been through. Now I know that many doctors and knowledgeable food allergy people would have advised using the Epi Pen right away, but there’s still part of me that is scared to use it, and I felt that I should try the other medications first. Luckily they worked.

Once she was asleep, I headed to the computer for answers. Sure enough I found myself in peanut allergy forums where moms were discussing the other legumes that their children were allergic to. It seemed that lentils and chickpeas were the most common legumes that peanut-allergic kids reacted to. Several of the forum members quoted the statistic of 20% of peanut allergic children being allergic to lentils or other legumes (but my allergist thinks this statistic is too high). I had never considered that lentils could be a problem, but here I was now realizing that she was probably allergic to them. I lost it. I mean I really lost it. I cried — hard. My husband was out of town and I felt alone with this knowledge and I couldn’t get a handle on my emotions. Luckily I was able to call another mom with allergic kids who could understand what I was feeling. She talked me down, but mostly just listened and was there for me on the other end of the line.

The next day I made an appointment with the allergist to test for the lentil allergy. We couldn’t get in until weeks later and I was told to avoid lentils until we could do the testing. Last Friday was the day. That morning, I called Amy’s Kitchen. I figured I should know every ingredient in that soup before we went in, and “spices” was listed as the last ingredient. Here is where I give a big plug for Amy’s: I have always loved this company and now I like it even more. The customer service person (key word here: person) understood my needs and immediately escalated my call. Though companies don’t always like to share their ingredients, because it’s like giving away their recipe, she did tell me what the “spices” in the soup were so that I could have that information to best take care of my child.

That afternoon I took my daughter to the allergist. I brought the lentil soup in one container and straight lentils that I had cooked in another container. They literally put the suspected allergens into the skin on the back to see if there is a reaction. The doctor used a commercial lentil solution for testing also. We tested a few other things while we were there too.

The results: she reacted strongly to both the lentil soup and the straight lentils. Those are the two top left wheals on her back in the picture. She did not react to the commercial lentil extract, leading both the allergist and me to believe that fresh lentils are certainly more potent and allergenic than their extract. The third wheal you see in the picture is the positive control — they purposely give histamine to make sure the person will react to something if allergic (if someone has taken antihistamines, it can affect the test). The other pricks were to rule out other ingredients in the soup (celery, for example) and retesting some other allergens.

My daughter was a trooper through the whole thing, but in the car on the way home it hit her that there is yet another food she is not allowed to have and that she has to watch out for. It breaks my heart. I hope they find a cure for food allergies in her lifetime!


If you carry EpiPens, please read this

Posted on February 27th, 2012 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Food Allergies, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | Read 10 Comments - Add Your Own »

A friend of mine, who is also a mom of a child with food allergies, talked to me recently about how  she has not been diligent about taking the EpiPen with them wherever they go, and about how her husband hasn’t taken responsibility for bringing the emergency medication when he takes the child somewhere. They know they should, but they forget, or they haven’t totally accepted the fact that the EpiPen might be the thing that saves their child’s life someday. I get it — I was in the same boat a while ago.

We had EpiPens, we had Benadryl, but it was hanging around our house in different places. Sometimes it would go in my purse, or be stashed in a compartment in my car, or thrown into whatever bag we were carrying that day. My husband didn’t know where it was, and how scary to think what would have happened if I wasn’t around in an emergency to find it.

After a few close calls of our own, and a few heart-wrenching news stories of kids who died because the medicine was not accessible, I realized that I may not be able to control everything she eats (though I try!), but I can make sure that treatment is available should an accident happen.

When a seven-year old with food allergies died, it hit me hard, and I had a heart-to-heart with my seven-year old daughter, sharing the little girl’s tragic story with her, and talking to her about taking responsibility for her own safety. I told her how sad I would be to lose her and that she needed to keep herself safe by 1) not eating anything that could possibly be unsafe and 2) carrying her medication with her at all times. Since then, she has been much more careful with food and diligent about making sure her emergency kit is with her at all times.

And that brings me to the point of this article. You can’t expect the child (or other family members) to be responsible about the emergency medication without providing some organization first. You need to have consistency.

First, get a carrier of some kind. When I set out to write this article, I meant to highlight the carriers I use but it turns out that they are no longer available. The ones I use were made by AllergyKids. They are flourescent green with a big AllergyKids logo on it, they zip and they are roomy enough for a couple of epi-pens and other medication like Benadryl. I like that they are brightly colored so anyone who knows us knows that the bright green bag has the emergency medication in it. I also wrote my daughter’s name is black Sharpie pen in large letters on the bag. There is no mistaking this bag for anything else. You can spot it from far away and find it easily within my daughter’s backpack or anywhere else we might put it. If you can’t find a brightly colored bag like I did, at least buy a few bags with the same pattern so that everyone knows which bags are the Epi bags.

Then, make sure you have a consistent place to keep it in your house, ideally near the front door so that it is easy to remember and easy to grab. We keep one of the bags in my daughter’s backpack and we have another one in the house in my daughter’s “inbox.” We know to look there for the pack when we are going somewhere. She knows to look there also, and even her little sister is always on the lookout for the emergency pack.

You need to find a system that works for you, but have a system!

I found many companies that sell Epi-Pen bags of all styles and colors. Here are some of them:

Allergy Apparel

OneSpot Allergy

BlueBear Aware

Moxie Pouches

Etsy

Let me know if you have a system that works for your allergic child!


Turning off food allergies – have researchers found a way?

Posted on November 7th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Food Allergies, News & Research, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | Comments Off on Turning off food allergies – have researchers found a way?

Can peanut allergies be turned off?Researchers were able to turn off peanut allergy in mice by tricking their immune systems into thinking the nut proteins were not a threat to the body. The researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine attached peanut proteins onto white blood cells and then put them back into the mice. These mice, who were supposed to have an anaphylactic response if they ate peanut, did not have a life-threatening allergic reaction to peanut extract. Essentially, the researchers created tolerance to peanut in the mice. The immune system, which previously treated the peanut protein as a threat, now didn’t. The researchers were able to achieve the same tolerance in other mice using egg protein.

This is exciting new research targeting food allergies specifically and the hope is that these methods could someday be applied to humans. If we could train the immune system not to overreact to food substances, wouldn’t that be wonderful??

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Food Allergy Initiative.

Read full article: Peanut Allergy May Be Turned Off By Tricking Immune System


My TV debut speaking about gluten and food allergies!

Posted on October 10th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Celiac Disease, Food Allergies, Publicity, Sure Foods Living News | Read 14 Comments - Add Your Own »

I am so lucky — I got to talk about celiac disease and food allergies on TV! It makes me happy that over the past 9 years I have been able to share my story in so many ways — through my blog, in newspaper and magazine, in person, in groups and now on television. Cheryl Jennings of ABC 7 in San Francisco was as nice as can be, as was everyone I met at the studio. I also enjoyed meeting and listening to the others interviewed for this segment. I have already received some emails from those who saw it, so I know it has reached some people out there! 🙂

I hope you will watch the whole show, but if you are short on time, my interview starts at 18:18 (I’m the last 4 minutes of the show).