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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 | ADD A COMMENT »

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).


Tragic deaths remind us to take food allergies seriously

Posted on August 29th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Emotions, Food Allergies, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | Read 2 Comments - Add Your Own »

jharelldillardI’m in tears as I watch an interview with the amazingly composed father of Jharell Dillard, a teenage boy who died last week from anaphylactic shock after eating a chocolate chip cookie that he didn’t know contained nuts. The cookie was given to him by his aunt by mistake. I feel such pain for this family and fear of losing my own daughter like this. It can happen so fast, and so easily, which is why it is so important to always – always – carry an Epi-Pen. Unfortunately, this boy didn’t have one with him because he was always so careful. As careful as one is, accidents can happen.

As if one death isn’t enough of a reminder, there are two more in recent news.

A 20 year old college student, also in Georgia, died after eating at the dining hall. The full story is here.

A young Bay Area man died just last month after eating a salad that contained nuts. He made the news because he was a key witness in a crime, but hopefully his legacy will be to raise money for food allergy awareness and research, as his friends and family are walking in his honor at the 2011 Food Allergy Walk in San Jose, CA.

I don’t mean to be morbid, but I am still haunted by the horrible story of a 7th grader who died at school in Chicago last December, and the tragedy of BJ Hom, an 18 year old who lost his life while vacationing with his family in Mexico. There is a memorial fundraising run in his honor.

These are reminders to be vigilant about food and to carry medicine at all times, no matter how mild past reactions have been.

Here are some important facts most people probably don’t know about food allergies, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN):

  • The severity of a person’s allergic reactions to food cannot be predicted from previous reactions. Someone whose reactions have been mild in the past might react more severely during a next episode. A FAAN review of food allergy fatalities found that most of the people had never had a severe allergic reaction until the one that caused their death. Thus, all food allergies must be taken seriously.
  • The incidence of peanut and tree nut allergy among children appears to have tripled between 1997 and 2008.
  • Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.
  • Most people who’ve had an allergic reaction to something they ate thought that it was safe.
  • Early administration of epinephrine (adrenaline) is crucial to successfully treating anaphylactic reactions. Epinephrine is available by prescription in a self-injectable device (EpiPen® or Twinject®).
  • A study of fatal reactions in children and adolescents found that most occurred at school, and were associated with significant delays in treating with epinephrine.
  • There are no significant risks to giving epinephrine even if someone isn’t having an allergic reaction, unless one has a serious heart condition.

Awareness and education of those around us is the key to keeping our children safe!







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