First time using the Epi-Pen and the Anxiety that has followed

Posted on January 18th, 2015 by Alison | Posted in Babies & Kids, Emotions, Food Allergies, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | Read 5 Comments - Add Your Own »

epi pen injectionI finally used the Epi-Pen on my daughter after eight years of managing her food allergies. I used it because I had to. I used it because she asked me to.

We were in Mexico, at a place we visit every year. My daughter is extremely responsible about her food allergies, and carries her “kit” (containing two Epi-Pens, Benadryl and asthma inhaler) with her everywhere she goes, even to the pool. I also had an extra Epi-Pen with me on the trip, so we had three in our possession. The story of BJ Hom is always in the back of my mind when we travel to Mexico — it was there that this young man had an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts but the family did not have an Epi-Pen with them (he had only suffered from hives in the past so they didn’t think it could get more serious than that). We are prepared for an accident in case our vigilance about reading labels, asking questions, and avoiding uncertain foods fails.

On that afternoon at the pool, she selected a popsicle out of a popsicle cart. It had ingredients on the label, both in English and in Spanish. It was a coconut popsicle, containing coconut, cream, milk, sugar, and some additives. Nothing she hadn’t eaten before. Within minutes she came to me and told me that she didn’t feel right. As she was telling me, a large hive appeared on the skin in the lower corner of her mouth. I knew this wasn’t good. Her face had lost its color and dull, dark streaks appeared under her eyes. She said her throat felt “bumpy.” We pulled the Benadryl out of her kit and she took one, and then another. Hives popped out on her stomach, and then on her back.

That day, by our good fortune, my father was hanging out at the kid pool with us. He is a retired pediatrician and I was so glad he was right there at that moment. I showed him the hives. He suggested we head back to the room where he had prednisone in his medicine bag. Prednisone is a corticosteroid that can help reduce swelling caused by allergic reactions, but it is not an immediate treatment since it comes in pill form and takes a little while to have an effect. When we arrived at the hotel room, he gave her a dose of prednisone, but as she held on tight to her epi-pen kit, she said to me, “Mom, I want the shot.”

I looked at my dad and he and I both nodded – let’s do it.

Now, I have to admit that for all of these years I have had a fear of giving the Epi-Pen. I know my allergy mom friends have done it, I know it saves lives, my pediatrician has scolded me for not giving it in a couple of close-calls… I have no explanation for my anxiety about putting this shot in my daughter’s leg. (Perhaps I was scarred by the giant epinephrine shot scene in Pulp Fiction? But it did save Uma Thurman’s character’s life, so…)

I asked my dad to give her the shot. I sat on a bed next to my daughter, while he was on the other side of her and stuck the Epi-Pen in her leg. She was looking at me, away from the shot, and said, “That was it?” It felt like barely a pinch to her. Within minutes, the hive on her face disappeared, her color came back and she was breathing easy. She was a little worried about her rapid heart beat, but we assured her that it was the medicine taking effect and that was normal.

Normally when you give an Epi-Pen, you are advised to go to the hospital or call 911. Sometimes one Epi-Pen isn’t enough, or it is given too late to reverse the symptoms. According to the Epi-Pen website “Get emergency medical help right away. You may need further medical attention. You may need a second EpiPen Auto-Injector should symptoms persist or recur. More than two sequential doses of epinephrine for a single episode should only be administered by a healthcare provider.”

Because we were in Mexico, and we had another Epi-Pen, and my dad was there, and she already had prednisone and benadryl in her system, we monitored her at the hotel. And she was fine. And then I let myself cry.

Since then, her anxiety has risen to a new level. She abstained from eating dinner, even a bowl of rice, while our family was out at a restaurant with friends one night. She refused to go to a volleyball tournament because I was not the one driving the carpool and I wouldn’t arrive until later. Luckily, the mom driving the carpool was a trained nurse and carries an Epi-Pen, but even that almost didn’t convince her. So, this is a new chapter in our lives — the Anxiety Chapter. She strives for independence and freedom, but is weighed down by her fears. I wonder how long this chapter will last.


Are peanuts hiding in your packaged snacks? A warning to those with food allergies!

Posted on June 15th, 2014 by Alison | Posted in News & Research, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Products | ADD A COMMENT »

Ocean SprayOcean Spray announced on June 5, 2014 that it was recalling packages of its Greek Yogurt Covered Craisins® Dried Cranberries because three consumers reported that they founded yogurt-covered peanuts in the bag. Yikes! And there was a recent news story about a 7-year old girl who reached into a bag of chocolate-covered banana pieces only to bite into a chocolate-covered walnut, to which she had a known allergy. Luckily she was okay after a trip to the emergency room.

So how safe is it to eat any packaged food if someone has a food allergy? And how accurate are those food labels? The Craisins label does not have a warning that the product may contain peanuts, but it that does contain a warning that the product is made on equipment that also processes nuts. Perhaps someone with a nut allergy would have steered clear of this product in the first place. However, it seems like many food packages (especially Trader Joe’s labels) contain a warning about all of the top eight allergens just to cover the bases, whether the allergen may be present or not. This can be very confusing for the consumer.

If you are not sure about a product, it is best to avoid it. If you want to find out more, call the manufacturer. They can tell you whether they have Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) with regards to allergens — whether they segregate allergens, clean between runs, have special days that they run products with allergens, have dedicated machinery, or don’t do anything at all to

Of for the generic cialis cheapest lowest price fragancias thin to order viagra cheap disappoints my this view website problems me.

prevent cross-contamination. You will probably get better information from someone at the company than the generic statement on the label.

For recall information, I encourage you to sign up for FARE’s (Food Allergy Research & Education) allergy alerts that you will receive via email. For an entire list of recalls, not just allergen-related, you can visit the FDA’s Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts page.


Allergen-Free Chocolate Chips

Posted on December 15th, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Candy, Dairy Allergy, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Products, Soy Allergy | Read 2 Comments - Add Your Own »

Enjoy Life MorselsIf you are looking for an allergen-free chocolate chip, I recommend Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Morsels. Enjoy Life already has its Mini Chips and Mega Chunks, and the Morsels are a new addition.

All of these products are gluten, dairy, nut and soy-free — allergens that could be found in other chocolates. While I love the size of the Mini Chips and have been using them for years, I like the flavor of the new Morsels much better. They have a richer chocolate taste (69% cacao).

There are only two ingredients in the Morsels: Unsweetened Chocolate and Cane Sugar. The package states “Made in a dedicated nut and gluten-free facility.” It has a Gluten-Free Certification, and its allergen statement says, “The facility also processes dairy and soy; however, this products is produced on a dedicated dairy- and soy-free line. Ingredients have been additionally tested to ensure strict allergen control standards are met.”

So if you are looking for safe chocolate chips, try these! If you can’t yet find them in stores, you can buy them online at Enjoy Life Foods.


SuperSeedz Pumpkin Seeds (a Giveaway!)

Posted on July 13th, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Products | Read 20 Comments - Add Your Own »

Pumpkin seeds are delicious and packed with nutrition, having one of the highest protein contents of any seed or nut. They are also a good source of minerals, fiber and healthy omega-3 oils. Though most nut-allergic individuals can tolerate seeds, the seeds are often made in a facility with nuts, presenting the risk of cross-contamination.

I like to make my own pumpkin seeds when I carve pumpkins in October, and if I’m cooking a butternut squash, I’ll toast those seeds too, but I was looking for some safe pumpkin seeds for the rest of the year for my daughter who is allergic to nuts.

In my search, I came across SuperSeedz by Kathie’s Kitchen. I love the taste of these pumpkin seeds! I am addicted to the Sea Salt ones, but all of the flavors are fun and delicious: Coco Joe, Curry, Really Naked, Super Spicy, Somewhat Spicy, Sugar & Cinnamon, Tomato Italiano. All flavors are naturally vegan, gluten free, tree nut free, peanut free, dairy free, MSG free and soy free!

I used SuperSeedz for two recipes in an article I wrote for Gluten-Free Living magazine called Aw, Nuts: Balancing a Nut-Free, Gluten-Free Diet.

So, would you like to win some seeds? Kathie has agreed to give away four 6-ounce packages of pumpkin seeds PLUS a limited edition SuperSeedz pumpkin seed shaker to one lucky winner! If you would like to enter, simply leave a comment telling me why you’d like to win! Contest ends on Thursday, July 18 at 5:00 pm PST. Good luck!


Gluten-Free Nut-Free Kettel Krakkers

Posted on March 1st, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Products | ADD A COMMENT »

Kettel Krakkers gluten-free crackersI recently attended the Gluten & Allergen-Free Expo, put on by the wonderful Jen Cafferty. It was the first time it was held in San Francisco and it was great to reconnect with some of my gluten-free peeps! There were many food vendors of course, and one that was new to me was Kettel Krakkers, based in San Francisco. If you are gluten-free, you know that good gluten-free crackers aren’t plentiful. Most are very hard and crunchy, which I actually like (or I’ve gotten used to!), but I was happy to find a cracker that is softer, but still has some crunch from the seeds added in.

According to the company, the crackers are “handmade at our dedicated gluten-free facility using organic, locally-sourced ingredients of the highest quality.”

They are:

CONTINUE READING »


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 46 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 9 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!


Finding or making your favorite holiday foods – gluten-free, allergen-free

Posted on December 13th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Dairy Allergy, Egg Allergy, Holidays/Special Events, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Recipes & Cooking Tips | Read 4 Comments - Add Your Own »

For people who are gluten-free or have food allergies, the holidays can be a reminder of what we can’t eat. Gluten and other allergens are everywhere, and because we are more social at this time of year, this fact becomes more obvious as we attend holiday parties, share meals with family and friends, and are tempted by sweet treats all around.

But you don’t have to go without your favorite foods! You may not be able to indulge in everything, but think about what food would make you feel the most emotionally satisfied — is it pie, is it stuffing? Is it a box of chocolates, matzoh ball soup? Which one holiday food would give you the greatest pleasure? Then, make it happen! If you can buy it, treat yourself! If you have to make it yourself, do it. If someone else wants to make it for you, great! If you don’t have to stop at one food, by all means, don’t! If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the things you can’t eat, let’s simplify it.

I hope this short list of suggestions can help, and if there’s something else you’re longing for, let me know, and I will use my resources to try to find you the enjoyment you deserve!

GLUTEN-FREE / ALLERGEN-FREE GINGERBREAD MEN OR HOUSE

Buy it: Oops, we’re past the deadline already for ordering an allergen-free gingerbread house kit from A&J Bakery, but now you know for next year. Sensitive Sweets in southern California is also making an allergen-free gingerbread kit for purchase.

Make it: You can make this. Seriously, you can. Read my post “I made an allergen-free gingerbread house!

ROLL OUT SUGAR COOKIES

Buy it: I haven’t found any gluten-free shaped sugar cookies you can buy in stores that are gluten-free, and many of the sugar cookie mixes don’t make cookies that hold their shape.

Make it: I am very excited this year that I found a GREAT recipe for roll-out sugar cookies that are free of gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts! The recipe is from Heidi at Adventures of a GF Mom. (The recipe calls for almond extract which I replace with vanilla.) Cybel Pascal has a recipe for sugar cookies that is also free of the top allergens.

PIE OR PIE CRUST

Buy it: Whole Foods’ Gluten-Free Bakehouse brand has a pie crust, and you can find finished pies or tarts from Katz Gluten Free, Crave Bakery, and Christine’s Upper Crust Pies.

Make it: There are actually tons of gluten-free pie and pie crust recipes out there if you want to make it from scratch. Some of the sites that have recipes are Whole Foods, Simply Gluten-Free, Living Without Magazine, Elana’s Pantry, and Gluten-Free Girl. You can also use commercially available flour blends to make a crust, which saves you some steps. King Arthur shows you how, and if you want a really easy with video instruction, Pamela of Pamela’s Products shows you how to make a gluten-free pie using her mix (is also egg-free and can be dairy-free). Jules of Jules Gluten Free also shows you how to make pie using her flour blend.

GRAVY

Buy it: You can purchase gluten-free gravy mixes. Here is a list of search results for gluten-free gravy on Amazon. Mayacamas is another company that makes gluten-free gravy mixes.

Make it: Instead of flour, use a gluten-free starch. Here’s a little primer on wheat-free thickeners from FitSugar. Ali at Nourishing Meals explains how to make gluten-free gravy. A chef from Whole Foods shows in a video two ways to make gravy, and The Family Chef shares her easy steps.

STUFFING

Buy it: Look around — gluten-free bread  crumbs or croutons are available, but if you can’t find them, you can buy gluten-free bread like Udi’s or Rudi’s to use in any traditional stuffing recipe.

Make it: You can make a loaf of gluten-free bread to use in stuffing recipes. That’s what I do because I can make the bread dairy and egg-free also for people with multiple food allergies in my family. This recipe for Harvest Stuffing always turns out. If you don’t want to use bread, opt for a rice dressing, which will be naturally gluten-free. Make sure any broth you are using is gluten-free. If you have nut allergies, watch out — many stuffing recipes call for nuts.

MATZOH BALL SOUP

Buy it/Make it: You buy the mix to make your own matzoh balls. They are really good and I love the name: Mock-Zah Ball Mix.

POTATO LATKES

Buy it: Hmmm… nope, you’re going to have to make these.

Make it: Easy to make gluten-free, just substitute an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend for the flour called for in traditional recipes. Need to be egg-free too? Don’t worry, I figured this one out for you: Gluten-Free Egg-Free Latke Recipe

CHOCOLATES

Buy it: See’s Candies is still my favorite boxed-chocolates. They have an allergen list, so depending on your allergy, you might be able to find something you can have!

Make it: You can easily make chocolate lollies and shapes by following these steps:

  1. Buy candy molds in holiday shapes, like snowflakes or snowmen or Christmas shapes or Santas.
  2. Buy Enjoy Life Foods Chocolate Chips or Mega Chunks – they are free of the top 8 allergens.
  3. Temper the chocolate in the microwave by heating the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave, at power level 5 or 50% for 30 seconds. Using a rubber spatula in a gentle sweeping motion,  stir the chocolate, even if none of it has become liquid yet and return the bowl to the microwave oven for another 30 seconds. Remove, stir, and repeat until about two-thirds of the chunks become liquid and about one-third are in soft lumps. Continually stir to cool the chocolate until the soft lumps disappear and the chocolate has cooled a little.
  4. Pour the chocolate into the molds, or use a spoon or spatula to put it in, and let it set in the refrigerator.
  5. When chilled completely, wrap the chocolates with colored foil or clear wrap.

What else is tugging at your tummy this holiday season?


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


SunButter Balls Recipe – A healthy and allergen-free snack

Posted on October 20th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Food Ideas, Peanuts/Nuts Allergy, Recipes & Cooking Tips | Read 4 Comments - Add Your Own »

These SunButter Balls are much better than Schweddy Balls ;) and they are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut and peanut-free, and soy-free! The credit for this recipe goes to my sister, Leslie, who lovingly adapted it so that my daughter could eat it too. She also used healthy ingredients to give these little snacks a nutritional punch!

This is a great recipe to make with kids. They love to make the balls and roll them in the cereal! Once coated, keep them (the balls, not the kids) in the refrigerator to have as a healthy snack, to pack in lunches, or for protein on the go. The cereal on the outside, in addition to providing a little crunch, prevents them from being sticky.

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To read the recipe for Sunbutter Balls, click over to

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my post on the Attune Foods blog!