Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Heavy snow, rain and overall weather misery in many parts of the country aside, spring is nearly here, which means summer is on the way. It's definitely not too early to be thinking about summer activities -- like camp. But what if your child, like mine, has life-threatening allergies to nuts or other foods?
If some of you are skeptical of the summer camp experience for your severely allergic child, I know how you feel. I summed up our family's experience in this archived Allergic Living magazine article where I discuss the ups and downs of my daughter's week at Girl Scout camp (she was seven years old at the time). The bottom line: it was a big success in spite of a few scares -- all non-allergy related!
For any parent contemplating camp, food allergy awareness must come into play. Some parents don't want to deal with camp and it's your call to make. You know your child better than anyone and what they are capable of handling.
That said, if you can find a camp that accommodates allergies, consider giving it a try (once you've done all of your research and feel confident, of course). I remember how excited my daughter was to attend Girl Scout camp. She still talks about it! In recent years, she has served as a volunteer at our local library and she has been an advocate for the younger allergic kids she encounters. I'm sure the positive role models and teen counselors she met at Girl Scout camp served as inspiration.
That's why I was so excited to hear about Camp Wingate-Kirkland, a nut-free camp in Cape Cod and one of my current blog sponsors. I first learned of this camp a couple of years ago when I was on a panel discussion (via the parenting website The Motherhood) with Lori Sandler of Divvies. Our group included Sandy Rubenstein, one of the owners/directors of Camp Wingate*Kirkland.
The online panel discussion dealt with specific actions to take in order to ensure the safety of food-allergic kids during play dates, sleepovers and summer camp. You can see a write-up of that very helpful and informative discussion by clicking this link.
I received this message regarding the camp's allergy policies: "Camp Wingate*Kirkland is food allergy-friendly and peanut-free. The training and precautions made by the camp staff allow your child to be a camper, not “the camper with allergies.” For more info, click the "Camp Wingate*Kirkland" image on the right sidebar of this blog. It will take you directly to their web site; you can find their specific allergy policies there, too. Thanks to the directors of this camp for caring about nut-allergic and food-allergic campers!
For your child's health and safety, always speak directly to any and all camp directors for specific information on food allergy policies and accommodations. Please do your own research as you are the best judge of your family's specific situation and needs.
FARE has compiled a list of camps that advertise themselves as allergy-friendly; you can find the list for 2013 by clicking this link. Remember, things can change so please do your own research.
Have you found any local camps that will accommodate your food-allergic camper? How did it go?
Friday, February 7, 2014
And don't forget to click the two Valentine's Day images on the right side bar of the site: the cupid and the box of heart-shaped chocolates. These two images will take you to posts that hook you up with nut-free treats online as well as those you find at the supermarket.
A new one I found this year: Willy Wonka brand Everlasting Gobstoppers in a new heart shape. These may contain allergens other than nuts, but check the label. No nut allergen warnings and I've called this company in the past--they will mark for cross-contact risk. Have any of you found some new nut-free treats at the store? Let us know.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
|My Mexican meatball soup...perfect for game day or any day.|
1. Adopt an upbeat tone and be proactive. Simply saying something like: "Hey, thanks for inviting us to your party! We are very excited to attend. I just need to ask about the menu. My son has severe peanut allergies, so we're happy to bring our own food. We just wanted to know if there are any things we have to watch out for." There. Right away, you've taken the pressure off of the other person and opened the door to communication. In these cases, once I explain our situation, some people have even removed items from the menu. But if you don't communicate about allergies in advance and stay proactive, sometimes people feel guilty for having the allergen around the house and even resentful that you've put them in an uncomfortable position. That's not good from both your standpoint and theirs, as party hosts. Usually hosts want guests to feel comfortable so ask questions, make your concerns known in an friendly way and everybody wins. Or, at the very least, you know what you are dealing with.
2. Tailor your explanation to the person you are speaking with. For example, you will probably want to share every last medical detail of a recent allergic reaction with your child's grandparents because they are deeply invested in your child's health and because they are family members. However, if you're talking to an acquaintance about the neighborhood block party, for example, they probably don't want to hear all of that. So a simple: "My child is highly allergic to nuts and has experienced severe allergic reactions. Can we skip the peanut bags this year at the block party--all that dust and stuff blowing around can be hazardous to her health," will probably suffice.
3. Keep it simple. I touched on this above, but if you veer off into the latest medical news on food allergies or have someone suck you into topics that aren't relevant to the matter at hand, i.e. keeping an allergic person reaction-free, you risk losing your message. It doesn't matter what the latest food allergy news is if all you're talking about is how to keep your child out of harm's way. I'm not saying to blow off someone who is just trying to make conversation, but if they want to get into a deep discussion about how your child got allergies, what you fed them as a baby, etc. you are going to get sidetracked. Try to shift them back to the matters at hand, e.g. "Can you make sure my little guy washes his hands before snack time after playing with shared toys? Thanks for your help."
4. Be prepared to alter your plans. Some of us may have experienced the following: "I communicated my socks off in an appropriate way with my hosts, they told me not to worry, they had it covered and they STILL had bowls of peanuts all over the house." What do you do? Well, in this case, you are going to have to keep calm but be firm. You can say "I know we talked on the phone and you said you wouldn't serve peanuts. My little girl is too allergic to be around so many so would you mind removing them?" If they say no, you can choose to leave but don't be tempted to get into a blowout argument at that time. If this is a close friend or family member, it's better to call them a few days later and talk it out.
Communicating effectively with others is always a challenge in our fast-paced, phone-texting, e-mailing society. So keep that in mind, keep it simple and then get out and enjoy the things you want to do.
Note to my readers: I've been keeping up with the blog as much as possible while I work on deadlines for different writing projects, so even though I try to update the blog once a week, I don't always succeed. :) However, The Nut-Free Mom blog has more than 630 posts! So please use the search bar in the upper left hand corner of this blog and use key words to find posts on a multitude of current "living with nut allergies" topics.
You can also find compassionate, concise information on parenting a child with nut allergies in my e-book, The New Nut-Free Mom, available on Amazon, Nook and downloadable to your iPad or computer. Click this link for information on how to buy, or if you have a Kindle, click the button on the right side bar of this blog.
I'll be adding a Valentine's Day post soon, but in the meantime, click the Valentine images on the right sidebar to find online and supermarket resources of nut-free Valentine's Day goodness. Plus, I have a nut-free Valentine's Day Pinterest board with crafts, nut-free recipes and non-food treats.
Happy Game Day!
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
However, as kids grow up and go out in the world, it's up to us to prepare them to live with their allergies. In the end, it all comes down to the individual: what they ingest, the choices they make and the understanding they have about allergies.
The only reason I have ever felt comfortable with any of it is because I have worked with my daughter over the years, she's invested in her own health and I trust her to make the right decisions. Thank goodness, she is very strong and confident in avoiding what she needs to avoid and speaking up when she needs to speak up. Is it always fun or comfortable for her? No, of course not. But it's necessary and she knows this. Her attitude of taking charge of her allergies also means that she can do most things that she wants to do.
When she was young, I spoke up for her, paved the way and did everything I could to ensure a safe, healthy environment that was also emotionally healthy. I like to think that what I did helped her learn that its OK to take charge of allergies; in fact, not only OK but a vital part of our lives.
How do you get to this point? Prepare kids, but don't SCARE them. Not always easy, I know, but there are ways (see below). Your pediatrician or allergist is also a great resource here as they discuss (privately!) the ways you can teach your child, depending on their age and level of development.
Below are some strategies that I have found to be helpful when teaching kids self-management of allergies:
Teach your child to use their epinephrine auto-injectors. De-mystify those things as soon as you can and emphasize that if your child is in trouble, this device is their friend. Let them use the practice injectors as much as possible. My own child really likes the Auvi-Q with its voice instructions and shorter dosage time (5 seconds in the thigh as opposed to 10).
Take your child to the grocery store and read food labels together. Obviously take age and development into account but if you have a young reader or pre-reader, this is a great thing to do. To this day my daughter is a more effective label-reader than I am (but she's got young, sharp eyes, too. :))
Discuss cross-contact and why its difficult to know what is in a food prepared in someones home, or without a label.
Emphasize the "when in doubt, do without" rule. The golden rule of food allergies! If you have questions about a food and you can't determine the answers, teach your child to just skip it. My favorite rule, ever. Just remind the kiddos, nobody wants to go to the hospital over a cookie or a piece of candy. If you're a really prepared parent, you've probably got a "safe" replacement with you, anyway.
Offer to have the kids work with you in the kitchen. Even little ones can do simple tasks like washing a vegetable or fruit. One of the unfortunate side-effects of food allergies is that some kids may become afraid of all food--and you definitely don't want that. Show them that there are still lots of good things to eat by having them help you cook.
Speak up in a restaurant with food allergy questions and let your child hear what you are asking and the answers you receive. If they are old enough, have them do the asking. It might be scary for kids at first, but once they get used to doing it, it really can increase their ability to dine out safely. Speaking up also teaches kids what types of establishments they may need to avoid.
Explain how to prevent allergic reactions using simple things like washing hands.
What it boils down to is incorporating food allergy management into your child's everyday life so that they come to learn that this is just the way they need to do things. Then, it becomes less of a big deal, it becomes part of your child's routine and once they are more independent, they will have to tools to navigate life more safely.
One note: If you ever think your child is getting overanxious about allergies and it's interfering with living their life or preventing them from doing things that could be done safely, then please read one of my blog's most popular posts featuring expert input from a therapist that treats kids with food allergies.
For more nut-allergy parenting help, check out my e-book, an Amazon bestseller on this topic, so thanks to all of you!
It's coming up and yes, that means unsafe candy will be a factor. Still, if you are prepared, this is a fun holiday, even with food allergies. Check back to the blog soon about safe, nut-free Valentine's Day ideas. In the meantime, click this link for nut-free Valentine's Day candy ideas found at the supermarket, and this link for online nut-free Valentine's Day candy and sweet treats resources. If you're a Pinner, be sure to follow me on Pinterest: I've got a board for Nut-Free Valentine's Day with recipes and craft ideas.
Thursday, January 2, 2014
Thanks also to everyone who has given me positive feedback. My most recent example is the mom who said she found my blog and was 'in tears' because I was describing experiences and situations she was very familiar with. I started this blog to help parents and caregivers feel less alone while also providing practical tips for everyday life, especially important when you are just starting out with a nut allergy diagnosis.
2014 marks the beginning of the sixth year of my blog -- can you believe it? -- and I've written more than 600 posts about the many aspects of living with and dealing with a life-threatening nut allergy. If you'd like to search those posts, check out the "search bar" in the upper left corner of the blog and enter a key word like "school" or "nut-free recipe." You will find a list of blog posts on your topic. Just a reminder: this blog is not for medical advice, but for the social, emotional and every day aspects of living with food allergies. For medical info, always ask your doctor.
Here are some popular posts from my blog to get your started as we begin the new year:
New Year, New Nut Allergy Diagnosis?
Have you received a nut allergy diagnosis in the past year? Here's an article that describes some of the things I've found to be most helpful in helping your child, family and yourself learn to adapt.
New Year's Nut Allergy Checklist
Are you halfway through the school year with a child who has a severe peanut and/or tree nut allergy? Then you'll want to review this checklist to help you plan the rest of your healthy, happy school year. Click here to read the complete article.
In this article, I talk about updating your prescriptions, so check out this helpful info about epinephrine auto-injectors that I found by following food allergy advocate and author Linda Coss on Twitter. EpiPen (R) and Auvi-Q (TM) are both continuing their "zero co-pay" offers in 2014. Sign up to download your coupons at https://activatemysavings.com/epipen/ and https://www.auvi-q.com/sign-up Thanks for sharing, Linda! For those of you who haven't tried the Auvi-Q yet, here's a post I wrote after we got our Auvi-Q device.
If you're looking for nut-free recipes, nut allergy articles and the like in a really easy-to-use format, I hope you'll check out my Pinterest page. Lots of good stuff there and tons of recipes, school lunch ideas, holiday stuff -- check it out and then follow me! Here's a direct link to my nut allergy resources board, but I've got lots of others, too -- (not all boards are allergy-related, so scroll through the list to find the ones that suit you best.) You might want to also try my Nut-Free School Lunches board and Nut-Free Recipes. I have holiday boards too, so keep checking back as I add more recipes and ideas.
Nut Allergy Guidance for Parents and Caregivers
Based on years of my own experience, my e-book provides parents and caregivers with answers and guidance on some of your top questions. Written from the perspective of a parent in your situation (yours truly), "The New Nut-Free Mom: A Crash Course in Caring for Your Child with Nut Allergies" is short, concise and compassionate. Available for download via the Kindle, the Nook, to your iPad or tablet and more. Click here to find out how to get this helpful guide.
Happy New Year!! As you prepare to face the new challenges of 2014, I wish you all the best!