Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Food Allergy News: We've Got the Auvi-Q (TM) Epinephrine Auto-Injector

I swear the fact that the purse matches the Auvi-Q (TM) is completely coincidental.
Ever since the Auvi-Q (TM) epinephrine auto-injector was introduced to consumers several months ago, my 13-year-old daughter with severe food allergies has been curious about these new compact devices. She liked the idea of a small auto-injector that would fit easily into a purse and she liked the fact that the device "talks" to you and guides you through the process.
It all sounded pretty awesome. However, we still had our pen-shaped epinephrine auto-injectors and they hadn't expired yet, so I suggested we wait until our next allergist appointment to ask for a prescription. Let me state up front that I have never been asked to review or endorse these products (and I'm not looking to do so), I am only speaking as a fellow consumer and giving my consumer opinion (and sharing my daughter's thoughts on the device).
OK, back to the allergy appointment. When we asked about it, our allergist was enthusiastic about the Auvi-Q (TM). She said it was a great choice for a teen. I was a little bit skeptical at first because we've been carrying a different auto-injector for so many years. 
After seeing the compact size of the Auvi-Q (TM) AND hearing how it guides you through the process, my daughter and I both agreed -- we wanted to carry it. It really is a great little device!
The allergist brought up some good points about the Auvi-Q that I hadn't considered, such as the fact that it might be a good choice for grandparents, teachers or other caregivers, given the fact that it has voice-guided instructions. (Please don't rely on those alone, though. For anyone caring for your child, of course you want to personally train them in how to use the device. Each package comes with a trainer for that very purpose.)
As the person with allergies who would ultimately need to carry it and/or use it, my daughter saw some other benefits. The small and convenient size is a huge bonus for her, because she self-carries her epinephrine everywhere she goes. She's  a girl, so she wants to be able to fit her epinephrine in a cute little purse. OK, that may sound trivial, but if kids feel good about carrying the epinephrine they are more likely to carry it. For boys, this device fits easily in a pocket. Here are the dimensions of the Auvi-Q, taken from the company web site: 3 3/8 inches wide, 2 inches high and 5/8 inches thick. It's smaller than a cell phone, for example.
Two Auvi-Q devices are inside this small purse, with lots of room
left over for a cell phone and other stuff.
The other point my daughter brought up was that the Auvi-Q does not seem "scary" to her. I get that.  This small, compact, card deck-shaped device is non-threatening to look at and my daughter thought it might encourage her to be less afraid in an emergency. She also said that the voice instructions were comforting and reassured her. Apparently, she's been afraid she might forget what to do in an emergency. This makes sense as any of us might go blank -- even if we are well-versed in epinephrine usage -- when faced with having to self-inject or having to inject our child in an emergency. 
Again, even with voice instructions, my doctor said to practice using the device via the trainer and to have an emergency plan available to caregivers. Just an FYI, the most recent food allergy emergency action plan from FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) has instructions on how to use the Auvi-Q (TM). Click here to find that document.
Now for the cost. It's basically the same as other epinephrine auto-injectors but your doctor can give you a $0 co-pay coupon that will also knock $100 off the price of a set of two auto-injectors if you are paying for prescriptions out-of-pocket. Again, read the fine print on the coupon, but it is effective until December 31, 2013. As with any new prescription, make sure your insurance covers these before ordering! You can access a coupon by clicking this link and registering on the site.
To find out more and to see a demo on how to use an Auvi-Q, visit the company web site by clicking this link. Many readers of this blog have been curious about the Auvi-Q (TM) device. If any of you have any questions about the best epinephrine device for your particular situation, I encourage you to speak to your doctor.
Whatever epinephrine auto-injector that you choose, be sure to carry at least two at all times. Epinephrine can't work if you don't have it with you!
Note: Please contact your allergist or physician with any questions about epinephrine, anaphylaxis and your specific medical needs. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Nut-Free School Lunch Ideas and Resources for Back to School

Our district began the school year today and I know that many of you have kids back at school soon or maybe they're already there. And you know what that means: LUNCH! Sending kids with food allergies to school each day means that we are packing lunch 5 days a week -- a nut-free lunch. For some of you it might be a lunch free from other allergenic foods too.

Most of us weren't born knowing how to create tasty, nutritious and appealing lunches week after week, but luckily there are many lunch resources out there to help busy parents deliver the noontime goods.

First I want to share some really wonderful and creative lunches that I found online and that I have pinned on my Pinterest page. For example, this link has a creative and nutritious variety of nut-free lunches that you can tailor to your kids' tastes and needs. Go to my Pinterest page and look for the board "Nut-Free Lunches" to find more nut-free lunch ideas. I encourage you to share your own lunch ideas in the comments box below for a future post that I will then add to my Pinterest page.

Some of the recipes on this blog can easily be added to a lunchbox. Reader faves include two soups (make for dinner and save for lunch!): Minestrone and Mexican Meatball Soup. Click the links to find those recipes; they offer a healthy serving of vegetables but in a kid-friendly way.

For sweet sides, my ever-popular Nut-Free Granola Bars and Big Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies are a nice treat, plus they're easy to make. Or try the "No Nuts 'Peanut Butter' Chocolate Bars." Made with SunButter or soy butter, these are a family (and blog reader) favorite.

While out and about, I recently spotted the above book called "Best Lunch Box Ever" by Katie Morford. (In bookstores and at True, this book does have some peanut butter and nut butter recipes, but the author acknowledges the prevalence of food allergies and assures readers that the recipes will work with PB substitutions like SunButter.

This book features lots of great ideas for leftovers plus many tasty and unique ways to work healthy fruits and vegetables into your child's lunch. My 10-year-old was flagging pages of lunches she wanted to try the day I brought it home. For those of you who have more adventurous eaters or for kids just plain tired of that same turkey sandwich (guilty on that one!), give this a look. You'll also find snacks and sweet treats that are designed to be healthy and nutritious as well as tasty.

If you're looking for prepared nut-free facility foods you can just pop in a lunch bag, three of my blog sponsors have lunch-perfect foods: Candice Foods protein bars, Skeeter Snacks cookies and Vermont Nut Free Chocolates (snack bars, granola bars and "nut-free" M&M type candies called "Skippers").

What about lunches free of dairy, egg and nuts? You can find wonderful lunches, dinners, snacks and sweet treats in Kelly Rudnicki's cookbook The Food Allergy Mama's Fast, Easy Meals. Most of these foods can be made gluten-free, as well.

And speaking of nut-free and gluten-free, if you need both and your child is young enough to appreciate a cute and tasty lunch, visit The Keeley McGuire Blog. This site is devoted to creating visually appealing, nutritious and delicious nut-free and gluten-free lunches. Even if you don't need gluten-free, take a peek just for inspiration alone. Your kids will be the envy of the lunchroom.

And, check out this past post (Nut-Free Lunch Items Spotted on the Shelves) about nut-free facility school lunch foods I've seen at the local supermarket. If you've seen any new ones, please let us know by commenting at the end of this post!

Online ordering is always a time-saving option when you need nut-free. For a huge variety of nut-free snacks and treats that you can order online, visit one of my favorite food sites, Peanut Free Planet.

What about packing these fabulous nut-free lunches? I found LunchBlox by Rubbermaid at Target last year and I love this eco-friendly reusable lunch packing system. The kids do, too. You will save a fortune on lunch bags and baggies while being kind to the environment. The salad kit, sandwich kit and entrĂ©e kit, respectively, all come with a blue ice pack for keeping foods fresh and cold. Best of all, they stack up and fit together so the lunches don't go rolling around. You will need a fairly roomy lunch carrier for these, depending on the size of the LunchBlox containers you use.

I also love the Laptop Lunches containers found at Whole Foods and online. These containers can be used to create a bento-style lunch and you can purchase a companion lunch "bag" (flat like a laptop) that perfectly houses each container. Again, the containers and lunch boxes keep foods from rolling around in the bag.

New to nut allergies?

In the past several weeks, I've heard from many parents whose child  received a recent nut allergy diagnosis: peanut, tree nut or like us, both. For support and guidance on navigating daily life with nut allergies, check out my e-book "The New Nut-Free Mom."

The book is available for the Kindle, Nook, iPad, Mac and PC. Free apps are available for your computer if you don't have an e-reader. Click this link for more details and a special thanks to everyone who has sent me great feedback via e-mail or posted a positive review of this book. It is very much appreciated!

Attention all Pinners, Tweeters and Social Media Mavens!

Did you know that all you have to do to share any of my posts on Pinterest, Twitter, Google + and many other formats is to click the "Share This" button at the bottom of my posts? By clicking Share This you will be taken to a menu of social media options that allows you to immediately share any post with family, friends or with your own social media page.

For example, some people have asked about a Pinterest button for my posts but apparently it's already there! Click "Share This" and you're good to go.

Share your lunches with us!

What about you? Tell us what your kids' favorite nut-free lunch combos are and they will be featured in a future post that I will include on my Pinterest board "Nut-Free Lunches."

Friday, August 16, 2013

From The Nut-Free Mom Blog Archives: Food Allergies and Letting Go

My kids head back to school next week, so this is our last Friday before the start of the new school year. I've been thinking about those of you sending new students to school this year and remembering what that was like -- vividly.

It can be very stressful to let go of a child and send them off to school, so I wanted to share one of my posts from the blog archives. Click the link to read my post called "Letting Go." I wrote it right before my youngest began kindergarten and my oldest began a new school as a third grader. We had moved, so our old school with our established ways of managing allergies was no longer there for us. Read more here.

Have you ever wanted to tell someone what it's like to be the parent of a child with severe food allergies? I wrote an article for The TODAY Show Moms site that describes this very thing. Please feel free to share this short essay that outlines the pitfalls of being a food allergy parent.

Coming up very soon, I'm excited to share a back-to-school lunch post with you all. I'll have some great lunch resources and ideas, but I'd love to post some of my readers' lunch favorites. This year, I'm on a mission for a better, more interesting and healthy nut-free lunch. If you have any lunch faves you'd like to share, share them in the comments below. I'll share them in an upcoming blog post and on Pinterest. Tell us what it is and what ingredients you use -- give us the details so that others can recreate it.

Here's one resource I'll be listing in my food allergy-friendly lunch post: Candice Foods, a sponsor of this blog. If you are looking for a healthy energy bar without all the sugar and saturated fat, plus a food that's made in a nut-free, gluten-free facility (and free of many top allergens), be sure to check out their website. These bars are so good, you'd never know that they are "free-from" anything. My daughters like to pack a Candice Foods energy bar in their dance bag, as a snack to get them through the day, or as a quick side for lunch. Click the "Candice Foods" button on the right sidebar of my blog to find out more and to get ordering info.

I know that many of you are heading back to school in the next few weeks, so my best wishes to you and be sure to come back to the blog for more resources, articles, and info. Or if you just need to vent!

Thanks to everyone who shares their family favorite nut-free or free-from lunch to be included in an upcoming post and on Pinterest!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Coping with Sending Kids with Food Allergies Back to School: Who Needs a Pep Talk?

Let me start by saying that I think school is a wonderful thing and we've had some excellent experiences at school. School has been a positive experience for us in so many ways. For those of you getting ready to send your kids with severe allergies off to school for the first time, of course you must prepare the school, yourself and your child, but the rewards can be great.

Still, I remember so clearly that anxious feeling I had when sending my child to school for the first time. Kindergarten felt very challenging, maybe because preschool was when we discovered my daughter's allergies following an anaphylactic reaction. I was still learning about allergies when I sent my child off to school, just like many of you.

I feel like all of us need a pep talk right now, even those of us who have been sending kids with food allergies to school for years. Heck, I'd like a pep talk myself. With 8th grade approaching, my family will be dealing with new challenges and new adjustments that come with increasing independence. So even now, I can relate to those of you sending kids to school for the first time. For more about taking that leap of faith at the start of the school year, check out this article. It seemed to strike a chord with many readers.

Here's one positive thing I've observed: Food allergy awareness is at an all-time high in schools. When we began school nine years ago, it was not very well understood and I had to break a lot of new ground when my daughter first became a student. Now, most schools have had allergic students and have created some type of policy. You may need to work with your school to tweak the policy to your satisfaction, but it's highly unlikely that your school has never dealt with allergic students before. Your school district may even have a concrete policy on dealing with food allergy management. If you're not sure, ask them.

These days, kids in your child's classroom will be used to others having food allergies and dietary restrictions. This is positive if you are just sending a child to school. I've found that kids can be excellent advocates for their friends with allergies. This generation will hopefully be more tolerant and accepting.

Additionally, most parents are used to hearing about food restrictions. Do some of them grumble? Are some of them occasionally upset that they can't send peanut butter treats or what have you to a class party? Sure. It does happen but most of the time it's because parents don't understand why or if they do, they are busy and just don't want to be bothered. If you keep your cool and offer to be a resource, that is a big help. Your formal health plan at school can also reflect what is allowed in the classroom, so see this link for details on working with your school.

And here's one thing to keep in mind, a big thing. We may be adept at food allergy management and have it foremost in our minds, but that doesn't mean that other people do. It's probably not going to take one conversation or meeting to achieve perfect understanding between you and the school. If you know that going in and have prepared yourself with a school calendar so that you can check in periodically (especially around party or special event time), you will not feel as blindsided when somebody forgets something or there is a mishap regarding what is allowed in the classroom. Use it as a learning experience and always, always communicate.

Trust your gut. If something is not right, talk to your school about what you can do to make it better. Don't suffer in silence or have your child suffer. It's not worth it and may even endanger their health.

Finally, engage your child in food allergy management. Even little kids can learn to say no politely to an unknown food or food not approved by you. Make sure it's you who approves the food and no one else (remember, others don't have it foremost on their minds like you do). Help your child learn what foods may be risky (desserts, candy, certain snacks, bakery goods, some restaurant foods, etc.) and teach them to say "no, thank you." It will help their confidence and yours if they know what to avoid. For an article on teaching kids to manage nut allergies, click here.

As the school year nears, we will have stress. Take time for yourself and if you've completed all your allergy-related tasks, then know you are doing what you can. Try to relax so that you don't transmit anxiety to your child. Click this link for a parent's/caregiver's guide to managing nut allergies.

Please share with us any tips you have for managing food allergies at school by leaving a comment.  I wish all of us a safe and happy school year!

Note: for medical questions, please ask your doctor. For questions regarding your specific school, please contact them directly.