Monday, September 28, 2009

Nut Allergy News from Canada Prompts Questions about Accuracy of Current U.S. Stats

Recently I began subscribing to Allergic Living Magazine and they sent me their Summer 2009 issue. In it was a report about a 2008 statistical study that showed there are more nut allergies among Canadian children than children in the U.S. Read about it here. For example, 1.52 percent of Canadian children were found to be allergic to peanuts. A comparable study, performed in 2002 in the U.S. found that .83 children are allergic to peanuts. Tree nut allergy in Canada was also found to be about 120 percent higher for Canadian children, compared to .51 percent in the U.S.

The originators of the study caution that the differences may not be as they appear. The Canadian data was collected 6 years after the U.S. data. Also, in the U.S. data, peanut/tree nut allergy was found to have doubled in the 5 year period between 1997 and 2002. Having no more recent studies to view, we can only extrapolate that the incidence of peanut/tree nut allergy in U.S. children may have doubled--or more--from 2002 to 2007. I hope that the U.S. will get some more recent numbers for us, because among other things, the more kids found to have the allergy the more public policy can be affected. I get so many e-mails and posts from Canadian readers who express amazement that the U.S. does not have consistent policies regarding peanut allergies in schools, for example. Numbers help make a case for changes so I'd love to see some more recent data for peanut/tree nut allergy sufferers. Those of you attending FAAN Walks for a Cure or donating to this event, this is what some of your fundraising dollars should go to.

Allergic Living magazine is a great resource for anyone dealing with food allergies or celiac disease. And unlike Living Without Magazine, they don't include recipes that contain nuts or nut oils! Big bonus in my book--I can find those recipes in any mainstream magazine or newspaper! :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nut-Free School Lunch Ideas for Everyone!

After putting out a call to friends and Facebookers for peanut- and tree nut-free school lunch ideas, I was rewarded with several good lunch options. After reading one too many message board posters who claimed that peanut butter is the pretty much the only school lunch food that they will consider--non-perishable and all of that--I figured it would help to have a few more choices. And guess what? You guys made some suggestions that I never even thought of, so I'm going to shake up my own kids' lunch boxes from now on. I know that some of you have multiple food allergies to consider, so while these choices are nut-free they are not all dairy or egg free. However, I'd love to hear what moms with multiple food allergies are sending to school lunch! Let me know.

One more thing: you will need an insulated thermos and/or sandwich keeper with small freezer packs to keep these non-PB&J lunches cold and safe to eat. I found all of this stuff at Target--one sandwich container even had a freezer pack built in! Cool indeed. You can also find lunch accessories at This company is run by a fellow allergy mom so check it out!

Keep in mind: every one of the following options was from a mom with kids who do not have food allergies. So much for "all I can send is peanut butter, that's all they'll eat." Well, what if they had some more options?

OK, here goes: First some nice vegetarian options from Krysty in New York. She had several great ideas that her non-allergic kids enjoy. She sends them rice cakes with apple butter, veggie dogs in a thermos with a little veggie broth or water to keep them moist, tofu cubes to dip in ketchup (she said her kids will eat pretty much anything dipped in ketchup) bean dip with baked tortilla chips, cheese cubes, fruit and olives. She also suggested hummus in a tortilla or other filling like tuna. These are so creative and easy. Thank you Krysty!!

Genie from Chicago suggested pasta in a thermos, said her son loves it.

Leah from North Dakota says she sends hard-boiled eggs and also tofu cubes with dips. I love all these kids who like tofu. So do my kids!! I don't think I liked tofu until my 20s, but there you go.

I do a lot of turkey sandwiches with veg and fruit slices so I'm so glad to get these ideas. Anybody want to share some others? Thanks again to everybody who contributed!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Food Allergy-Friendly Family Recipe from Cookbook Author Linda Coss

Since it's a Monday and we're right in the middle of the back-to-school rush, I thought I'd share this fabulous and simple recipe that I received from food allergy cookbook author and advocate Linda Coss. As Linda rightly points out in a recent press release, "It's not necessary to prepare a separate meal for your food-allergic child and then pick something up for the rest of the family." Besides being a drag and excluding the child with food allergies, I find the pick-up and prepare method to be more trouble than it's worth.

The following dairy-free, egg-free and nut-free recipe comes to the rescue. I like it because my kids love salmon and for those of you trying to offer a meat-free option to your kids, the sweet and tangy sauce makes it even more appealing.

I'll have more recipes from Linda in upcoming blog posts. Enjoy!

Apricot Glazed Salmon
Reprinted with permission from "What Else Is to Eat? The Dairy-, Egg-, and Nut-Free Food Allergy Cookbook" by Linda Marienhoff Coss, available at
In this salmon dish a layer of garlic makes a nice counterpoint to the sweet apricot glaze.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
2 tablespoons sugar-free apricot fruit spread
1-1/2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 pound salmon fillet, about 1-inch thick
1-1/2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Preheat broiler. Cover broiler pan with aluminum foil.
To make apricot glaze place apricot fruit spread and honey in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds or until liquefied; stir in vinegar and then set aside.
Place salmon, skin side down, on prepared broiler pan. Place garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl; mix well and then spread evenly over salmon. Broil for 6 minutes. Spread apricot glaze evenly over salmon. Broil for an additional 4 minutes until done; serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings, 4 oz. each.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Carrying More than One Epi Pen Recommended

My local food allergy support group just sent me an e-mail about a study done late last year that found that food-allergic kids with asthma should be carrying two Epi Pens with them instead of just one. Based on a study of more than 400 kids, kids with both medical conditions usually required a second dose in the event of an allergic food reaction.

You can read about this and the discussion that followed on the Allergic Living reader forum by clicking this link.

I didn't know about this and will definitely pack an extra Epi Pen in my daughter's pack at school. This is also a good question to ask your allergist.

Speaking of allergists: we visited ours early this week for a regular check-up and I told her what happened with my daughter's allergic reaction at school. Some of you may remember that I was concerned my daughter's sensitivity to peanuts/tree nuts had increased.

I received good news and bad news. The good news first: my doctor believes that the allergic reaction was not caused by heightened sensitivity or "airborne" allergy. She said that condition is very rare, and unlikely since my daughter had not experienced airborne nut allergy issues in the past. This made me feel better, because of course I was envisioning problems with air travel, field trips, you name it.

Here's the bad news: my doctor believes the reaction was caused by a very small amount of accidentally ingested peanut or tree nut--probably caused by the large number of kids eating those foods near her when the reaction occurred. She concluded this based on the symptoms: nausea, hives, facial swelling. In other words, some of my child's classmates' food got onto her food (obviously a tiny amount or her reaction would have been worse than what it was). She also said that kids with seasonal allergies (my daughter has ragweed allergy) will have a lower "reaction" threshold in general during allergy season--it takes less to cause one.

So, my conclusion about sticking with peanut-free tables holds even more after that discussion. As always, if you have any questions about your own situation, please ask your doctor.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Taming the Food Allergy Anxiety Beast

At a recent school Parents Night, the teachers passed out a child development fact sheet for kids ages 8-10 years old. For the 9-year-olds, one of the common developments was "increased anxiety about the world." Add life-threatening food allergies to the mix and you can have a recipe for one stressed-out kid.

It makes sense that as kids get older, they get more concerned about things going on in the world. After all, their understanding of the world's machinations only increases each year. I find that as my daughter has gotten older, she has gotten more anxious (at times) about her severe nut allergy. A recent hives and facial swelling scare just from being around PB&J at school as well as a restaurant "near miss" this summer has contributed to her overall concern. Hey, who can blame her?

Some of you with school age kids may be going through this too. What can we do as parents to help alleviate some of the food allergy anxiety? It's not like we can tell them that it will always be OK and nothing will happen. We don't want them to over-think their condition, but we definitely want them to take responsibility for their serious allergy. It's a tricky business. Here are some strategies that have worked for us:

- Have your child be responsible for carrying medication. This gives my daughter a sense of power, because she knows she always has it with her rather than relying on the adults around her. It's also good practice for the future and it seems to make her less anxious. Obviously a 3-year-old can't carry the epinephrine but as kids get a little older you can ask them: What else do I need to bring with us today? Early reinforcement of this will help them to be responsible later on.

- Let kids take the lead. This past weekend, we went to a new candy store in town that models itself after the old-fashioned ones. You know, candy in barrels, all the candy we liked as kids, etc. Since it is all tightly wrapped and there are many safe options for us, we allow her to visit there once in awhile. Recently, however, peanut butter-filled pretzels were lying in an open container near the cash register/counter. My daughter hates to see stuff like that, but because her foods were wrapped and didn't get anywhere near the pretzels, we deemed it safe for her. It took her a couple of hours to agree with us, however. After explaining the low risk to her, I let it go. It hurt me to see her not be able to enjoy her candy right away, like her sister did--until I saw her later that day, reading a favorite book and enjoying her new candy. Lesson learned? Let your kids determine what they feel is safe enough. Don't press them. It is their allergy, after all, not ours. They need to do what they think is right.

- Reinforce safe dining out experiences. It's tempting to want to avoid restaurants due to food allergy concerns, but it's good to occasionally go to them if only to show your child that you can. Thoroughly research the restaurant and then have your child order a simple menu item. We've become regulars at a few restaurants and it really boosts my daughter's morale (well, all of ours, really) to enjoy a restaurant meal successfully and safely. Plus, becoming adept at these situations will be a lifelong skill.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Healthy Nut-Free Snacks for Kids--from

Welcome, readers! If you're looking for the continuation of my article that appeared in the most recent issue of, follow this link for a complete list of healthy snack options.

And to all of my readers, look for a new post soon!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Allergy Essentials USA--New Website and a Back to School Sale!

Back to school is now in full swing for everybody and if you have a child with life-threatening food allergies, you may be looking for convenient products for storing the Epi Pen and protecting school surfaces during lunch time.

Well, you're in luck because Alison of Allergy Essentials USA just let me know about a back-to-school sale currently running on her newly refurbished web site.

I wrote about this innovative company a while back and since then the site has been given a new look but the prices on Alison's same great products have been slashed.

Two products you might be interested in are: the Food Allergy place mat, which is great for protecting lunch tables. My daughter uses one--many designs are available and the mat even says "Food Allergy" for greater awareness. Currently place mats are $12.99 down from $14.99. They are machine washable and perfect for many uses including dining out, picnic tables and travel.

Also, the Epissentials holders are now on sale for $19.99, down from $24.99. These ingenious, adjustable holders come in sizes for both kids and adults and allow you to "wear" the EpiPen on your body -- such as your leg or arm--at all times. They even fit under loose-fitting trousers so you will know you're wearing it but no one else will.

I recently posted about ways to remember the EpiPen and the Epissentials holder is certainly a convenient way to do so.

The sales last until October 31st, so please visit for more details and a large selection of allergy products.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Allergy Injectors are Liberating and Daunting"

Here is an interesting link from CNN sent to me by a friend. I like the way it discusses carrying an Epi Pen from the perspective of people who actually carry them, especially adults who have developed severe food allergies in later years.

The inclusion of food-allergic adults in the story is helpful in another way: it proves that anyone can have food allergies and that they can develop them at any age.

This Epi Pen discussion also reminded me that when we received our first diagnosis we kept forgetting the darn thing. It's hard to remember to carry something like that when you're not used to it.

I want to pass on our low-tech means of reminding ourselves to bring the Epi Pen with us: Post-It Notes. We placed them on the dashboard of the car, on the front and back door and on the fridge. I guess it looked a little weird to people when they saw Post-It notes with the word "Epi Pen" on them everywhere in our home, but it worked!

Anyone have a unique way they remember their Epi Pen?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Lessons Learned from a School Scare

School has only been in session for 2 weeks but I've already had my first official food allergy scare of the year. Here's what happened: on Tuesday my daughter was eating in the cafeteria with her class--though not at the peanut-free table. She decided to try and sit with the other kids and didn't know that so many of them had PB&J with them that day. Also, at least one kid was opening up a bag of nuts nearby.

The smell of peanut butter repels my daughter but she has been able to sit near people eating it many times in the past so she was surprised when she started to feel kind of sick. Thinking that if she moved, she'd feel better, she did so. It didn't help, so she sought out a cafeteria supervisor and asked to go the nurse. As the nurse watched, the initial nausea progressed to hives on her forehead; the skin above her eyebrow also began to swell. The nurse administered Benadryl immediately, then called me. I am fortunate to be close to the school, so I (literally) ran over there expecting the worse. However, the hives and swelling were abating by that time. I sat and watched her for 15 minutes and she kept improving, so no Epi Pen was required. Also, we determined that she hadn't ingested any peanuts or tree nuts and it's doubtful that she touched them in any significant way--she told me she had put her place mat down on the table before eating.

Facial hives and swelling were the first symptoms of my daughter's first, life-threatening allergic reaction so I was pretty well spooked until I saw that she was doing better. Had the swelling continued to progress, I would have given her the Epi Pen shot and called 911--luckily, she was so much better she got to return to class.

I like to learn something from these experiences and so I learned that: we have a good plan in place that worked. The nurse did everything she was supposed to do, as did my daughter. As I've discussed in posts prior to the beginning of the school year, having a clear emergency plan at school and discussing it with your child is crucial. Our experience certainly proves that.

Second, I learned that my daughter is more sensitive to peanuts/tree nuts in the environment than I previously had believed. Ingestion is still the worst case scenario but I compare her lunch table situation to my cat allergy. Put me in a large room with one cat and I'll be OK for an hour or two. Put me in a small room with 5 cats and cat hair everywhere and I'll have wheezing in 5 minutes. Obviously, she was just too surrounded--in the air and on surfaces, most likely.

Why wasn't she at a peanut-free table? Well, they have one, but we had decided to try and let her sit with the class on the days she stays for lunch. (Her school is a bit retro with regards to lunch: it encourages kids who are in walking distance to go home for lunch.) The school was built in the 1950s and has no official lunch room--the gym and multi-purpose rooms are used. So while other kids with food allergies (many in fact) attend her school, the set-up is a bit different from other schools that have dedicated lunch rooms.

I realized that even though she is mature for her age and understands her allergy, that's only part of the story. It's the peanut-free table for her from now on--clearly, she needs it. A lot of people think that segregating allergic kids at a peanut-free table is bad for their development, but I witnessed my daughter's discomfort and fear about her reaction and I can tell you that I know she'd rather sit at a peanut-free table than experience that again. And the good news is that her classmates are very accepting--some will even bring nut-free foods so that they can sit with her.

For anyone who questions whether or not they should approach their school about a nut-free table, please know that it's a good thing. Schools don't want the day interrupted by kids having to be rushed to the nurse or the hospital; they don't want kids to suffer, either.

We are lucky everything worked out the way that it did and know that while our intentions were good about having my daughter "integrate" in the lunchroom, right now she's just too sensitive with her allergies.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Healthy, Allergy-Free Snacks from the Kids with Food Allergies Newsletter!

One of my loyal readers (another Jenny from Illinois--thanks!) shared this link with me from the Kids with Food Allergies e-newsletter. It's a great follow-up to my previous blog post because it gives you ideas for homemade snacks that could come in handy at home or at a school party, as well as allergy-free prepared snacks that you can buy at the supermarket or online.

Check it out here!

I found out yesterday that very minimal contact with peanuts/tree nuts (apparently from residue that resulted from kids around my daughter opening packages of nutty treats and eating PB sandwiches) is enough to make her have an allergic reaction that included a puffy, swollen eyebrow and facial hives. Luckily, Benadryl did the trick and that was as far as the reaction progressed. No ingestion occurred, but be aware that for many kids contact alone can cause a skin reaction; if the kids rub their eyes or put their fingers into their mouths, anaphylaxis can occur. That didn't happen to us yesterday but it was still a good reminder to be extra careful at school.

Having some allergy-free snack ideas to share with the class can go a long way to keeping your kids safe wherever they are. If you have any others, please feel free to share them with us!