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Posts tagged ‘allergic reaction’

How I Became a Food Allergy Mom (Guest Post)

Today’s guest post is one many of you can probably relate to, I know I sure can. It chronicles the sudden, and unexpected journey from mom to food allergy mom. Our perspectives can change in a flash or in this case, with one bite of food. This post is a reminder of just how fast our lives can change.

-Jennifer

How I Became a Food Allergy Mom (Guest Post)

By Elizabeth Flora Ross (Bio below)

“I think she’s allergic to strawberries,” my husband said one night. I was dubious. My daughter’s eyes would water, her nose would run and she would sneeze when she ate them. But I did not recognize those as food allergy symptoms – I dismissed it as seasonal allergies. One evening as we enjoyed a family movie night, our daughter began to complain she was itchy and hot. With only the light from the television, I couldn’t really see her. Then she said she needed to use the potty. When I turned on the light in the bathroom, I was shocked by what I saw. Her face and lips had transformed into a huge, red, swollen rash.

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Food Curiosity, When Young Children Put Their Food Allergies To The Test (Guest Post)

When our kids are young, we feel like we have some sense of control over their allergies. After all, they cannot easily prepare food for themselves and they rely on us to do it for them – so we carefully avoid all allergens and intolerances. But sometimes our little ones of a certain age may become curious about the food they’ve been told to avoid their whole lives. What happens then? Read on to hear this mom’s story and learn how they coped, a great read for all allergy parents!

-Jennifer

Managing Food Allergies, Asthma and Eosinophilic Esophagitis (Guest Post)

By Kendra (bio below)

9554_wpm_lowres      Our family was introduced to the world of life threatening food allergies when Paul, now 8, stopped breathing during dinner at just 7 months old.  I explained to the allergist that Paul always had a rash of some sort, and nothing we did affected the daily wheezing.  We learned that he was allergic to egg, peanut, cat and dog.  Five months later, another half-dozen food allergies were identified.  His symptoms improved for a few months.  Then he started having rashes and trouble breathing every time he ate.  With guidance from the allergist, we continued to remove newly identified food allergies every few months.  By the time Paul was 3 ½, he was allergic to every food that he had ever eaten.  All nutrition came from an elemental formula which is broken down to amino acids.  The absence of actual food proteins ensures that there is nothing for the body to identify as an allergen.
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Confession: I Overlooked a Suspected Allergen In an Ingredient List

I feel really lucky at this moment because I made a mistake, a HUGE mistake. Thankfully, Tristan is ok.

A little background:

We think Tristan has an allergy to almonds. He used to drink almond milk daily and was incredibly itchy. After stopping the milk, the itching stopped. So, now, as far I as I know, he hasn’t had almonds for about a year. No, I take that back, he tried a bite of yogurt made from almonds the other day (completely dairy free) and he got a little pink around his mouth, so he didn’t have any more. I avoid almonds now because I just don’t know if he could have developed a more severe reaction to them, like he did with dairy not long ago. Blood and skin testing was always negative, like most everything else – even for his anaphylaxis to dairy.

Back to the present:

He’s been eating these crazy healthy gluten-free snacks for several months now, from ShaSha Co. They’re organic, raw, vegan, with no added sugar, and contain prebiotics. Just a really great product. He eats a few here and there for “dessert,” but doesn’t eat them religiously.

shasha_snacks

Yesterday I got a new bag out and checked the ingredient label like I usually do for a new package of a favorite food item. Just wanting to make sure the company didn’t add anything new and unwanted in the item.

And what did I read in the ingredient list? Almonds! What??!!! I snatched the bag away from Tristan and quickly explained that mama made a mistake and these snacks may actually contain almonds. He was totally fine. Didn’t make a sound of protest. I guess his only anaphylactic episode is still to recent and at the top of his mind.

Surely, this company has just recently added almonds to their snacks. I would have clearly seen almonds in the ingredient list before. I am SO careful!

I take a bite just to see if they taste the same to me. Hmmm…they taste exactly the same. Adding almonds probably would have given them a slightly different taste. And they sure do look the same.

At that point a big, hard, rock started to form in the pit of my stomach. I emailed the company and asked them if they’d recently added almonds. They quickly replied and said, no, always contained almonds.

Oh man. Wow. I missed it……what if Tristan had a reaction?!

MAJOR Mom Guilt!

But…he didn’t have a reaction. He’s been eating a little bit of almonds for months now apparently and without reacting. But, I don’t feel safe testing almonds on him at home anymore, so we’ll wait and talk to his new allergist about it. No more Sha Sha snacks for now. Hopefully we can do an in office food challenge and see how it goes. I’d love to be able to give Tristan almonds from time to time. Unlike most his other allergens, almonds are actually healthy and I hate that he’s missing out on them.

So, lesson learned. We make mistakes – as hard as we try not to – it happens. I am certainly humbled by this experience and am thankful everything turned out ok.

Now it’s your turn, confession time. What colossal mistakes have you made in regards to your child’s health? Please don’t tell me I’m the only one that put their child at a HUGE risk…..

It’s time to get it off your chest. Trust me, it feels good to confess :)

Sloane Miller on Traveling and Dining Out With Food Allergies

Tristan and I were headed to the Big Apple to visit my sister and newborn nephew. (She’s just started her own parenting blog, please check it out!) It would be a trip of firsts for both of us – first mother-son trip, first trip by train, first time to NY (for Tristan), and first time dining out since Tristan’s first anaphylactic reaction. Needless to say I was most worried about the latter item.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I reached out to Sloane Miller, aka Allergic Girl, food allergy expert, and NYC resident.

sloane miller allergic girl

Through her company, Allergic Girl Resources, Sloane “provides advocacy, coaching and consulting to empower individuals with food allergies and their families to engage in the world safely, effectively, and joyously.” She also provides food allergy consulting and training for restaurants, government, and corporations. Sloane graciously offered me with a condensed consultation about managing, traveling with, and dining out with food allergies in preparation for our trip. (Please note that Tristan and I were not clients under Sloane Miller’s care and I’m offering this review of my own will, without any obligations.)

In preparation for our phone consultation, Sloane asked for the following information as they pertain to Tristan’s food allergies:

  • Diet Restrictions
  • History, Onset, Reactions
  • Testing Methods and Results
  • List of Doctors and Medication

Sloane used Tristan’s medical information to customize our session, where she shared her wisdom for traveling and dining out with Tristan’s multiple food allergies. And just what did I learn?  A LOT! She was so helpful and understanding, but also persistent (as a coach should be). A few of her recommendations really overwhelmed me and she sensed this, gently pushing the issue and reminding me why it was crucial.

Are you curious? Would you like to hear some of her advice? Well then, here are some of the highlights (in my own words).

  1. Make sure all medications are easily accessible and up to date.
  2. Have an Anaphylaxis Action Plan in place and approved by your or your child’s physician. AAAAI and FARE have samples you can download. While you may feel like you know exactly how you or your child reacts to an allergen, what if your child is out of your care and experiences a reaction, how will those temporary caregivers know how to immediately recognize a reaction and understand when emergency treatment is necessary?
  3. Locate the nearest hospitals and 24 hour pharmacies to your hotel. If possible, obtain the name and number of a local physician who can assist you if allergy medication is lost and needs replacement.
  4. Create a reference list of all known food allergies. Then add common foods where these allergens can be found. For example, for soy allergies you’d list tofu, tamari, soy sauce, vegetable oil, etc. Use this to email in advance to restaurants and hotel.
  5. Look for Allergy Friendly restaurant recommendation. Some great places to look are: AllergyEats, Allergic Living’s Dining Out Forum, AllerDine, and Nosh It (a new app). AllergyEats published a list of the most allergy friendly chains in America, which you may find useful and can find here.
  6. Research restaurants of interest online. Review the “about us” section of the restaurant’s website. Look for comments about how much they love their customers, hospitality first, special food requests, and food allergies.
  7. Contact restaurants & compliment the chef. Email or call the restaurant (during off hours) with your list of known food allergies and tell them you have emergency medication on hand. Ask if they can accommodate you.  It never hurts to compliment the chef and tell them you heard great things and really hope you can try their restaurant. If you’re not being “heard” move on, it’s not worth the effort and potential life threatening mistake.
  8. Make a reservation and dine early. If possible, make reservations using OpenTable, where you can create a profile and list all your allergies and make dining notes that will be sent to the restaurant when you make the reservation. Make a dining note like this one, “Looking forward to dining with you, severely allergic to…, carry emergency medication.” Try to eat with the early crowd as the chef and managing staff will have more time to talk with you and make you feel comfortable. Fewer customers means fewer errors in the kitchen and from the wait staff.
  9. Ask to bring your own food. If you’ll be dining out with several people and it proves too difficult to find a restaurant to accommodate your or your child’s allergies safely, ask the manager if you can bring your own food while the rest of your party eats from the menu. Sometimes they are ok with it, sometimes they aren’t. So ask when making a reservation, don’t wait until you show up for meal time.
  10. Listen to your intuition. If you feel at all uncomfortable at the restaurant, with your waiter, or the chef and feel the situation is risky, never eat. Send the food back if it’s questionable or ask to see product packaging to verify ingredients. If they won’t show you the bag because they’re too busy or for any other reasons, that’s a huge red flag – just walk out.
  11. Always have back-up food/snack to last you until an allergy friendly meal is available. This will come in handy especially if you walk out of a bad situation and need to spend time finding an alternative restaurant that can accommodate you. Even more so with small, hungry children in tow.
  12. Create a Chef Card.  This is basically a list (usually wallet size) of all food allergens that is given to the chef when you arrive at the restaurant. The Food Allergy Gourmet has a list of Chef Cards from various online resources. This was a LIFE SAVER for us, probably quite literally. I started out creating the food allergy list as described in #3 above, and it morphed into a Chef’s Card on steroids. The chefs (which I spoke with at every restaurant we dined at) loved my card as it was so thorough. Here is a pdf of the card I created and laminated.
  13. NEVER EVER go to a buffet. It’s just a cross contamination nightmare.
  14. REMINDER: There are no restaurants that are completely allergen free. Every single restaurant will have an allergen someone could react to because realistically people can be allergic to just about anything. So, it is your responsibility to make sure the restaurant is safe for you or your child.  Never assume.

On top of all this great advice, Sloane gave me the name of many restaurants she’s either dined at in NY or personally trained on food allergy safety. This really helped us. I’ll share the restaurants we chose to dine with in the next post about our visit to NY with multiple food allergies. You can also see a full list of restaurants Sloane recommends at Allergic Girl Recommends.

A HUGE thank you to Sloane Miller for her food allergy wisdom and allowing me to share it with you!

Now, let’s hear from you. What tips do you have for traveling and dining out with food allergies? What lessons have you learned?

After an Anaphylactic Reaction – The Road to Recovery

It’s been just over two weeks since Tristan’s first anaphylactic reaction. Since then I’ve realized a few things and learned even more from all the supportive comments and words of encouragement from all of you (which I am extremely grateful for! Thank you!).

1) False negatives with food allergy tests are more common than you’d think. There are tons of people out there, who like Tristan, react negatively in food allergy tests, but indeed have food allergies. I was really surprised by how many of you commented that you’d received false negative results as well. Incredible! Why isn’t allergy testing more accurate?!!! Think of the children and adults going misdiagnosed (false negatives and false positives)! Grrr!! I wish in-clinic food challenges were more supported by physicians – it’s not called the Gold Standard in allergy diagnosis for nothing.

2) It takes some time to recover emotionally and physically from an anaphylactic episode. For at least one week I kept having flash backs to that night. I’d relive certain moments in my head, but the worst was visualizing (again and again) my son – swollen, blue, covered in hives, and unable to get enough air. I’m sure I will never, ever completely be free of those horrifying images. I’ve been hugging my son a little tighter and looking at him more appreciatively lately, thankful that I still have him in my life.

It’s also common to have additional allergic reactions, although usually on a smaller scale, after anaphylaxis. We’re lucky this didn’t happen with Tristan, but he did experience pain in his thigh and butt in the area where the epinephrine was injected. The soreness was the worst just under one week later, walking was quite painful for him.

3) It’s not always easy to talk about it. Tristan (just about to turn five-years-old) does not want to talk about his anaphylaxis. In fact, he tells me exactly that when I try to get him to open up about what happened. I did want to make sure he didn’t blame himself in any way for his allergic reaction, so I asked him and he assured me he knew it wasn’t his fault, but that it was my fault. Oh. Well. Yes, he was right. He said it in a way that wasn’t blaming me, but more simply that I was responsible. So, we talked about that (for as long as he would, which was not long) as I wanted him to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that mama did NOT know he was going to react that way. If I did I would have NEVER given him that cheese. He seemed to really understand and agree. Phew.

If you have trouble getting your children to open up about their food allergies or anaphylactic reaction, here are some great tips from Natalie, who suffers from multiple food allergies and has experienced anaphylaxis many times. Natalie writes about food allergies via her blog at Behind the Reaction.

  • Try to get them talking while doing something they enjoy. Turn what your child likes doing into an opportunity to open up and talk about it. For instance, if he likes anything artsy, try drawing with him. Try drawing the ambulance or the hospital and prompt your child in that way. If the child is really into trucks you could set up a time and go by your local fire station and they can show him their trucks and how they know when they need to go help someone, etc. You could give them a heads up about what had happened and have them talk to your child about how brave he was. It may be really exciting for your child and provide them with the opportunity to talk about how brave he was even though it was scary!

I followed Natalie’s advice and took Tristan to visit the firemen who came to our house as first responders on the night of his anaphylactic reaction. I called ahead to the station to find out when the men who were on call that night would be available for us to meet with them. Tristan and I baked them cookies (allergy-free of course!) and took a little tour of the fire station.

IMG_4380

visitig our heroes

  • Connect with other with food allergies. Another idea is to find someone in the area who has gone through the same thing. I know in our area there are different support groups for food allergies and if you are able to find one you could find a food allergy buddy. FAAN has a list of support groups here and Kids with Food Allergies has a wonderful online support system. It’s a great way for parents to get together and discuss the stresses of managing food allergies as well. Often times I wish there was more of a community and connection between the kids though. I still get frustrated when people try to relate to me after a reaction because they don’t know what it feels like. The feelings during a reaction are hard to explain and overwhelming!  If you can find someone for him to relate to it may really help.

After Tristan’s reaction, I started reaching out to other parents in our area to start a play group for kid’s with food allergies. It will be a sort of support group for the parents and a great way for kids with food allergies to connect with other children going through the same thing. I cannot wait for our first meet-up!

  • Give them time to heal. Parents process allergic reactions much differently than children do, so be careful of how frequently you bring up the experience with your children. With food allergies it is such a fine line with the amount of information you give to children. Of course as they grow up, you want them to know that food allergies are extremely serious and can make them very, very sick, but you certainly don’t want them to fear eating.

I completely agree with Natalie about not wanting our children to live in fear of eating. Thankfully my little guy is quite the foodie already, but I know fears can manifest at the drop of the hat, so his eating habits are something I will keep a close eye on. I want him to be well aware of his food restrictions, but I certainly don’t want him to develop any eating disorders or anxieties about food. And I don’t ever want him to feel left out because of his food allergies. Definitely a tough balance and one that will take lots of practice.

How was your or your child’s recovery from anaphylaxis? What helped you get through the emotional and physical aspects?

Our Eczema Trials: Elimination Diet (How You Can Do It Too!)

our eczema trials: elimination diet

Try an elimination diet and stop eating the foods harming your body.

An elimination diet really isn’t that hard and for many it provides a great sense of relief when food allergies or intolerances are discovered. In truth, it’s deciding to do the diet and embracing your decision by fully planning and preparing for it, that’s the hardest.

Why an Elimination Diet?

After years of worsening eczema and unsuccessful attempts with multiple doctors to identify the triggers, I finally realized I could no longer put off an elimination diet for my son. It was time to figure out which foods were aggravating his eczema when allergy testing all came back negative. The best way to do that, according to many health professionals, in fact it’s considered the “gold standard” for food allergy diagnosis by many pediatricians, is by conducting a food challenge. A food challenge is when certain foods are consumed in small doses and then the individual is monitored very closely, in a physicians office is best, to determine if the food causes any reaction in the body.

Food challenges are the only 100% accurate way to prove a food allergy exists, other than a history of reactions with specific foods. Allergy testing is not usually reliable as false positives and false negatives, like was the case with my son, can frequently occur. In order to successfully conduct the food challenge, it’s best to remove the foods in question from the diet completely for a given amount of time in the form of an elimination diet.

Overwhelmed? Embrace the Diet and Plan, Plan, Plan.

When I finally decided to move forward with my son’s diet, the planning seemed very overwhelming. It’s best to work with a physician or nutritionist when planning the elimination diet to ensure all the proper foods are eliminated correctly AND to guarantee you’re not putting your or your child’s health in jeopardy. Removing nutritious foods from the diet means they need to be substituted with equally nutritious alternatives and this can be tricky if you’re not very well versed in a healthy eating and nutrition.

Not only is balancing nutrition hard, but it’s VERY difficult to remove staple foods from your diet. Many of the foods that should be eliminated have been in your or child’s diet since not long after you took your first bites of food as a baby. Perhaps, your body has been used to these foods for so long, that slowly over time a reaction has been building up (in the way of eczema or asthma. You don’t always consciously think about these foods because they’re part of you. You’ve never had to think about it before. So eliminating these foods is like learning a whole new language. You must become a thorough label reader, understand the confusing and misleading world of “may contain traces of,” recognize alternative names for foods (and there are many), and learn to cook with substitute ingredients.

Find the Right Resources

My mother-in-law is a super health food fanatic, so I relied much on her expertise. I also referenced “Dealing with Food Allergies in Babies and Children,” by Janice Vickerstaff Joneja, PhD, RDN. This is an EXCELLENT book that discusses food allergies in-depth and then offers detailed steps on how to conduct elimination diets for various ailments – one of which is eczema! Using Dr. Vickerstaff Joneja’s plan, made things much easier. Her book told me exactly what to eliminate and for how long.  We followed her eczema elimination diet to the letter and it improved my son’s skin tremendously, within a matter of days. When it was time to add the eliminated foods back into his diet, by way of a food challenge, we immediately were able to identify which foods were triggering his eczema as he became very itchy after eating most of them, occasionally with hives. In some cases it took a few days of consuming the foods to see a reaction. In the end we identified the following as eczema triggers for my son: dairy, gluten, soy, and corn. We later also identified through trial and error that many tree nuts cause similar reactions for him.

I’m happy to say that through an elimination diet, we saw major improvements in my son’s skin! This was one of the biggest wins in his battle against eczema. I cannot recommend elimination diets enough.

Yes, it’s hard, but you CAN do it. Here’s how:

1)    Embrace the decision 100%.

2)    Arm yourself with the right resources: physician, nutritionist, books, friends for moral support, etc.

3)    Identify the foods to avoid and ALL the alternative names for these foods.

4)    Have recipes ready to go and your pantry stocked.  Plan on spending a few hours at the grocery store carefully reading labels and finding new food substitutes.

5)    Go for it! If you feel the need to cheat, think about why you want to cheat. Is it because you’re craving one of your favorite boxed/processed chocolate chip cookies that are no longer ok to eat? Then make some using alternative ingredients. Trust me, the alternatives are actually really good!

Here are some great bloggers featuring amazing, healthy recipes that are allergy free, some are top-8 allergy free. Prepare some of their recipes in advance and prevent the desperate need to cheat by having your favorite foods with alternative ingredients on hand and ready to go.

Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen – super healthy recipes from a nutritionist.

Gluten Free Goddess – most recipes are free of more than just gluten.

Tessa the Domestic Diva & Real Food Allergy Free – check out their Allergy Free Wednesday Recipe Hop!

Grateful Foodie – practical recipes for the family.

Allergy Free Alaska – gluten and dairy-free.

Allergy Free Yumminess – check out my Pinterest board full of amazing allergy free recipe finds from around the blogosphere.

Looking for more info and tips on how to complete an elimination diet? Check out my guest post for ScratchMeNot “What’s an Elimination Diet Really Like?”

Have you tried an elimination diet? Did you see results?

Asthma, Eczema, and Attitude (Guest Post)

I was so charmed by the incredibly cute Asthma Peeps stickers for asthma inhalers and spacers that I asked Kym, the lovely and brilliant momma behind their creation, to share how she managed her daughter’s eczema.
Kym Latter

Bio: Kym Latter is an Australian mum and founder of Asthma Peeps.  Her asthma journey is about educating herself as much as she can about childhood asthma so that she can help her daughter, and other children like her, accept their condition in an open and positive way. You can find out more at the Asthma Peeps website, blog, or Facebook page.

Asthma, Eczema, and Attitude

When my daughter was just a baby she began to suffer from eczema. We knew it was only a matter of time before she developed asthma. They do seem to go hand in hand and we were somewhat prepared as we have a family history of both.

My daughter’s experience has shaped and changed our family life, and has also changed me. I’ve become an advocate for parents who have children with asthma and I thought I’d share a few tricks that have helped our family manage the pairing of skin and lung sensitivities.

Dear diary
We keep an asthma diary, or more accurately a ‘triggers diary’. In it we note down the date of any flare-ups, the time of day, what we were doing, the weather, what she ate that day, who (or what) else was around. Over time this gave us a really clear understanding of situations and environments that brought on asthma or eczema.

Avoiding triggers
They are the same triggers for asthma and eczema! Scented soaps and dust mites are nasty for broken, sensitive skin and can also flare up asthma prone lungs. We have the gentlest of skin cleaning products (and the fiercest vacuuming schedules).

Watching the seasons
Temperature, weather and clothing take on new importance for parents of children with asthma and eczema. Through our triggers diary, we noticed sweaty, active days were the worst for her skin, so our daughter prefers cool cotton clothes through summer. To the other extreme, windy, cold seasons also meant extra moisturizing balm for her exposed hands.

Her asthma is definitely worse in winter, that sharp air and the added issue of colds and runny noses. Winter has become the time for our regular check-in visit to the doctor where we review our daughter’s Asthma Action Plan.

Have some fun
Our daughter knows how to have fun, and she reminds us daily that even the most serious of topics can be approached with a smile. We try to keep all her health precautions, medications and considerations a light-hearted part of our day. We protect her as much as we can, and ensure she feels in control, not controlled by our best intentions. Just because we are her parents, we try to find a balance between seriousness and play.

Thank you Kym! Asthma Peeps just launched an adorable child’s book about asthma called, The Trouble With Bear Hugs. Take a look at the gorgeous illustrations. It’s available for sale on the Asthma Peeps website.

trouble with bear hugs book

The Allergy Scoop: Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, and Cocoa Butter

Tree nut allergies are on the rise and can often affect those with eczema. This type of allergy can be just as fatal as a peanut allergy and is for some reason often overlooked by those outside of the medical community. My son has eczema and is allergic to almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans, but not peanuts. I prefer to use natural, non-toxic products to moisturize his chronically dry skin, but most these products contain variations of oils that seem to be in the tree nut family, such as coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter. Even some drug store creams contain these oils, so they almost seem to be unavoidable these days.

If you have a tree nut allergy, should you stay away from these oils? The answer I’m afraid is not so cut and dry. I’ve rounded up some facts to share so you can make an informed decision with your physician.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil and Palm Oil are the primary base in most natural soaps. They are also in many balms and salves marketed for those with eczema. And recently many physicians, even Dr. Oz, have begun to encourage anyone with eczema or severely dry skin to try this nutrient rich oil either in cooking or applied directly to the skin. Coconut oil is one popular and diverse oil!

My son has tree nut allergies and if eats coconut one day, he’s fine. If he eats it a second day in a row, he may break out in eczema and/or itching. We used to apply coconut oil to his skin, but now it makes him itchy. Elizabeth from Onespot Allergy also has a son with tree nut allergies, but he doesn’t seem to have any trouble consuming coconut. She wrote a very thorough post here on Coconut Oil and tree nut allergies.  She points out that there seems to be a lot of confusion around coconut and possible allergic reactions. Essentially, Dr. Watson from Allergic Living Magazine states the coconut is actually a large seed from a tree of the palm family. The FDA defines it as a tree nut. FAAN recommends speaking with your doctor if there is concern of an allergic reaction. It seems to be that most allergic reactions to coconut have occurred in individuals without a tree nut allergy. So in theory you should be able to eat a coconut or apply coconut oil to your skin if you have a tree nut allergy.

Shea Butter

Like coconut oil, my son was originally ok with shea butter applied on his skin, but after time he developed a reaction to it. Products containing shea butter in high doses make his skin very itchy.

FAAN and the FDA classify shea as a tree nut. According to Dr. Watson, shea nuts are indeed a tree nut, but there have been no documented allergic reactions to it. He states this is likely because the oil, used in skincare products, contains little protein, which is what triggers an allergic reaction. Dr. Kanwaljit K. Chawla of Mount Sinai School of Medicine conducted a study and found that shea butter only contains 1/3oth of the amount of proteins found in cashews and even less than the amount found in peanuts. Dr. Chawla introduced shea butter into blood samples from individuals with tree nut allergies and found the immunoglobulin E antibodies barely attached to the shea butter, so no allergic reaction occurred.

Although allergies to pretty much anything are possible, a true allergy to shea is very rare.

Cocoa Butter

We have yet to try cocoa butter on my son’s skin, but I hope to soon. He eats chocolate with no problem, so it’s unlikely he’d react topically.

Cocoa butter is derived from the cocoa bean, the same origin as chocolate. The beans grow in pods, and much like coconut, in different circles it is considered a tree nut, a seed, or a fruit.  Allergies to the cocoa bean itself are extremely rare. In fact, reactions to chocolate are usually related to a shellfish allergy or cross contamination with nuts, dairy, soy, etc. So, if you have a severe allergy to peanuts or other tree nuts, make sure your cocoa butter or chocolate is free from contamination with other nuts. As it turns out, cockroaches are quite fond of the cocoa bean and larger quantities than you’d like of these critters actually end up in many products derived from cocoa beans. Ick! Since cockroaches are related to shellfish, as are dust mites, some people with allergies to any of these items could potentially react to cocoa or cocoa butter.

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The Bottom line: Speak with your physician if you have doubts about using coconut oil or shea or cocoa butter and always apply a very small amount of the oil/butter as a patch test before applying liberally to ensure you don’t have a reaction.

Please note that I am not a medical professional. You should speak with your physician before trying any of the oils mentioned above if you or your child have a tree nut allergy. It’s always better to be cautious.

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If you have a tree nut allergy, please take a look at our tree nut-free products at The Eczema Company.

I Listen to My Intuition and I Don’t Give up on My Child: I am My Son’s Health Advocate (Guest Post)

 

Athena inspired me on the Itchy Skin Support Forum where she shared the countless natural therapies she’s tried to help heal her son’s eczema. I was impressed with her fighting for her child and not giving up until she finally healed his skin. We know it’s all about trial and error to find what works for your child, but this momma has been through it all. I hope her story will inspire you too!

Athena with Andrew today – beautiful, healthy skin.

Bio:  My name is Athena Goodman and I’m 33 years old.  I’ve been a cardiac nurse for 10 years and I’m a reiki practitioner.  I love to read, cook, and do yoga and meditation.  Now that I’m a new mother, my new hobbies are cooking full-time, and chasing after my son.

Diagnosis

My battle with eczema started when my first child was born.   Even though he was born a month early his Apgar score was 9 out of 10, so he was deemed healthy.  His skin was perfectly fine at the time.  Then I noticed when he was about two weeks old he developed a pretty severe case of cradle cap and his face would get red and blotchy.  The skin on his arms, chest and legs started to get dry and flaky.  Over the weeks it got progressively worse and when he was examined by my family doctor he was diagnosed as having atopic dermatitis.  As any parent with a child who has eczema I read everything I could about this condition.  I knew the use of steroids would only cover-up the symptom and not address the root cause of the eczema.  I was also appalled that the side effects of the steroids were no better than the condition it was trying to prevent.

Are Food Allergies to Blame?

I started to suspect a food connection when I ate a huge plate of pasta with tomato sauce for my birthday and within two days, Andrew’s face flared up so bad, in some places it started to ooze and in other areas there were scabs.   Since I hadn’t had pasta in over a month, I suspected it was actually the tomatoes.  I removed tomatoes from my diet for three weeks.  I then told my husband if our son’s face flares up again after eating some pasta with tomato sauce, we’ll know tomatoes are the culprit.  I intentionally ate a modest amount of tomatoes to test my theory because I was afraid his reaction would be severe again.  After the second test, two days later, his face flared up and I knew without a doubt that various foods were triggering my son’s eczema and I started thinking about any other foods Andrew could have been reacting to.  At the time I was consuming foods with tomatoes frequently, but never in large quantities, which is probably why his skin flared up, improved in a few days and then would suddenly flare up again.   He was two months old at the time and even despite taking out tomatoes, his condition never resolved. I took Andrew to see a naturopath in December when he was about 5 months old. He recommended supplementing with probiotics and essential fatty acids.  The next day after Andrew’s first does of  primrose oil (for EFAs) I could see the redness spread across one cheek and the following day both his cheeks started to ooze. When I read the full supplement ingredient list I found there was citrus flavoring. Since citrus is very acidic like tomatoes, I knew it was causing his reaction.

Constant Itching & Rubbing

He was so itchy during the night he would constantly move his head back and forth rubbing his cheeks against the

Andrew during a flare up.

bed sheet.  It got so bad it looked like he had second degree burns to his face and we feared that he would have an infection.  In the middle of the night we took him to the ER and the physician recommended we continue what we were previously doing, cleansing the site with normal saline and trying to apply gauze to protect the area.  I learned to improvise quickly.  To stop Andrew from using his hands to scratch his face we had to swaddle him before putting him in a sleep sack.  It didn’t stop him from turning his head side to side to relieve the itch and it only aggravated his skin more.  I don’t know how the idea came to me but I used two silk pillow cases to prevent his skin from breaking down and to give it time to heal.  I cut a hole in one pillow case and put it over his sleep sack and put the other pillow case beneath his head.  No matter how he moved his face it would always touch the silk.  The plan worked and it took a few weeks to really see the improvement.

Green Tea, A Family Remedy

At that time I was also using the steroids sparingly to expedite the healing process.   I went through so many trials and errors to treat Andrew.  I bought skin care products and other supplements to try, but they only made things worse since his skin reacts to citric acid, which I later found out is an ingredient in almost all skin care products can be disguised as “essential oil.”  At this point both his legs started to turn red and ooze. I knew I had made things worse.  It was so hard for his legs to heal because he was constantly scratching them. We ended up applying steroid cream, gauze and then pressure bandages to both legs for several weeks.  Both his cheeks started oozing again and instead of using steroids I used organic green tea bags, a family remedy suggested by my mother, and applied it to his face while breast-feeding him during the night.  I didn’t saturate the tea bag, just added enough water so that the tea bag was wet.  This remedy definitely worked because I used it several times during the night and by morning his cheeks had stopped oozing.  My mother and I also performed reiki on Andrew and I could see that it helped calmed him down when he was having a bad night.  I can’t tell you how many times I must have cried.  Bathing Andrew was a nightmare, I always had to be in the tub with him to prevent him from scratching his body.   Dermatology was no help, not only did they try to prescribe stronger steroids, they completely dismissed the idea that eczema could be a reaction caused by food.

Bone Broth & Chicken Liver as Baby Formula?

The new year arrived and there was no significant changes in his skin, it was beyond frustrating.  The whole thing was mentally, physically and emotionally draining.  I had to be by his side constantly to stop him from scratching.  I didn’t take him out much and if I did, there had to be two people in the car, one to drive and the other to sit in the back and monitor him. The turning point was when I started doing my own research found two resources talking about a hypoallergenic formula made with bone broth and chicken liver if dairy could not be tolerated. When I started giving Andrew the new formula I notice his whole face did not turn bright red like it use to and then I realize dairy was probably another food contributing to his eczema.  Eight weeks later, his eczema and cradle cap still persisted.

Elimination Diet

Then someone loaned me the book called “The Core Diet for Kids” by Dr. Stephen J. Gislason. I started the elimination diet: no dairy, eggs, soy, corn, wheat, or gluten.  The diet was extremely basic, rice, chicken, turkey and a handful of vegetables.  I did this diet for about six weeks and while I found little improvement, I did clearly see certain foods exacerbated his eczema, such as; peas, sugar, fish, etc .  Dr. Gislason stressed that if no improvement was seen within a few weeks, all grains and chicken should also be removed from the diet. I was in denial and it didn’t occur to me Andrew could be allergic to rice but when I  finally took it out of my diet, his scalp cleared up in four days.  I was astounded and elated. When I brought this up to dermatology she actually acted annoyed and again stated food had no connection to eczema.  I just told her what I observed and what worked for Andrew.  I think she was just miffed that her regiment didn’t resolve his skin issues.  When Andrew was finally tested for possible food allergies at 10 months he tested positive for dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, peas, (peas and peanuts are in the same family so I was told to avoid all nuts for now).  I asked the allergist to test for citrus and other nuts but she stated his skin was too sensitive to do the test.  All the foods I suspected he was allergic to were verified by the allergy test. It was unfortunate that it took a test to validate what I already knew.

What I want to stress is that your intuition is rarely ever wrong and following my gut instinct was what saved me and my son.  All I had to do was look at my son’s face to know what food his body could tolerate and what it couldn’t.  Having to deal with family members that didn’t take it seriously just added to my stress.

Leaky Gut & Candida

I knew I found the answer to Andrew’s eczema when I came across an article on Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Campbell-McBride via the Dr. Mercola website.  The premise of her book was that the majority of your immune system resides in your gut and when your gut is compromised it can affect your body in many different ways.  When I read the chapter on leaky gut, candida yeast, eczema, and factors that contribute to the condition, for the first moment in a long time I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders.  Usage of different antibiotics over the years, long-term use of birth control, consuming too much sugar and processed foods, and using medication such as ibuprofen, can lead to a leaky gut and candida overgrowth.  I can relate to doing all of those things.  Andrew was born a month early so he probably wasn’t fully developed when I was given several doses of penicillin during my labor and I had taken ibuprofen for several weeks after the delivery.  I truly believe the antibiotics and pain medication pushed his system over the edge.

GAPS Diet and Soap Alternatives

I was also glad that I never vaccinated Andrew.  If your immune system resides in the gut I knew the vaccines would further stress it and do damage.  The GAPS diet finally made a dent in Andrew’s condition, feeding him only protein, carbohydrates from vegetables and healthy fats cleared up his face.  Grains, starches such as potatoes, and certain squashes were not allowed on the GAPS diet.  I also noticed starchy foods caused Andrew to have a reaction.   It was the essential fatty acid (cod liver oil rather than primrose) that brought his skin back to normal.  We stopped using soap during bathing, since soap stripped Andrew’s skin of natural oils.  Adding organic coconut oil to the bath water helped keep the moisture in.  His skin was better, but the eczema remained in spots.

Naturopath, Holistic Nutrition & Parasites

We went to see a different Naturopath who had Andrew do a Vega food allergy test (electro-acupuncture method). They also tested him for candida yeast overgrowth. His score was too high, 23/30, as I was told his score should be below 10.  I came across a website called Healing Naturally by Bee, the entire website is dedicated to healing and riding the body of candida.  Her recommendations for diet are similar to the GAPS diet, but more limited.  We started the diet and I saw greater improvement with Andrew’s eczema following Bee’s diet advice. The only dairy that was allowed was ghee and even Andrew couldn’t tolerated that. Giving him healthy fats such as coconut oil, animal fats and olive oil was essential for his development and better health.   Having Andrew treated by a holistic nutritionist also sped his recovery.  Putting him on probiotics geared towards infants and digestive enzymes (TriEnza) significantly reduced his itchy symptoms.  She also brought up the possibility that Andrew could have parasites.  I read the book “Guess What Came to Dinner” by Ann Louise Gittleman, and it opened my eyes that parasites could be the root cause of so many different diseases.  I did not put Andrew on the anti-parasite cleanse because he was too young, but I have learned that mothers can pass parasites to their baby in the womb.

Where We Are Today: Improvement

At present, I have not used steroids for Andrew’s face in over three months.  He’s no longer swaddled, but wears silk pajamas and sleeps freely in a special sleep sack for infants with eczema, called Bamboo Bubby. Unfortunately the material does not keep Andrew cool enough, so during this summer heat, he developed a bad case of heat rash.  Buying an air conditioner definitely helped.  The only moisturizer I use for his skin is plain organic shea butter and we use a chickweed ointment for the eczema and the itchy areas.  I no longer have to sit in the bath with him.  He doesn’t scratch himself even once when bathing.  I still do not use soap, only water and his skin hasn’t suffered due to lack of soap.  I can drive him in the car by myself, but he has to wear long sleeve shirts and pants.  Because the summer heat aggravates Andrew’s eczema, I dress him in a short sleeve top with a tubular stockinette bandage around each arm so he can stay cool, but if he scratches the inside of his elbows at least the area is covered.  I’ve been told that the areas that heal last are the inside of the elbows, behind the knees and top of the feet.  I realize it will take more time for those areas to heal.

Advocating for My Son

Looking back I can say there was definite personal growth from this experience.  It’s still not easy, I do the bone broth every week for his formula and I have to prep his meals in advance.  When I go out with him I have to bring food from home, I have never taken Andrew to a restaurant.  Other than the milk formula I used to feed him, he has never eaten any processed foods.  I’m glad I did not blindly accept the doctor’s recommendations and give him stronger steroids, instead I became Andrew’s advocate.  I did my own research and became instrumental in his healing process.  I ignored those in the family that questioned the alternative choices I made.  The fact that his improvement has been gradual and steady with no setbacks, unless he eats something he is allergic to, is all the proof I need.  Everyone who has met Andrew has told me he looks healthy and is advanced for someone his age. He has never been sick.  No colds, no ear infections, nothing.  I believe this was largely due to the diet I’ve been feeding him.  The most important thing is the well-being of my child and I can say I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished and the knowledge I have gained during this challenging experience. I am still physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, but when I look at my son and think of all the progress that has been made I can’t help but smile more often now.

Below are some of the websites that have assisted me in healing Andrew.

The Weston A. Price Foundation

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride on GAPS Nutritional Program

GAPS Diet

Healing Naturally by Bee

Houston Enzymes – TriEnza Digestive Enzymes

Custom Probiotics – Highest Potency Probiotic Supplements

Bamboo Bubby Bag  (Coming soon to The Eczema Company for US and Canadian customers.)

How Can I Cope with Sending a Child to School with Allergies, Eczema, and Asthma?

Today it hit me – my little boy will be starting school in the fall. In only three months he’ll be a preschooler, riding the bus and everything. He’s totally ready. I’m not.

I’m sure ALL parents are nervous about their kid’s starting school. Some of the things they worry about are:

  • Will they like school?
  • Will they be safe?
  • Will they get along with all the other kids?

I’m certainly worried about those things, but add to that the worries about food allergies. Thankfully my son has never had an anaphylactic reaction, and I doubt he’d ever react that way, but he must be prepared for one either way. So, my additional worries concerning food allergies and school are:

  • Will he eat something he’s not supposed to?
  • If he does react to something will he get the correct treatment? Cream, antihistamines, Epi-Pen?
  • Will the other kids accept his allergies or will they bully him?

On top of all that, I’m worried about his eczema at school.

  • Will he get an uncontrollable itch attack?
  • Will the kids accept or make fun of his skin?
  • Will the school actually make his skin worse? (Considering dust, stress, etc. all big triggers)

And finally, how will my son’s weaker immune system adapt to school

  • When he catches the frequent common colds (for other kids) will it turn into an asthma crisis (for my son)?
  • How often will this happen? Will he miss a lot of school?
  • Will the germs and dust cause him to develop chronic asthma?

I could go on, but you get my point. I know other parents have the same concerns and it’s wonderful to know I’m not alone and not crazy and over dramatic, which is how I often feel. Although I don’t know a lot about dealing with school AND allergies/eczema/asthma, I do know preparation and planning is key. It’s crucial to meet with school nurses and teachers before school begins to make sure everyone is aware of the medical needs of your child. Creating a well documented action plan in case of emergencies is essential. All medication must be approved in writing by the child’s physician. That is what I know. I can do all those things, no issues there.

But, how do I deal with my emotions? I’m great at planning, but that’s not the issue. As a mom dealing with the atopic triad: allergies, eczema, and asthma, I’m constantly anxious about day to day exposures to triggers and irritants when I’m with son, how will I cope when he’s flown out from under my protective wing? Ultimately, I suppose I’m not that different from all parents in this regard. Every parent’s first day of school jitters comes down to the same thing – their child leaving their nest of protection, comfort, security, and love.

So, how do most parents survive their child’s first few days of school? Emotionally, they probably don’t. I’m sure I’ll be a nervous wreck for weeks, but as parents we can only prepare our children so much before we set them free to discover themselves and to create their own identity. We have to place faith in our parenting up to that point and trust that our children will be smart enough to take care of themselves AND, when it comes specifically to allergies, eczema, and asthma, we must also do everything in our power to educate the teachers, nurses, etc. so we feel confident they will be able to take care of our children in our place. When school starts, our children really begin their own lives. We have to let them thrive and in order for them to do that, we have to put our own emotions and anxieties on the back burner.

Below are some great resources you may want to check out before your child starts school. I’ll definitely be using some of this information when I meet with Tristan’s teachers and school nurse this summer.

Food Allergies and School:

School Guidelines for Managing Students with Food Allergies – Info from FAAN

Protecting Your Child from Food Allergies at Preschool – How to select a school.

Taking Your Child’s Food Allergies Back to School – Planning with the school.

Emotional Aspects of Food Allergies at School – Two moms with kids in school discuss their concerns and review what they’ve learned so far.

Eczema and School:

National Eczema Association (USA) – Tools for school – Educators and Parents versions. Great info here!

National Eczema Society (UK) – Several links to articles for teachers about how to help their students cope with eczema.

Itchy Kids School Page – Emotional info, plus details for kids in Australia and New Zealand

Asthma and School:

Asthma at School – Guides for Parents, Teachers, and Health Professionals

Many of you have already been through this, having mastered the school-age parent role. How did you do it? What are your secrets? I’d love your input. Do you have any tips on how to deal with the emotional side of sending a child off to school? Or any tips on how you prepared your child for school? What kind of planning did you do with the teachers or nurses?

Check back next week as Kristin Beltaos, a food allergy coach and consultant, gives us some tips on getting ready for school with food allergies.

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