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Posts tagged ‘allergic reaction’

The Eczema and Allergies Connection: How To Determine if Pollen Is Making Your Skin Flare-Up

By Dr. Hotze (see bio below)

You may be familiar with eczema flare-ups in the winter, as the combination of dry air and extreme temperature changes (cold outside, hot inside) can exacerbate your skin’s condition. However, have you ever considered the correlation between your eczema and allergies?

As a doctor who’s treated many people with eczema, I’ve noticed that springtime allergens like grass and tree pollens can make symptoms worse. By treating the body’s reaction to seasonal allergies, the eczema flare-ups often diminish or disappear. Read more

A Quick Guide To Better Understanding Food Allergies: Know, Identify, Act

Today's Lesson by Allerject: Food Allergies

How I Became a Food Allergy Mom

 

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.

Read more

Food Curiosity, When Young Children Put Their Food Allergies To The Test

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

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.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.

[Update 2/17/2015] Another book I now recommend that covers elimination diets and goes into much more detail about healing eczema from within is The Eczema Cure. I know the title is a tad too promising (I’m not a fan of the word “cure”) but it really is full of great information and I found this ebook incredibly helpful.

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.

 

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

Asthma, Eczema, and Attitude

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.

-Jennifer

 

Asthma, Eczema, and Attitude

By Kym Latter (bio below)

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.

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.

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. Read more

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