Saturday, November 17, 2012

Buttery Mashed Potatoes

There's nothing worse than having food allergies or restrictions on a food holiday, and there's no food holiday quite like Thanksgiving. From mashed potatoes loaded with butter to fancy salads sprinkled with nuts to pumpkin pie with eggs and wheat, who isn't allergic to something in the mix? Here's how we manage the festivities:

1.Whether we host Thanksgiving dinner at our house or join in on someone else's celebration, we always make a handful dishes ourselves, in order to have a measure of control. If Sophie and I make the things that she loves the most, we don't have to worry about whether those items will be safe.

2. We ask lots of questions about the dishes other people bring. Pistachio pudding and lime jello with Cool Whip can have a very similar look, and nuts can be hidden somewhere inside a salad. Honestly, there are so many variations on every recipe, I never trust something without asking.

3. Serve allergies first. We always let Sophie get her food first or as close to first as possible. That way, even if something happens in the serving process, such as serving spoons getting swapped or unsafe food dripping into a safe dish, Sophie has at least had one helping of everything beforehand. Even so, we try to place safe dishes at a distance from unsafe dishes and make sure every bowl has it's own spoon to minimize accidental contamination.

4. Make and enforce rules about consumption of unsafe dishes. Sophie is severely allergic to wheat, eggs and pecans (among other things), so pecan pie is Sophie death, but it's also a staple at many Thanksgiving meals. We haven't eliminated pecan pie, but we do require that it is eaten at the table and hands washed afterwards, no matter what. And we keep it as far away from the safe pies as we can.

What other things have you found helpful in coping with allergies at Thanksgiving?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thank Goodness!

I'm always so happy when I read little success stories, like this one about Carolyn Mossey, a teacher, and her student Sarah Batchelor. Sarah had no known allergies, but between the 9-1-1 operator and Carolyn, she received an injection from another student's Epipen when she began showing symptoms of anaphylaxis. Great job to all involved, and good luck to Sarah in learning about her new found allergies!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hooray for Andes!!!

This evening as we were checking out the Christmas displays at Target, I saw a few varieties of Andes candy. I decided to try the Andes Toffee Crunch and noticed on the back of the package that they are made in a facility that does not use peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, or gluten. Hooray for Andes!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

5 is more than 4

After 2 hours of tears last night, which started because I forgot to back something up on my computer, and ended up being about my own long term health problems, I have invested some time in self-examination this morning. Why do I have these meltdowns about my health every so often? After all, it's a couple of pills a day, 2 extra doctor appointments every year, a few blood draws and an MRI. I would guess that my total time spent per year in managing my health issues is in the neighborhood of 15 hours or less. That's less than 0.2% of the hours in a year. It doesn't seem like it would be worth tears.

The thing I tend to overlook is that ongoing health problems cause stress in and of themselves. Simply being less healthy is stressful, and every time I have to do something to address my health issues, such as get a blood draw, or call to adjust a medication, my stress level goes up just a little more. If the average Stay at Home Mom has a stress level of 5 (on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest), I think even minor ongoing health problems would boost that to a 6. When things are more out of control with her health, you could make it a 7 or higher.

Now think of food allergies. For Sophie, her food allergies almost never require special medication. They are under good control. Her skin is clear and happy. But every time she opens a box of cereal, she reads it first (and I've already read it too). Everything that goes in her mouth is a potential hazard, mitigated by knowledge. And every night, she performs her lotion ritual, designed to keep her skin healthy and smooth, designed to keep eczema at bay. Between daily tasks and doctor appointments, Sophie's allergies require at least 100 hours per year, more than 6 times what my health problems require. When we were still learning to manage them, they required significantly more time. So if my stress levels are 1 notch above the average mom, then Sophie's are probably 2 notches higher than the average kid. And every dinner out, every birthday party, every holiday ratchets things up a little more.

Food allergies are not easy. They are manageable. They are not the worst possibility. However, they are still time consuming, and exhausting, and frustrating, and for many people, they are life-long. So if you feel like you need a good cry, go ahead. I know I do.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

For Kicks and Grins

If you're ready to laugh at people and the goofy things we do, even in the medical realm, and maybe even poke a little fun at food allergies, Hank Campbell's article about Celiac disease is a fun read. Check it out. ;-)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

U Know

Has anyone heard about this new test? It is supposed to be able to tell you with greater accuracy how severe your allergy is from a blood test. It looks interesting, although I can't tell from the website if there is much difference between their test and the blood tests we have already had for allergies. And it appears to be only for peanuts, at least for now. Hmmm...

Saturday, July 14, 2012


When Sophie was a young child, one day our allergist commented to me, "One of the reasons I love having Sophie as a patient is that I don't have to worry about her when she leaves the office with you. I have other kids that I know are going to end up in the ER several times before our next visit, but not Sophie." He knew that I listened carefully and did my best to be vigilant about her diet.

This comes up over and over again--the topic of vigilance with food allergies. And this article based on a recent study done at National Jewish here in Colorado highlights the point. Doctors followed about 500 infants for 3 years, tracking allergic reaction to food. 11% of the reactions were from non-acccidental exposures--in other words, the child's caregiver purposely gave them a food they knew could cause a reaction. Of the accidental exposures, these are the reasons given:

"...forgetfulness, reduced supervision, not checking a product, etc), 473 (64.9%); label reading error, 115 (15.8%); cross-contamination, 110 (15.1%); error in preparation, 30 (4.1%); and manufacturer labeling error, 1 (0.1%)."

We all make mistakes, and things happen, but it is our job as parents of kids with food allergies, especially when they are babies, to not forget, to read labels, to be hyper-vigilant.What can be done to help parents understand the need to take extra care with their little ones, when they are still learning about food allergies?