Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Labeling Allergy Free Foods in Pantry

I am preparing the house to leave my kids with family members so my husband and I may attend a wedding. It was very nice of my husband's Aunt and Uncle to offer to stay with the kids. Needless to say, with all of our allergies I have a lot to do to get ready. I took the first step in organizing our pantry.

I ordered the Pantry Partner Stickers from FAAN. They are green and red stickers that you use to label your food - what is safe and what is not. Green is for go - that food is safe, red is for stop - that food is not safe. The stickers are good quality so that when you have a new box of cereal you can peel it off and reuse it again.

My 4 year old loved to help label the food that was safe for his younger brother. It was a great opportunity to clean out my pantry as well. Now it is easy for anyone to tell what snack food is safe for Collin.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Handling Food Allergies in School

Last night I attended an interesting meeting of the Health, Safety and Wellness Committee of our local School Board. They called a meeting to discuss the current procedures for keeping children with food allergies safe at school. They invited our local support group to represent the parents. I really appreciate that our representative, Maria, made a point to focus on our desire to build a positive relationship with the school board. Not only did Maria do a great job of providing insight into raising food allergic children, she also voiced important questions and concerns that parents have about sending their food allergic children to school.

I commend the school board for their interest in becoming educated on food allergies, and taking steps to formally discuss what policies could be adopted to help keep our children safe. I have previously had the opportunity to meet several nurses from out local schools. During these brief conversations I was pleased to learn that they have taken the initiative to put procedures in place to help food allergic children in school. They encourage an open dialog between the parents, educators and school medical staff to develop a plan that will work for each child. As parents we have the choice of where we want to store the Epi pen, where we want our child to sit during lunch and how we want to handle class parties.

Regardless of weather your school has a formal food allergy policy in place, keeping your child safe is about building relationships. Positive relationships with teachers, nurses, friends and other parents that foster open communication. A supportive circle of friends, family and teachers will help keep our children safe. We need to advocate for our children in a positive helpful way. We know more about our child’s food allergies and their reaction than anyone else. It is our job to communicate that information effectively.

It strikes me that another major component should be fostering awareness and sensitivity among non allergic students and parents. We have all read about the case in Kentucky where a school bully put a child at risk when a peanut laced cookie was sprinkled on his lunch. Fortunately this story did not have a tragic ending. The child accused of the bullying is facing some very serious consequences. There are so many people that do not understand how serious food allergies are. Did this child really understand that his actions put another’s life at risk? How do we raise our children to be compassionate and sensitive to those who may be different? This is an issue that transcends food allergies.

Our school district has regular school assemblies. I heard a suggestion that perhaps one of the assemblies could address food allergies. FAAN even has books and videos geared toward kids to educate them on food allergies. Perhaps we could benefit from the same kind of sensitivity training used to foster acceptance of other differences, applied to food allergies.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Can't Stand the Coughing!

My 2 year old had been coughing for 2 weeks. At this point, I am sure he has developed environmental allergies. I have established a pattern. When we go outside he is fine for about an hour. Then he starts to cough a bit. If we stay out he will sneeze a little and develop a runny nose. When we go inside the symptoms subside to an occasional cough. Until bed - then the coughing kicks up again and some mild wheezing begins. Oh the poor little guy, I can barely listen to him. Most night I awake in the middle of the night to hear him coughing in his sleep. We have an appointment with the allergist next week, so we just have to get through the next 4 days. I can not even give him antihistamines because he will need to have scratch tests done st his appointment. So we wait, and I try to keep him inside as much as possible. Which is next to impossible since it has been beautiful and everyone wants to play outside! They are calling for rain tomorrow. :)

My Daughter Needs Ear Surgery

Last September my daughter had an ear infection that resulted in a ruptured ear drum. We have since had hearing tests that showed a mild but recoverable hearing loss. Allergy tests where we discovered her allergies to cat, mold, tree pollen, dust mites and ragweed – which were treated with Claritin and Nasonex. Three weeks of antibiotics to treat the sinus infection and a CAT scan to make sure her adenoids were not infected. Over the months the hole did get smaller and I was optimistic that if we stayed the course, it would heal completely and we would not need to patch it.
Thursday we followed through with her ENT to see how it was progressing. Unfortunately the hole is still there and is going to require surgery to patch it. If we do not take care of the hole it could cause more infections and increased hearing loss. It is an outpatient surgery and is not invasive. She had tube put in when she was 1, so we know she can tolerate anesthesia. Kids are resilient so I am not too worried (yet.) One of the toughest things is that she can not play any sports or participate in PE for 4-6 weeks after. Since summer is approaching along with swim team, we have decided wait until August do have the surgery done.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Medic Alert Bracelet for Food Allergies

I have decided to get a Medic Alert bracelet for my boys with food allergies. I think it will help at the staff at their pre school to remember their allergies. I also worry that if we were to be in an accident Collin could be given something as innocent as a cracker, and end up having a reaction.

I have been scouring the internet in search for alternatives to the bulky chain bracelets. I guess the best bracelets I have found are the nylon bands with a metal buckle piece that slide on it. I am not sure I can fit all seven of his allergies on the metal along with our emergency contact information on that particular style.

Do any of you have medic alert bracelets for food allergies? Where did you get it and what information did you have printed on it?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Leaving Your Food Allergic Kids with a Sitter

Since my children have been diagnosed with food allergies I have only left them with two sitters. One was a trusted teacher from my daughter’s pre school, the other was our nanny. One sitter has moved away and the other is getting ready to start a family of her own, so they are no longer available. We do not have family in the immediate area; and finding childcare that we trust is difficult and stressful. I have to admit that my husband and I have not been out without the kids since last summer – yikes! There are some young teenagers in our area who do babysit. However, I feel that due to the severity of our allergies I would prefer a more mature sitter who could handle an emergency situation.

Now we have a situation where we have been invited to a wedding 4 hours away. My husband really wants to go, but I am having a hard time leaving my children over night. We have made arrangements for his Aunt and Uncle to come stay for the night. I feel like it is a huge responsibility for anyone to agree to take care of feeding our kids with all the allergies we have. I have a plan for organizing all the food and leaving detailed instructions, medical forms etc. I just hope it is enough to ease my mind so I can relax and perhaps have a little fun!

They visit us frequently and know our children very well. Our kids adore them and will have a blast while we are gone. I am very grateful that they have agreed to make the seven hour drive to stay with us. I guess it is hard to leave your kids with anyone else.

How do you all manage leaving your children with someone else?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Are food allergic kids picky eaters?

I thought I had a picky eater when I had my daughter 6 yeas ago. Little did I know how picky a child could be until I had my 3rd. Collin would survive on milk alone if I let him. I guess that fact that he is allergic to so many foods does not help.

When he was first diagnosed with allergies to wheat, egg, sesame, nut, pea and banana I was a little overwhelmed. I found a handful of foods that were safe and stuck with them. Now, that I am more educated and can offer him different choices, he is not interested. In addition, he is getting tired of his current staples of chicken, grilled cheese and fish sticks. This leaves little else for him to eat. When a new food is introduced he softly says “no thank you” and pushes the food away. If I persist he replies, in his most forceful 2 year old way, “NOOOO!” In preparation for preschool in the fall I have been trying to teach Collin about his allergies. He points to certain things and says he is allergic. He knows if he eats it, he will get sick and have to go to the hospital. However, sometimes when I want him to try a new food, he will say “I allergic.” Great!

At first I tried not to worry too much. I hear stories of some toddlers only eating brown foods. I would feed him what I could, give him a multi vitamin and move on. He is a little smaller than my other 2, but has always met the benchmarks for development. On the days when he leaves the table without eating a bite, I tell myself that when he is hungry, he will eat. When he finally is hungry, he cries for milk. If I am lucky he will eat some cereal. I also recently introduced PediaSure, which he calls “bear milk.” I mix it with regular milk so he will not get used to drinking milk that is sweet. He likes it, and on days that his eating is poor I give him some and know that he is getting some added nutrients.

As you will come to know – sometimes I bend over backward to make something that the whole family will eat, and is safe for Collin. It usually backfires. It is either truly terrible, or the kids do not like it.

I am somewhat relieved that he does not try to take “unsafe” food from other people. My middle son was always grabbing food off of any plate he could reach. Could his picky habit be some sort of self defense mechanism?

I guess the question would be now that I have created this situation, how do I fix it? I am sure some of you have been there, so any feedback would be appreciated.

Oh Yeah – the reason I have a renewed urgency to get him to eat better stems from a recent episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8. She had a nutritionist come help her cook a meal. They cooked a very healthy meal full of vegetables. Every one of her 8 kids ate the food without complaining and even said they loved it! I love the show, but that really got to me. I am sure you will hear more on this topic later.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cupcake Holder

Most of who have kids with food allergies will always need to take a “safe” cupcake to any birthday party we attend. I have found a great cupcake holder designed just for this purpose. This cupcake holder is available at The Container Store. If you do not have a store near you, it can be ordered online at http://www.thecontainerstore.com/ Check it out!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Our Environmental Allergies

I do not want to be remiss in mentioning my daughter Katie who is 6. Last fall she suffered from a ruptured ear drum. It was also determined that she has some mild hearing loss as a result. (And I thought she just wasn’t listening!) During her evaluation the ENT also asked that we have her tested for allergies so see if that was contributing to her sinus and ear infections.
We found out that she is allergic to tree pollen, ragweed, dust mites, mold, and cats. We treated her infection with a 3 week course of antibiotics, and the allergies with Nasonex and Claritin. Her symptoms have really improved and the rupture is healing. There is a good chance that she will not need surgery to repair the rupture. We will find out for sure next week.

After Katie’s diagnosis I started to pay more attention to Ryan’s nasal symptoms. He was always scratching and rubbing his nose. I took him to be tested for environmental allergies. I also needed to have his peanut allergy re tested, as it had been over 2 years. He tested positive for allergies to cats, dust, tree pollen and ragweed. His peanut allergy is still considered to be high.

I have not had Collin tested for environmental allergies. I do suspect that he will develop them. Since spring started he tends to get a runny nose when we play outside for long periods of time. I guess we will find out at his next appointment.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Time for New Epi Pens

I hope I am not jinxing myself by putting this in writing, but we have gone 1 year without an allergic reaction in our house! Last March we had a scary episode with my then 1 1/2 year old. We believe Collin ate a cracker or bread crumb off the floor when he started coughing, sneezing and fussing. He was not in distress, so I gave him Benadryl and took him straight to pediatrician’s office. He was doing pretty well, but it was hard to get any more oral medication in him because he was so fussy.

Shortly after taking steroids, they checked his vitals again. By this time he had calmed down and started to fall asleep in my lap, so I thought we were in the clear. When they checked his breathing it was compromised so the pediatrician said we would need to move to the trauma room, administer an Epi pen and call 911. Now, I have always loved my pediatrician, I am so grateful for her calm and efficient manner. She did give me the option to administer the Epi pen, but I preferred to watch her give it. Having seen the injection given by a doctor, I feel better if I ever have to do it myself.

Epinephrine is an amazing drug. Collin was mad, but otherwise fine by the time the EMT arrived. We went to the hospital where we were observed for 2 hours and released. It was difficult to keep Collin occupied, as he wanted to explore everything. Since we were there during meal time they did offer to bring some food for him to eat. I was a little surprised that they were not really prepared to deal with all his restrictions. We made do with applesauce and milk.

When all was said and done, he was and is fine. An experience like this brings on a multitude of feelings – guilt, anger, worry stress and exhaustion when is it all over. I was also left feeling very unsure on how to determine if Collin needed and Epi pen. His symptoms were not violent – no hives, no vomiting, he did not gasp for air like I had imagined he would. If I had not gone to the doctor I would have thought he was just sleepy from all the crying. I really began to doubt myself and my ability to asses his allergic reaction. I have done a lot of research into what anaphylaxis looks like, which I will write about later. I just know that I have to be vigilant at all times. Navigating the food allergy world is rather daunting. Hopefully others will contribute to these stories and you will find that what I have to contribute is useful. For now I am going to re order some new Epi pens.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

First Allergy Blog Post

Welcome to my site - I am glad you found me! I thought I would start with a little background on our allergies. About 2 1/2 years ago my middle son, Ryan was diagnosed with a peanut allergy. He was almost 2 and got a hold of my peanut better toast. I did not panic as we never suspected we would have kids with food allergies. If fact he had been fed a peanut butter sandwich by my brother while I was in the hospital having my 3rd child, and there had been no reaction. I was a bit surprised as his nose began to run and a few hives developed. It was not serious - when we got to the pediatrician Benadryl and steroids did the trick. Ok - a peanut allergy is kind of a bummer, but not the end of the world - we can deal with this.

About a month later my infant began to develop exema - the pediatrician was pretty sure it could be food allergies. Now - hind sight is always 20/20, for the life of me I do not know why I did not experiment with an elimination diet while nursing. I must have been in a fog from the sleep deprivation. But I could kick myself now! All the signs were there. Like the fact that he would only sleep in his car seat, in our bathroom, and with the fan on. He must have had such a tummy ache! I never could have imaging what was in store for us.

At 6 months we took him for allergy tests. Collin is allergic to wheat, nuts, eggs, sesame, pea and banana. Although we did not discover the pea and banana until he began to eat table food. At about that time I weaned him from nursing he did fine on regular formula and his skin cleared up. I will say one thing, that with all his allergies I am grateful that milk is not on the list. Then by 8 months he finally slept through the night! I was in denial about how this would really affect us. Especially since he was eating baby food and it was pretty easy to avoid his allergens. It was not until he got older that the fact that he could not eat a Cheerio or Goldfish really hit me. I did not know anyone else with similar allergies and was really unsure where to turn. Eventually I found a safe chicken nugget, bread to make grilled cheese and a few safe snacks. It was enough to get by.

Now he is 2 ½ and I feel like I need to step it up a bit, so here I am. I hope to share new information and ideas as I find them. Perhaps I can get some information and ideas from some of you. Thanks for taking them time to read about me and please check back as this blog grows!