Friday, May 30, 2008

Allergy Shots?

We saw the allergist yesterday regarding Katie and Ryan's environmental allergies. I just wanted to make sure that their ear, nose and throats were looking OK, and confirm that the current treatment was working. I also wanted to see Dr. M one last time before she relocates out of state. I am very sad about this. We tried a number allergists before we connected with Dr. M. She was the first doctor that really took the time to talk about all my concerns and go over all the information. I had done so much of my own research that, I knew a lot of what she brought up - but it was nice to have the verification that I was doing the right things.

Everything is fine - she gave me some Nasonex for Ryan to use on the bad days. She also spoke to Katie about considering allergy shots. Basically she needs Claritin and Nasonex every day or her symptoms return immediately. She is a really good candidate for allergy shots. But, she is six years old and does NOT want to get shots every week. I can not, and will not, force her to get the shots. I need to find a way to get her on board. I would be OK with a reward system - but I do not want to go overboard. I am not sure if a trip to Starbucks each time is the right thing to do? I would get her a small toy very couple of months or so if she was good. Perhaps a sticker chart? Leading up to a bigger reward?

Has anyone else gone through this? How did you get your child to get the shots?

I have had such a bad spring with my own allergies, that I am considering testing myself and getting shots. I though if we went together it might help.

I Would Love to Eat Out

Hi all, wow - I have been a bit out of it lately. The weather here in the mid Atlantic has been really beautiful. As a result the kids want to be outside all the time. Which is great - but I have fallen behind on just about everything. My house is a mess, I have about 12 tons of laundry to do, and we are seriously low on food. But hey - playing outside is more fun!

Anyway - will you indulge me while a whine a minute? It is Friday about 5:30 and I really do not feel like dealing with dinner. Husband will be late tonight and all I want to do is take the kids out for a quick bite. Not so simple when you have 8 food allergies to deal with. I can work around the peanut allergy OK. But little C. with the other 8 is a challenge. I would have to fix his food and take it with us. Kind of defeats the purpose - right? I would really love just to pick up and go out to eat without thinking about it! Monday morning we went to the park and I saw another mom who had picked up McDonald's for a group of kids. How I wished I could have done the same. We are not big junk food eaters, but it would be nice to have that option once in a while. Some people do not appreciate what a luxury it is to be able to take your family out for a meal. Don't get me wrong - I normally have no problem handling our allergies. I am blessed that we are all in good health (other than the allergies). BUT - some days I just long to be able to go out for a care free meal. I am sure some of you have the same sentiments?

OK - I am done - I feel better - Thanks for listening!

BTW - the big kids had chicken nuggets, oodles of noodles and fruit. Little kid had an Enjoy Life Foods bagel and tomatoes. He is not eating much these days.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mold Allergies and Food?

I have came across a message board post that suggested avoiding certain foods if you have an allergy to mold. One of them was yeast bread. My daughter has a mold allergy so I thought I would try to check into it. I have not found a lot of information yet. I did find the following list of foods supposedly to avoid.

foods made with yeast
sour cream
soy sauce
pickled or smoked meats and fish
dried fruits
raw vegetables and fruits

Has anyone else heard about this?

Could Stress during Pregnancy be Related to Allergies in children?

Some interesting articles came across my Google alerts recently. There are some researchers looking into the possibility that stress during pregnancy may be related to the development of allergies and asthma in children. A small study was done, and it seems that stress can affect the immune system and cause increased IgE levels. They measured the IgE levels of the mother and the cord blood taken at birth. This was then factored in with information about the mother’s lifestyle and environment. The result being that there may be a correlation between pre-natal stress and allergies. Here is the link to the article.

Our food allergic children have higher levels of IgE antibodies, which cause them to have allergic reactions to certain foods. It seems reasonable to me that if the mother has increased IgE levels, regardless of the cause, that she could pass it into her infant.

I found this theory very interesting and started thinking about my own experiences. I thought about the differences in my three pregnancies and the allergies in my three children. We do have allergy genes in my family, so we do have a predisposition for allergies.

My first pregnancy was normal. I had an average amount of stress for someone expecting their first child. I loved being pregnant and did not have any complications. My eldest K. had a mild milk allergy as an infant that was outgrown by the time she was two. She has no other food allergies. At the age of six she did develop environmental allergies to tree pollen, dust, mold, ragweed and cats. This has caused some complications with ear infections and a ruptured ear drum, but otherwise is manageable.

My second pregnancy was fairly normal. I would say that my stress level was higher. At work I had been promoted to a position with more responsibility. This also required more travel. My husband's company was also going through some changes. This left his employment future a little uncertain. With one child and another on the way, unemployment is that last thing you need to worry about. Thankfully everything eventually worked out for him. Many of you know, being pregnant with a toddler at home is more challenging that your first pregnancy. You can not sleep after work or on the weekends like before. My middle boy R. is highly allergic to peanuts. At the age of 4, he also developed environmental allergies to dust, tree pollen, cats, and ragweed.

My third pregnancy was my most stressful. I had been promoted at work again, I loved my new position, but it was more responsibility, travel and stress. I also had a new boss, whom I liked a lot, but made my head spin! I really think she had some ADD issues. It was non stop go go go. I was due at the end of September and the summer was always our busiest most stressful time of the year. After a very difficult 2 weeks and working many extra hours, I went into pre term labor at 32 weeks. It was intense and scary – I really did not know if they would be able to stop it. Fortunately modern medicine was able to buy me some time. I was immediately put on bed rest and had to take medication every 4 hours to keep from having contractions. Since there were a couple of projects I had not finished, I continued to do a little work from home. At 36 weeks the doctor said it was safe to deliver and I could stop taking my medication if I wanted. Since we had family coming to visit I thought it would be a perfect time to deliver, so I stopped the meds. My baby boy was born 3 days later! C. is allergic to wheat, egg, peanut, tree nut, peas, banana, sesame, and coconut. This spring he developed environmental allergies to tree pollen, grass, ragweed, mold, and dogs.

If you take a look at my experiences and compare it to this new theory, perhaps they could be on to something. It is hard to say for sure – there are many variables. This is not to discount other theories, including the hygiene theory, which also seems very logical to me. Who knows if they will ever definitively determine the cause of food allergies? I am just glad that there are doctors out there looking for answers.

I do not think I could have done anything differently to reduce my stress. Sometimes the circumstances just are what they are. Stress is a hard thing to control these days. Especially with how busy we are trying to have it all and do it all. There are a myriad of reasons that stress is not good for us. We all need to do whatever we can to take care of ourselves – mind, body and spirit.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Allergist Check Up

Well it was one crazy week for us. Long story short, it involved allergy testing, strep throat and, so far, 2 cases of pink eye. We will be house bound for the next day or two, so it will be a good time to catch up on many things. The first is our trip to the allergist.

There was a part of me that looked forward to the allergist visit. I knew that the actual test would be difficult, but I was eager for some good news. I am a very practical person, so I knew better than to expect that C. would have out grown any of his 7 (oops I mean 8) allergies. (I always forget coconut.)But there was a part of me that would love to be able to have ONE food back – is it too much to hope for? I know his wheat allergy is too high from last year, for him to have outgrown that. But, perhaps he would outgrow the egg??? It sure would make a world of difference in baking!

The first good news, the asthma that he experienced two weeks earlier was much better. Now for the fun part, enter the nurse with the needles. Now, the last time C. had skin pricks, he was 6 months old and did not know what was coming. At 2 ½ he is wiser and stronger. I am already struggling to keep him in the room – I have no idea how I am going to hold him still for the 2 dozen or so needles that need to be administered. C. had been coloring in a book quite happily, and put up a big protest when I tried to pick him up for the test. The nurse then called for reinforcements. Next, he really surprised me! I was able to get him to sit on the table facing me in a way that would enable him to continue coloring while the nurse pricked his back. He actually sat still this way while the nurse gave him every needle. I was truly amazed! Once the hives began to develop and become itchy, he did get fussy. It was a bit of a battle to keep him from scratching his back. I can not blame him; huge welts were beginning to develop. His entire back was enflamed! Poor guy – I did not think to take a picture to show his dad. We wandered around the offices a bit and played a stacking game with the basket of stickers to pass the time.

And the verdict – still allergic to wheat, egg, peanut, tree nut, banana, sesame, and. After we follow through with that RAST we may challenge him on the pea and coconut which showed slight reactions. Now we add the environmental allergies – trees (really big welts), grass, ragweed, mold and dogs. We will continue with the breathing treatments and put him on Claritin right away. I have to say that I really like my allergist. She is new to the practice, but we clicked. She really took the time to answer all my questions, which was great. The bad news – she is relocating out of state this summer. Mental note – get RAST done quickly and schedule appointments for R. and K. before she leaves.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

You Won't Even Miss It

I recently received a nice comment from a fellow allergy mom Heather MacDonald. She wrote to let me know about her local cable show “You Won’t Even Miss It.” The show is located in New England, but it is available for viewing on line at . I made some time to check it out over the weekend. I thought it was really well done. I do watch a lot of the Food Network, and often wondered how long it will take for them to get around to doing a special on cooking with food allergies. I guess we do not have to wait any more!

Nancy and Chef Rick Tarantino specialize in developing recipes that are free of milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, and shellfish. I especially love that Nancy and Chef Tarantino also make a gluten free version of all their recipes. I am most excited to try the Meyer Lemon Squares (yum) and Chipotle Chicken Wings. My little allergy guy probably won’t touch it, but the rest of the family can enjoy. We can at least offer it to him.
If you get a chance check it out!

Monday, May 12, 2008

I was Inspired to Bake Today

I am on a mission to find more family friendly allergy free foods. Since it is food allergy week I have decided to try some new things. Today I was inspired to bake. I will admit that baking without standard wheat flour does intimidate me quite a bit. When I read my first recipes and saw how many ingredients I had to blend to replace wheat flour, I pretty much shut down. That was a couple of years ago, am now I think I am ready to face the challenge. But if I can find a short cut, you bet I am going to take it! I had purchased some bread mixes made by Gluten Free Pantry, and I thought I would give them a try.

The first was the Ginger Spice Cake Mix. Since C. is allergic to banana I have wanted to bake applesauce bread for him. I mixed the following:
· 1 cup buttermilk
· 1/3 cup vegetable oil
Added the dry mix and then folded in ¼ cup of applesauce, in place of the egg. I baked these in mini muffin pans instead of a loaf pan for 15 – 17 min. I find mini muffins to be more convenient for the kids and easy to freeze.

I have to say that they were really good! The whole family loved them. J You would never know that they did not have wheat and eggs. This will be a great treat to bring to preschool next year. They would also make a great cupcake - perhaps with cream cheese frosting. They are pretty sweet, so I think next time I will try unsweetened applesauce.

I was feeling really good about my results with the muffins, so I thought I would try the Sandwich Bread mix. I have hesitated in the past as we can not use egg, and the recipe calls for 2 eggs. I have been unsure if you can use egg replace in yeast bread. I finally just decided to give it a try. I mixed the bread according to the directions for the oven method. I used Ener-G egg replacer in place of the egg. I have heard from 2 different sources that this egg replace works best when you use double the amount of powder for water. So, to replace 2 eggs I used 6 tsp of egg replacer whisked with 2 tbsp warm water.

I let the bread rise for 40 min – it did not seem to rise as high as I would have thought. I am not sure if this has to do with the egg substitute or not. I decided to bake it anyway. I would say that this bread is pretty good. It is a little dense, buy fairly moist and good flavor. My kids enjoyed it toasted with soy nut butter. I will try using it to make a grilled cheese sandwich tomorrow. This bread is not as dry as the pre made brown rice bread that I usually buy, that is pretty terrible.

Does anyone out there know how to make good sandwich bread without wheat and egg?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

So far it has been a busy day of doing nothing, which is exactly what I wanted! I just wanted to take a few minutes to wish all the other moms out there in cyberspace a Happy Mother’s Day. I am new to the blogging community, but I really enjoy it. It is very therapeutic and a little addictive. I want to thank those who have reached out to say hi and comment on my blog. I look forward to helping our community to grow even more. I hope you all are enjoying your day too.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Allergy Induced Asthma

Last week we had an appointment to take C. to the allergist. It has been over a year since his last RAST test and I was interested to find out of any of his IGE levels had changed. We also seem to be having an exceptionally active pollen season and C. has been showing symptoms of seasonal allergies.

I had detected a pattern where he would develop a cough, runny nose and rub his eyes every time we played outside. I consciously kept him off any allergy medication for a week before the appointment in preparation for the scratch tests. The day of his appointment his coughing seemed a little worse than usual. At nap time he was really fussy and started to wheeze a little bit. At one point I considered taking him straight to the pediatrician instead of waiting for our 4:00 allergist appointment.

I gave up on the nap and was able to get him to calm down with some books and a video. His breathing got a bit better, so we settled in to wait for the allergist appointment. Anyone with allergic kids knows that developing asthma is a possibility, so that is the thought running through my mind. I just thought it would not happen at 2 ½.

Shortly after we got to the allergist his breathing worsened as we waited in the exam room. The allergist came in checked his breathing and said that she wanted to give his a nebulizer treatment before we went any further. Since C. has never had a breathing treatment, he was not happy about it! I had to hold him close and wrap my legs around him to keep him from kicking. All the while I am also trying to hold the mask on his face. As he screamed his lungs out I just tried to reassure him that he was ok. I told myself that the crying was good – the deep breaths would help get the Albuterol deep into his lungs. The nurse, was very nice, but did not stick around to watch – or even help as I balanced this chaos. In contrast, the nurses at the pediatrician’s office are great in assisting to administer medication or draw blood.

Finally when it was over and we were both dripping with sweat the doctor came back. She checks his breathing, which was much improved. She also said that given how constricted his breathing was, we would not be doing any scratch tests today. So, now we are on Pulmicort once a day and Albuterol as needed for coughing and wheezing. I only needed to give C. the Albuterol for 3 days. He is doing much better and we are gearing up for the scratch test next week. He has learned to sit still for his breathing treatments – it helps that I let him watch Tom & Jerry.

I guess I have a little research to do on asthma.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cupcake Alternative for Class Parties

There seems to be a firestorm of controversy lately about bringing cupcakes to school for birthday celebrations. Some communities are trying to cut back the amount of sugar in their schools. Other groups have serious concerns about exposing food allergic children to a treat that will cause them to have a reaction. It is true that the majority of food allergic reactions at school happen as a result of food being brought in from home. Eliminating cupcakes at school would reduce one risk. This is a very emotional issue for everyone. Parents want their kids’ health and safety to be a priority. Other parents don’t want their child’s right to celebrate birthdays with cake to be infringed upon. Being the mother of a food allergic child, I think there have to be a way to celebrate birthdays without sugary, potentially dangerous treats.

My daughter came home from school the other day and mentioned that there had been a birthday on the class. I asked her if she had had cupcakes. (K. has no food allergies, so I was not worried.) She told me that instead the mom had come for lunch and served the class fruit with whipped cream. What a great idea! If milk is a concern you could easily substitute non dairy whipped topping. My kids personally love strawberries with cream or vanilla yogurt for desert. K. said that everyone in the class liked it, and no one mentioned anything about cupcakes.

Is it possible that the cupcake issue is a bigger deal for the parents than the kids? My daughter’s class did not seem to miss the cupcakes. I have also thought about sending in a little goody bag with a few trinkets from the party store. Kids love cheap junk! The party favors are always the toys that cause the most arguments at my house. And – I promise you my 4 year old son’s all time favorite toys are the 30 cent pirate cake toppers we got at the party store.

I also heard from another mom who takes in sugar free popsicles for her son’s birthday.

What do you do to celebrate birthdays at school?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Food Allergy Week Challange

My son C. is allergic to wheat, egg, peas, banana, sesame, peanuts and tree nuts. We have rid our house of most of his allergens except for wheat, some eggs and the occasional banana. Wheat is clearly the hardest of his allergens to live without. I find myself making 2 pastas, sandwiches on different breads, and on occasion 2 different pizzas. It is more work, and I wonder if he realizes that we eat different foods.

So, since next week is Food Allergy Awareness Week and I have decided to mark it by planning all the meals to be free of all C.’s allergens. Now, the hardest part is going to be planning a week of meals at once. I truly am terrible about planning our meals ahead. I read about moms who plan their food for the week, shop and are all set. I have tried to do this, but it never seems to work out. On most days 4:00 rolls abound and I wander into the kitchen so see what I can throw together. It is a disaster.

I really hate the dinner hour. Getting dinner on the table with 3 kids under foot and fending off requests for last minute snacks is a huge challenge. Then, when we do get to the table, I am barraged with whining about how they do not want what I have prepared. This is followed by constant pleas, by me, for them sit still and eat. I also remind them that if they leave the table without finishing, then that must mean they are full and the kitchen is closed. They do not need to eat everything on their plate, but they can not ask for snacks if they did not eat their dinner.
Now enter into the equation that fact that 2 year old C. is VERY picky and not all that interested in food. He spends dinner time begging for “more milk.” Until he realizes that he is not getting it, and goes off to play with trains. I am lucky if he has eaten a few blueberries and a cherry tomato. I just look at my husband and wonder how do other people do it – what are we missing?

I know I have my work cut out for me, but I do not think it is too much to ask my family to sit down and eat one meal together. I think it would be good for us. Eating allergen free might give us all an appreciation for what those with foods allergies go through. In the meantime I would love to hear any meal time tips or tricks that work for you! I clearly need the help.

Monday, May 5, 2008

No More McDonalds French Fries

I do try to teach my kids healthy eating habits, so we do not eat at McDonald's on a regular basis. But on particularly busy days sometimes the drive through is the best option. The Happy Meals are safe for K. and R. to eat. I would get french fries for C. and then make his special nuggets at home. Well no longer. I do not remember where I first heard that McDonald's french fries may contain wheat. Sure enough, when I checked their web site I found that they do contain : WHEAT AND MILK (Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients.)

I know when we were first diagnosed with food allergies I looked up the ingredients for the french fries, and they were safe. That was about 2 years ago. I am not sure when they made this change I am just glad I caught it. When managing kids with food allergies you can never be too safe. This is just good a reminder that manufacturers do change their ingredients. It is a good idea to re check the ingredients of foods, even if it has previously been considered a "safe" food for your child.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Leaving Your Food Allergic Kids II

Well we went to the wedding this weekend and the kids were fine! I even managed to relax and have some fun. It was a great wedding - good food (an amazing mashed potato bar!), great band and a fun crowd. I am exhausted - my stamina for dancing til midnight is not what it used to be. I think it will take the week to recover.

All my preparation and stress was probably over kill, but I will do it again the next time. Aunt J. loved the way I labeled all the food in the pantry. I also cleared out a basket and filled it with safe snacks that everyone would enjoy, Pirate Booty, Cool Ranch Doritos, and Potato chips. I just wanted to make things as simple as possible.

In advance I made some chicken and rice soup that everyone could eat. I also planned a taco dinner on Sat night since it is safe for everyone and my kids love it. I made some Popsicles and had them available in the freezer for a treat. I also bought some Cherrybrook Kitchens cookie mix in case they needed and activity.

I posted all the pertinent allergy information on the refrigerator:
  • a list of allergies for each child
  • a chart for medications they needed to take and when
  • emergency contacts,
  • Epi pen instructions
  • a menu and list of snack ideas.
The kids did great - they did not miss us for a minute! They were well behaved and the weather was great so they played outside a lot and got to watch a movie at night. They never even got around to making the cookies!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Organized My Counter

This post has nothing to do with allergies, but I thought I would share anyway. This all started with my cleaning my pantry so I could label what food was safe for Collin to eat; now I have cleaned off my counter top. The space was formally used as a dumping ground for papers, schoolwork, mail, catalogs you name it. Now it neatly accommodates all my clutter!

I found that magazine files are great for coloring books, note pads, and worksheets. I bought one for each child. Now if they want to do an activity, they know where they can find it and where they can put it back when they are done. It is a beautiful thing!

The file box on the left is for all my miscellaneous papers. I have labeled my files to organize; bills to pay, school papers and reminders for each child and each school, recipes from magazines, a separate folder for allergen free recipes, coupons, things to do, kids activities and summer camp info. I also have separate files to sort articles from magazines - gardening, kid’s crafts, health and wellness, decorating etc. It is great – I have a place to file everything daily, and it is close by when I need something.

I do not want to mislead you - I do not actually do all theses things - I just keep the information organized. I am ever hopeful that I will find the time and the motivation to garden, cook and decorate my house.

On the right I found a little bin for our cell phones, i pods and sunglasses. This contains their cords too! The little stripe boxes contain markers and crayons. They are so cute and were such a good deal at our local Pottery Barn outlet that I had to get some more to hold receipts.

This has been fun and I love how clean it looks. Perhaps I will tackle my corner cupboard with the dreadful lazy susan.

One more confession - I do use a label maker. I have terrible handwriting and I like it to look neat :)