Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's Easter Time!

The commercialized aspect of Easter revolves around chocolate and bunnies (made of chocolate) and eggs (hard-boiled or made of chocolate and filled with peanut butter) and marshmallow chicks (that now carry an allergen label warning of possible contact with dairy). This time of year can be a minefield of mishaps and misunderstandings when food allergies are involved- especially for young children. 

Here are a few of my favorites ways to celebrate the treat part of this holiday:

Happy Easter!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Six Food Allergy Happenings You May Have Missed Over the Holidays

New Year's Eve
So, the decorating and present buying and singing of Auld Lang Syne is done. While you've been enjoying the holiday season with family and friends, here are a few items related to food allergies that you may have missed:
Epi Injectors
  • The date has been set for the 2nd Annual 2014 Food Allergy Bloggers Conference. Start saving your frequent flier miles for a trip to Las Vegas Sept. 26-28.
  • Mylan is extending their $0 copay for EpiPens through 2014. Go to Epipen.com for details.
  • Sanofi is also extending their $0 copay program for Auvi-Q  through 2014. Go to their website for details.
  • The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Team has formed to educate, advocate, and raise awareness for all individuals and families affected by food allergies and life-threatening anaphylaxis. 
  • KFA is offering a free webinar on 504 Plans and Individualized Halthcare plans. Sign up for the January 14 event and learn how laws protect food allergic students.
  • FARE has partnered with Research Match to help connect patients with food allergy studies.
 Did I miss anything? My mind may still be a bit fuzzy after too
Chocolate Chip Cookies
much "sparkling cider" and too many holiday cookies....

Friday, November 15, 2013

Debunking Food Allergy Myths

There has been some great information coming out of last week's Conference of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). One of the speakers, Dr.  David Stukus, presented on the outdated information related to allergies that still circulates. Among the myths:
  • "I can't get the flu shot because I'm allergic to eggs."
  • "I'm allergic to food dyes."
  • "I can take an at-home blood test to find out which foods I'm allergic to."
  • Avoid giving highly allergenic foods to babies for their first 12 months of life.
It is difficult to stay on top of the latest research, but it is important for families to be aware of the changing conversations about food allergies. Reach out to your allergist if you have any questions about how to manage food allergy. You can read the complete news release of Dr. Stukus's presentation here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Dairy Free Dark Chocolate

ShareI do enjoy dark chocolate. I like that slight bitter to the sweet and there are so many health benefits (doesn't it help you lose weight, sleep better, give you more energy and make you resistant to all illness and disease?:)

I was thrilled when Enjoy Life recently asked if I wanted to try their new dairy-free dark chocolate chips. I thought dark chocolate would need to stay out of my family dairy-free recipes, but those days are now over. These dark chocolate chips are dairy-free and delicious...especially in my dark chocolate chip cookies. I love a product with two ingredients- in this case unsweetened chocolate and cane sugar. That's it! So simple. There's a coupon on the Enjoy Life homepage for their products. Print it before heading to the grocery store.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Teaching ALL Kids About Food Allergies


Have you seen the adorable Supermarket Search game at Anaphylaxis101.com? It's a great way to share the importance of reading ingredient labels with kids, and you get to print out an allergy  friendly recipe at the end. While you're on the site, download the free ebook about Ana & Phyl Axis, narrated by Modern Family's Julie Bowen. 

I love that there are so many resources about food allergies for ALL kids!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Homemade Candy Corn and Halloween Goodies

 It's that time of year again! The witch/ghost/bat decorations are out of the attic and adorning the house and I've pulled out some favorite seasonal recipes like homemade candy corn and pumpkin apple muffins
 I recently had the opportunity to participate in a webinar with Jo Frost in which she shared her experience with her own food allergies, as well as some Halloween tips for food allergy families. Here are some of her seasonal ideas:
  • focus on the non-food festivities like mask making, pumpkin decorating, face paint, spooky scavenger hunts.
  • remember that different sized treats may contain different ingredients. If you can't read the label, assume it's unsafe (that piece of advice is mine).
  • give your child something to eat before going out trick or treating or to a party. That removes some of the temptation to eat without thinking or because of hunger.
For more information about Jo's work on behalf of food allergy families, check out 25 Years of EpiPen, and while you're there, upload a photo showing how you carry your EpiPen and Mylan will donate $25 to leading allergy non-profit groups. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How to Make Food Challenges Easier for Food Allergic Patients

 Another food challenge is on the calendar for later this month. This one is for eggs. After going through multiple challenges for wheat, milk, baked milk and baked egg, we've learned a few things and I plan to make some changes that will hopefully help relieve some of the anxiety and uncertainty heading into this one.

This time:
  • I will bring a variety of foods. Since this is an egg challenge, I will bring french toast, scrambled eggs and a hard boiled egg. This gives us several options and a back-up plan in case something goes wrong (food gets contaminated at the allergist's office- oh yes, it's happened!)
  • I will bring our toaster from home. French toast heated in the microwave multiple times is a soggy, mushy mess. The idea is to make the food appealing after we've referred to it as "dangerous" for over a decade.
  • I will bring plates, utensils and condiments from home. French toast just tastes better with a silver fork and a little honey or syrup.
  • I will bring a laptop and a Redbox movie we've been waiting to see. No more watching a movie from home for the seventeenth time- this truly needs to be a distraction! 
I also think the clinical setting could be better adapted for people going through food challenges, so I have a few suggestions for the allergists out there who conduct challenges in their offices. 

I wish allergists would:

  • designate a space for food challenges. Must we sit in a regular exam room, on a bed staring at tongue depressors and a disposal case for medical waste? This is not a space conducive to relaxed eating.
  • create a homey atmosphere in the challenge room. How about a table, comfortable chairs, a microwave and toaster oven we can use? A big screen TV and some board games would be a nice touch. We're trying to forget that we're sitting in a doctor's office waiting to see if there is going to an anaphylactic reaction. An inviting, calming environment would be helpful.
Do you have other ideas for families or allergists heading into a food challenge? I'd love to hear what works for you!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Allergy Friendly Bars
Enjoy Life has improved the taste of their chewy bars and added ancient grains like quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat flour to the recipe. I appreciate food products from Enjoy Life because they are made in a dedicated factory, so there is no risk of cross contamination of the top 8 most common allergens. Their products are also free of casein, sesame and sulfites. 

Cute Vera Bradley Lunch Bag!

The chewy bars make a great lunchbox addition and travel well for an anytime snack. They come in four flavors: SunButter Crunch (my personal favorite!), Cocoa Loco, Caramel Apple and Mixed Berry. There are five in a box, and since they have a long shelf life, feel free to order several boxes to take advantage of Enjoy Life's free shipping offer (on orders over $49). 

Food Allergy Assistant readers have a special incentive to try the new bars-  a 10% discount! Simply go to Shop Enjoy Life Foods and enter CHEWY10 at checkout. I'd love to hear your thoughts after trying them.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Food Allergy Documentary

Discovery Channel Documentary
Did you get a chance to watch the Discovery documentary, "An Emerging Epidemic: Food Allergies in America"? If not, you can view the 53 minute show online when you get a chance. A word of caution: it is graphic and may not be appropriate for kids. I would advise parents to preview it first.

I do think the documentary was well-done, but it is tricky to produce an educational film for different populations. It is a great piece for adults directly impacted by food allergies. It is also a learning opportunity for those not directly impacted by food allergies. This documentary can raise awareness about anaphylaxis and the dangers of food allergies. It can educate grandparents, teachers, coaches, babysitters and others who may come in contact with people with food allergies. 
Eating out with Food Allergy

It is a hopeful piece. To hear teens and adults talk about how they don't let food allergies "define them" and that you can "overcome obstacles" is a wonderful message for parents and young people who deal with food allergies. It is a thought-provoking piece. Why is it that food allergy rates have doubled in children since the late 1990's? There has been much research into causes and treatments, but there is still a long way to go to determine why more people are allergic to foods and how to best manage living with food allergy.

I also appreciated the term "threshold" used in the documentary to describe that everyone with food allergy has a different level of tolerance. This makes sense to me as a way to specifically address food allergy to others like the school nurse, restaurant staff, the school cafeteria, or caretakers. Every person with food allergies has different needs and it is up to parents, and eventually the food allergic person, to articulate those needs to others. 
Dr. Gupta

A shout out to Dr. Ruchi Gupta who was interviewed in this documentary. She is a strong food allergy advocate in her roles as a doctor and a parent of a food allergic child. Thank you to FARE and Mylan for their support of this show. Education and awareness is the key to keeping everyone with food allergies safe. After you watch the documentary, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Food Allergy Blogger Summit

Last week, I had the honor of spending time with an inspiring group of food allergy advocates, bloggers and researchers. Mylan Specialty, maker of EpiPen®hosted a Blogger Summit* to lead an open discussion to share information and brainstorm ideas.

Click on linked names to visit the food allergy bloggers of this inspiring group.
Back row, from left: Keeley McGuire, Liana Burns of Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Jenny Sprague, Cybele Pascal, Lindsey Steffensen, Elizabeth DiBurro, Tracy Bush
Middle row, from left: Libby Ilson, Siobhan Cavanaugh of Mylan Specialty L.P., Kelly Rudnicki, Judy Morgitan of National Association of School Nurses, Dr. Ruchi Gupta, Lynda Mitchell of Kids With Food Allergies Foundation, Tonya Winders of Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics, George Dahlman of Food Allergy Research & Education
Front row, from left: Joanne LaSpina, Ruth LovettSmith, Lauren Kashtan of Mylan Specialty L.P., Lisa Rutter, Sloane Miller, Heidi Bayer, Caroline Moassessi.

The focus on the summit was back-to-school, but any topic related to food allergies was fair game. The highlights for me included:
  • Dr. Gupta

    hearing from Dr. Rucci Gupta about efforts to establish a national registry to record anaphylactic reactions. Often these reactions may be documented as "wheezing" or "respiratory distress". Until we have accurate records, it is difficult to determine how many people are affected by anaphylaxis.

  • discussing 504 plans with Judy Morgitan from the National Association of School Nurses  and Lynda Mitchell from Kids With Food Allergies . Any student has the right to request a
    Judy Morgitan and Lynda Mitchell
    504 Hearing to determine eligibility. Accommodations at school may include guidelines for hand-washing and/or a safe zone in the cafeteria.

  • Updates from Tonya Winders, COO, of Allergy and Asthma Network (AANMA), Liana Burns, Manager of Policy and Programs at Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and George Dahlman, Vice president of Advocacy for Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). We learned how states vary in terms of access to epinephrine in schools and community
    emergency services. Check out AAFA's map to find out which US schools require stock epinephrine. Join in AANMA's advocacy efforts on behalf of all states and be on the lookout for news (and ways to get involved) of FARE's efforts in restaurant training, emergency services protocols and access to epinephrine in schools.
  • reminders from Mylan Specialty of their continuing work to bring together people affected by anaphylaxis through programs like 25 Years of EpiPen® featuring Adrian Peterson and Jo Frost, EpiPens4Schools and the Zero Dollar Co-pay Plan.
    Lauren Kashtan, Senior Manager
    Communications, Mylan Specialty

    (Isn't it terrifying to imagine dealing with food allergies before EpiPen®??? Twenty-five years ago, patients were told to avoid their allergic food, but in the case of accidental ingestion, get to a hospital immediately for treatment. Yikes!)
Besides all the learning, we enjoyed a fantastic dinner by Chef Kelvin at the Strand Hotel, insightful conversation with one another and a general feeling of hope and empowerment when it comes to food allergies. 

Thank you to Mylan Specialty for sponsoring this event and to Chandler Chicco Agency as well.

View of Empire State Building from The Strand Hotel Rooftop deck
*The information I share about the Mylan Summit is at my own discretion and based on my own opinion. My travel expenses for the summit were compensated by Mylan Specialty in exchange for evaluation and feedback on information presented during the meeting.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Back to School with Food Allergies

I've headed out on the information highway to bring you some of the best information about going back to school with food allergies. While we still have a few weeks until the first day, I realize that many of you have already sent your kids off on the big yellow bus. I'm busy pulling together all my 504 plan documentation and making sure I have physician signatures on all necessary forms. Here are some great back-to-school resources for food allergy families:
Here's to a safe learning year for all students! Please let me know if I've missed any of your favorite back-to-school resources.

Friday, August 9, 2013

MA Restaurants and Food Allergies

Food Allergy Signs
Our family recently visited the great state of Massachusetts and found a posting about food allergies in every restaurant we saw. From fast food to fine dining, some statement about food allergies was apparent. When we spoke to restaurant staff, nearly everyone was well-versed about food allergies and needed little coaching from us in discussing and preparing allergy safe foods. From the guy at Subway® who immediately washed his hands, changed his gloves and took out fresh utensils, to our server at the Omni Parker House Hotel who took the time to write down our allergen concerns and then discussed safe options, it was delightful to dine out in MA. 

This may not be big news in MA as they've had 
food allergy legislation since 2010 requiring all restaurants in the state to adhere to certain guidelines, but it's a big deal to those of us from out of state. While a few other states have passed similar regulations (RI and perhaps soon MD), most states lag far behind, making eating out with food allergies very challenging. Anyone interested in helping to enact similar legislation in their state is encouraged to contact FARE

Everyone should have the right to walk into a restaurant and have a safe dining experience. Paul Antico, founder of Allergy Eats is sponsoring the second annual Food Allergy Conference for Restauranteurs this November. Share registration information with your favorite restaurants and encourage them to become food allergy savvy. It's good for everyone.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Enjoy Life Decadent Bars

I recently had the opportunity to sample Enjoy Life's new Decadent Soft Baked  Bars. 

Let me first say that I always feel very comfortable recommending Enjoy Life products because I know their focus is on making good-tasting food that is also safe for people with food allergies and celiac disease. All of their products are free of wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish, sesame and sulfites.

As anyone with multiple dietary concerns knows, it is priceless to be able to turn to a ready-made product that you know will be safe and tasty.

That brings us to enjoy Life's Decadent Bars. They come in four flavors: Cherry Cobbler, Chocolate Sunbutter, Cinnamon Bun and S'Mores. Each bar is drizzled with chocolate or white chocolate- honestly, they look beautiful.

I really like the texture- soft, with a little crisp in them- and I thought they tasted great (admittedly, the Chocolate Sunbutter was my favorite!). These bars are perfect to have on-hand for a quick snack or to serve during a playdate. They are small and easy to carry, which makes them ideal for travel too. 

If you want to try them out, grab a coupon and head over to your favorite grocery store that carries Enjoy Life products (check out the store locator to find one near you). They can also be ordered right from the Enjoy Life Online store for  single boxes or a 6-pack. The shelf life of the bars is approximately 9 months and there is currently a free shipping offer on orders over $49.

I'm happy to add Enjoy Life's Decadent Bars to my list of easy, delicious and safe foods. I love a product that makes life a bit easier!

Disclaimer: While I was not paid for my review of this product, I was provided with a complimentary sample pack. The opinions shared are my own.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Generic Epi Injectors for Allergic Reactions

 There is growing concern among those in the food allergy community about the rising number of epinephrine auto-injectors coming into the market. Now, you may remember that I expressed much excitement when Auvi-Q joined EpiPen as another option for people requiring an epi-injector. I liked the idea of choice and competition. I'm not going back on that, but with two more units ready to hit store shelves, we need to make sure that parents, teachers, school nurses, coaches and others are educated about what an epi-injector looks like and how to use it.

 To start, I'd like to direct you to a well-written post over at Kids With Food Allergies. "Important News about Epinephrine Auto Injectors", written by Dr. Angela Nace, of Jefferson University School of Pharmacy, clearly outlines the differences between the types of auto-injectors that will be available. I particularly appreciate the easy-to-read chart included in the report.

After you've digested the information by Dr. Nace, there are a few other things to consider:

  • which epinephrine injector works best for your family?
  • will you have more than one type of injector on hand?
  • what are the out-of-pocket costs associated with each type?
  • how will you make sure that care-takers are aware of the different types and how to use them?

One other thing to think about is that with the availability of a generic epi-injector, doctors and pharmacies may be obliged to give out the generic, depending upon insurance or the way the prescription is written. Be clear with the doctor and pharmacy about the type of epinephrine auto-injector you want.

Angela Nace is Field Coordinator for Experiential Education, Department of Pharmacy Practice, at Jefferson University School of Pharmacy. - See more at: http://community.kidswithfoodallergies.org/blog/available-epinephrine-auto-injectors-new-generic#sthash.Q0OaWZpA.dpuf
Angela Nace is Field Coordinator for Experiential Education, Department of Pharmacy Practice, at Jefferson University School of Pharmacy. - See more at: http://community.kidswithfoodallergies.org/blog/available-epinephrine-auto-injectors-new-generic#sthash.Q0OaWZpA.dpufAngela
Angela Nace is Field Coordinator for Experiential Education, Department of Pharmacy Practice, at Jefferson University School of Pharmacy. - See more at: http://community.kidswithfoodallergies.org/blog/available-epinephrine-auto-injectors-new-generic#sthash.Q0OaWZpA.dpuf
Angela Nace is Field Coordinator for Experiential Education, Department of Pharmacy Practice, at Jefferson University School of Pharmacy. - See more at: http://community.kidswithfoodallergies.org/blog/available-epinephrine-auto-injectors-new-generic#sthash.Q0OaWZpA.dpuf
Angela Nace is Field Coordinator for Experiential Education, Department of Pharmacy Practice, at Jefferson University School of Pharmacy. - See more at: http://community.kidswithfoodallergies.org/blog/available-epinephrine-auto-injectors-new-generic#sthash.Q0OaWZpA.dpuf

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chicken-less Eggs Benefit People With Egg Allergy

 Beyond Eggs may be just what the doctor ordered for egg allergic consumers. For those of us in my family not allergic to eggs, I spend the extra money for free-range eggs, as I don't want to contribute to the practice of hens in tiny cages. Finally there's an alternative that deals with the egg allergy and the humane issues.

A report on NPR's "All Things Considered" caught my attention last week. "Why Bill Gates is Investing in Chicken-less Eggs", talked about how Hampton Creek Foods has come up with a plant-based substitute for eggs. 

Why mess with Mother Nature, you ask? Well, there is growing concern that in the coming decades the demand for animal meat and by-products will surpass the supply. In addition, these substitute eggs:
  • reduce our carbon footprint
  • are less expensive
  • have no risk of salmonella
  • contain no cholesterol
  • and, most important to me, are safe for those with egg allergies. They are also free of soy, lactose and gluten.

In a recent taste test, cookies baked with chicken eggs were compared to cookies baked with Beyond Eggs. Tasters did not notice a difference. And watch this video using Beyond Eggs to make scrambled eggs.

I did contact Hampton Fooods to inquire about nutrition information and I am very pleased with the response. Chicken eggs and Beyond Eggs are pretty comparable in terms of protein. Beyond Eggs also contains a good amount of calcium, less fat and no cholesterol.   
While I've adapted many of my recipes and find a mixture of baking soda, oil and water to work in many of my homemade cookies and cakes, I love the idea of this nutrition boost and I'm hopeful that Beyond Eggs will work in some of the recipes I've had to abandon for now (traditional brownies, pound cake and angel food cake to name a few).

Check out Hampton Food's Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up 

with the release date and latest news. It's eggcellent (insert groan 

here) news and I can't wait to try it out!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Auvi-Q Carriers

Auvi-Q Holders

I've been on the look-out for Auvi-Q carriers to make self-carrying easier. Auvi-Q offers a great shape for adults- fits in most handbags for women and in most pockets in menswear. However, active kids often need something on their person that will stay put. Here's what I've found so far:

Has anyone found an Auvi-Q carrier they prefer? Please share!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Food Allergy Stuff I Need

As we're in the midst of Food Allergy Awareness Week, I'm reminded how our food allergy journey began 12 years ago this very month. May 2001 was when we got the results- allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, corn, oats, wheat and shellfish. We were told, "go pick up your EpiPen at CVS. We've already called it in. Don't give (your baby) any of the aforementioned foods and be careful about cross-contamination."

Huh?!?! Sure, I'd heard that some people had a peanut allergy, although I didn't know anyone personally. I had no idea anyone could be allergic to so many foods...plus, I thought food allergies were hereditary!

So, fast forward 12 years and the numbers of allergies has decreased and my knowledge and support base has increased- a hundred fold. As I celebrate Food Allergy Awareness Week, here's a list of the the stuff that helped me along the way:
  • FARE- back then it was FAAN- but my membership to this group was worth its weight in gold as I quickly learned that there were lots of people with food allergies and there were lots of ways to successfully cope with food allergies. I found support and hope through their conferences and continue to appreciate their efforts to educate and inform while seeking out treatments and cures.
  • Linda Coss's cookbooks, What's to Eat and What Else is to Eat taught me how to make food my whole family would eat. Food Allergy Mama's Baking Book allowed me to bring desserts to parties and events that were safe and delicious.
  • EpiPen (and now Auvi-Q) are critical tools in our food allergy kit. Benadryl, and our Food Allergy Action Plan round out that portable kit.
  • The Food Allergen Labeling Law of 2004 provided consistency and accuracy where there formerly was none.
  • A bigger selection of safe foods at the grocery store- soy milk, soy nut butter, dairy free margarine and chocolate chips.
  • Food allergy bloggers (check out my sidebar for a few of my favorites) have given information and support all along the way. Twelve years ago there weren't many of us on the web sharing our stories. Today there are many who give their time and talents daily to keep those new and old to food allergies informed and hopeful.
  • Allergists, doctors, nurses, teachers, coaches and others who have been respectful and caring about food allergies along the way.
Join us this evening at 7 pm for a food allergy Twitter party to celebrate how far we've come and where we are headed. Use #foodallergy to join in the fun!

Friday, April 26, 2013

EpiPen With Zero Copay

Mylan, is one of the world’s leading generics and specialty pharmaceutical companies, and is also the maker of EpiPen®

The company is celebrating 25 years of the auto-injector that is used to treat anaphylaxis due to a severe allergic reaction. The celebration means a $0 copay for families through December 31, 2013. This offer is valid for up to three EpiPen 2-Pak cartons or EpiPen Jr 2-Pak cartons per prescription, with an unlimited number of prescriptions until the end of the year. Before you go fill your next EpiPen prescription, head on over to Epipen.com and request a coupon for your $0 co-pay. 

I know this will benefit many of you who have no insurance coverage for auto-injectors or those of us who rack up a big bill on co-pays for multiple injectors.

Lemon Blueberry Cake- Yum!
This celebration calls for some cake. How about some dairy and wheat-free, egg-free, nut and peanut free cake?  

I do love a celebration!