Monday, September 26, 2011

Real Simple - A Parent's Guide to Food Allergies at School

Here are some things that are good to know if any of your child's classmates have food allergies.
A Parent's Guide to Food Allergies at School

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Nut-Free Mom Blog: New Food Allergy Law in Illinois Affects Schools, EpiPens

Just read a great post today on The Nut-Free Mom, regarding the new EpiPen law in Illiniois. This law is a positive step, but she makes a great point about needing more proactivity with regard to preventing allergic reactions in schools. EpiPens are not a guarantee of reversing a reaction once it starts, so we still need to work on having less food in the classroom.

Read her full post below:
The Nut-Free Mom Blog: New Food Allergy Law in Illinois Affects Schools, EpiPens

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Make your own firefly jar

When the girls are outside in the evenings catching fireflies, we never seem to have the right containers to put them in. We use babyfood jars, plastic cups and other random containers that we grab at the last minute.

I've actually been thinking about making cute firefly containers for R&R and all of their cousins, and I just came across this cute little DIY jar and tag at Southern Living. It looks like all you need is a mason jar with a lid, some breathable fabric, some ribbon, and the tag (free PDF download).

I'm not sure how well the fabric will stay on when kids are opening and closing the lid, so I might try poking small holes in the lid. So cute!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Allergy Testing - Blood Results

The last time the girls had their blood tested, the allergist called and told me the results over the phone. Some of Rowan's numbers had gone up, and hearing the results was really discouraging. I'm not a cryer, but after hanging up, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. According to the numbers, they will not outgrow a few of these allergies. And why the heck did Rowan's go up?

The high numbers are burned into my brain, but I kept forgetting some of the lower numbers. We avoid them all anyway, so I guess the numbers aren't really that important. I finally asked our allergist to send us the test results, just so I would have them on hand.

These are the official results. I'm sharing them here more for my own records, not because I think anyone will be all that interested.

Here is the scale:
.35 – .70 = Low
.71 – 3.50 = Moderate
3.51 – 17.50 = High
17.51 or greater = Very High

Casein: >100  (Very High)
Milk: >100  (Very High)
Egg White: >100  (Very High)
Egg Yolk: 44.30  (Very High)
Peanut: 28.30  (Very High)
Turkey: 16.30  (High)
Wheat: 10.30  (High)
Chicken: 4.62  (High)
Pork: 3.15  (Moderate)

She is also allergic to Soy (last round was 4.6 - High), but I didn't see the numbers for this round.
So you can see why I was frustrated. She has a chance of outgrowing Pork. Great.

Peanut: >100  (Very High)
Shrimp: 3.55  (High)
Milk: 3.09  (Moderate)
Crab: 2.94  (Moderate)
Lobster: 2.85  (Moderate)
Almond: 1.53  (Moderate)
Poppy Seed .10  (Low)
Sunflower Seed: .68  (Low)
Sesame Seed: .54  (Low)
Various Tree Nuts: all around .5  (Low)

So Rylie has lower numbers overall, but unfortunately we still have to avoid ALL of the foods on their lists. Kids have had anaphylactic reactions, even with lower numbers. These tests don't necessarily gauge how strong a reaction will be. (In our case, both girls have had anaphylactic reactions, so we know there are certain foods that we have to avoid at all costs). And the higher numbers indicate that they will not outgrow those specific allergies.

Really hoping that the immunotherapy research trials at Duke will lead to something that becomes a mainstream treatment!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

1 in 12 kids may have food allergies

As many as one in every 12 kids in the United States may have a food allergy, according to a new study that appears to confirm that the condition is more widespread — and perhaps more dangerous — than previously thought.

Full story here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fenway Park does it again - providing a 2nd peanut-free section this season!

Hurray for Fenway Park! Peanuts were banned last Sunday from an entire 226-person section of the ballpark for the second time this season as part of a growing effort to accommodate fans with allergies.

The seats are washed, swept, inspected, and swept again, adhering to cleaning guidelines from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, New England Chapter. Signs posted last Sunday made a simple request: “Thank you for not eating peanuts and Cracker Jacks.’’ Last Sunday, ballpark greeters stood at the entrance to the section and acted as peanut police, alerting fans of the ban.

A critical-care nurse and an emergency room doctor stood in the aisle with stethoscopes dangling from their necks and an extra supply of EpiPens — syringes filled with epinephrine to treat severe allergic reactions. The medical staff on duty said they have never had to use an EpiPen during an allergy friendly game, but it offers piece of mind for parents.

What an amazing effort! There are 500 families on the waiting list for these tickets. Read the full story here.

Nearly half of Major League Baseball teams set aside seats for at least one game without peanuts. Unfortunately the Cincinnati Reds are not one of these teams. Hopefully we can change that - please see my previous posts about the Reds and Peanut-Free nights, and join our facebook page!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Organzing Your Food Safely

Organization is one of the keys to keeping your food-allergic kids safe at home. Labeling food containers is something I do almost every day to help identify who can have what. Rowan has her own shelf in the fridge, and I have a 'safe food' chart hanging on our fridge. We have a sitter that comes to our house 4 days a week, and these simple steps help eliminate confusion.

I saw this new product called SafeKeepers on Nut Free Mom today. SafeKeepers are a food allergy solution for organizing your food safely. Plastic food storage containers printed with the universally recognized “Stop” and “Go” signs on each container with matching covers, letting you know what’s safe to eat and what isn’t. And they're BPA free.

48 pieces for $18 plus shipping.
I am definitely buying these!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Allergy-Free Strawberry Cupcakes

Cybele Pascal's recipe for Allergy-Free Strawberry Cupcakes looks delicious! I'll be making these soon.
Allergy-Free Strawberry Cupcakes
© 2011 by Cybele Pascal

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

FDA Meeting: Do Food Dyes Cause Hyperactivity?

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration met to try to determine whether a link exists between artificial coloring and hyperactivity in children. I think it's pretty major that the FDA is even considering that there may be a link between food dyes and kids’ behavior. There is a good NPR article about this debate here.

My girls are pretty calm, so hyperactivity is not high on my list of worries. But in dealing with food allergies, I prefer to limit processed foods that are full of added colors. The girls are already avoiding a few major food groups, so most of their calories need to be nutritious.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Emily's Story: A Food Allergy Angel

Last week was Food Allergy Awareness Week, and I saw a lot of great stories, recipes and discussions. I was feeling pretty confident, because I try to stay up to date on the latest information and we have a pretty good safe-food routine established at home.

Today I read Emily's Story - and it just breaks my heart. Emily died 5 years ago, and it was caused by an allergic reaction. This happened here in Cincinnati. Today would have been her 19th birthday.

I have to admit, I absolutely hate reading stories like this, because it makes me feel anxious and sad, and it makes me worry about my girls even more than I already do.

I'm sharing this because I think other parents need to see how serious food allergies can be. And it reminds me that I cannot let down my guard. I also need to stop worrying about what other people think of me. There will always be people out there that think food allergies are exaggerated, or that I'm just a parent trying to get attention. I've overheard parents of older kids talking about 'The Food Allergy Nazi Mom' in their kids classroom, and it makes me feel awful. I know what that mom is dealing with, and she is just trying to keep her child safe. It can be hard to get other parents to understand that there isn't any room for error. An Epi-pen does not typically reverse a reaction - it can give some relief for about 15 minutes, until an ambulance arrives. (This is why you should always carry two - in case you need to buy more time)

Please take the time to read Emily's Story. It's a good reminder that food allergies are very serious. If your kids don't have food allergies, be thankful, and try to be more understanding of families that deal with this every day. If your kids do have food allergies, ALWAYS have your Epi-pens with you and be prepared to use them.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Reds say no to peanut-free baseball (again)

I contacted the Reds again this year, about the possibility of a peanut-free section for one game. Here is the email I received today, from Sean Brown, Director of Ballpark Operations:

Ms. H,

This offseason, we reviewed the policies other clubs have in place for their peanut free or peanut sensitive areas.

In doing so, we discovered that it would not be advantageous for the Reds or for the families of those affected by a peanut allergy, to host such an area within the ballpark.

I apologize we cannot accommodate your request or that of your children.


There are other Major and Minor League teams that are providing peanut-free sections for games, so please check Peanut Free Baseball for a list of teams and games in your area.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Allergy Eats - a great resource for dining out with food allergies

AllergyEats is a free website, that lists well over 600,000 restaurants nationwide, which food-allergic diners can rate. The site also offers information on restaurants’ menus (including gluten-free menus), allergen lists, nutrition information, certifications, web links, directions and more.

This free, user-friendly website provides valuable peer-based feedback about how well (or poorly) restaurants accommodate the needs of food-allergic customers. The peer ratings and feedback allow food-allergic and gluten-intolerant diners to quickly and easily find restaurants that will more likely cater to their special dietary requirements – and avoid the ones that won’t.

Most restaurant review sites include information about establishments’ food, ambiance or service, but AllergyEats is singularly focused on food allergies, with peer reviews spotlighting where people with food allergies or intolerances have more comfortably eaten. AllergyEats has significantly improved the way food allergic and gluten-intolerant individuals find allergy-friendly restaurants.

AllergyEats has been endorsed by highly-respected food, health and allergy organizations, including the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Gluten Intolerance Group, Massachusetts Restaurant Association, Chef Ming Tsai and more. 

What a great resource!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What to do when foods become allergens - Q&A

Here is a really good food allergy Q&A interview with Clifford W. Bassett, MD, medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York, and faculty member of the New York University School of Medicine, both in New York City.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

New to Food Allergies?

Make sure you check out this free 47-page e-book from Kids with Food Allergies. It is filled with essential information for parenting a food allergic child.

Learn about food allergies, anaphylaxis, diagnosis and treatment; find nutrition information and allergen avoidance lists for common food allergies and much more.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What the heck do you feed your kids?

Whenever someone finds about my girls' food allergies, one of the first questions they ask is 'So, what the heck do you feed your kids?'

Rylie has to avoid anything containing milk and peanuts/tree nuts...which also means avoiding anything that could be cross-contaminated with these ingredients. Believe it or not, she's the 'easy' one, and I feel like there are tons of foods she can eat. She can eat pretty safely at restaurants and we make sure to ask all the right questions about food preparation.

Rowan is the challenging one, so I will talk about the foods that she eats. She has to avoid anything containing milk, egg, peanuts/tree nuts, wheat, soy, chicken, turkey, pork, and citrus. She cannot eat anything at a restaurant due to cross contamination. When we eat out, we always bring her food.

So here are the foods she eats ALL the time. There are other foods that I prepare, but these are our regular safe foods:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cincinnati Reds Peanut-Free Game

Last year I contacted the Cincinnati Reds about the possibility of a peanut-free section for one game. They told me they were not able to make it happen. This year, there are quite a few major league teams offering peanut-free games, so I'd like to try again.

I set up a facebook page called Cincinnati Reds Fans for a Peanut-Free Night at the Ballpark so we can show how many families out there might be interested in this. Please 'like' this page to show your support!

Here is a list of peanut-friendly games at other Major League ballparks.

Go Reds!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

Last year we built our own little raised garden bed, tucked away on the side of our house. I'd been wanting to do this for some time and just needed to find some visual inspiration and a good plan. The plan I really loved (and the one we ended up using) is here at Sunset.

The great thing about a raised bed is that it looks clean and tidy, and you can make it any size you want. You can also fill it with nice rich soil, instead of using the soil in your yard. The soil here in Ohio tends to contain a lot of clay and rocks. A raised bed also has better drainage.

We mounted PVC pipes inside the frame to hold hoops that elevate bird netting, and once the plants reach a good height, we remove the netting.

We planted tomatoes, basil, peppers, zucchini, beans, and peas. Most of the tomatoes got eaten by deer, and the beans got eaten by rabbits. But everything else did really well! This spring, all of the hard work was already done, so I tilled the soil, added some compost, and planted peas and broccoli. Around May, I'll plant zucchini and experiment with some other vegetables.

Our garden is organic, so I don't use any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. This year I'll have to try to find a better way to keep the deer away from the tomatoes.

The girls loved helping with this project, and they had fun watering and picking the vegetables.

Please note - commercially treated lumber is not safe to use for your raised garden bed. The chemicals will leech into your soil and your plants. Redwood and cedar are really good options, but we couldn't find either and we ended up using untreated pine.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Allergy-Free Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

This is a really easy recipe and makes a great after-school snack. I have a batch baking in the oven as I type. They're allergy-free (of course), but I also like that the ingredients are simple and it's not a processed snack with tons of sugar.

2 cups uncooked rolled oats
1 1/2 cups oat flour
1 cup (packed) currants, raisins, or other dried fruit
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use canola or safflower, to eliminate soy)
1 cup apple juice (I prefer Mott's Natural)

If fruit pieces are hard, set them in a bit of hot water to moisten.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9x13" pan, or two 8x8" pans. Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well. The mixture should be moist enough to form a ball, without extra liquid.

Put mixture in prepared pan(s) and spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and cut into squares while still hot. Wait until the bars cool before trying to remove them from the pan.

Side notes: I use cranberries and raisins for the fruit. My mixture never quite seems to fill a 9 x 13 pan. I think 11 x 7 would work well.
It also helps to use a large piece of parchment paper to press down on the mixture in the pan, to spread it evenly.

Recipe created by Devyani at

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Indoor Treehouse Bed

On most days, I would prefer not to think about food allergies. So I'm going to start sharing more of the design-y stuff that I love. Check out this amazing indoor treehouse bed! I first saw this post on ohdeedoh a few days ago and had to go back to check it out again. I would love to sleep in something like this, even as an adult.

Juli of The Slow Life designed and built this treehouse bed not for the backyard but for her daughter's room. For more photos and details, check out Juli's blog.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How Stressed Are You? Food Allergies and Quality of Life

Mothers of food allergic children report extremely high levels of stress and a new study sponsored by the Food Allergy Initiative (FAI) shows that their quality of life can be significantly affected as well.

Data were collected from 1,126 caregivers. The impact of food allergy on caregiver quality of life varied widely with 1 exception: caregivers consistently reported being troubled by social limitations resulting from their child's food allergy. Poor quality of life was significantly more likely on a number of survey items among caregivers more knowledgeable about food allergy and among caregivers whose children had been to the emergency department for food allergy in the past year, had multiple food allergies, or were allergic to specific foods.

Here is a great interview with Dr. Ruchi Gupta, discussing this research.

Factors that increased stress and lowered quality of life:
1. Families who had been in the ER in the past year
2. Those who had kids with multiple food allergies
3. Those who were allergic to milk, wheat and/or egg
4. The more knowledgeable caregivers had a lower quality of life

Unfortunately, all four of the above affect us. (Number 4, because I constantly research and try to gather as much information as I can. Acquiring knowledge is my coping mechanism) It's something I'm always thinking about, especially in new situations. I'm really stressed about Rowan attending preschool in the fall. I have to give up all control during those days and trust the school to keep her safe. Kindergarten has been easy with Rylie (no snacks), but next year she'll be in first grade, eating lunch in the cafeteria and having snacks in the classroom. Social situations are always tricky too - family gatherings, birthday parties, play dates. I also worry that in raising awareness and trying to keep my kids safe, I'll be viewed as a crazy over-protective food-allergy parent.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Strawberry Cake Recipe (Dairy-free)

A friend of mine emailed me yesterday and asked if I had any dairy-free cake recipes. Her neice is turning one and is allergic to milk. Most of the recipes I use are a little more extreme: free of dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts - because Rowan has to avoid all of these foods.

I happened to have a recipe for strawberry cake, that is dairy free. (I think I found this in the recipes section on Whole Foods website.) It sounds delicious, but I haven't tried making it yet because Rylie would be able to eat it, but Rowan would not.

Dairy-Free Strawberry Cake
2 cups unbleached flour *
1 cup natural cane sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup puréed strawberries, fresh or frozen, thawed
1/2 cup soy milk or almond milk

1 box powdered sugar
4 tablespoons non-hydrogenated dairy-free margarine, softened
4–6 tablespoons puréed fresh or frozen strawberries
Fresh strawberries for decoration

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter (or spray) and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans or one 9x13-inch cake pan. Set aside. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat remaining ingredients together. Add to dry, beating with a wire whisk. Pour into prepared cake pans. Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes or until done when tested with a toothpick.

To make the frosting, sift powdered sugar into softened margarine. Add strawberry purée to spreading consistency. Frost the cake and decorate the top of the cake with fresh strawberries just before serving.

*If desired, you may substitute part of the unbleached flour with whole wheat pastry flour or white wheat flour.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

7 Foods the Experts Won't Eat

Seven experts in fields pertaining to both food and the environment answered one simple question: "What foods do you avoid?" Their answers, published in an article entitled 7 Foods the Experts Won't Eat on Yahoo! Shine, will make you re-think food. When it comes to food and its affect on your health and the health of this planet, this is what they answered:

1. Canned Tomatoes
2. Corn-Fed Beef
3. Microwave Popcorn
4. Nonorganic Potatoes
5. Farmed Salmon
6. Milk Produced with Artificial Hormones
7. Conventional Apples

Read the article to see their explanations.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Teddy Grahams - safe for peanut allergies

I don't usually buy Teddy Grahams, but I bought them this week for Rylie as a special treat. I read the ingredients (Mini Teddy Grahams Snak Sak, Honey) and they seemed safe for her to eat, but I noticed that Kraft/Nabisco also make Nutter Butter bites, in the same size resealable bag.

This made me a little nervous, because cross-contamination warnings are not mandatory in the US. I called Kraft today to ask if Teddy Grahams and Nutter Butter Bites are made in the same plant or on shared equipment. The woman told me that it is Kraft's policy to put a statement on the package when products are made on shared equipment or in a plant that processes peanuts, and the Teddy Grahams bag does not have this statement.

For some reason I still don't fully trust the answers I get when I call these food companies. I feel like they don't quite understand the risk of cross contamination and are reading from a script of answers to common questions.

At this point I feel like I've done all I can do - I read the ingredients and called the company about cross contamination. I feel pretty confident that the Teddy Grahams in the Snak Sak are safe for kids with peanut allergies.

This doesn't mean that all sizes or varieties are safe, because the manufacturing process might differ. Please read ingredients and manufacturing statements on all packages, every time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

10 Home Remedies for Itching

Our girls have eczema and never stop scratching. We put olive oil in their bath water and don't use soap. We also slather them in Vanicream and put prescription creams on certain stubborn areas. We give them Zyrtec or Benadryl before bed. And they're still itchy.

I found some great home remedies on Discovery Health. I knew about baking soda and oatmeal, but I may give some of the others a try. Let me know if you have tried any of these remedies, and if they worked.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Read Labels Carefully: Five Recent Label Changes

Recently, several food labels have changed, so this is a great reminder to read labels every time you purchase a product. Ingredients or manufacturing processes can change at any time. Please keep in mind that cross-contamination warnings (such as "may contain..." or "made on the same equipment that processes...") are voluntary and not required to be disclosed on labels.

1. Silk Soymilk labels now state, "May contain almonds or coconut," because the soymilk may be manufactured on equipment that is used by products that contain almond or coconut. Not all containers have this warning yet.

2. Clabber Girl Baking Powder labels now state, "Manufactured on equipment that also processes wheat, soy, milk and egg." The front of the can states they are still producing in a peanut-free facility. Old cans claimed, "Gluten Free".

3. Wheaties cereal states, "May contain almonds." Wheaties Fuel cereal states, "May contain almonds or peanuts."

4. Hostess Cupcakes are labeled with a "May contain walnuts" warning. Some Hostess Donettes are now labeled as "May contain walnuts and pecans."

5. According to the Spangler candy website, Dum Dum Gum Pops and Dum Dum Chewy Pops made in the USA are free of peanuts, tree nuts, egg, gluten, and milk. But be aware that Dum Dum Gum Pops and Dum Dum Chewy Pops made in Brazil are manufactured in a facility where peanuts and milk are used in the manufacturing of other products. Please check the back panel of the item you are purchasing for country of origin. This information is only on the original bag, not on the individual wrappers.

I need to contact Silk about their soymilk. Rylie drinks soymilk because she is allergic to cow's milk, but she is also allergic to tree nuts. I need to find out more about possible cross-contamination with almond ingredients.

Label change info from Kids with Food Allergies