Food Allergies

Parenting a child with life threatening food allergies is difficult but can still be amazing.

Watermelon Sundae

This Watermelon Sundae is a perfect summer treat for anyone, but it is super awesome when you are juggling multiple food allergies.

Instead of using ice cream we use scoops of watermelon and then add a mountain of delicious toppings. Sometimes we also add soy or coconut ice cream in with the watermelon scoops too! Like most food allergy planning I always advise to make a list of all the things you can have and work with that. This has been a fun go to dessert because it’s so versatile and I love using all the fresh fruit from the farmers market during the summer.

Below is a list of delicious topping ideas. This is always evolving. Let me know if there are some toppings of deliciousness that you would add to this list.

Enjoy and if you happy to share a picture of your own watermelon creation tag me in it on Instagram or Facebook!

Allergy Friendly Watermelon Sundae

Watermelon Sundae Toppings –

Bananas – Cut into circles or cut in half lengthwise if you are going to make a Banana Split!
Dark Chocolate Chips – A Tasty Antioxidant Boost!
Nesquik chocolate syrup
Allergy friendly yogurt (I’ve used soy yogurt)
Strawberries
Blueberries
Okay… all the berries you can have!
Whipped Topping (We use Soy Whip for a milk allergy friendly alternative! )
Sprinkles
Cherry on Top (Pitted!)
Kiwi
Carob Chips
Pineapple Chunks
Crumbled Graham Crackers or Cookies of Choice (We use lots of Oreos)
Honey or Agave Syrup
Favorite Jam, Jelly, Preserves or Fruit Syrup

This recipe was also featured on Super Healthy Kids many years ago as a guest post. 

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Infant Food Allergies – Here We Go Again

by Leila on January 15, 2015

Infant Food Allergies

When my now twelve year old daughter was a month old she broke out in hives and had difficulty breathing after I nursed her. That was when our food allergy adventure began.

Severe allergic reactions from breastfeeding aren’t common. Typically, when an infant shows signs of a food allergy it’s when solids are introduced.

Food allergies are common in my family. I did my research and prepared myself with a system of introducing solids, with pre-printed charts and I planned to make all the baby food myself when she would turn six months. Yeah, I was one of those first time Moms.

What I didn’t expect or prepare for was to go on an elimination diet, discover that she had over twenty food allergies and discover how severe “contact” sensitivities could be starting when she was a month old. Hands had to be washed thoroughly and certain foods could not be cooked in the house.

It wasn’t easy. It was a huge adjustment. Most people who should have been supportive were being downright dicks about it. The more severe her food allergies became the more I saw a judgmental and selfish side of people that I will never understand. I refused to accept a life of isolation for her like so many often wish on kids with food allergies. Again, there are some things that I will never understand about people.

Those people are filtered out and don’t become a major part of our lives. It took me awhile but I learned to not waste time with negativity. Thankfully, over the years we have made some amazing friends that we appreciate.

All the modifications and food allergy management was challenge to figure out in the beginning. I made a lot of mistakes. That was the hardest part… knowing a mistake could potentially be life threatening. That part never gets easier. But, every mistake no matter how small helped me learn.

Now, all the ways I have modified our lifestyle to keep my daughter safe has become part of the routine. It’s our normal. It’s how we roll. It keeps her safe, alive and living an almost typical life. It is so easy now that I don’t even have to stress over the constantly evolving changes. When my now seven year old son was born his minor food allergies weren’t even a hurdle because we were already living without.

When we made the decision to try for “just one more” I knew that there was a possibility we could have another child with similar or worse health hurdles. It made me apprehensive for a long time. I took comfort in the fact knowing the hardest part is behind us because I’ve done all the research, I’m happy to live without and I know the routine to keep a child safe who has life threatening allergies.

When our baby was born, after a complicated pregnancy with bedrest, I immediately started to look for the signs. At first it seemed all was well.

Then all those familiar signs started surfacing.

It’s so hard to see your child in pain especially an infant. I’ve eliminated milks, eggs, nuts and salmon since those are major triggers for my baby girl. Her eczema and reflux is under control. I hope those are the only ones that we have to manage for her, but at only seven months old I know better than to focus on the what ifs. If the food allergy signs don’t improve then I will go on a full elimination diet.

I’ve been asked often if she is showing any signs of food allergies and how that’s going. Her nut allergy seems to be the worst of them. Despite how much food allergies suck I just don’t feel stressed about it. Maybe it’s because I’m a veteran at this and that I’m just so much more informed.

I’m not taking it lightly, but I’m not freaking out either.

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halloween

I just love this Halloween pic from a few years back – Can you guess the theme!?

When my now twelve year old daughter was one month old she had her first severe allergic reaction after breastfeeding. The first year was all about figuring out all of her allergies and modifying my life to keep her safe. The hardest part wasn’t all the food changes but figuring out what triggers her reactions. When my seven year old was born and was diagnosed with a few allergies it was easier to manage because we were pros at that point. Our home is our allergy friendly place and managing food allergies is our responsibility.

I quickly realized that the world outside of our home would be harder to take on because most of the world out there revolves around food in some way. Thankfully, I like a good challenge.

I do not expect the world to bend to accommodate my daughter’s life threatening multiple food allergies, but I do hope that she finds more compassion. We opt out of a lot of birthday parties, family gatherings and play dates or we bring our own allergy safe foods and figure out how to politely excuse ourselves. I host most sleepovers, play dates and gatherings because it’s just easier to do it all rather than put the pressure on anyone to make it work. My kids don’t complain because it’s not the end of the world if we can’t participate in everything.

That’s how we roll. That is how it’s been. Halloween is no exception.

Halloween is our favorite holiday even if it’s all about the candy that, at one point, my daughter could have none of and my son had little options. Dressing up in costumes is a fun time. We like to act silly. We love an excuse to hang out with friends. If my kids didn’t have food allergies the candy still wouldn’t be the main focus.

We trick or treat even if 90% of the candy we get is not allergy friendly. We can trick or treat for HOURS! A friend asked me once why we even bother and I said, “Uh… because it’s a really fun time to run around dressed up??”

We introduced the “Halloween Fairy” into our homes many years ago. I found out last year that some call this the “Switch Witch”. We trade out candy the kids can’t have or the surplus of what the kids shouldn’t eat and the Halloween Fairy brings better goodies instead.

Last year the kids left out a little bit to the Halloween Fairy and donated the rest to a local women’s shelter. They initiated that suggestion and I was proud.

We are always super safe when we trick or treat. My daughter carriers her “emergency bag” filled with all medications she needs including her epi-pen and I have extras on hand. I sort out the candy first making sure nothing is open that contains her contact allergies. It’s a process but it’s so routine that no one feels weird about it.

I’ve been asked before if my kids ever get upset that they can’t eat all the candy they collect and it’s honestly never been an issue. It simply is what it is and I try to not focus on the CAN’T and focus on the FUN.

When they were younger I would see the enthusiasm on their faces when they went to a house that had a non-candy treat or a piece of candy they could have. My son still does a little dance and yells “Yes!” when this happens. Yes, it would be nice if this could happen more often but we would never expect or want a fully “allergy friendly” Halloween.

Why wouldn’t I want a fully “allergy friendly” Halloween? Because A) it would never happen B) It doesn’t mean our fun times would be better because we do just fine as is and C) The Halloween Fairy does like the chocolate bonus hehehe – But, in all reality you can’t have perfection so why would I expect that for my kids? Nah, perfection is boring. I’d rather learn from the small bumps in the road and imperfections and have fun anyway.

Every year I’ve seen a little more non candy treats when the kids unload their Halloween loot. The kids, allergies or not, love these. The increase of non-candy goodies may have to do with food allergies, or other dietary restrictions or maybe being over the amount of junk food the kids get. No matter what the reason we really do dig it.

But, just because Halloween won’t be completely allergy friendly doesn’t mean we all can’t try a little. For those of you who want to try check out the Teal Pumpkin Project by F.A.R.E. – Teal is the color for allergy awareness AND it’s my daughter’s favorite color.

The-Teal-Pumpkin-Project-2

The concept is simple… Paint a pumpkin teal, print a flyer to raise awareness and have food allergy friendly treats available for Halloween. Kids who have food allergies will be able to see what houses have allergy friendly treats with no tricks for them. When you are out shopping for Halloween goodies why not look at those stickers, glow sticks, plastic rings, pencils or non-food items too? Don’t want to replace all your candy? That’s cool… why not have candy and a bowl for kids who can’t have candy?

The Teal Pumpkin Project is something that gives people the idea of offering non food treats only or having a separate bowl for those with food allergies. It isn’t about replacing all candy but creating more awareness and inclusion. No, food allergy parents across the world are not expecting EVERYONE to do this and eliminate candy and the new Halloween color to be teal instead of orange. But, it may make a handful of kids feel special and included. Where is the harm in that?

The-Teal-Pumpkin-Project-5

We are going to paint some mini pumpkins teal, give them to neighbors, teachers, family and friends with information on the Teal Pumpkin Project. If people choose to offer up some stickers, glow sticks or bookmarks in addition to (or instead of) their candy, then RAD!

If not… then we are still gonna have fun.

If you decide to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project as a result of this please let me know! If you post a picture on Instagram I would love to see it and so would my kids. We are hoping to encourage a lot of people to jump in on this and see more teal pumpkins around.

 

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Food Allergies and Classroom Parties

There are a couple food allergy misconceptions I want to clear up with this post.

The first is that peanuts are NOT the only food allergy that can be life threatening. I don’t understand why this is a common assumption. Yes, peanuts are harder to control because the proteins that cause the allergic reaction can become airborne which is a total nightmare.

Peanuts are harder to manage because of the airborne aspect. People who are allergic to peanuts tend to have more frequent breakouts because avoidance is trickier than with something like milk. However, they are not the only fatal food allergy.

Any food allergy can potentially become fatal. Yes. Any.

That is the second thing I want to clear up when it comes to food allergies. If any food allergy can potentially become fatal, and there is no way to predict when a food allergy can become fatal, therefore all food allergies should be taken seriously.

To me, that logic is sound. However, not everyone will agree.

How Do People Die From Food Allergies?

Let me explain how people die from food allergies. An anaphylactic reaction can start out like any other food allergy response, but it turns for the worst very quickly. The body starts forming hives and swelling internally and under the skin – that is called angioedema. Air passages are blocked off and the reaction can suffocate the person within minutes. The only thing that can stop an anaphylactic reaction is an injection of epinephrine aka epi-pen. It is adrenaline that rapidly reduces the symptoms.

My daughter has, unfortunately, gone into anaphylactic shock one time in her life and that day will always haunt me. I almost lost her that day and the swelling was so horrible I didn’t even recognize her.

The only way to prevent an anaphylactic reaction is by complete avoidance. That seems easy but it isn’t as straightforward as that in a world that revolves around food.

The first time someone is exposed to a food that becomes an allergy it is because the immune system has decided that food is the enemy. The body thinks that food is something harmful and it freaks out by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). Our immune system is what protects our body from harm and in the case of food allergies our immune system is being a bit paranoid – no one knows why some people’s immune systems develop allergies, and no one understands why the magnitude of the reaction varies so much.

If you know about Oral Immunotherapy that is a different topic that involves a clinical setting, initiated and controlled by a board-certified allergist and immunologist over a long period of time. Exposure to a food allergy in a clinical setting is a different circumstance than being exposed sporadically. Oral Immunotherapy is not something anyone does without a doctor overseeing it’s progression. I just want to clarify the difference so there isn’t a misunderstanding of the two.

The only way to stop your body from freaking out and creating IgE’s that cause allergic reactions is by avoiding sporadic exposure. No exposures = no angry antibodies. If your body is not being exposed to that allergen then it has nothing to attack.

Imagine your body is like a castle and your immune system is the castle’s defense system. The IgE’s are the soldiers who attack invaders. The more times your castle is attacked the more you build up your defenses. You reinforce your borders with more soldiers, your soldiers are on high alert and may be a little spazzy. You are expecting battle and ready to attack these enemies every time they poke their heads up on the horizon. If this battle continues to happen over, and over, and over, and over then your body keeps building up the IgE’s.

Continually putting your defense system on alert can result in an uncontrollable and devastating battle.

That is where anaphylactic shock comes into the picture.

Peaceful times in your body creates peaceful antibody soldiers.

The theory is that the more avoidance you have the more your soldiers chill out and it is possible they “forget” that something was an enemy. The longer you go without exposure the less paranoid and strained your defense system becomes. Studies have shown that you are more likely to “grow out” of an allergy if you do not have sporadic exposures. Studies have also shown that the more you expose your body to an allergen the more you increase the possibility of an anaphylactic reaction.

When someone tells me they, or their loved one, has a food allergy I cannot help but stress the importance of strict avoidance. Just a bite of a “mild” food allergy and some benadryl can do more harm than good in the long run. It’s just not worth pushing it even if it is not easy.

When my daughter was an infant, and she was allergic to well over twenty foods that were all possibly life threatening, I was told it would be improbable to avoid all of her allergens to allow her IgE levels to lower. Notice I did not say impossible. I was just told it would be too difficult. It has been difficult but it hasn’t been impossible and we have been quite successful despite a few battles. Our lifestyle is creating a safe home environment and careful measures outside of the home to minimize her exposure. It is not easy but it is what’s best for her.

We have been, mostly, successful. When she has had an unfortunate exposure it sets her back weeks and even months. I see the difference every time she has an allergic reaction – She has a reaction and her body becomes so obviously on alert that the slightest exposure after causes a more severe reaction every time until her body calms down again.

She is now eleven and her food allergy count is down to five. She still has insanely elevated IgE levels but she is improving. It is unclear what exactly has caused her to “lose” some allergens, but we do know that strict avoidance has significantly helped her IgE levels improve. We know that her food allergies can continue to improve or they can change for the worst any day. We just make the most of it and appreciate what we have that day.

The wild card in the deck of allergies is that continuous exposure isn’t the only way a food allergy can go from mild to worse. The scariest thing about food allergies is that you never know when an exposure to an allergen is going to be mild or fatal. One day you can have the sniffles. The next time your airways could close and the only thing that will save your life is with an epi-pen. On the other hand you can have twenty days of sniffles and never need an epi-pen.

You just never know.

But, I Don’t Have To Worry About Food Allergies… Or Do I? Should I?

Anyone can also develop a food allergy at any point in their life without warning. It happens more often than you may assume.

I’ve grown up with mild food allergies. I used to only react to pork and on a very minor scale. I would have to eat an entire ham in order to have any reaction. When I was a teenager I ate Mahi Mahi for the first time and broke out in hives. About ten years after that I ate it again and had a horrible reaction, when I was on a camping trip, after eating one bite. Two years ago I started to react to shellfish. I had never had a shellfish reaction before that day. I was actually on a blogger trip to Santa Barbara as a guest of Toyota and we were eating at an amazing seafood restaurant on the pier. The reaction came on quickly and I thankfully had benadryl on hand because it’s always in my purse due to my daughter’s food allergies. It wasn’t a horrible reaction but my lips swelled up and I broke out in hives. My friend’s and I kind of joked about it all because I looked like a cartoon character but I took it very serious. I completely avoid shellfish now.

A lot of people feel burdened by the increasing number of food allergies. Food allergies being managed at school, and especially over classroom birthday parties, is a huge topic of debate. It is a topic that has strong dividing lines that are exhausting for families of kids with food allergies. Some people feel so strongly against food allergy accommodations that they feel there should be specialized schools for kids with food allergies or they should all be homeschooled. Some people are of the opinion that the only food allergies that are worth accommodating are those that are deemed “severe”.

The problem with that line of thought is no one has an idea when a reaction will go from mild to severe. What causes a runny nose today could kill a child tomorrow.

The other problem with that line of thought is that anyone can become allergic at any time even those that have no family history of food allergies. So, someone screaming for their non-food allergic child’s rights could easily find themselves on the other side of the fence.

Someone could eat something like cashews without any issues their entire life and, without warning, go into an anaphylactic reaction from just one bite.

I will never be okay with or agree with the attitude of excluding, discriminating or punishing those with disabilities. Yes, some people feel that if it isn’t their problem then they shouldn’t have to deal with it. Some people feel that their right over eating what they want is more important than the right of a person with burdening food allergies. The attitude of “Suck it up and deal with not being able to eat the food you want.” can go both ways.

I would rather be known for the person who shows compassion, empathy and looks beyond my own selfish impulses rather than the exact opposite.

It is important that the world develops a little more compassion, patience and understanding about food allergies because while it seems like someone else’s problem… it could very easily become something that changes your life, or the life of a loved one, with just one bite.

We do not push for accommodations outside of school. We opt out of a lot of activities, celebrations and birthday parties. I host mot family gatherings because I do not want to burden anyone with her food allergies and I certainly don’t want anyone to feel guilt if they mess up. We have cut and distanced ourselves from many people who just don’t get it and don’t want to. That is our choice. We do have some of the most amazing friends in our lives who go above and beyond to make sure my daughter is safe and I appreciate them so much. For every selfish, bitter and entitled person who have encountered I am thankful that there are a dozen of the opposite in their place. These hurdles have made my daughter a wonderful, empathetic and strong young lady who appreciates genuinely rad people in her life.

It doesn’t take much for one person to consider the life, well being and care of another person over themselves despite the excuses they may have. One act of compassion may be a burden in a moment of time for one person but it is, literally, worth a lifetime for the person who’s life could end.

I hope more people choose compassion over selfishness.

I hope more people choose life over a death cupcake in the classroom.

Thank you for taking the time and stopping by. My daughter reads my blog and has a lot of input on what I write about when it involves her. I do moderate comments that are extremely hateful because she doesn’t need that and this our space. I’m happy to debate and hopefully enlighten. She does appreciate all of the kind words and general awesomeness and we do our best to laugh off the … yanno, other stuff.

Live, laugh and ninja kick. 

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food allergies and classroom parties

Photo Credit: Amazing and Atopic – THANK YOU!

After the interwebs uproar over everyone’s right (or not) to party in the classroom I decided to finish this article I started writing awhile ago. This is all about how I manage my child’s food allergies in the classroom when it comes to classroom parties. My daughter is now in middle school and through her elementary school years we learned a lot on how to help her teacher’s manage food allergies in the classroom. My son is now in the first grade and his allergies are managed completely differently because his are not as severe.

Every child is different. Every school, school district and teacher is different. These are just general tips to help provide some alternatives to help ease the potential classroom wars over “death cupcakes”.

These tips may also help those with special medical related dietary restrictions as well.

Know Your Situation and Educate Yourself

Your biggest asset and ammunition is going to be empowering yourself with education. Become very informed, knowledgeable and make sure you are clear on the misinformation out there. The more informed you are the better you are able to appropriately advocate for your child.

The first thing you should ask yourself and your child’s doctor is, “How severe is the risk?” – Yes, there is a huge difference between an anaphylactic reaction and an upset stomach. It is important that you always act appropriately in the best interest of your child.

Food Allergies and Classroom Parties

If your child needs an epi-pen then proceed appropriately and know your rights. A life threatening reaction needs extra steps and care to make the classroom manageable and safe. You will want to look into a 504 Plan and discuss it with your child’s doctor. A 504 Plan includes accommodations so that your child has safe access to all school activities in public and even most private schools. It will also include an emergency and health plan to ensure that your child’s needs are met in case of an allergic reaction. With a 504 plan it legally protects your child under the ADA American’s with Disabilities Act. It will become your trump card in situations where you may find yourself frustrated with the lack of accommodations or support from other parents, teachers and even faculty.

If your child has a disability that can be triggered by food then this can also apply towards your situation. Again, seek the advice of a medical professional.

In some situations your child may be best suited with an IDEA plan or IEP. There is a lot of information out there on the differences between all of these accommodations so I am not going to go into too much detail about them.

I also suggest speaking to a local advocacy program that can inform you of your child’s rights within your school district and county. I’ve worked with a couple and they were a plethora of information.

If your child’s food allergies or dietary restrictions are not life threatening that does NOT mean you do not have rights or that you cannot find appropriate accommodations. You will probably have an easier time if your child’s food allergies or dietary restrictions aren’t life threatening – at least that is what I have experienced with my son’s needs compared to my daughters.

No matter what category you are in you should know the following:

What are all of your child’s food allergies?

How does your child need to avoid these allergens? Airborne? Contact? Ingestion?

What medications does your child take?

What are the type of reactions your child has?

How does your child describe their reactions?

Does your child know their medications, dosage and how to administer them properly?

You will want to discuss these things with an allergist and work out the details on what is the best approach for your child. To be perfectly honest – a parent’s opinion doesn’t hold as much weight as a doctor’s request. You will want your child’s medical team to chime in on these facts so that any hurdles along the way you can have that added protection. Don’t expect your doctor to do all of the work for you but they can be a safety net, resource and support system.

After you have a clear picture of what your child needs at school it is time to find out what policies are in place with the school district and school. Sometimes a lot of the concerns you may have are easily resolved without having to do much work.

For example: Many school districts ban classroom food related parties or classroom parties in general. For some reason a lot of people like to blame food allergy families. However, this has a lot more to do with taking away classroom instruction time, liability and education disruption. Holiday parties are also a topic of debate so many schools have opted to remove classroom parties to make it fair for all. If this policy is in place then, hopefully, the school complies with the district policies and that removes any of the battles for parties inside the classroom.

Of course some schools or teachers ignore these types of policies and will allow things to slide. That is why becoming informed is important and proceeding in the way that suits your circumstances.

Some schools ban allergies and are very food allergy friendly. Some schools have found themselves in the news because parents have asked for a child with food allergies to be homeschooled. It is all situational and test scores become the least of our worries when we start evaluating a school for our food sensitive children.

You may wonder what the best method is to gather the information on policies. I go directly to the school district, nursing services and special needs department first. Most schools have the information posted publicly or you can request policies.

Then I approach the school. If you know your child and can explain your situation clearly and show an understanding of school policies and procedures it makes the world of difference.

There is a big difference between what some parents may feel they should get, what their child is legally entitled to and what is possible. Unfortunately, many uninformed and unreasonable parents have made headlines and created big waves demanding accommodations that aren’t possible which can make it difficult to create that clean slate for your child. Yes, we want our children to be safe, included and happy but there is a balance and work goes along with achieving this. It starts with us.

If you act like a crazy freakaziod parent you will probably be treated like one.

Treat everyone at that school as if they are a part of your team and you are all in this together. It is not you and your child against them. Be patient, understanding and strong. I cannot emphasize that enough.

My daughter’s first principal is one of my favorite people on this planet and I mean that sincerely. He was such an amazing amount of support for her. We learned a lot together on our road of managing her very specific, severe and difficult allergies at school. That was a relationship that grew over time and if I acted like a jerkface I am sure it wouldn’t have played out the way it did. Not to say he didn’t see me have some very bad, angry and on the verge of losing my mind moments but the point is that I went into it as this person is my ally – not my enemy. It worked out.

You won’t always find supportive faculty staff. That is just the reality of it. Even if food allergies weren’t a factor there are just some people on the school grounds that you seriously wonder why they are even allowed to be around children. You have to accept that and just know how to work around some people’s quirks and know who you can rely on. You will not be able to get everyone on the team of food allergy awesomeness but you can figure out how to work with them anyway.

Always show genuine appreciation for those on your team who get it and have your back and hopefully you will find more awesome team members than sucky ones.

I also suggest doing all of this before your child begins school. Start early, prepare long before most kids enter school and before you start going to kindergarten tours. It is also good to get the ball rolling early so that the school may be able to place your child with a teacher that doesn’t have a heavily food focused program or one that is just known for being especially accommodating for special needs. It is better to get matched to the right teacher for your child than try to change one who is the worst match possible.

Believe me, I know this from experience.

In the Classroom – Teachers Rock

Your child’s teacher is going to become one of the most important people in your lives for that entire school year. When your baby isn’t with you he/she will be with their teacher. That teacher has anywhere from twenty to well over thirty other students to take care of, wrangle, educate and inspire. Teaching is not an easy job and I respect my teacher friends and family completely because they deal with more insanity than we can’t even imagine.

I’m not a butt kissing kind of person. I’m too authentic for that. I’ve had anywhere from texting/facebooking/socializing friendships with my kid’s teachers to cordial volunteering and holiday gifts relationships. I bring this up because I’ve seen on forums that parents should bribe and kiss a teachers butt for preferential treatment.

I’m against this whole butt kissing to get what you want attitude in school completely. I do think you can respect a teacher, be helpful and adore everything they do without being a fake sycophant.

Having said all that I do think that parents should be exceptionally generous to our rockin teachers when it comes to gifts. Why? Simply because they deserve it not because parents should be crawling up their butts.

What does a teacher really need from you?

Patience first and support next. Your child’s teacher is going to be the person who is going to have to be the buffer between other parents and the classroom. If there is any flack for policies or accommodations because of your child’s food allergies then the teacher is going to get it. The teacher is going to need you to be patience and supportive in any way you can. Sometimes things may become difficult for you, your child and the teacher so they are going to need you as much as you need them. It’s not easy to advocate for one in a crowd of thirty even if it is their job.

If possible volunteer as much as you can and especially during field trips and class parties. Don’t be a pest about it but be present, helpful and full of awesomeness.

You will want to discuss how your child’s teacher manages food related parties in the classroom.

What is the policy on classroom party or holiday celebrations?

What about birthday parties?

If parties are allowed then you have to weigh two things – if your child has a severe allergy do you want to push for a no party policy OR can a non-food related party option be offered? What about store bought and approved allergy friendly foods that are safe for everyone to eat? What if they party outside of the classroom and you provide alternatives? The goal is to keep the learning environment safe first.

My son’s allergies are not as severe as my daughter’s. Ever since preschool I have offered allergy friendly snacks and provide them. His teachers keep the snacks on hand and he is happy to have his own treat when other food is offered that he cannot have. I am fine with this. He is fine with this. A lot of parents ask me what allergy friendly goodies they can provide for him for birthdays and holidays and I am beyond appreciative of it. I don’t demand it. It works for his situation.

My daughter is a different story. She cannot physically come into contact with some of her allergens without breaking out in hives. If she touches that allergen and it gets into her mouth, eyes or nasal passages it can be fatal. Classroom parties cannot happen around her. Period. It can kill her.

Alternatives have been parties outside, on the grass or lunch benches, at the end of the day before school lets out where she has a treat she can safely have that we provide or everyone gets an allergy friendly snack. Her classroom has to be free of the allergens so when she is sitting at her desk to learn she can learn without being at risk. Yes, this has cause some serious problems with pushy parents and not so strict teachers. This is where her 504 Plan and IEP became necessary.

Once a parent had pushed a classroom party with food that wasn’t safe, the teacher folded, money had already been collected for this unapproved party and my daughter was going to be in a very high risk situation. I was furious. She was devastated. Canceling it would have meant possible social backlash for her and myself because of the parents behind it. The party was outside, my daughter and friends got to party with the principal for an hour and it all worked out. It was a choice to be flexible and find an alternative and it worked out.

It also never happened again.

I try to do everything possible to offer reasonable alternatives that make peace because she’s gotta learn to be flexible while being a great advocate for herself. Life is full of choices and she does learn that sometimes situations aren’t accommodating but we can find kick butt solutions that are more fun anyway. Be open to reasonable alternatives that don’t put your child at risk.

Unfortunately, not everyone is reasonable so sometimes I throw down her disability rights card over their death cupcakes and they can juice up on the hate-o-rade all they want.

Popsicle parties are a huge hit. A bigger hit over cupcakes and donuts on a hot day. Allowing younger children to have a bubble party on the grass before school lets out is also a hit. A special reading time, pajama and movie party or even an “electronics day” are awesome alternatives. My point is that the possibilities are truly endless that a school celebration doesn’t have to focus on any kind of food.

Sometimes teachers want to offer a class party as an incentive and it is part of their lesson plan so try to work with them on it. I have, on many occasions, provided the teacher with snacks for the entire classroom that were allergy friendly so that he/she did not have to worry about reading ingredients or making a mistake. I donate these to the school or classroom and I am happy to do so. I know that not everyone can make this happen but if it is within your abilities then it’s a wonderful way to give back to the school.

I can’t set out an exact plan for you or your child when it comes to school. There are just way too many variables and circumstances. I find that every year changes for us so I can imagine you are all dealing with an ever changing deck as well.

My approach hasn’t been without hurdles. It’s far from flawless. I am the first to provide as many reasonable alternatives, resources and support but I am also the absolute first to throw a verbal choke slam down and sprinkle it with some word-fu as needed to make sure my daughter is safe. My daughter’s health situation is very difficult and life threatening. On top of her having food allergies she also has juvenile idiopathic arthritis, an autoimmune disease, eczema, asthma and chronic urticaria. She is a happy, thriving and amazing self advocate who has known a lot of unfortunate struggles. I never thought she would be able to attend middle school safely but she is now.

Food Allergies and Classroom Parties

The biggest compliments I’ve ever received have to do with how amazing, well informed and strong she is when it comes to her health and struggles.

I’m not a medical professional. I’m just like every other allergy parent out there. All I can offer everyone reading this is some insight into our world and hope that it helps in some way. It’s not easy and I’ve been on this road for awhile now and will continue ninja kicking, with my allergy princess of doom by my side, to happiness in this seemingly selfish death cupcake filled world.

Oh and feel free to comment or drop me an email with any questions you have about food allergies. I can offer advice, support and encouragement to help our ever expanding food allergy community.

Thank you all for stopping by.

Live, laugh and ninja kick.

ninjakicktodayintheface

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Birthday Parties in the Classroom

When a food allergy debate pops up on the interwebs I start getting flooded with links and my awesome people asking me how I feel about it or asking if I will chime in. The scenario is usually the same – Someone out there is annoyed that his or her child cannot bring what they want to school because of someone’s food allergies. This week Carina Hoskisson on Huffington Post is asking why my child’s allergies mean she cannot bring her homemade death cupcakes to school for her beloved child’s birthday.

Update: The same article was also posted to “Today’s Mama”. 

Well, she isn’t asking about my daughter specifically, but very well could have so I decided to answer directly. Carina, let me clear up some obvious misconceptions you have about this topic and maybe give you some insight so you, along with your friends, can stop whining about this potentially fatal topic.

“All over the country parents are being asked to accommodate the specialized needs of other people’s children thanks to the skyrocketing number of food allergies and food intolerances. (They both have similar symptoms, but intolerances are generally considered less serious and not life-threatening.) “

Correction – Parents are being asked to accommodate the specialized needs of children who have a disability and need to have a safe, secure and functional school setting so they can attend for the purpose of school. That purpose of school is to learn, not to eat cupcakes or celebrate your child’s birthday party. It doesn’t matter if there was one student or twenty in the classroom – their disability and legal rights trumps your preferences for birthday parties. Period.

You can throw a pity party with cupcakes over that fact if you want.

Additionally, reactions to food allergies and a food intolerance are very different. One should not be taken more or less seriously than another. Intolerances should not be considered less serious because you are assuming there isn’t an autoimmune disease that is triggered by said intolerance. Ultimately, it is irrelevant if it’s an anaphylactic reaction or an intolerance because both are an unfortunate disability for that child. Don’t make light of either of them because you simply don’t understand the difference. We live in the age where information is at our fingertips any time we want – use it.

“To a certain extent, I get it. “

No you obviously don’t…. But, nice try.

“I would never endanger the life of a child over a peanut butter cookie; that would be ridiculous.”

Then you are obviously ridiculous because you contradict this attempt at making yourself not seem like a selfish person who cares more about the type of cupcake you want for your kid rather than the well being of a child. Or did you mean you would only accommodate over a peanut butter cookie and not any other fatal allergens?

“My children’s school requires that we only provide store-bought treats because some children have allergies or dietary restrictions.”

You are misinformed and assuming on this one. Most school districts along with PTA policies state that any food brought to the classroom for celebration or part of an event has to be store bought and pass safety regulations. This has to do with liability. Same goes for school events when they have to research vendors who are serving food. Your lovely, homemade, buttery, gluten-stuffed cake may give the kids food poisoning. No one wants their children being fed listeria, e coli or salmonella no matter how delicious you claim them to be.

“I don’t always get to eat what people are serving, but I certainly don’t demand that my friend make me a separate cake for me on her birthday.”

Your egg white allergies and sainthood for not demanding that your friends make a separate cake have nothing to do with what is appropriate inside a classroom. It’s honestly a little pathetic that you would even try to compare the two just to make you seem like you “get” it.

“Some schools have even gone the route of banning all classroom birthdays and celebrations, which is ridiculous.”

Actually, a lot of school districts banned classroom parties because they take up valuable classroom instructions. All schools should ban classroom birthday parties from school NOT because of food allergies but because children are in school to learn not to eat your damn cupcakes for your child. Why is the classroom YOUR platform to have the party you deem worthy of your kid? Why do you feel entitled to take away an hour of instruction from twenty to thirty other kids because you want them make your kid feel special? You think it’s selfish for your child not to eat cupcakes or whatever crap you want to bring, but a lot of people don’t even want their kids eating junk food or taking away classroom time for your kid.

The classroom is not for your celebrations no matter what the occasion. Have a party at the park after school. Prepare whatever the crap kind of cake you want in your home and have thirty kids get hopped up on sugar on your own time and dime. It’s not the school’s responsibility to host your child’s party, but it is the school’s responsibility to keep their students safe.

“However, my kid shouldn’t have to forgo his birthday cake because yours can’t eat it.”

“The fear of one shouldn’t outweigh the rest.”

“Let’s stop the allergy insanity, and let the rest of them eat cake…”

This is where I lose my temper on people who have little common sense or compassion for others.

No one is telling you to forgo your son’s birthday cake because another child can’t eat it. You are being asked not to do it in the classroom that would harm another child.

I will be very blunt about this – Your child’s birthday cake does not mean more than my daughter’s life. If you truly think that your death cupcakes are more important than a child’s life, then I am so thankful not to know you. It makes me sick that parents would try to fight to put my daughter’s life in danger over a birthday party at school.

Your child’s birthday party in the classroom could easily take away the rest of my daughter’s birthdays. Could you live with that? Or would you just justify a tragedy like that with “Well, it’s the girl’s fault for even being in my kid’s classroom.”

Your view on how your child’s birthday should be celebrated in a classroom is completely selfish, uninformed and you should be embarrassed for sitting down at your keyboard and whining about it. You should seriously stop whining about how hard the world is for your child’s birthday party to be inconvenienced because of food allergies and maybe be a little thankful that this is the least of your worries in your, obviously, perfect world.

The road of food allergies for my daughter has been filled with people like you and I have gone out of my way to do everything in my power to work with other parents, make sure she is safe and even throw down her legal rights over their entitled preconceived notions. Ultimately, we always win and situations like this help me weed out the people who are not worth our energy. I am constantly thankful for the caring, open minded, selfless and compassionate people in my life that don’t even flinch at any accommodations they CHOOSE to make for my daughter’s safety.

They love her that much not to be such a jerk over what she cannot control and that could end her life.

I do not know you at all. I am trying so very hard not to judge you. I’m simply going off of what you have put out there in your article which, to me, just screams “Yet another uninformed, entitled parent, who doesn’t want to think outside the box and they want to bitch and moan over the world not being the way they want it to be”. I do hope that you can see outside your misinformation and assumptions and maybe grow a little more from this.

However, if you still think that your child’s cupcakes inside the classroom are more important than my daughter’s life then I will gladly show you multiple things that you can shove somewhere uncomfortably. 

I’m not going to apologize for my tone, harsh words or visuals. They also make me laugh despite how angry I am.

For everyone who gave me a heads up about this article – Thank you. For all of you who I know through my blog, or “real life” who have been cheering my daughter on or appreciating how much I advocate for kids who deal with people like this or those who are in the same boat as us – this is all for you.

For my not so baby girl who now reads my blog regularly and helps encourage me to keep fighting the good fight for her – I love you and your health hurdles have never been and never will be anything negative in our world. They are simply you and nothing more. Don’t let people like this hold you back or get you down. You are an amazing self advocate who is compassionate, caring and a better person for the struggles you have had to face in a world surrounded by people like this. I’m proud of you. Focus on the rad people out there who have your back. Oh and please… clean your room! 

Thanks for stopping by my ninjas. Let’s all keep living, laughing and ninja kicking to happiness and a, hopefully, more compassionate place.

Update 2/23/14: I decided to finish an article about how I manage food allergies and classroom parties for my children. If you are looking for some insight on how we make it a success and overcome hurdles hopefully you will find it of use. Thank you all for the amazing response to this. 

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Walk a Mile in My Shoes or… Not?

It has been said many times, “No one understands what severe food allergies are like until they experience it themselves.” But, I think it’s more accurate to say that those who don’t understand is because they don’t want to experience it or ever care to. That may seem harsh or mean but if someone cared enough to understand the painful reality of someone else’s path then they would try. 

When my daughter was diagnosed with life threatening food allergies I was prepared to do what was necessary to keep her healthy and safe. What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of negativity, judgment and asses out there that would, for whatever reason, had to fling their nasty word poo at us like angry entitled monkeys.

That visual? Freaking priceless.

Thankfully, but unfortunately I suppose, I grew up with tough skin and learned at a young age how to deal with people who just like to be mean and feel entitled. It wasn’t something I expected to use to defend my infant, toddler and now ten year old daughter.

I’ve had minor food allergies and eczema since I was a kid and watched my brother, cousins and relatives deal with similar my entire life. At that time, I thought that defined what food allergies were because that was the extend of my experience. No one had life threatening food allergies in my family and I hadn’t heard of an EpiPen until my daughter was a month old. No one I knew could possibly die from anaphylaxis shock if they ate the wrong food… everyone just got uncomfortable when they ate something they shouldn’t have and benadryl fixed it.

So, I get the not understanding something when you don’t experience it first hand. But, is that a valid reason or just an empty excuse to just not care? And regardless of the not knowing or not understanding… why are some people so vile? Why can’t they just be cool or leave it be?

These are not the shoes you expected but you learn to walk in the just the same…

When your life goes from having a vague understanding of something to living the truth of it, everything changes and you don’t usually have time to try to adjust. I wish my daughter did not have the hurdles she constantly faces but it has become a source of strength, resources, humor (we have to laugh about it) and inspiration…

It also became a source of WTF moments and frustrations when it comes to other people and their opinions.

Changing our diet and lifestyle so that it was safe for her seemed like a logical step. Certain foods can kill her so keep those foods away. Simple for us, however, a source of annoyance, judgment and anger for others.

Some of you may be wondering why my daughter’s food allergies are a source of negativity for anyone? Well, I’m still trying to figure that out and I probably won’t ever understand it completely.

I spent many years being angry and resentful towards others who were so wrapped up in their own selfish worlds that they could not have sympathy or compassion for a girl who could die from their death cupcakes. I just accept it now. Okay, I accept it, shake my head and want to shake them but I won’t waste my time on them. No one will listen to what I have to say if they aren’t even willing to hear something other than their own voice.

I won’t just take it from them and I won’t stop advocating for my kids. I have just reached a point where I accept that some people just do not get it or do not want to. This holds true with most topics for people on opposing points of views but to prevent me from getting ranty I will just stay on point with the food allergy thing.

Did you really just say that?!

I have heard ridiculous accusations since becoming a mother of a kid who has life threatening food allergies. I never pretend to be coy in these matters and I’m sure I could handle things better. If someone has the nerve to press my mama bear buttons when it comes to my children or the people I love there is little room to backtrack. On the other hand I do have a deep, yet annoying, understanding that some people just don’t get it and I try to educate rather than berate.

I’ve mentioned on twitter and facebook some of the insanity that people have said and was shocked at how many of my ninjas were shocked at anyone saying these things. It’s become such a sad expected response that when it’s not an issue I’m pleasantly surprised.

So, I decided to make a little list. I’m not going to go into details on who said it or what I said… just some internal monologue for kicks. Yes, these things have been said to me or about us and many of which were said more than once.

People are so rad.

“There is no such thing as food allergies”Yes, no such thing. There also isn’t a clue in your pea-head.

“No one can die from food allergies”Absolutely, tell that to the grieving parents, widows and siblings who have lost someone to anaphylaxis shock.

“What did you do when you were pregnant to make her like this”All I can say to this is that the visuals inside my head were like a scene from Matrix, Game of Thrones and Dragonball Z combined.

“You just need to toughen her up with the food she is allergic to and give her more of it”Nothing says ‘toughening up’ like angioedema, urticaria and anaphylaxis. People who claim this toughening up nonsense never know what those three words mean and that always proves my point.

“She is making it up for attention” … What is wrong with people?

“How do you deal with it?”This one isn’t so bad depending on the situation but I felt it should be mentioned. How do you deal with a child who doesn’t want to go to sleep? A picky eater? A cold? A sudden change of plans? A restaurant not serving your favorite meal anymore? You just do and some handle it better than others. I don’t handle everything the best that I could but I try damn hard to.

“It’s not fair to XYZ to have to go without these things because of her”Apply this to me, siblings, my family, her classmates… It is said or implied many ways and often. Sometimes it’s much more pointed and accusatory while others it’s honestly innocent or purposely passive aggressive. When it comes down to it, I feel, the priority goes to the person who could lose their LIFE over a decision where others could just be inconvenienced. If it wasn’t my kid who was teetering on that death line the answer would still be the same. Life is always more important than inconvenience.

“Why would you want to have more children who could end up like her?”I’ve never gotten over this one and probably never will. I hope all my children and the children in our lives “end up like her”. She is kind, strong, funny, social, outgoing, polite and a bit insane (in a good way). Sure, she can be lazy, argumentative, bold and tries to go against me at times… because she is a ten year old going on diva. My daughter isn’t “the allergy kid” or “the one with the autoimmune disease” and never “the sick kid”… she is just my kid. I love her endlessly and unconditionally and when she damages my calm I want to rip my hair out just the same. Yes, it had and has crossed my mind many times what the roll of the dice could be if I had another and I just look at my son who has mild food allergies, mild asthma and mild insanity. He is insane because of his personality not because of an illness. I could have another who could be in his shoes, hers, neither or worse. Regardless, does that mean I shouldn’t raise amazing people or expand my family because there might be a health hurdle or two? If so then how come these same people with that judgmental tone aren’t evaluating their genetic lines and choosing not to breed because of a possible genetic issue? If I birthed another child who had the same, or worse, health hurdles as my ten year old princess of doom, then, we would simply be more prepared. If I knew everything I did then, that I know now, I would have saved myself a lot of sleepless night, tears and gray hairs.

“Don’t you miss (insert food allergen here)”I would miss her more.

“Isn’t it hard that she isn’t a normal kid?”If you look at her grades, the mess she tries to hide in her closet, her collection of knick knacks and the music she insists on torturing me with then yes, she is exactly like every other kid. If you look at her health records, diet, supplements and medication then no… I guess not. When she was an infant everyone thought it would be too hard to travel with her. We have been to or through half the states in the US. It was assumed she would not be able to go to school, participate in activities or have a ‘normal’ social life… well, she goes to school (not without hurdles), she is involved in whatever activities she wants (yes, I have to manage, lead or be active in the most of the time) and she has more awesome friends than we are able to juggle on her social calendar. She is a normal kid with some extra stuff thrown in.

Damn them all! Or Damn the Man and Save the Empire!

I could talk to every judgmental, opinionated or downright malicious person who has ever uttered a word of judgment on my daughter or I and explain, in detail, with doctor’s records and proof of everything we go through… but it wouldn’t make a difference. Yes, it’s draining and it sucks to have to deal with so much of it. It hurts, it damages and it causes massive problems. I can’t change the fact that those people will always be there. Some may stop their negativity but there will always be more.

All I can do, and all I can teach her to do, is accept that there are people who will support, understand and accept her and there are those that won’t. We can’t change those that won’t because they don’t want to be anything other than righteous and set in their ways… and that is fine. Let them be. No matter how much proof, struggles or inspiring moments someone won’t see the truth of it if they don’t want to. We can’t waste our time on people who, in the end, won’t reciprocate positives in our lives and only weigh us down. We have to accept them and move forward.

There are exceptions to the rules, of course, and my blog has been a seed for that growth. I’ve had countless emails and messages from those that have been changed or inspired because of what we share and those are moments I absolutely relish.

And on the other hand I have had my fair share of flaming, anger, drama and weirdness. Eh, I prefer to delete those and look at the awesomeness… and yes, sometimes laugh at it. Okay, I laugh at the ridiculousness a lot and make fun of it with my friends. It’s how I deal with things… and it makes me laugh.

I would rather be laughing than fighting pointless battles in a pissing contest of who is right and who is a jackass. I also want my kids to learn to let those things go and be happy no matter what. I will come in and lay a can of whoop ass on the table if I need to in order to protect my kids… but the small battles? It’s just not worth the energy spent. They can either choose to accept and be a positive part of things or kick rocks.

If you find yourself dealing with similar situations, and not just with food allergies, with anything. Just remember, your life is your choice and no one can control that. They can try, but in the end, how you deal with every situation and how you resolve them are up to you. There is a lot of negativity, judgment and jerks in the world and nothing will change that. Just sidestep it, don’t get sucked in. Let it roll off your shoulders the best you can and keep moving forward to find your happiness because it won’t be defined by someone else’s bitterness or judgments.

Even I lose sight of that sometimes and get weighed down by it. Then, I need a reality check and a kick in the ass and remember that life truly is too short to be miserable. I’d rather be laughing, making the most of it and getting through it.

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Chronic Urticaria (Hives)

Earlier I posted a picture of my daughter’s urticaria aka hives on Instagram. It’s not my usual funny faces, nature and random acts of silly I put out there but there was a reason. I got some amazing feedback and a couple people who thought it was wrong I posted it because it made them uncomfortable.

I get that… it makes her uncomfortable too.

It was a mild reaction, thankfully. When I picked up my daughter from school she was her usual happy, brave and optomistic self but I can always see that look of fear behind it all. When the benadryl kicks in her stress levels (and mine) drop. The school secretary always compliments us on how amazing she handles these hurdles. That means the world to me.

These situations are not easy in the slightest. As much as I am freaking out on the inside I deal with it all very matter of fact, with a smile on my face and try to keep her calm. A reaction can go from okay to really bad quickly and we have to be able to deal with it as it comes. Not a situation where I should be losing my shit.

Seriously, I want to run around screaming – freaking out – yelling and fall apart. Hives can turn into anaphylaxis shock and she could die from it. However, I have to be cool. I wasn’t this time. As soon as we got in the car I started crying. She isn’t used to that. I knew she was okay at that point and I explained I was just mostly sad for her. She hasn’t been doing well lately and right when we had a couple of weeks of being on the seemingly upswing this came out of nowhere.

To quote Rory “Pond” from Doctor Who: “Oh god, I was going to be cool. I wanted to be cool. Look at me.”

I actually said that and it made her laugh and broke my moment of uncoolness. I’m so thankful that my daughter loves Doctor Who. She even said “Hey! That is what Rory said in a Good Man Goes to War!” (I am so proud)

Anyway,

She has idiopathic chronic urticaria which basically means she gets hives constantly often from an unknown and unexplanable source… sometimes.

She also has life threatening food allergies, mild arthritis and an autoimmune disease.

Yet, she is the happiest kid you will ever meet and stronger than most adults I know.

When she gets a reaction a few things go through my head. First – is it going to be an anaphylactic reaction? What caused it? How is she feeling emotionally and physically?

We discuss what happened or what may have caused it. I take notes, pictures and write down any pertinent information. We decide what needs to be changed if anything. Then we find a way to distract from the moment while her medicines kick in. If it was a severe reaction we would be off to the emergency room…

Thankfully, it rarely comes to that since we have control over what we can.

But, there is always that wild care with the idiopathic chronic urticaria. We just have to make the most of what we can.

When she had the reaction this week and took the picture for our records she asked me if I would share it online. I hesitated. She explained that most people don’t understand what she goes through until they see it. She knows that I explain what she goes through but it’s different if you see it. She compared it to “reading novels” compared to comic “graphic novels” and how what you picture in your head may not be the way the writer intended.

My ten year old girl is wise beyond her years.

Anytime I talk about her health on my blog she gets full editing rights. She has reached an age where she is taking a big step towards advocating for kids who feel a little different. She is brave, strong and loving… I’m now in a position where I guide her through this and heed caution when needed. It’s honestly beautiful. I sincerely hope that sharing these low moments are insightful. When we share the good moments that we grasp I hope they are inspiring.

Either way… thank you all for being a part of our world of madness.

I am writing an e-book about food allergies (there will be a few of them because it’s a lot to cover) and she is now a big part of the process. It’s always had to do with her story and our struggles but she is giving me so much insight and perspective from her point of view. I love that I can include that. 

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Everyone Has Misconceptions About Egg Allergies… Even Me

When I was a kid I knew my brother, some cousins and a few friends had an egg allergy. I remember one of my cousins telling me that she can’t eat a scrambled egg because it will make her skin itch but it can be in baked foods and she is fine.

I thought she was crazy for that.

I had, until recently, mild food allergies my whole life. If I ate too much pork I would get a little itchy. Nothing major. I knew it could be harmful but I hadn’t experienced that first hand.

I always figured that if someone has an allergy to something like eggs then it’s as simple as just not eating them. But, it is much more than that.

How Severe Can An Egg Allergy Really Be?

When my daughter was a month old I nursed her after eating eggs and she broke out in hives and went into anaphylactic shock. I knew she was probably allergic to eggs and maybe other things I ate that day. That moment changed me. I didn’t experience the physical reaction myself but it was a feeling that can’t be erased. That is where our journey from her egg allergy began.

She was an infant and I was on an allergy friendly diet when she was nursing. I picked a few veggies and meats out of a chinese egg noodle dish. I didn’t think the small contact would be an issue. She spent the night in pain and covered in hives. I didn’t make that mistake again and I learned about cross contamination.

I made scrambled eggs when she was a toddler. She was on the other side of the room. They weren’t done cooking and I hadn’t gone near her when she started screaming. She was breaking out in hives and having difficulty breathing. It was her egg allergy. She was so sensitive that the tiny proteins flying through the air were enough to make her break out.

Eggs were no longer cooked in the house.

She ate off a plate and her hives, pain and crying were terrible after that meal. I discovered that the last food on that plate was a breakfast burrito and it just wasn’t washed well.

She snuggled on her grandpa’s bed and watched TV with him when she was five. Her head rested on him. Within an hour she started to scream. Her eye and eyeball had started to swell. I rushed her to the doctor and we were all in shock. We flushed her eye, her benadryl had kicked in and she was fine. Turns out he had eggs and toast for breakfast. We could only assume it was her egg allergy.

I didn’t even know most of these things that happened to her were possible.

When Egg Allergies Change and so Does the Research

My daughter’s egg allergies were off the charts along with milk. They have always been the scare-me-to-freaking-death allergies. The slightest exposure to eggs caused her to have serious reactions.  I couldn’t keep them in the house and dining anywhere that cooked eggs was a risk… I always had to stress to them how important her  egg allergies were.

The reactions were so extreme that people thought I was crazy and making it up. I would simply say screw them but understood that it was something you had to see to understand.

But, I should not ever have to justify the measures that I took to keep her safe. People are going to believe what they want. I can’t change it. Makes me less stressed being able to accept that. I’ve just always wanted to see those allergies drop so they weren’t so scary.

A couple years ago there was a slight drop in her egg allergies. It was very very very slight. But that drop was something I noticed. It didn’t even drop a category but it was the first glimmer of possible hope.

Slowly that egg allergy dropped on her tests. I didn’t even talk about it. I was sure it was going to go back up. We wanted to be sure. Her allergist and immunologist and I had talked about the advancements in Oral Immunotherapy and how they are proving that most people with egg allergies can tolerate eggs in baked goods.

When egg is cooked for at least 30 minutes at a high temperature it breaks down the protein that causes the body to have an allergic reaction. It’s as if the body doesn’t recognize it.

He felt she was now ready to start introducing egg in her diet following strict procedures. Usually, a food challenge would happen in a clinical setting but he was confident we could do this at home since he feels I am educated, capable and trusts I can follow the procedure.

At that moment I told him I wished I sucked at this and he should just make me do the challenge in office. He laughed. We could have but why drag out a 5 hour procedure in the hospital when we have options?

Please do not ever try anything on your own without consulting your doctor. Ever. 

Egg Allergies and Food Challenge aka OMG I WANT TO FREAK OUT BUT CAN’T

I bought organic, free range eggs for the first time in ten years. I placed eggs in my own refrigerator for the first time in ten years. I baked with eggs instead of applesauce. I cracked an egg… which I lost my touch! I had to fish out shells. I was still in paranoid egg allergy mode so I immediately tossed out the egg shells and wiped everything down. I cleaned up every bowl and utensil as I was done with them.

The gluten free brownies went into the oven and I made myself busy.

I was freaking the frack out on the inside but on the outside I was trying to be cool.

I will save all the details of the boring procedure of the food challenge. Needless to say she passed.

SHE FREAKING PASSED.

My daughter ate eggs for the first time in her entire life.

And when it was in the clear and we knew that she was for sure okay. We started to cry. I cried harder. She was crying for joy of all those things she will be able to eat and I was crying for feeling a huge weight lifted off of us.

It will be some time until she can eat a scrambled egg. The egg allergy may go away entirely or it may come back in full force. We just don’t know. Which is why we focus on the here and the now. Right now… it’s freaking amazing to say that her egg allergy is easier to control.

I shared this on facebook and the 125+ likes and dozens of supportive comments meant the world to us. I always show her those supportive responses. To all of you that stop by, read our updates and are a part of this journey we are forever grateful. You all rock and are the reason I share these moments. Thank you for all the awesomeness.

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You Don’t Expect This with your Infant

Food allergies are not unknown to me as I have battled my own minor allergies and watched my brother struggle with his allergies and eczema our entire childhood.

Does anyone ever expect their children to be unhealthy? I think we focus on what will they look like? Who will they take after? Will they have my big feet? Will they love me?

You don’t wonder… will my child be born with a life threatening condition like food allergies? Or will my child’s skin be so sensitive that they bleed, scar and spend days crying in pain?

We know about these things but we don’t really dwell on them. Or, we try not to.

At a month old my daughter broke out in hives and went into anaphylaxis shock from nursing. I was holding my infant and she turned all shades of colors, swelled up and broke out in hives.

I will never forget that terrifying moment.

Figuring Out How to Manage Allergies and Eczema isn’t Easy

I went on a food elimination diet to figure out what she was allergic to. It was over 20 things by the time she was a year old. There was no formula on the market that she wasn’t allergic to so I had to nurse (which was better for her anyway) and I had to be on her diet. Boy was I skinny!

She was so sensitive that if I cooked eggs in the house she would break out. If I touched cheese then touched her then she broke out in hives. If friends came over and sat down on our couch and she sat on it after them she would break out because of the different foods, outdoor allergens or pets they were exposed to. Dyes, caffeine and medicines caused adverse reactions.

It sounds crazy. I felt crazy. Each day presented a new challenge.

She had terrible eczema. The kind where her skin bled and she couldn’t stop scratching. She could only wear cotton. Do you know how hard that was? Organic was preferred but back then it was so expensive. I had to sew gloves and socks to her clothes so she couldn’t get to her skin and scratch them. No matter how hot it was she had to be completely covered. I barely slept when she was an infant and toddler because I would wake up trying to keep her from scratching. She has scars on her legs, feet and arms from her infant eczema. It’s fading over the years and looks like a faint discoloration in areas but it still breaks my heart to see remembering the pain she was constantly in.

Doctors only wanted to pump her full of medicine that would cause long term damage and one even told me that children with these extreme issues don’t often live full lives because there isn’t much that can be done. He said that kids who can’t experience a full life, who spend it isolated also develop depression. Everything out there in the world and everywhere we go is centered around food. It was impossible, he said.

I refused to accept that. I was told these things often. Medicate, give steroids and pump her full of medicine and deal with the long term side effects later.

I saw what traditional medicine did long term and I wanted a solution not a medicine to cover up symptoms. Not an isolated life. All of this just sounded like bullshit.

Not Accepting Limitations and Never Giving Up aka Why I Believe in Ninja Kicking

I wanted to figure out how to let her live a full life where her body could grow without an insane amount of medicines and her to be healthy one day.

I wasn’t told it was impossible just improbable. It was assumed to be too hard.

I studied. I became active on forums and I learned as much as I could. I charted everything she ate, her bowel movements and her sleeping patterns. I was able to determine a soy allergy based on the change in her bowel movements and sleeping patterns before her blood tests came back positive. I realized how much of what we consume directly influences our bodies, mind and temperament. I went through a lot of shit doctors and I, thankfully, found some amazing ones.

I had found an allergist who worked closely with a wellness nutritionist and homeopath. I went into that appointment when she was a toddler expecting to get a mountain of knowledge and direction. Instead, I was given confirmation that exactly what I had discovered on my own was what I needed to do.

Even the supposedly extreme measures that some people thought I was crazy over. Things like not allowing friends to bring food inside my home because my daughter could get sick from it. Or expecting friends to wash their hands when they came over. They thought I was being a bitch and it was all in my head. I don’t miss them.

I found solutions. When I took her to the park I wiped down the swings so there weren’t issues with allergens. I had a blanket that she would use on the slide. We never sat on benches but I always had a picnic blanket. When we went to an amusement park or museum then we avoided food places and I took extra precautions. I just made it work.

If others judge me for my choices all I can ever say is they have no idea what it’s like to be in my shoes. I don’t ever want anyone to pity my journey in motherhood just as I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for my daughter. We are better for it. We are stronger for it. I would not be the same person that I am had I not been down this road and she would not be the same amazing kid she has become. A kid who still has typical flaws like attitude, not cleaning her room and “forgetting” her homework.

Yes, it sucks that anyone has to endure some kind of pain and I would never wish this journey on anyone. I refused to allow it to be a crutch for us no matter how hard or isolating it was. I refused to allow her health hurdles to prevent her from having a life like any other kid. We have accomplished just that to the point where daily considerations over her health are as natural as breathing.

Allergies and Eczema Studies Are Finally Making Progress… And so are my daughter’s

When it comes to allergies and eczema we only have two solutions: Avoid and Suppress. Avoid all your allergens (which actually is easier than you may expect) and suppress the reactions. Those options kind of suck.

Sometimes the body “forgets” it is allergic to something. It is less reactive and on alert. This is part of the way a person will “grow out of” an allergy.

Now there is a new way. Oral Immunotherapy which is basically giving your child a small amount of the food they are allergic to and over time it builds up a tolerance. This study has been done over the years and researches have confirmed this year that egg is among the allergens that are successful in oral immunotherapy.

When eggs are cooked at a high temperature for at least 30 minutes the egg proteins break down so the body doesn’t recognize them as egg proteins.

Over the last few years my daughter’s egg allergy has gone from off the charts high to a category 3 and now a 2. This is amazing. It’s huge. I honestly never thought I would see a drop like this in an allergy that I couldn’t even keep in the house! I never thought we could eat so many different foods together. I didn’t expect her to have so many options. She went from over 20 allergies and slowly started to “grow out” of them over the years. Now she is down to around 5. It always changes and always will and we embrace that. And we enjoy the hell out of the progress!

As we figure out how to control her diet then her general health improves and especially her eczema. I don’t have to smother her in steroid creams. She can wear synthetic fibers in her clothing.

Food. Skin. Asthma. Temperament. My sanity. Food allergies. It’s all connected, but, not in a continuous cycle but more like a finely woven web that depends on each strand to stay strong.

Kid’s who were so allergic to peanuts that they couldn’t be in the same room as them have gone through oral immunotherapy successfully. As the studies continue there are huge improvements with food allergies from when my brother and I were growing up, til ten years ago when I watched my infant break out in hives and swelled up to now.

It makes me hopeful for the future for not only my daughter but all kids who deal with the pain, fear and difficulties both physically and emotionally from food allergies.

She may always have food allergies. She may one day have the freedom to live without fear. Either way we are going to make the most of it, enjoy each moment and be as silly as possible.

Related Posts:

Food Allergies and School Issues

Food Allergies and Girl Scout Cookies

When Your Child Tries to Push the Food Allergies and Limits

When people wish Harm on your child because of food allergies and because they are assholes

When Food Allergies Empower an Independent and Thoughtful Child

How to be cool about food allergies at Birthday Parties

And something really funny about PEANUT allergies <– this will make you laugh. Lots. Give it a read.

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