Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Allergy Alert Bracelets

I found a new type of allergy alert bracelet that is very kid friendly.  The site also has necklaces and will soon be shipping bracelets that can hold more than one charm if a child has multiple allergies.
The site does have some good allergy info and is geared for kids.  I'll be saving this for Bee and we might think about ordering her a bracelet.  You can never have too many reminders!



Another site has Allerbling bracelets that allow you to customize the allergy list with charms as well as regular customized medical ID bracelets.  This site also offers cute allergy tattoos.  The Allerbling site is found here.


Here's a site with sport bracelets that can be engraved.

 Bee would love these bracelets but they aren't exactly easy on the wallet for a kids' bracelet.  But they sure are cute!

And here's another site with multiple options and another.........

Ok, we're going to have to sort through our options but I think Bee may need a bracelet for part of her birthday present in April. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Eating Out with Food Allergies

Is it possible to eat out with food allergies?  Yes, technically it is possible.  I'm not sure it's exactly advisable, but it sure is nice to entertain the thought of having someone else cook dinner for you and then clean it up.

So, if you're brave enough to eat out with food allergies, here are my suggestions:

Call first-Eating out with allergies takes planning ahead and should not be a last minute venture.  Always call the restaurant ahead of time to discuss options and make sure they can accommodate you.

Talk with the manager and the chef-Don't pose your questions to the hostess or even a member of the wait staff.  Ask to speak directly to the manager and also the chef.

Have your allergen list handy while you talk to the restaurant-Go over each item on your list and ask the manager and chef if there are menu items that would be safe for you or if they can prepare something especially for you.

Stress proper preparation to avoid cross-contamination-I always mention to the manager that the food must be prepared using clean and dedicated cookware and utensils.

Ask questions-If the manager mentions that steamed vegetables are safe for you ask exactly how they are prepared.  (What seasonings are used?  Is butter used?)  If they mention a certain meat dish ask questions about marinades and spices and sauces.  Think about how you would prepare that particular dish at home and question the manager to make sure he's not forgetting an ingredient or a step in the preparation process.

Be prepared to educate the staff-You might need to give the manager or chef a crash course in food allergies and safe preparation.

Take notes-Write down the menu items that are mentioned as well as any special steps the restaurant said they would need to make in order to prepare the meal for you.  Make sure you keep names of each person you spoke with over the phone.

Usually you can get a feel for if the restaurant can truly accommodate your dietary needs just through the responses of the manager and chef.  If they seem clueless, take the hint and try somewhere else.  If they seem educated and willing to work around some obstacles, you might be brave enough to give that place a try.

If you do head to a restaurant you might want to consider a few tips:

Take wipes to wipe down the table and chairs yourself-If the person before you ate something with your allergen, you don't want to take the chance that the table might not be clean enough for you.

Bring a typed list of your allergens-Keep a list of your allergens with you at all times to give out to anyone who might be preparing food for you.

Speak directly to the manager and the chef-Remind the manager and the chef about your phone conversation and about the menu items available for you.  Go over your allergens, safe preparations, and your order with both.

Keep your wait person in the loop-Make sure the wait staff is aware of the allergies and inform them that you have already discussed your order with the manager and chef.  When they bring your food, ask questions to verify that your order is correct.

And if you are able to find a few safe places to eat, cultivate a relationship with the managers and staff, maybe even bringing them some allergy-free cupcakes as a thank you.

We have been fortunate to find a couple of restaurants with knowledgeable managers, helpful chefs, and a wait staff willing to work with us.  It is such a blessing to be able to eat out on occasion and not worry because of we have excellent communication with the restaurant staff.

Monday, February 27, 2012

In the beginning....



How did we first learn about the food allergies?  How were they diagnosed?

I first suspected food allergies when we noticed Baby Bee developing a severe and persistent rash.  The doctors believed her rash was eczema and did not believe food to be the cause.  I strongly disagreed after reading many articles about different skin conditions.

I decided to try a gluten free diet while I was nursing her to see if we could note any improvements.  After one week, Bee had made many improvements-she was happier, slept better, ate better, and her rash was less inflamed.  These positive results encouraged us to have her tested for food allergies using the RAST test.

The test came back positive for most of the foods listed.  We worked to cut those foods out of my diet and Bee continue to improve each week.

The rest of the allergies we have discovered through trial and error.  Bee has reacted to many foods after eating them or even after being touched by them.

RAST tests and skin prick tests are not always accurate.  The most accurate test for an allergy is a food challenge.  Unfortunately, many of our food challenges were purely accidental but they did help us determine which foods we still needed to eliminate.

We have had some false positives on the RAST test-or maybe they were outgrown allergies.  Bee can now eat corn and legumes even though they were initially positive results on the RAST test.  She may have simply outgrown these allergies or they could have been incorrect results.

We have also had a false negative result on the RAST test.  Bee tested negative to tree nuts, but I can vouch for her almond allergy with absolute certainty.  She has since had a skin prick test for almonds and did test positive.  We are avoiding all tree nuts based on our history of reaction and the skin prick test results as well.

There are a few foods on our list that Bee has not been tested for and has not eaten.  We avoid them based on our allergic history as well as the possibility that they are related to other foods that are allergens for Bee.  We avoid kiwi because many individuals who are allergic to banana, melons, and avocado are also allergic to kiwi.  We would rather list kiwi as an allergen and avoid it, rather than risk a possible reaction.

While food challenges might be the most accurate assessment of an allergy, sometimes it's best to heed the results of the RAST and skin prick testing in order to be safe.  Without having done our elimination diet and using some trial and error, we would not have discovered Bee's diagnosis and would not be on the road to recovery.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pizza Time

We discovered a new pizza variation-diced nitrate free pepperoni with dairy-free cream sauce. 

The kids were thrilled!




Saturday, February 25, 2012

Satisfaction


A happy and full toddler who loved dinner!  There were times I never thought it would be possible!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Doctor Appointment

Well, in January we had our appointment with the immunologist.  She was very encouraged by Bee's progress.  Bee is growing well and her eczema patches are almost nonexistent.  She's had a good few months with very little itching.

We discussed her allergies and are still avoiding everything on our list.  Bee's coconut allergy seems to only be to coconut products that have not been cooked.  She has successfully eaten coconut yogurt baked into biscuits.  The doctor was going to do some more research into coconut allergies and wanted to retest her coconut allergy through a skin prick test in April.  She will also be testing her soy allergy to check the level.  We also decided to test coffee since Bee recently reacted to coffee.  The last think we'll be testing in April is dog allergy.

We discussed allergen detection dogs with the doctor.  She mentioned that at the recent conferences animal allergies and service dogs had been a popular topic.  We discussed Bee's possible allergy to dogs and the pros and cons of a service animal for her.  Our doctor was going to discuss our options with some other colleagues to help us make our decision about whether or not to continue looking into service dogs for Bee.

The doctor discussed current studies and desensitization methods.  Unfortunately Bee has too many allergies to be considered a viable candidate for any of the current options.  We're still hopeful that new research will provide some answers or a method to help Bee overcome some of her allergies.

At the end of the visit I had to ask the doctor a nagging question I had.  So often when dealing with others and explaining Bee's allergies, I am made to feel like an overly-protective and paranoid parent.  I just had to know where Bee ranked in the allergy world.  Is she average as far as allergies and reactions go?  Is it possible that there are children with many more allergens than Bee?  Or is Bee a somewhat unique case?

The doctor confirmed what I suspected: Bee is one of the worst cases the doctor sees currently.  Bee has one of the longest lists and is one of her more sensitive patients.  However, she thought that we were managing the allergies well and encouraged us to continue doing exactly what we are doing.

So, I'll continue with the cooking and the researching and the lotion applications, knowing that we're on the right track and I'm justified in being slightly neurotic.

We'll see what April holds with a skin prick test for soy, dog, coffee, and coconut.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Allergy Detection Dogs

I've recently been made aware of a new kind of service dog-allergy detection dogs.  These dogs are trained like a service animal but also to detect the scent of food allergens.  All dogs recognize the scent of peanut but can be trained to alert to additional allergens as well-such as tree nuts, milk protein, eggs, or fish.

I've found two companies that offer service dogs for allergic individuals:

Angel Service Dogs


Allergen Detection Service Dogs

We're currently discussing the possibility of an allergen alert dog as well as evaluating Bee's possible allergy to dogs. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Allergy Free Donuts

Yes!  It's a donut-a baked donut!  These were heavenly and everyone enjoyed them.  I was even talked into making another batch that very night.  It was Bee's first ever donut.  When we asked her what she thought a donut was she responded, "a chip!"  No, she soon learned that a donut is not a chip but she was thrilled with the discovery of donuts.



Sugar and Spice Donuts
1 1/2 cups flour blend (4 cups rice flour, 1 1/3 cup potato starch, 2/3 cup tapioca flour)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 teaspoons egg replacer whisked with 4 T rice milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup rice milk

Mix flour blend through nutmeg together in large bowl.  In separate bowl whisk the egg replacer, olive oil, and rice milk.  Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and blend well.  Spoon into greased donut pans, filling them 3/4 full.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Take out and turn onto cooling rack and then glaze and add sugar sprinkles.

Makes 12 donuts.

Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 T plus 1 1/2 teaspoons rice milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons Earth Balance melted
Whisk all ingredients together and pour over warm donuts.

Sugar and Spice Sprinkles
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/16 teaspoon cloves
Combine and sprinkle over glaze topping or over warm donuts.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Allergy to Wool

We can't only be allergic to food-we need to be allergic to other things too.  It just makes my life so much more interesting!

No polyester clothes!  Do you know how hard it is to find jammies with no polyester?
No doggie kisses!  That makes for fun times at the parks with all the dogs!
No cats!  We can't enter a house where a cat lives....How fun is that to explain to people?

Now, no wool.  I never even thought about other fabrics.  Bee only wears 100% cotton all the time.  But not the rest of us....polyester doesn't bother her as long as it's not actually on her.  But not wool.  No, she can't be touched by wool.  She had a horrible rash over Christmas and wool was the only culprit we could find.

Daddy was wearing a sweater and they were playing.  Rash.  We got that rash under control and went to grandma's house.  Daddy was holding her.  Rash.  Twice in a row in the same day!  It was the sweater.

That's just another thing to add to our list to discuss with our doctor.  So if we can't be around wool, what other products are dangerous?  We're going to be avoiding any products that contain lanolin.

Apparently, true wool allergy is rare.  What do you want to bet we're one of those with that rarity?  The list just keeps growing!

Monday, February 20, 2012

{Allergy Free} Waffles

We got a waffle maker for Christmas and Bee got to enjoy her first homemade waffles.  She even told her grandma that she wanted a waffle for her birthday!



Allergy Free Waffles
2 1/2 cups flour blend (4 cups rice flour, 1 1/3 cup potato starch, 2/3 cup tapioca flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups hemp milk (I use vanilla)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla 

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another.  Then pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well.  Cook according to your waffle maker's instructions.

We have a Cuisinart Waffle Maker and use 1 1/2 cups of the batter to make each batch of six waffles.  This recipe makes a total of 12 waffles on our waffle maker.  We cook them on the #4 setting which is slightly more than medium heat.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Allergy Free Valentines



We had a fun allergy free Valentine's Day at our house!  The kids got new audiobooks and we enjoyed some special cookies.  We made valentines for family and the kids made cards for each other.  How's that for a Valentine party?!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Forgetful

Sometimes I just forget....no, not about the allergies, but about what life was like before the allergies. 

Once upon a time I was blissfully unaware of allergies.  I had heard of food allergies-who hasn't heard of peanut allergies-but I had never met anyone who was a diagnosed allergy-sufferer.  I simply thought that if you avoided peanut butter you would be fine.

Enter Baby Bee.  My whole perspective has changed and I live with daily reminders of allergies and the effects of food.  At our house we use words like contraband and toxic waste to apply to something containing dairy or nuts or eggs. 

We live in a constant state of heightened awareness in order to keep Bee safe.  I read labels; I inspect other kids' hands and clothes; I have been known to stand in a room sniffing the air for a whiff of peanut butter. 

I do not have the luxury of forgetting about the allergies.  I barely have the brain cells to remember what life was like when we could head to the park with a picnic and (gasp!) sit by other children who were snacking on sandwiches and goldfish. 

But, I've learned that it's easy for others to forget.  They don't live with the food allergies and forgetfulness happens.

For me, it's difficult to fathom forgetting.  Isn't that insensitive?  Rude? 

It's really not about being calloused and uncaring.  It's about simply forgetting.  Food allergies are not on their radar.  They are blissfully unaware of the effects one small food can have on another child.

I have to remind myself not to take it personally.  Yes, it's my child's life at stake, but it's often unintentional.  In the moment, it's difficult to think that rationally. 

But, it's my job to be that advocate and constant reminder.  I have to be the one to work the allergies into every conversation, to inspect every snack, and to remove ourselves when a situation is unsafe. 

Sometimes you think that it can't be that difficult to remember.  But I try to think back, before the allergies, and wonder if I would be forgetful sometimes too. 

I guess it's all in perspective.

But it is so nice when others make that concentrated effort never to forget and to always include.  Those people do exist too, but that's for another post....

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day and Food Allergies

Valentine's Day is just another holiday that revolves around food.  Some people find it wonderful and sweet and sappy and full of chocolate.  I find it nightmare-inducing. 

So, here's to Valentine's Day and all the treats we can't have and all the parties we can't attend. 

Enjoy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Allergy to Coffee-No More Coffee for Toddlers!

Ok, no, no, no, we did not give Bee coffee.  But we do know that she's allergic to it.

Daddy often drinks coffee at night so he can make it through some late night work on tough weeks at the office.  One night he started his coffee drinking a little earlier than usual and the kids were not yet in bed.  They decided to have one last tickle fest before bed and Bee was right in the middle.

Within a few minutes one side of Bee's face started to swell and the hives began to appear.  The fun ended and we went into our emergency mode as we doctored her and watched for signs of a reaction.  After a time the swelling went down and she was able to go to sleep.  But it left us wondering what had caused her sudden swelling.

The only thing we could surmise was the coffee-the plain, medium roast, unflavored, black coffee.  I did some researching on the internet and coffee is actually a type of seed and those with severe seed allergies might react to coffee.  Seeds.......yes, we are very allergic to anything related to seeds.  I felt we had found our explanation.

But just to be sure, I called Bee's doctor.  One of the interns called me back.  He told me what I'd already discovered in my research.  I asked if a coffee allergy was common and he stated that, in the general population, a coffee allergy was very rare.  He then quickly stated that Bee was not in the general population and that we should treat her as if she had a coffee allergy.  If I didn't know better, I'd think he just called us weird!

So, no coffee for our toddler, not that that would ever happen, and no coffee kisses from anyone at our house.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bee Update

How's Baby Bee doing?  Well, she's hanging in there!  We've had to add a few other things to our allergy list (which I'll blog about at some point) and we had a big doctor appointment January (more to blog there).  The next appointment should include testing and we're hoping her numbers are continuing to drop.  We're always ready for positive news.

Bee's eczema has calmed this winter and she's doing very well.  She's so much less itchy than she used to be.  She sometimes goes for several days without trying to scratch her skin off.

She's still a thumbsucker which makes my job so much harder!  Who knows what she's touched and then she sticks her thumb in her mouth?  It's impossible!

She is quite the girly-girly who loves pink and purple.  She always tries to still big sis' princess dolls and she's rarely without one of her cuddly animals or baby dolls.  She is the little mother!

She has also begun voicing her opinion much more of late.  She also strings together pretty complex sentences and is asking some thoughtful questions.  It's so fun to see how her little mind works!

She's also quite the bully to her big brother and sister.  They often run in fear from her.  She loves to take their toys and torment them.

She believes she can read and any time I try to read a story to the kids she swipes the book.  She carefully turns the pages and talks in her own little language as she "reads" the story to us.

She loves all things music and sits and plays our piano by herself for long periods of time.  She also goes through the house singing at the top of her lungs.  And she even pretends to play violin with some sticks.  She props up her music and moves her stick bow across her stick violin as she calls out note names.

So, there's a little update on Bee.  She's quite a little character.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Allergy Free Birthday Party

The big kids had birthdays in December and we always throw them a joint birthday party.  Now, I have to make sure that everything is allergy free.

This year our theme was Candy Land.  The house was decorated with bright colors with balloons and streamers and each room had a different theme.  We even made Peanut Acres allergy friendly with packing peanuts for our "nuts."  We had a candy bar with candy that was safe for Bee to eat and we decorated allergy-free gingerbread men.

We also made a major change from last year.  What happened at our last party?  Someone contaminated our house.  I have no idea what was brought into our house but it was likely on someone's hands.  When Bee played with the play kitchen the next day, she had a horrible reaction and rash.  Her kitchen had to be thoroughly cleaned before she could touch it again.

I've long known that I should institute a hand-washing rule at our house.  We already implement the no outside food or drinks rule.  But now I'm going to require everyone who enters to wash hands first thing.  Thankfully another sweet mom attacked everyone with hand sanitizer as they walked through the door.  And I'm glad to say that we had no reactions after this party.  Our house is still allergy-free!

The party was a success and the birthday kids had a wonderful time.  And it was even more wonderful that Bee could safely participate!






Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Merry Christmas



Yes, a little late but Merry Christmas nonetheless!
 
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