Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Aftermath of an Allergic Reaction


Doctors tell you what to look for during an allergic reaction. You've seen these anaphylactic reactions so you know what they entail. You alert everyone to look for hives, swelling, redness, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Numerous online articles are dedicated to outlining all the possible symptoms of an allergic reaction. It's important to quickly recognize these symptoms and be ready to respond with medication. But no one tells you what life is like immediately following an allergic reaction.

Here is what happens at our house after a reaction:

  • Bee is exhausted. She will often go straight to bed and sleep for hours after a reaction. She's usually very tired for the next few days as well.
  • Bee is swollen - often for several days. This swelling is usually somewhere on her face or her neck.
  • Bee is stuffy and runny. She sounds like she has a terrible cold and she needs lots of Kleenex.
  • Bee has a cough. She will start coughing during her reaction and the cough will linger for several days or even a week. It's usually a dry cough that occurs throughout the day and can be worse at night.
  • Bee is itchy. While the itching is uncontrollable during an allergic reaction, she might still have some minor itchiness for several days afterward. This means lots of lotion, cool baths, steroid cream, and humidifiers.
  • Bee has a rash. During the reaction Bee usually has a full body rash of hives. After the reaction calms down, she is usually left with patches of a red, bumpy rash. This is usually her eczema flaring up and making her feel hot and itchy.
  • Bee needs Benadryl. We often need to treat her discomfort with some Benadryl for a few days. It also helps prevent a rebound reaction since it does take a few days for the allergen to completely exit her system.
  • Sometimes Bee needs oral steroids for a few days. While I don't like giving her steroids, they are sometimes necessary following a severe reaction. They keep the swelling down and help prevent a rebound reaction.

Usually with an allergic reaction we spend about 6 hours in the ER to treat the reaction and monitor Bee. After that, we go home with an exhausted child who is still miserably uncomfortable. Then we spend the next few weeks hovering over her, watching for any signs of another reaction and worrying ourselves silly. Thankfully, she's never had a severe rebound reaction and after a few days, is feeling like her old self again.

While a reaction is very scary and stressful to the child, what does the recovery process look like for the parents?

  • We are weary and exhausted. We usually feel like we need a nap after our ordeal. It's almost like feeling you've been up for days and then run over by a truck. It's a terrible kind of tired.
  • I usually have a migraine. The stress and panic of the reaction usually sets off a migraine for me. Not only am I tired, but I have to spend the next day in bed with a pounding headache.
  • We are stressed. Nothing can ruin your day like seeing your child unable to breathe. It makes us feel stressed and that stress and anxiety linger for weeks.
  • We feel guilty. After every reaction we analyze what we did and what we didn't do. We feel guilty wondering if we could have prevented the reaction or if it was somehow our fault.
  • We become hyper vigilant. If you thought we are always neurotic, you should see us after a reaction. We check and double check everything. Many days we don't even feel like leaving our little allergy free house. We also tend to hover over Bee and worry about everything she touches.
  • We lose trust in both ourselves and others around us. The guilt compounds and we feel completely overwhelmed and unable to cope with our allergy lifestyle. We question everything we do and cook. We also refuse to eat out for a time and we try to stay away from everyone for a few days to allow us some recovery time. We feel like we're second-guessing ourselves and everyone around us.
  • We plan for the next time. After each reaction we come away a little more knowledgeable and a little more prepared. We talk about what we would do differently next time and how we can be better prepared for an emergency.

We experience the aftermath of an allergic reaction for weeks and sometimes months after the initial incident. Once the initial reaction is over, there is still a long recovery time. This recovery is not just physical, but is mostly emotional.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

{Allergy Free} Chicken Potato Soup

Here's an easy fall crockpot recipe. The red potatoes, garlic, and rosemary make a perfect comfort food!


Chicken Potato Soup

6 large red potatoes, washed and diced
1 large onion diced
6 garlic cloves diced
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 package of chicken breasts
enough chicken broth to cover
salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in crockpot.
Cook on low for 6 hours.
Remove chicken and dice and the place back in crockpot.

Roux
1/4 cup Earth Balance
1/4 + 1/8 cup rice flour
1 cup rice milk

Melt Earth Balance in small saucepan.
Whisk in the rice flour.
Slowly pour in the rice milk and whisk until the roux is thick.
Pour the roux into the soup in the crockpot and turn off crockpot.
Let thicken for 20 minutes and then serve.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

When the Food Allergy Lifestyle Gets Old



If you are managing food allergies, you know that it gets old rather quickly. It is so tiresome to constantly evaluate every situation for an allergen and read every label for safety. I often confess to my husband that I'm tired-tired of eating this way, tired of living this way, tired of explaining the allergies, and tired of being so stand-out different. I just want to go out to restaurants whenever we want. I want to go to that birthday party and not worry about food. I'd like to go to someone's house even though they have cats and dogs and there are peanut butter cracker crumbs on the floor.

But in the times that the food allergy life gets old to me, I realize that I'm not being vigilant. Usually I'm able to remind myself that I have to be always aware in order to keep Bee safe. I must refuse to give up even though I'm tired. Other times I find myself being less careful or even entertaining the thought that she has grown out of an allergy. Most of the allergic reactions and ER visits that we've experienced have been in these times when I was feeling less alert in monitoring the allergies.

Yes, I get so very tired of living this way, but it's no excuse for forgetting to read every label and not taking the time to call every event ahead of time to discuss the allergy safety protocol. Despite the mundane moments in this allergy life, I have to choose to persevere and continue to advocate for Bee.

If I get tired of the allergy life, how much more so do those around me? I've noticed a trend in friendships.

In the beginning, I explain the food allergies and am usually met with faces of fear and awe. They are terrified to be around my children and amazed at what our family has to manage. I try to impress the seriousness of the allergies upon them so that they will be alert and aware when around our family. This helps keep Bee safe when we are with friends. I need everyone working together to insure that Bee's environment is safe.

It becomes more routine after we've known people for a little while. They easily remember that we are "the weird allergy family" and so they always remember to wash their hands and do things differently around us. They don't need me to remind them that they can't eat certain food around us. They know that we can't attend certain events - like that ice cream sundae party. So, they know that when we decline invitations that we're not being rude or ungrateful, we're just being safe.

Over time though, I've seen that some friends tend to forget the allergy situation or at least diminish the seriousness of the allergies that we manage. They ask if they can bring certain foods to our house. They ask if they can eat something around us. They question why we don't get out more and they wonder why we live so differently.

I've learned that this is not because they are insensitive and inconsiderate. It's just because our allergy lifestyle gets old to us and to everyone around us. They get tired of taking the precautions all the time. The seriousness of the food allergies gets tiresome and they can become forgetful. They don't intend to cause us to be in an unsafe situation, but they can overlook what we cannot - that Bee's life is at stake and we won't compromise her safety.

So, what do you do? I remind myself that they don't have to think of food allergies daily. When the newness of our friendship starts to wear off, so does their awareness of our allergies. They can become forgetful. They have good intentions but they simply don't live in this state of awareness that we do.

I have to extend them some grace. The same grace that I have to give to myself when I am feeling less than eager to read another label or cook another new meal. I understand that I can get tired of being different. It's to be expected really. Others will feel the same way. They will be tired of having to be alert and aware around us. They will accidentally forget certain things about our medical issues. And in those moments, I can respond in grace and provide gentle reminders.

There are going to be times when I feel less alert and when others experience forgetfulness. A food allergy parent must continue to persevere even when it's tiresome and it just gets so very old to live this way. In those moments I have to look at Bee and I'm quickly reminded that it's all worth it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

{Allergy Free} French Toast Muffins



French Toast Muffins

1/3 cup melted Earth Balance
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer whisked with 2 T rice milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour blend
3/4 tsp xanthan
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup vanilla hemp milk

For topping:
1/2 cup melted Earth Balance
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

In large mixing bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together.
Add wet ingredients and mix slowly until just blended.
Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake at 350 for 16-18 minutes.

For topping:
Mix cinnamon and sugar in small bowl.
Melt Earth Balance in separate bowl.
Dip muffins into Earth Balance and then roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture.

You can make 8 larger muffins or 12 smaller muffins filling the tins only half full.



Linked with Allergy Free Wednesdays!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Can the Church Include Food Allergic Kids?



It's hard to visit churches when you have a food allergic child.  Some churches are very aware of allergies and others have a long way to go in learning how to keep allergic children safe.

So, how can a church include kids with food allergies while also keeping them safe?

Educate staff on the serious nature of food allergies
It's difficult as an allergy parent to walk into a church and encounter staff who know nothing about food allergies. It means that I have to spend lots of time trying to explain food allergies and what they mean for my child. If everyone on the staff is aware of what food allergies are and the serious allergic reactions that can occur, it is easier to make sure my child is safe. All staff should be educated on the signs of an allergic reaction and the safety measures and medical protocol. 

Make sure all staff members know how to use an Epi pen or AuviQ
Many churches have training and background checks for volunteers and staff. These should also include a brief education on the treatment for an allergic reaction using an Epi pen or AuviQ. If all staff and volunteers know how to use the life saving devices, then the children's area is a much safer place for any child with allergies. Basic first aid should be part of the training to work with children in the church.

Have an allergy policy in place
The church should already have a policy in place for accommodating an allergic child.  This policy should include some type of notation in their computer system that alerts everyone of the allergies. There should be a way that the allergies are notated on the child's name tag or on the role sheet that the teacher's have every week. The staff should also have an emergency protocol for what to do if a child has an allergic reaction. A plan should be in place for the staff to know to administer meds, contact 911, alert a supervisor, and quickly locate the parents.

Serve a snack that is free of the top 8 allergens
The most common allergens are peanuts, treenuts, shellfish, fish, wheat, dairy, eggs, and soy. An easy to find food that is free of all of these allergens is Rice Chex, Cinnamon Chex, or Chocolate Chex. Other brands to consider are Kinnikinnick, Enjoy Life, and Glutino. Careful label reading will help you find snacks that don't contain these common allergens.  

Consider becoming food free
Some nurseries and children's programs are choosing to be food free for the 2 hours that children are in their care. These churches chose to focus on Bible lessons, play, music, and arts and craft time. They keep the kids busy with other pursuits and skip snack time altogether. This is a great alternative for kids who have food allergies and it eliminates the worry for parents of food allergic kids. In a society where every function revolves around food, this is one safe place where kids are able to learn without fear of coming in contact with an allergen.

Be open to learning about the different allergy needs of each child
The allergy profile of every child is different. What is safe for one child may not be safe for another food allergic child. There are many types of allergies and the degree of allergy varies widely as well. The church must be flexible and open to discussing the allergy situation of each child and reevaluating their program as needed. Policies might need to be changed if a new child joins the program. If the entire staff recognizes the unique needs of each allergy family, they can adapt and train staff on the new changes.

The important thing to understand is that every food allergy family has different allergies and must take different precautions. If the church staff is open to learning the details of each situation and changing their policies accordingly, food allergy families will be able to participate and feel included in church functions. And we so appreciate being a part of our faith communities as much as possible despite our allergy limitations!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

{Allergy Free} Maple Cinnamon Bread


Maple Cinnamon Bread

2 1/4 cups flour blend
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup rice milk whisked with 1 tsp lemon juice
3 tsp egg replacer whisked with 4 T rice milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup browned Earth Balance (melt Earth Balance over medium heat until it bubbles and then wait until it is clear, about 5 minutes)
1/8 cup cold Earth Balance
1 T cinnamon
2 T brown sugar

Icing
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 T rice milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Whisk together flour blend through salt in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl stir together the maple syrup through browned Earth Balance.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients just until combined.
In a separate small bowl cut the cold Earth Balance into the cinnamon and brown sugar.
Fold the cinnamon mixture into the batter.
Pour into small greased bread tins.
Bake at 350 for 25-27 minutes or until toothpick inserted into loaves comes out clean.
Let cool in pans for 15 minutes and then cool on wire racks.
To make the icing combine the ingredients and whisk well, adding more powdered sugar or rice milk as needed to achieve desired consistency.
Drizzle loaves with icing.

Makes 4 small loaves.




Linked up with Linda's Lunacy Making a Home Linky

Linked with Allergy Free Wednesdays!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why Food Allergies and Church Don't Mix



I've found that the church is one of the most difficult places to navigate with our food allergic family. It's so frustrating to us. We want to be involved and be a part of our faith community. But our food allergies severely limit the number of activities and functions that we attend.

We've even found some churches to be unable to accommodate our family. When this happens, I'm sad and discouraged. Some staff are inconvenienced by our needs. Rather than find ways to allow us to participate, they are rigid in their policies and unwilling to make changes to welcome our family. This can be very hurtful and while we try not to take it personally, we do feel isolated at times. The very place that should be accepting of our medical needs, the church, is the one place where we are not welcome.

What makes a church an unfriendly allergy place?

Most churches serve coffee and donuts or other morning foods such as muffins. When you are bombarded with breakfast foods at every turn, it becomes frustrating and scary. Trying to walk through halls or pass through common areas where everyone has plates piled high with unsafe foods is a nightmare.

Some churches allow food in the sanctuary. In some churches, the members sip their coffee and snack on donuts in their seats as they listen to the sermon. This means that it is unsafe to sit on the pews or chairs at church. We sometimes have to bring blankets to cover our seating area to minimize the risk to our children.

Some churches have multiple buildings and the children are far removed from parents. In these situations, it would take a long time for me to navigate the large campus to get to my child in the event of an emergency. It also makes it difficult to communicate with those who are caring for our children and makes it impossible for us to check on them without missing the Bible study for adults.

Most children's programs serve snacks. This means that I can't leave my kids in any of the rooms safely because they are contaminated. Because snack time is such an ingrained notion in most church programs, the thought of changing the normal snack or doing away with the snack completely is met with much resistance. With the unwilling attitude to make changes to the snack policy, it means that my child cannot attend.

Most staff members are uneducated about food allergies and emergency protocol. Because the teachers and staff do not understand food allergies, I am unable to safely leave my children. Often, the staff has no plan in place to accommodate children with any type of special need and I'm left with a child who has no classroom to attend and who feels completely isolated and left out.

Many staff members underestimate the severity of the allergies or don't take the risk seriously. I've had many members tell me that they'll just serve my child a different snack while still serving the unsafe snack to the rest of the kids. They don't understand that just being in the room with the food can cause a problem. Some even believe that a little bit of the allergic food won't be a problem and have not followed my snack instructions for my children. This results in allergic reactions for my kids.

Most church functions revolve around food. The Sunday night fellowships often include a dessert get together after the service. Wednesdays nights often begin with a church wide meal. Special events are centered around the food, the candy, the ice cream, or the desserts. Sometimes the Bible studies are even potluck-style with everyone bringing their favorite snack food. When it comes to church events, the food is inescapable.

Many churches are changing their format to include small groups in people's homes. These always include food. For an allergic child, going to another person's home is often very unsafe. There could be residue of allergic foods throughout the house or the owners could have pets that cause allergy issues. Moving the church functions into homes of church members that are not aware of the allergies creates a scary environment that can be dangerous.

All of these situations create a problem for food allergic families. Because there is a general lack of awareness and sometimes no allergy policy in place, churches are often very unsafe. This means that there are times when we cannot attend church or must visit multiple churches to be able to find one where we can safely attend. We want to worship with those who share our faith and not be limited by the medical conditions of our children. At some churches, it's just not possible.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

{Allergy Free} Blueberry Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

This is perfect for rushed school days when you want a warm breakfast. The cinnamon and nutmeg go wonderfully well with the dried blueberries. My kids loved pouring some milk over their oatmeal to help it cool.



Blueberry Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

3 cups regular oats
1/4 tsp xanthan
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/4 cup olive oil
4 1/2 tsp egg replacer whisked with 6 T rice milk
1 1/2 cup vanilla hemp milk

Grease a 7x11 pan well.
Mix all ingredients in large bowl and then spread in pan.
Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
Can pour milk over the oatmeal before serving.

This can sit in the fridge over night covered with foil. If you choose to do that, place the pan in cold oven and preheat to 350 and then let it bake.

Linked with Allergy Free Wednesdays!


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