Monday March 10, 2014
I recently took a long, cross-country flight to Oregon (from NYC) and was struck by the availability of peanuts and cookies passed out as complimentary snacks. I guess each airline serves different snacks, and I hadn't been on this particular airline in a while.
It made me remember flying with my son when he was younger. I have never allowed him to have peanuts on an airplane. It just seems too risky. I feel the same way about cookies, too.
For me, I can't think of a worse place for an allergic reaction: cramped seats, narrow aisles and aloft in the air.
Once on a flight to Europe, a woman sitting next to me passed out (in her seat). She was on the aisle seat, and her husband was next to her in the center seat. He was awake and noticed her slump over. It was such a challenge for the crew to reach her (they were passing beverages at the time), get her out of the seat, and lie her down on her back. Then they had to request a physician over the intercom. It turned out she was fine, but had a negative reaction to her usual medicine mixed with alcohol and flying.
The whole experience made me realize how incredibly challenging it is for an in-air medical emergency. This experience heightened my fear of an allergic reaction with my son, but it also solidified my commitment to steer clear of the snacks that are passed around when he's flying with me.
Avoiding the snacks on airplanes doesn't cut it for many food allergic folks. What about trace allergen from crumbs left on the seat or tray table? What about residual allergen smeared on the arm rests or magazines in the seat back holder?
To me, it's risky business to serve food containing or potentially containing nuts or tree nuts. They are the food allergens most likely to produce a life-threatening reaction.
I think airlines should stick with beverages and ditch the nuts. Or if they do serve a snack, why not serve something allergen-free?
I can think of many allergen-free alternatives.
Airlines should also make it a routine practice to thoroughly clean the carpets, seats, tray tables and arm rests between flights. An additional option of disinfecting wipes for individual passengers who would like to make sure their seating area is clean would be nice too.
What do you think about airlines serving peanuts and other snacks that may contain trace allergens? Here's what one concerned citizen is doing.
How do you feel about nuts on airplanes?
Signs and symptoms
Tree nut allergy
Air travel with a food allergy
How to tell someone about your food allergy
Photo Credit: Flickr/Superhua
Thursday February 27, 2014
I read a blog post this week that had me a little irked. Yeah, annoyed is a better way to say it.
The blog appeared on the Huffington Post and was titled "Why Do Your Kid's Allergies Mean My Kid Can't Have a Birthday?"
Aside from the inflammatory nature of the title (which, as a blogger myself I recognize this as a way to grab the reader's attention), the post carried on about what a pain it is to have an allergic child in the classroom and how the accommodations required for him are an inconvenience for everyone, especially the birthday child. The author proceeds to share that she thinks her child should be able to have whatever he wants on his birthday--even if that means allergen-filled cake that another child may be deathly allergic to.
The author ended the article with this:
Let's stop the allergy insanity, and let the rest of them eat cake -- the lovely, homemade, buttery, gluten-stuffed cake.
I'm sorry but the 'allergy insanity' phrase rubs me the wrong way. It implies that those of us who have or deal with food allergies elect to do so--as if we had a choice! I myself never wished my son to have a food allergy, but he does, and it's my obligation to keep him safe--everywhere he goes.
Would the author have me home school my son so that her child could have his cake and eat it to? Would she have me remove my son from the classroom, sit him away from the class alongside the chalkboard, or have me bake a special cupcake so he won't feel left out?
I think the issue is deeper than who is leaving who out. Or who is missing out on a special day.
It gets to the messages we are teaching our children.
Unfortunately, the message an impressionable child might hear are these: Don't be sensitive to the needs of others. You can have what you want, no matter what. Don't do the right thing, just do what's right for you.
I think children need to learn just the opposite: Be sensitive to others and their needs. You can't always get what you want, but if you work hard, you might get close. Do the right thing--you'll always be proud of yourself for that.
Having a food allergy or a child with a food allergy is stressful. Studies show that the stress of food allergies takes its toll--on everyone in the family, but especially the parent who is keeping their child safe and the food allergic individual himself. I am almost certain that attitudes and articles such as this one adds to the anxiety, frustration and isolation families with food allergies can feel.
I had to chuckle at the beginning of the article because the author started with this question:
"What is gluten, nut, and egg-free AND also store-bought that I can serve at a kindergarten class party?"
Fruit. Vegetables. Pencils. Stickers. A book. Removable tattoos.
I can think of a whole long list of celebratory alternatives that have nothing to do with food allergens or birthday cake.
So why don't we just take food off the list of parties at school? Better yet, how about a crown or a sash for the birthday boy? A 'Happy Birthday' announcement over the PA system and a special book?Some non-food items can have potential allergens in them, so plan thoughtfully.
Toning down the party scene at school (and the food influx) will keep our food allergic kids safer. And it will cut down on anyone feeling left out.
Let's take a broader and more sensitive look at how we treat those with medical challenges. We can make life harder for them, or we can make it easier and safer.
I vote easier. How about you?
Tuesday February 25, 2014
The stress of raising a child with food allergies or dealing with them yourself can be overwhelming. Researchers have been looking at quality of life in individuals with food allergies so that they can identify ways to combat their stress and enhance the experience of daily living. I summarize the latest findings in What Tugs on the Heartstrings of Food Allergic Families? If you are feeling stressed out about your food allergy, you are not alone. The good news is there are things you can do to help melt the tension that food allergies may bring to daily life.
Getting healthy, delicious, allergen-friendly food on the table is one area that bothers parents, with or without food allergies! My family loves this Lemon Stuffed Roasted Chicken, especially on a weekend night. The best part is the leftovers (if you have any!) which can be used for school lunch box sandwiches, atop a salad, or stuffed into a quesadilla or chicken soup. I love having a recipe that has multiple applications to our weekly menu.
I recently wrote about oral immunotherapy for peanut allergy and will be looking into the patch for peanut allergy treatment soon. Have you heard of this?
Last, my Great Expectations: Food Allergy in the Child (6-12 years) will help you anticipate some of the food choices, complaints and general behaviors around food and eating with your grade-schooler, which can be frustrating. My own son went through a phase where he felt left out when parties rolled around, and when friends brought enticing foods for lunch that he couldn't have. It helped me to know that his wanting to belong to his peer group was completely normal for his age--and helped me understand him and help him with his frustration of having a food allergy.
I will have a special article like this for the toddler and teen soon, because they experience different milestones that affect their eating. You can get a glimpse of what's to come in this article called How Child Developmental Stages Affect the Food Allergic Child's Eating.
I hope everyone is doing well, and warming up a bit. Hang tight, spring is almost here!
Thursday February 20, 2014
People who have peanut allergy have some interesting news to sort through regarding oral immunotherapy (OIT) as a way to help treat peanut allergy.
If you read the news headlines, you might think that OIT was a cure-all for peanut allergy. Yup, step right up and take a bit of peanut powder everyday and you're on your way to being peanut allergy free.
We all wish it were that easy. But it's not.
Don't be fooled by those catchy news headlines. While OIT for peanut allergy is being studied and has some promising aspects, the jury isn't out yet.
I've done a quick update on peanut allergy OIT for you with the some of the latest research findings, which you can find here.
Remember, be open to new information, but check your research and your facts thoroughly.
Have you heard of oral immunotherapy for peanut allergy?