Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Steering Clear of Allergic Reactions

Today's blog post comes from David Novak, syndicated columnist and an avid health enthusiast. He is frequently featured in regional and national health publications. He is also a weekly writer for Healthline. To visit his other stories on Healthline, visit http://www.healthline.com/.

Food allergies are a prevalent health condition where the body mistakenly identifies certain foods as harmful. According to the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), approximately 15 million Americans have food allergies, and the numbers are continuously rising. Steering clear of foods that can trigger allergic reaction can be tough, so it’s important to educate yourself on what causes the allergy and how to avoid them. Here are several tips that can help in avoiding mild to life-threatening allergic food reactions:

Know the allergens
There are numerous foods that can cause allergic reactions, however, 90% of all recorded food allergies comes from eggs, milk, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans and wheat. For some people, they can be allergic to one food, while others tend to have more than one food allergen. Knowing which food allergen to avoid is the best way to stop the occurrence of an allergic reaction. It is also essential to consult a doctor or an allergist so they can evaluate the severity of the condition and on how to manage it properly.

Check out your family history
Doctors believe that allergies can be hereditary, thus knowing your family history can also help in determining the possibility of acquiring any food allergy. It is wise to discuss your allergies with those around you, not only with the immediate family, but also with other family members, friends and colleagues so everyone who spends time with you can better understand your risks.

Read food labels
Learning how to shop for food is important, especially if you or someone you live with has food allergies. When buying packaged food in a grocery, make sure you read the ingredients on the labels carefully. In some cases, ingredients are pooled and listed in generic terms such as artificial flavors, seasonings or colors. If you’re unsure about any of the ingredients, call or write the manufacturer. Not knowing the ingredients in the food you’ll be eating can be dangerous and in some cases, life threatening.

Have an allergy action plan
Having an action plan is very important as well, especially for children who have severe allergies. It is best to consult a doctor or an allergist with regard to planning strategies in the event of a reaction, so you will be able to consider all likely allergic reactions and what should be done in an emergency. A strong allergy action plan includes when to take medication, when to increase medication, and when is it necessary to call a doctor.  Wearing a medical bracelet or necklace is also important, especially if you’re going out. This will help responders to quickly identify your condition and history during an emergency.

Cook your own food instead of dining out
Eating out can be risky for a person with food allergies since most restaurants and food chains don’t usually provide detailed ingredient lists for the food they serve. Food preparation is also done in an open kitchen, where cross contact and contamination of foods can occur. The best way to avoid an allergic reaction is to cook your own food instead of dining out. Try to enroll in cooking classes to learn a variety of dishes, and to learn more about local and fresh ingredients.

Bring your own meals
There are also times when bringing your own food is much safer than risking your life in eating food prepared by other people. Sure, this might not be the most socially acceptable thing to do, but it could save your life. There are some establishments or events that don’t offer allergy-safe food, so it’s best that you’re ready when such situation arises.

Keep medications on hand
Always have allergy medications, like antihistamine and epinephrine injector, on hand at all times. These medications can be your life saver, especially in emergency situations. Antihistamines are best for mild allergies, but they shouldn’t be used as a substitute for epinephrine. For severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, a shot of epinephrine is needed as well as a strongly-advised trip to the hospital for monitoring.

Be prepared for emergency situations
Food allergies have no known cure, so avoidance is the most effective way to evade an allergic reaction. Make sure that you and your family are always prepared when an emergency situation arises. Keep all emergency numbers listed on your speed dial, and make sure that a copy is also posted near all other telephones in your home. All medications should be easily accessible and make sure to keep a dose or two of all your medications with you at all times, especially if you’re going out.


David Novak’s byline has appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world.  He’s an avid health enthusiast, and frequently is featured in regional and national health publications. He is also a weekly writer for Healthline.  To visit his other stories on Healthline, visit http://www.healthline.com/.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Books Available from Our Lending Library

Thanks to another generous FAAN grant, our support group's lending library is expanding again. Here are the titles that we just added:

- The Food Allergy Mama's Baking Book, by Kelly Rudnicki. Kelly is a well-known blogger and author. Her blog, Food Allergy Mama, was created 4 years ago and has become widely popular in the food allergy community. Her first cookbook includes mouth-watering recipes that are nut-, dairy-, and egg-free, as well as tips for reading labels, tips for birthday parties, baking hints, and many other useful ideas for safely baking with food allergies.

- Understanding and Managing Your Child's Food Allergies, by Scott Sicherer, MD. Dr Sicherer is the Chief of the Division on Allergy and Immunology in the Department of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital. He is also a clinical researcher, focusing on various food allergy topics. The book reflects his vast knowledge and experience with food allergies, and it offers parents and caregivers all the tools they need in recognizing and managing allergic reactions, avoiding food allergens, dealing with the emotional aspects of food allergies, and so much more.

- Food Allergies and Me, by Juniper Skinner, is a children's book that introduces young children to the world of food allergies. Written by a mother of an allergic child, the book uses a simple story to teach children about safety, integration, and self-advocacy.

- The School Food Allergy Program, by Anne Munoz-Furlong, is a comprehensive manual published by FAAN that offers school personnel all the information they need to have in order to devise a safe environment for food allergic children.

For a complete list of resources available in our library, please check out our website. Remember, all materials can be checked out and returned at our monthly group meetings. Meetings are held every second Saturday at the month. For details, last minute changes, or cancellation, please go to our Facebook page.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

EpiPen4Schools Program Offers Free Auto-Injectors to Qualifying Schools

If your child is going back to school this month, you will be pleased to find out that Bioridge Pharma, a subdivision of Mylan Specialty, is offering up to four EpiPen auto-injectors to qualifying schools. Check with the principal and the school nurse to see if your child's school qualifies.
In addition to the free EpiPens, schools can also purchase discounted auto-injectors, priced at $112.10 per carton (which includes two EpiPens).
More details about the EpiPen4Schools program can be found here.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Chocolate Cupcakes

Just in time for your 4th of July celebration, here is an easy, fail-proof recipe for crowd-pleasing cupcakes. The recipe is free of 7 of the top 8 allergens. If you cannot have wheat, feel free to substitute the flour for a gluten-free mix like this one, from Cybele Pascal and Whole Living.

Ingredients for 12 cupcakes:
- 1 cup rice milk
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or regular white vinegar)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon orange extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (I prefer Enjoy Life)
- 1/2 craisins, optional


1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
2. Whisk together the rice milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Don't worry if after 5-10 minutes you see no curdles - it will turn out just fine.
3. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and orange extract, to the rice milk mixture and beat until foamy.
4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain. Add the chocolate chips.
5. Pour into liners, filling 3/4 of the way. Bake 18 to 20 minutes (closer to 10 minutes if making mini-cupcakes), until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.


Recipe adapted from: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero  

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Delta Airlines Has A Revised Peanut Allergy Policy

Great news for travelers with severe peanut allergies! As of June 1, 2012, Delta Airlines has a new, more accommodating peanut allergy policy.
Here is what the new policy states:

When you notify us that you have a peanut allergy, we'll create a buffer zone of three rows in front of and three rows behind your seat. Effective on flights operating June 1, 2012 and beyond, when you notify us that you have a peanut allergy, we’ll refrain from serving peanuts and peanut products onboard your flight. We'll also advise cabin service to board additional non-peanut snacks, which will allow our flight attendants to serve these snack items to everyone within this area.
 Gate agents will be notified in case you'd like to pre-board and cleanse the immediate seating area. We'll do everything we can, but unfortunately we still can't guarantee that the flight will be completely peanut-free.

It is encouraging to see that airlines are making progress in understanding food allergies and that they are doing their best to keep ALL of their passengers safe.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Food Allergy Awareness Week 2012

Thanks to generous sponsors and dedicated support group members, we are giving away 40 bags full of food allergy resources and food samples to newly diagnosed patients with food allergies. 

We are grateful for the support of: Mylan Specialty, So Delicious, Enjoy Life Foods, Allerbling, I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter, Ener-G Foods, no nuttin, Private Jet MD, NIH&NIAID, and Activeaide

A big THANK YOU to both our sponsors and our volunteers!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Because We Love Someone With Food Allergies. Food Allergy Awareness Week: May 13-19

In the past month, our support group has been working on a project that will benefit newly diagnosed food allergy patients and their families. We've been putting together an information package that will provide new patients with various resources meant to ease their transition into a lifestyle that can be quite overwhelming, as we, food allergy veterans, know all too well. The packages will be distributed to Billings allergists' offices during Food Allergy Awareness Week.

If you would like to get involved in raising awareness, here are some ideas of things YOU can do next week:

Because you love someone with food allergies...
...write a letter to your elected officials asking them to support the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, if you haven't done so already. There are only 26 Senators and 49 Representatives co-sponsoring the bill at this time. We are happy to mention that Senator Tester and Representative Rehberg are among the sponsors!

Because you love someone with food allergies... 
...write your personal story, attach it to FAAN's press release, and send it to the local media outlets.

Because you love someone with food allergies... 
...give a presentation at your child's school or at your workplace.

Because you love someone with food allergies... 
...read food allergy-related children's books to your child's classmates and friends.

Because you love someone with food allergies... 
...hang up a poster, if you have the space. Posters are available on the FAAN website.

Because you love someone with food allergies...
...remember to thank all those that help take care of your child: family, teachers, babysitters, medical staff.

Because you love someone with food allergies... 
...host a dinner demonstration for family and friends and teach them how to cook allergy-friendly and allergy-safe.

Because you love someone with food allergies... 
...remember to set aside some time to spend with your child!