Friday, September 23, 2011

Guess Who?

This is not meant as a promotional post. This is just a story of a great company responding with love and care to a mom's request.

A while back I had contacted the CMO of this company on Twitter, inquiring about the availability of a sample package. We had not tried their products before except for one, and that was back when my son was 18 months and allergic to everything under the sun. So after hearing people in our support group talk about the many great products this company had to offer, I thought it was time for us to try them again. I just did not want to spend a lot of money on cookies and cereal and chocolate, only to see my son reject them all. My hope was to get samples and see what he liked best, and then buy whatever he chose.

So I wrote to the CMO. And I was amazed to see that he replied in less than 24 hours, telling me to contact one of their marketing assistants with my request. Which I did. And what do you think they did in response? They sent me two big shipping boxes filled with full-size boxes of vanilla graham cookies, double chocolate cookies, snickerdoodle cookies, lemon cookies, the most delicious chocolate crunch granola ever,  puffed crunchy flax cereal, chewy snack bars, and semi-sweet chocolate chunks. All free of the top eight allergens. All delicious.

My son loved them all. So did my non-allergic daughter. And so did I.

If you already buy their products on a regular basis, I'm sure you already know who I'm talking about. For those of you who don't, here is the answer to this riddle.

Thank you, Joel and Alina!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Trick-Or-Treat: It Can Be Sweet!

Editor's note: This is a guest post from Kimberly, The Food Allergy Mom

As the fall holidays approach, parents of children with food allergies collectively cringe at the food-related challenges they bring.  After all, both Halloween and Thanksgiving are completely centered around food!
Still, if you’ve visited my blog, The Food Allergy Mom, you know I don’t believe in letting food allergies define our kids.  Kids deserve to be kids…no matter what.

Halloween is a little more than a month away and it’s time to start thinking about how you can safely capture the magical fun and food of the holiday. 

Before I break down the different ways to safely celebrate the day, there is one cardinal rule to remember.  Foods and candy that are normally considered “safe foods” are not necessarily safe at Halloween. 
Many popular candies and treats can have altered ingredients or are processed on equipment that also processes a known allergen.  Many of these changes are due to special packaging and festive appearances of brand name products. Never let your child consume food or candy that is individually packaged unless you checked the ingredients and warning labels of the larger bag it came in.  Ingredients and warnings are required to be labeled on the exterior of the product, but not necessarily on its individual components.

Now that you know what not to do, how can you safely celebrate Halloween with the family?  Here are few frightfully delightful ideas:

The Candy Swap:  Older children or children with very mild food allergies (not requiring epinephrine), may be able to safely trick-or-treat around the neighborhood if the ground rules are laid out beforehand.  The most important rule is for kiddos not put anything in their mouths!  Accompany your child from house to house allowing them to collect candy with friends.  When done trick or treating for the night, let your child swap out the candy they collected for safe candy (candy you personally bought and approved) or a non-food prize.

Selective Trick- or-Treating:  If you have family or other food allergy friends in the area, take your child to trick-or-treat only at those “safe” houses.  This may require driving around the neighborhood rather than walking but is still just as much fun when in costume!  Make sure the treats served are truly safe by providing friends with an approved list of treats ahead of time and then double-checking the ingredients again before your child consumes them.

Pumpkin Party:  Halloween parties are usually a high-risk zone for those with food allergies and require extra care.  Even if you are the host or hostess for the party and are providing allergy-friendly food for friends, a well-meaning guest usually shows with a special dish they think is allergy-free. 
If you do decide to host a Halloween party, consider making it a non-food party or make sure your children know to eat only the food you personally place on their plates.  If you are attending a Halloween party, bring an allergy-friendly dish.  It is a great idea to bring extras of the allergy-friendly dish in your purse to provide your child with so there is no chance for cross contamination or look-alike mix-ups.

Falling For Fall:  Another option is to avoid food all together by enjoying the simple pleasures Halloween has to offer.  Load the family in the car and head out to a local pumpkin patch.  Enjoy the fall weather and take your time picking out the perfect pumpkin before enjoying a picnic.  Some pumpkin patches even host a festival on the weekends with lots of food-free activities such as carnival games, hay rides, and costume contests.
Whatever you do this Halloween, make it a safe and boo-tiful experience for you and your family!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Going to Preschool with Food Allergies

And here we go... it is time to give preschool a try. A very exciting time for my child, and a very scary one for me. Letting go, trusting others with his care, trusting him to remember at least some of the things I've been repeating incessantly for the last month. Wash your hands before you eat. Don't drink from the water fountain. Don't share food. Eat only what I send in your backpack. Etc. etc. He is 4! How much can I really rely on him to remember all that?

Luckily, his teacher is wonderful. We met a while back before school started and we talked extensively about making his school experience safe and enjoyable. She listened carefully and understood my concerns, taking them all very seriously. And we both came up with this plan for my son:

  1. The classroom will be a nut-free area
  2. There will be an EpiPen in his backpack and one in the classroom. 
  3. She will be the one administering the epinephrine in case of emergency (the school is small and has no nurse on campus). 
  4. He will only eat safe snacks that I will provide and drink only water from his own cup. 
  5. He will wash hands with soap and water, and if that's not possible, he will use baby wipes to clean his hands. No hand sanitizer, as it has been shown that it does not remove peanut residue completely.
  6. I will provide a safe treat and volunteer at birthday parties as much as I can, to minimize accidental exposure to cupcakes and/or cookies.
  7. The teacher will have a copy of his food allergy action plan in the classroom.
With all these steps in place, the first week went without a glitch. We are now into the second one, he seems to love it so far and I am slowly starting to relax.

How about you? What steps have you taken to make school safe for your child? Do you have any tips you could share?

For older kids and high school students, you might find this video useful. It is about a California teenager who developed a peanut allergy at age 15 and about the steps her school put in place to ensure her safety.

Also great to share with your school is this web-based training course created by a team of food allergy experts in cooperation with FAAN and FAI. It is comprehensive, yet easy to understand, and provides examples of real life situations and how to deal with them. It is designed for educators, but anyone can benefit from watching it. Highly recommended.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Community Education Classes for Families Dealing with Food Allergies

In case you missed this announcement on our Facebook page, here it is again: Billings Adult Education is offering a series of community education classes for families that are new to food allergies. If you need some help in learning how to shop, cook, eat out, and even party with food allergies, here is your chance.
The first class teaches "How to Shop If You Have Food Allergies & Special Diets" and it is scheduled for Tuesday, September 20, at 5:30PM. The instructors are Heather Mattson and Kristin Thompson. Classes will be held at the Lincoln Center.
For more details, click here, call 406-281-5010 or contact Heather Mattson.