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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hints for parents and caregivers of kids with food allergies

Finding out your child has a food allergy, especially a severe one with life threatening implications, can be overwhelming! Since JMonster was diagnosed, we have learned quite a bit about food allergies and ways to keep your child safer.

1. READ LABELS!! Make sure you look for the specific allergen in the list of ingredients. Also look for the MANUFACTURED in a plant that also processes...

2. Know the ways your child's allergen can be listed. Dairy may not always be listed as MILK. It may be
Ammonium/calcium/magnesium/potassium/sodium caseinate, casein/caseinate/rennet casein, Curds, Delactosed/demineralized whey, Dry milk/milk/sour cream/sour milk solids, Hydrolyzed casein, hydrolyzed milk protein, Lactalbumin/lactalbumin phosphate, Lactate/lactose, Lactoferrin, Lactoglobulin, Milk derivative/fat/protein, Modified milk ingredients, Opta™, Simplesse® (fat replacers), Whey, whey protein concentrate

Every allergen has its own list. Know yours!

3. Read the label EVERY time! Do not get complacent because you've used a product before. Manufacturing processes change all the time. We used Ghiradelli chocolate chips for years. I was making chocolate chip cookies for JMonster one afternoon, finished one bag, opened my second bag (which I purchased AT THE SAME TIME FROM THE SAME STORE) poured in the rest of the chips and finished the cookies. I then saw the label on the second bag: Manufactured in a plant that also processes peanuts. WHAT?!? I looked at the first bag. Nothing on the label. I then contacted the company and asked if they had just changed their labeling, or if they had changed their manufacturing processes. Sure enough, they had made the decision to add a peanut line to their plant. Double drat! But that proved to me that I have to read the label EVERY TIME.

4. Carry Benadryl and 2 epi-pens EVERYWHERE you go. Even if you don't think they will be eating. We went to a local jumping room for a birthday party. They served food in the party room, but there were no nuts involved. JMonster ended up having a huge reaction and we got Benadryl in him quickly. Come to find out the jumping company doesn't let you bring your own food to your parties, but you can choose from 3 options...one of which is uncrustable pb&j sandwiches. Peanut protein is SO hard to clean up! That room was one peanut HELL for our son.

5. Get your child a medic alert bracelet. You can find them easily at many websites online. I purchased 3 at the same time and got a discount...I now have him covered until he's 6 or 7. Be sure to engrave their name and allergies on the back, just in case they are ever unable to speak for themselves. Having the bracelet has caused many a person to ask why he's wearing it, and then we can share about his allergies in a non-threatening way. It's also a good reminder for family members that aren't around our kids all of the time.

6. Teach your child what their allergy is and to ask you before they eat anything someone other than you offer them. Teach them what their bracelet stands for. JMonster has been able to tell you "No peanuts! No tree nuts!" since he was about 19 months.

7. Make sure your child's school, sports teams, camps, friends' parents, etc...know about the allergy. If necessary, send your child's food or snack if there is a doubt about them fully understanding.

8. Do not keep the food allergen in your home. It may be tempting to feed your other kids peanut butter, but it is much better to be safe than sorry. I used to eat nuts and peanut butter every day...I now find alternatives for my snacking needs. Soy nuts, anyone? :)

9. Don't let the allergy run or ruin your family life! Find alternatives for the foods they can't have. They are out there! Instead of peanut butter, JMonster eats SunButter, a product made from sunflower seeds and manufactured in a peanut and tree nut free environment. I've had people tell me their allergist said to never go out to eat. Hogwash! Just be careful, ask questions, and be prepared in case a reaction does happen.

10. Remember, you are your child's advocate. If you need to be a Mama or Papa bear to keep your child safe...do it!

GOOD LUCK!!! If you have any questions or additions, please let me know in the comments section. I'm willing to help, as well as want to continue to learn.

UPDATE: A good idea is to sign up for The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network emails on allergy recalls. They happen frequently and it's good to know. You can check out their website, also...it's a great resource!

1 comment:

heather said...

Hello,
Great Post!
My son is allergic to soy, peanuts, eggs, wheat and dairy. I started a website, www.spewdfree.com to help others who suffer from food allergies. SPEWD Free has allergy friendly recipes and a food allergy blog. I hope you find it useful.
Thanks,
Heather