I am all about non-food celebrations and I want to share a craft idea that I am doing for my son's classroom. It is fun, easy and makes a great keepsake.
Allergies at School: Ways to increase the safety and awareness of life-threatening food allergies at school
Allergies at School
Paperback by Stacey Stratton
Stacey Stratton from Peanut Free Zone reached out to me last year regarding a new book that she wrote called Allergies at School. I felt very honored that she wanted me to look at it and give her my opinion. I thought it was fantastic and at the time I was also going through the 504 Process for my son. When I first read the book, it was only available on Kindle, but I am happy to announce that it is now available in Paperback as well. This book is a great tool to have if you have a child with food allergies starting kindergarten. It is also good for kids changing schools or anyone that is recently diagnosed with a food allergy and is just not sure what the next step should be when preparing for school with a food allergy.
I would recommend this book as a great source of information for families sending kids off to school everyday with a food allergy. The book includes 11 helpful chapters as well as a note section and checklist in each section. The best thing about this book is it is only $4.99 on Kindle and $8.99 on Paperback. You can find more information about this wonderful resource on Peanut Free Zone or Amazon.
Guest Blog By Rebecca Sherrow
Thank you, Lisa, for inviting me to share our story with the No Nuts Moms Group! I'm the creator of the blog Pure and Peanut Free, and I'm also the leader of the No Nuts Moms Group in Colorado Springs, CO. I have two children. My son is 7 and my daughter just turned 5, and it's because of my youngest that we found ourselves on this food allergy journey.
From the time she was born, Eva suffered from severe eczema. At one point, when she was just a week or two old, a woman stopped me in the grocery store and asked "What on earth is wrong with your baby?!" After multiple trips to the doctor, and several false diagnoses, like baby acne (yeah right!), I was finally told (without testing) that she was allergic to dairy, and that I should supplement my breast milk with a hypoallergenic soy formula. The eczema cleared up and we thought we had our answer. At 9 months old, however, she had what I believe was her first anaphylactic reaction. We were at an amusement park and my son was eating a snack. I had prepared a bottle for her and after a few minutes of eating she began screaming and writhing in pain. Between the bouts of crying she would suddenly fall asleep (what I now know was caused by her blood pressure dropping), and then she'd wake and start all over again, until she finally vomited and the symptoms began to improve. Assuming that this was just a stomach bug, I didn't think too much of the incident and didn't even mention it to her doctor.
The second time she experienced anaphylaxis was not quite so easy to forget. She was 14 months old and we were at a play date. My son was eating a peanut butter cookie and, thinking I was being a very wise parent (she was too young to be introduced to peanuts, you see), I chose an oatmeal cookie for her. But here's my BIG mistake: I let the two of them share a plate. His peanut butter cookie next to her oatmeal cookie. Soon after eating she began choking and grabbing at her throat. I literally thought she had swallowed a rock, as they were playing near some gravel. She would cry, choke, and then intermittently fall asleep (her blood pressure dropping, again). I rushed home, and as soon as we got inside she began vomiting. She threw up over and over, to the point that she could barely lift her head. It was then that her face began to swell. (I, being still very naive about food allergies, didn't connect the dots). She seemed to feel a little better after vomiting, so I filled the tub for a bath. As I was undressing her, I noticed the hives. On her stomach, on her back, on her bottom. Places that were hidden from the other symptoms (always check these areas if you suspect a reaction!!!). That's when the light-bulb went on and I had that AH-HA moment! This was an allergic reaction!
I rushed her to the doctor, where they confirmed it was a reaction. But to what? Allergy testing was scheduled for later in the week.
At the allergist I sat trying to comfort my baby girl as her tiny back swelled from the skin prick test. My mind raced through memories the past week - that image of her unable to speak, clutching her throat, her wide, brown eyes pleading for help which I couldn't provide, was forever branded into the forefront of my mind. When the results were in, we discovered that (surprise, surprise!) she was not allergic to milk at all, but rather to peanuts, and her results were off the charts! The pieces started falling into place. The eczema - I was eating peanut butter on the advice of a mid-wife (and since there was no known family history of food allergies), to increase the protein in my breast milk. The reaction at the amusement park - my son was eating peanut butter crackers. And at the play date - she obviously ate some crumbs from my son's peanut butter cookie. It all made sense.
Which brings us to today. She's a happy, vibrant, opinionated, eczema-free, EpiPen toting (actually, I carry it) five year old who's excited about starting kindergarten in the fall!
My most immediate concern after her diagnosis was that she would never have a normal childhood. She couldn't have sleepovers with friends, eat dinner at their houses, travel, go out for ice cream or go to summer camp. All the things that I remember so happily from my childhood. Which is why the No Nuts Moms Group is so important to me. It's allowed Eva to make friends with other children who share the same allergies, who also live in peanut-free homes and whose parents are just as concerned about cross-contamination as I am. Parents who don't think I'm crazy for reading the ingredient label six times, who, in fact, will read the same label themselves 6 more times just to be sure; who are supportive and always there with good advice, never criticism, and a shoulder to cry on (even a virtual shoulder). As we all know, this allergy stuff can be tricky business, and I don't need to tell you how wonderful it is to be able to type in a question on the NNMG facebook page and immediately receive answers from across the country. We have an amazing community and I'm so very thankful for each and every one of you! Because of you, because of our ever growing community and our constant, tireless advocacy, I know that the world will be a safer and more allergy-friendly place for our kids in the future.
Rebecca Sherrow shares her stories, nut-free recipes, and original photography on her blog, Pure and Peanut Free. After additional testing, it was determined that her son is allergic to melon and shellfish. Her recipes are free of peanuts, tree nuts, melon, and shellfish. You can also find her on freedible. As well as on twitter, @RebeccaSherrow, facebook, and Pinterest.
Guest Blog by Jennifer Kemmerling
My name is Jennifer Kemmerling and I have two little girls. Charlotte is 4 and Grace will turn 3 in April—they are 17-months apart. Charlotte was diagnosed with severe eczema when she was only a couple months old. We had no idea why her skin was so red. We thought it was just the dry, flakey skin that babies sometimes got after they were born. We were finally told that she had eczema by a pediatric dermatologist and were prescribed a steroid cream called Cutivate. It helped so much but we were very leery of using a steroid on her, so we used it only when it got super bad and very sparingly. We were also told to never use anything scented and the only detergent we could use was Dreft. Never to use any fabric softeners because of the fragrance in them. UGH! So much for having nice smelling clothes.
Because of her eczema, we were also told to stay away from major allergens…specifically food related things like strawberries, eggs, fish, and nuts. We did a great job at that. When she had her 2 year wellness visit with her doctor (back in 2011), I asked about introducing some things to her, maybe peanut butter. He said he didn’t think it would be bad to try. So, a few months later, on Valentine’s Day, we gave her a heart shaped peanut butter cup to try. Oh…the look of pleasure on her face sitting down to eat it was so cute! I sat right next to her to keep an eye on her. Her first initial bite, she said “Mmmmmmm”. Then came the dry cough. I let her finish that bite and she took another. Another dry cough. Didn’t like that at all, I knew from experience with my nephew who has a severe peanut allergy what to expect. Dry coughing is not good. She didn’t complain of feeling anything strange but I took it away immediately. She cried. I told her she shouldn’t eat anymore and gave her a Hershey’s kiss instead. After going to pick up a pizza with my husband, Charlotte took her coat off and was immediately scratching the back of her head and neck. Still no complaining. I took her shirt off to see her entire body covered in hives. FULL body hives. Poor thing. Her ear was swelling as well as one of her eyes. We took her to urgent care and they gave her steroid meds. That’s when we took her to an allergist and he confirmed that she was off the charts with peanuts and a few other tree nuts. UGH!!
So, we have a little one with skin issues, allergies to peanut and tree-nut as well as cats and dogs. Grace and my husband have eczema as well. We have been super careful about scented things in the house. Back in May of 2012 I was introduced to Melaleuca for the first time. I heard the awesome 45 minute overview and was so impressed I needed to try everything! I was specifically interested in trying all the EcoSense cleaning products…especially the laundry line. I said I couldn’t have anything scented so I was going to get the scent-free detergent. My friend Dr. Barbara Ryan (and now my business partner and mentor for my Melaleuca business) asked me why unscented so I explained how the doctors told us to stay away from any fragrances. Dr. Ryan told me that we wouldn’t have any trouble using the scented line at all since it was all fragranced with botanical oils. I tried it and it was amazing! I fell in love with all the products and decided to start my own business educating others about the incredible benefits of being with Melaleuca. It has changed the way we live and I am so proud of being able to help others learn more. I feel even better raising my girls to know why it’s so important in their lives to use safe products for not only their benefit but for the environment. I am an older mom, will turn 46 this year, and my concern is of course when I’m not here…who will teach them these things? I hope that by bringing Melaleuca into their lives, that they see how it has made a difference. How it can make a difference to everyone.
If anyone would like to learn more, please feel free to contact me here on FB, my email email@example.com or you can call/text me on my cell to introduce yourselves to me and I’d be most thrilled to help you. My cell is 630-290-6137.
Thank you for hearing my story.
“Nothing great was every achieved without enthusiasm.” ~~Ralph Waldo Emerson
December 17, 2013 was a very proud day for many in Michigan and the food allergy community. Governor Rick Synder signed into law House Bills 4352 and 4353 that will mandate all Michigan schools to have life saving medicine called Epinephrine available to anyone suffering a severe allergic reaction. The bills will also make sure at least two staff members are onsite and trained to use the auto injectors.
My family and I were so honored to be invited by Governor Synder to witness the signing of these two House Bills. I am so proud to say that I live in Michigan. This is such a monumental event for so many families. Many states across the country have Epinephrine laws in place, but there are very few that actually require them. Other states are passing laws allowing schools to obtain epinephrine auto injectors and stock them, but this is an option and not a requirement. Michigan did the right thing by becoming the fifth state to require Epinephrine in our schools. This will bring so much awareness to our schools and save so many lives.
There are so many people and families out there that made this happen. I want to thank all of you for all of your efforts. Thank you for continuing to raise awareness, advocating for our children and calling and writing your state representatives and senators. You all made a huge difference in so many lives.
If your state is currently going through the legislation process then check out this blog post with resources that may help you in your efforts.
Don't Go Nuts
Don't Go Nuts is a company that was created by one family's love for a family member
with food allergies. Jane and Doug Pinto, co-founders, along with their 13-year-old twin daughters,
Lily and Mesa began a company that caters to families and their loved ones with peanut and
tree nut allergies.
The family's food allergy journey began when Lily was diagnosed with life threatening food allergies to peanuts and tree nuts. When Lily was three years old, she had a reaction to something that she had eaten and developed hives. After getting her food allergy diagnosis, the entire Pinto family was extremely cautious, but even with their extra vigilance, Lily experience her first anaphylaxis reaction when she was eight years old from eating something that was mislabeled. Thankfully, Lily was ok, but the
Pinto family's lives were forever changed. Doug Pinto described this day in a blog by saying, "It was one of the times in my life that I was aware of my relationship to fear." From that day on, the family needed to find away to transform Lily's allergy into help for others. Jane Pinto said, "We want to be part of ensuring not only that a child doesn't lose their life due to a food allergy but also that every child lives an inspired life with it." And Don't Go Nuts was born.
I recently had the great opportunity to speak to Jane Pinto, Co-Founder and CEO of Don't Go Nuts, a division of Pinto Barn, along with her dedicated staff. It was such a pleasure speaking with a team of people just as passionate about food allergies as I am. Don't Go Nuts currently has a full line of healthy peanut and nut free soy butters and energy bars in a wide variety of flavors. I have had the energy bars and they are very delicious. I shared some samples with some of my fellow food allergy moms and I am waiting to hear what they think. During my call with Don't Go Nuts, they shared with me some of the exciting things that they have planned in the near future. So I would keep your eye on this family and their company because they have some great things in the works for the food allergy community.
13-year-old twins, Lily and Mesa are such an inspiration to so many young people out there. The love in their family can be felt in this YouTube video. Please watch and share their story.
Also, check out Don't Go Nuts Field to Fingers Nut Free Process, which is so important to Lily and so many other food allergic families.
VIDEO NO LONGER AVAILABLE.
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The Halloween Fairy
This will be our third year doing the Halloween Fairy and my family really enjoys it. My boys still get dressed up and go door to door, but they know not to eat any of the candy. When we return to the house, the boys cannot wait to see what the Halloween Fairy has left them. When they enter the house, they drop their bags and find fun Halloween buckets filled with safe candy and non-food items. The Fairy only visits homes of food allergic families. Daddy then takes the other collection of candy and sets it out for his co-workers to enjoy. My favorite part is putting the buckets together and seeing the smiles on their faces. My kids could care less about the other candy leaving our house.
This year, the Halloween Fairy will be leaving them Peanut and Nut Free Chocolate from Canada, Dove Chocolate, Dum Dums and some fun toys.
To get more ideas that may work for you and your family check out this blog:
Halloween Traditions for Families with Food Allergies.
Have a very safe and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
Stock Our Schools With Epinephrine
All across the U. S. there is an increasing number of states taking the initiative to introduce legislation regarding stocking schools with epinephrine. Unfortunately, some states are only giving their schools the option to stock EpiPens, as opposed to making it a requirement. I strongly believe that there should be a mandate requiring all schools to stock epinephrine. Schools have fire extinguishers, heart defibrillators and other security measures in place to protect our children. They should also have life saving medication for someone experiencing a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Food allergies are on the rise and are not going away any time soon. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that food allergy prevalence increased from 3.4% in 1997–1999 to 5.1% in 2009–2011. Food allergies are not the only thing that can trigger anaphylaxis. Other common triggers also include insect bites or stings, latex and medication. In September 2013, a third grader's life was saved after being stung by a wasp on recess. The child didn't know that he was allergic and thankfully the school stocked auto-injectors for all students suffering a severe allergic reaction. I could list great stories like this across the country and it is because they had epinephrine available.
If a person is having an anaphylaxis reaction, unfortunately giving Benadryl and waiting for medical attention isn't an option. When a person is suffering a severe allergic reaction, every second counts. They must get epinephrine immediately and then seek proper medical attention. If you wait to give epinephrine then there is a chance of losing a life. Unfortunately, it has happened and will continue to if there's not immediate access to this life saving medication.
Some people question whether schools can afford to stock schools with epinephrine auto-injectors. Mylan L.P., the distributor and marketer of EpiPen® has a great program for schools called Epipens4Schools, which is a program designed to allow qualified schools to obtain EpiPen Auto-Injectors at no-cost. I would be really surprised if more makers of other epinephrine auto-injectors didn't start their own programs for schools very soon. There really isn't any reason for not having this available in every school. Financial reasons shouldn't be a deciding factor. Do we really need another innocent child to die at school because they didn't have access to epinephrine? .
My child has life threatening food allergies and will always have two auto-injectors with him at all times, but the CDC reports that 25% of anaphylaxis reactions in schools occur among students without a previous food allergy diagnosis. So these children may have always had these allergies and didn't know or they just develop them out of nowhere. And for these kids an auto-injector wouldn't be available. Our kids spend over eight hours a day at school and they should be safe and protected. A recent report by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) shows that anaphylaxis is more common than we think. The report showed that anaphylaxis occurs in nearly 1-in-50 Americans.
I don't know the ins and outs of the entire legislation process, but I am a mother of a child with a food allergy and I know how important it is for every child to have access to epinephrine. I have read too many tragic stories and I have met parents that have lost a child. We have life saving medicine that can prevent these kinds of tragedies from happening and we must do everything we can to keep all of the children out there safe.
If you haven't contacted your representative in your area then please do so. One person can make a difference and there are so many resources out there that make this process so easy for you.
To see how you can help, please check out the following resources:
Do You or a Friend Have a Food Allergy? – Dine and shop smarter at home, restaurants and the grocery store with new tools and games from www.Anaphylaxis101.com
Mylan Specialty L.P. has introduced a new resource for dinning out with food allergies. This new initiative is part of Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis. By going on the new section of the site, called “Dining with Severe Allergies”, you can find tip sheets, guides and travel-sized cards with advice on how to read food labels, food substitution suggestions, allergy-friendly recipes and grocery shopping tips.
There is also an interactive educational game called Supermarket Search. This is a great game to do with your child and they can learn the importance of checking ingredient lists, even when cooking at home. Users select a character and then “shop” for ingredients needed to complete a delicious, allergy-friendly recipe. This is something that can be both entertaining and educational for your children. You can even print the recipe when finished.
Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis™ and Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis Challenge™ are sponsored by and trademarks of Mylan Specialty L.P. © 2013. All rights reserved. PAC13-0098