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When Should Your Allergic Child Start Wearing A Medic Alert?

Medic Alert Foundation: Kid’s Medical ID’s

Everyone has a habit- some of us don’t leave the house without our keys while others need to make sure that all of the lights are turned off. Whatever your habit, chances are these are things that were learned easily by repetition.  We are all taught at an early age that repetition helps us to remember to do things with less concentration. If your child has severe (e.g. life threatening) allergies, the same can be done to help teach your children to stay as safe as possible each and every time that they leave the house.

Begin As Soon As Possible This truly means as soon as possible. Regardless of what age your child learns about their allergies, it is crucial that they understand the importance of wearing some type of medical I.D. item. From the moment that your child is diagnosed with an allergy, make it part of their daily routine to check for their medical I.D. before they leave the house. Just as we teach them colors and numbers, teach them to advocate for themselves before they even understand that’s what’s actually happening. Always be open and honest with your child and explain the reason for having their allergies easily accessible for those who may need to see it in the event of an emergency.

Medical I.D. is Necessary Many parents feel that having their child wear a medical I.D., especially at an early age, may not be necessary. Parents who are with their children most of the time feel that they can ensure that proper allergy information is exchanged directly from them. Although this is understandable, it may not always be the case. Car accidents can happen at any time. This is one example of the possibility of a parent not being able to speak for their child due to what may have happened to them during the accident as well.  Sometimes things happen in life that we do not expect. Should a parent fall ill, become unconscious or be unable to speak or communicate for whatever reason, a medical I.D. would still be accessible in the interim.  With a medical I.D. product, everything is clearly seen. If you relay allergy information to a family member or guardian, they may not share the complete information if they are affected by an accident or are under stress.

What is Appropriate? Luckily, there are quite a few items that are available now. There are multiple styles, colors, sizes and ways to showcase the important information that just may save your child’s life.  Having more than one I.D. is often recommended as well (one somewhere on yourself and one on your personal effects).

  • Medic Alert Foundation: Medical ID

    Infant car seats can use a D. Wrap as a first line of information if someone was removing your child from the car. If there is an accident, emergency responders instinct is to reach for the car seat- having the wrap attached makes all of the emergency information travel with them.

  • Shoe tags are also recommended. Having emergency information on a car seat is the first step but for parents who rely on babysitter or daycare, shoe tags will still be with your child after they are taken out of their car seat.
  • Necklaces for both boys and girls are available as well. These are items that can always be worn so, in this case, the habit would be to make sure it’s not missing. I do recommend that you research the appropriate items and length for younger children who still like to put things into their mouth.
  • Bracelets are often the preferred jewelry. The reason being- a necklace may slip back underneath your child’s head and become invisible if they are lying down whereas a bracelet will always be on a place where vitals will be checked.

Allergies can be a tricky part of life, especially for younger children and new parents as well. By teaching your children that this is their normal way of life, they will grow up not feeling as if they should have done something differently. Empower your children by letting them pick out their I.D. items and always have open conversations with them on why they need to keep themselves safe. At such early ages, our children are like little sponges of information- let them sink it all in but always let them know that their safety comes first.

Should My Non-Food-Allergic Child Also Carry An Epi?

Although my second experience of becoming a mom was a lot smoother than I had feared, I am faced with an entirely new set of dilemmas. You see, when you have a child with and without food allergies, you actually feel as if you gotten ahead of the game the second time. You are prepared when you were not the last time. Your child is prepared. But as with anything in life, once you feel that you are riding along at a nice speed, you hit a bump on the road. This is parenthood; challenges, always and worry, always.

Becoming a parent the second time around was nerve-wracking after having a child with food allergies. While the joy of being pregnant was wonderful, I also had visions of how I would handle another child with allergies as well. Would they have the same food allergies? Would they be different altogether? How would I handle having to manage different allergies and still keep some type of sanity within our home? What did not cross my mind is how I would handle a second child without food allergies. What is amazing is when your child takes the worry from you because they know that it’s what you taught them to do.

My daughter was attending a school trip that included nights away from home. It also included an activity that used shrimp. Although she has not been officially diagnosed with a shrimp allergy, she has noticed that the few times she has had it, her stomach hurts and she doesn’t like the texture of it on her tongue. So we had a dilemma when this trip came about- should she bring epinephrine along with her? The teachers would have it but being brought up in a food allergic home, my daughter was fully aware that being prepared is the first step to safety. She knows that an allergic reaction can happen after you have eaten a food a few times with no obvious symptoms and how quickly it can happen. Quickly meaning if she had to take the time to find the teacher with the epinephrine, it could very well be the time that may mean a trip to the emergency room or worse.

What surprised me from the beginning of this event was the fact that my daughter asked me if she should bring epinephrine versus me going to her about it. She told me she thought it was better to be prepared as opposed to not being prepared. I asked her how she felt about relying on the teachers who would have it with them and she shook her head, explaining that she wanted to have it with her- within reach. I would not be with her, I would not be there to help her if something did happen and my daughter wasn’t afraid of that, she was afraid of not being prepared. She put an Auvi-Q into her bag, packed up her items and nothing else was discussed.

Then, the day of the trip came. It was early, we drove to meet the bus in the darkness of morning and once she found her bus, she began to board. Just like that- no hug, no goodbye, nothing until I spoke up “Hey, what about me?” With a smile, she came to give me a hug and just like that, a piece of my heart was leaving me (even if it was only briefly). For her, the trip was wonderful and me- I spent three days checking my phone and just standing in the emptiness of her room. There is nothing quieter than your child’s empty room. Why am I panicking? Here are some reasons:

  • It is estimated that approximately 15 million people are diagnosed with a food allergy
  • There is no cure for food allergies
  • The first line of treatment for anaphylaxis or ingestion of a known allergen is always epinephrine
  • Always carry two auto injectors in case one malfunctions, is not usable or if a second dose is required
  • Trace amounts of allergens can cause an allergic reaction
  • Biphasic reactions may also occur hours after a reaction seems to be under control

She returned safely and didn’t have to use the auto injector but this has become a new unspoken rule for any trip away from home. Am I a helicopter parent? I used to be but now, I am just a mother who has children that are educated about food allergies. I am the mother that knows that to our family, it’s important to carry an item with us that is literally life saving. My daughter once told me that it’s not just about her being able to use it if she needs it- it’s about having it to save anyone who might need it if we were in a situation where someone was having an allergic reaction. This is our life and who would we be if we couldn’t help someone else?  Amidst all of the everyday chaos and our parental worrying, our children don’t hear anything except I need to be safe and I need to keep others safe. This confirmation is worth every single bit of worrying because to me, I feel as if we are saving each other before we even know that we need to be saved.

Can Dining Out Be Fear-Free With A Food Allergic Family?

Too often, we allow our fear of unknown ingredients to limit out lives with food allergies. Understandably, this could literally be life or death in some cases. But at what point is it time to decide to use that fear to empower us? How can we overcome the endless what-ifs and begin to piece together a safety net for our dining needs? Face it- food is a huge part of everyone’s life and it’s something we simply cannot escape.

Join Them Remember that saying If you can’t beat them, join them? This can also be true in regards to setting up your dining strategies, even with food allergies. Today’s support and technology allows for a huge assortment of allergen and ingredient research even before you step foot inside of any type of eatery. There are multiple places to go and safe lists to see so why not utilize what’s out there?

  • Pick a Safety Zone– before you even leave your home, start your research. Never go out to a new restaurant on a whim, not even if someone else assures you that they are pretty sure it’s safe. You need to be your own food detective and advocate to remain as far from your allergens as possible.
  • I’ve said it before and I will say it until the day I cannot speak anymore- Always, Always Have All of Your Necessary Allergy Medications With You At All Times. You know it takes seconds for a reaction to happen so being prepared is always the smartest and most proactive way to stay one step ahead of a reaction.
  • Try a Test Run– always lean towards less is more. Obviously, the less you ingest of a possible allergic food the less the reaction would be compared to devouring an entire meal full of allergens. Start with a sample and work your way up. Don’t want to waste money? Enlist a friend who doesn’t have any food allergies to share your meal item.
  • Don’t Go Alone– when trying new foods, it’s better to be with someone else in case of an emergency. Often people who have an allergic reaction that comes on rapidly are not able to communicate their needs or administer their epinephrine as needed. The buddy system is also a safety system (plus eating alone is never as much fun as eating with friends).

Options At Your Fingertips Are you not quite sure how to explain your allergy needs to your restaurant staff? Why not order custom dietary allergen cards. This is a discreet and easy way to ensure all of your allergens are communicated to your wait staff in more than eighteen different languages. Clear and concise communication is key to making sure everyone is on the same page and ready to work together for utmost safety with your meals.

Just about every person has access to some type of portable information (phones, laptops, etc.) allowing us to gain the information that we need anywhere, anytime.  Use your technology to see what other people are saying about their dining experiences. Food apps, such as DineSafeApp have become one of the best ways for both restaurants and their patrons together.  It’s no wonder that with the current estimate of 1 in every 3 people being diagnosed with a food allergy warrants up-to-date and precise ingredient and menu information.

Make it Personal Being your own advocate also means being your own concierge. Do not wait until you arrive to talk about your specific dining needs- make an appointment. Chefs are almost always more than happy to set up an appointment to speak with you before you even try their meals. This also gives you the added benefit of reading the body language of the person that will potentially be feeding you. Are they hesitating? Do they answer your questions without really giving you a complete and educated answer about food safety? Do they seem as if they may not have as much food allergy knowledge as you were hoping? All of these are signals for you to pick up on prior to your meal and before your food even touches your lips. If you have any doubts, you may consider seeking out a different location that will feel as if the chef knows what you need them to know. It’s your life- you are allowed to be picky.

Listen To Your Heart, Not Your Stomach The fact is, we all want to desperately feel normal. We all want to be able to get into the car and eat somewhere that everyone else eats without thinking twice about it. We all just want to have that meal that we see on television or on the menu. What you are feeling is completely normal but it may not be safe. Simply put, is the price of that meal truly worth the price of your life?

Babies Should Get Peanuts Early to Cut Allergy Risk

New guidelines issued yesterday by experts from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend introducing peanut-containing foods to babies as early as possible as a way to lower their risk of developing a peanut allergy.

The recommendations reverse previous advice to add peanuts later, but are driven by new scientific research that showed early introduction of peanuts could cut allergy development by 81%. The guidelines are tailored for a child’s risk for peanut allergy, as follows:

  • babies should get peanuts earlyInfants at HIGH risk for peanut allergy (have severe eczema, egg allergy or both)
    • Add peanut-containing foods as early as 4 to 6 months
    • Consult with health care provider prior to adding peanuts – specialized testing may be needed
  • Infants with mild or moderate eczema
    • Add peanut-containing foods around 6 months
  • Infants without eczema or any food allergy
    • Add peanuts to infant diet as appropriate/desired
  • IN ALL CASES, start babies on other solids before adding peanut-containing foods

If you have specific questions or concerns about introducing your child to peanuts, speak to your pediatrician or family doctor.

 

Understanding Asthma and How to Overcome Its Challenges

According to the charity Asthma UK, one in five households has someone living with asthma.

understanding asthmaNobody knows for sure what causes asthma, but we do know you’re more likely to develop it if you have a family history of asthma, eczema or other allergies. You’re twice as likely to develop asthma if your parents have it.

Modern lifestyles, such as housing and diet, also may have contributed to the rise in asthma over the last 30 years.

Every 10 seconds someone has a potentially life-threatening asthma attack, and the latest data shows that deaths from asthma are on the rise again.

What Causes Asthma?

There are many theories about what’s caused the increase in the number of people with asthma.

One of the most popular is the “hygiene hypothesis”. According to this theory, asthma is more common in western societies. Because western society is becoming cleaner, we have less exposure to allergens and pathogens.

When a person with asthma comes into contact with a “trigger”, their airways become irritated. The muscles tighten, the airways narrow, and the lining of the airways gets inflamed and swollen.

The main symptoms are chest “wheeze” or noisy breathing, chest tightness and breathlessness. You may also develop a cough, particularly at night, but this is more common in children.

Boys under the age of two are more susceptible to asthma because their airways are narrower when they’re younger. But they usually grow out of it, whereas girls are more likely to have asthma beyond puberty.

Obesity is also thought to make asthma more likely. Symptoms often get better when the person loses weight.

Find out more in Are we too clean for our own good?

Smoking and Asthma

Smoking also has a definite impact. Parents’ cigarette smoke will affect their child’s lung function development, and it irritates the airways. People with asthma are advised not to smoke.

Research shows that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of your child developing asthma. Children whose parents smoke are also more likely to develop the condition.

Once you have asthma, high levels of pollution and smoking may make it worse. But there’s no proof that these triggers actually cause it.

Asthma Treatment

How to Help Yourself/Your Child

If certain things trigger your asthma, such as dust mites, minimise your exposure to them. Put mattress covers on your bed, use a damp cloth when you dust, don’t have too many soft furnishings in your house, and put down laminate or wooden flooring instead of carpets.

Asthma Triggers

Asthma triggers include pets, but studies show that getting rid of animals doesn’t improve asthma. In fact, the emotional upset of getting rid of your pet may make your asthma worse. Keep your exposure to pets to a minimum in areas such as the bedroom, and consider not getting any new pets.

Asthma Medicines

If you have symptoms more than three times a week and you need to use a reliever inhaler (usually blue), you should also use a preventer inhaler (usually brown).

But if you only have symptoms a few times a week when exercising, you can manage your symptoms safely with a reliever inhaler before you exercise.

Asthma is an inflammatory disease. This means preventative treatment is vital, and you must take it even when your asthma symptoms aren’t present. This will ensure your asthma is well controlled.

Review your treatment with your asthma nurse or GP (*family doctor) at least once a year as you might be able to reduce your dosage of medicine.

Find out more information about asthma treatments.

Taking Steroids When You Have Asthma

Because asthma is caused by an inflammation of the airways, anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids are sometimes used to treat it.

You may be concerned about the potential side effects of steroids, such as weight gain, stunted growth (in children) and weakened bones.

The risk of side effects if you or your child are using a steroid inhaler is lower than with steroid tablets because less of the medicine gets into your system. With both steroid inhalers and tablets, the risk of side effects increases if the dose is high and if you use them for long periods.

Generally, if inhaled steroids are prescribed carefully and at the lowest dose needed, the risk of side effects is outweighed by the ability to reduce your or your child’s need for steroid tablets. Discuss the risks of steroid treatment with your doctor if you’re concerned.

If you have queries about any aspect of asthma, you can call the Asthma UK helpline, which is a free telephone helpline staffed by asthma nurse specialists on 0800 121 62 44, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Find asthma services in your area. (*UK)

Asthma Resources in the US:

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.





Holiday Food Allergy Wish List: From Our Family To Yours

pretzel-lightChances are most of us knows someone with a food allergy.  With the holidays practically beating down our door and food arriving from every direction, what steps can we take to ensure that everyone is kept out of harm’s way? After all, the holidays are about giving, eating, sharing and loving. How can we accomplish all of this when some of us are still unsure of the safety rules? I feel that I am safe to speak on behalf of most families who have food allergies; we all have unspoken wish lists that fill our hearts with joy whenever anyone abides by them.

  • Include Us We understand that this can be tricky and even cause extra work for many of you. We know that your lives are just as busy as our own. We also know that many people truly want to include people with food allergies in their plans but they just don’t know how. Begin by including us in your plans rather than making us feel as if we are invading your plans. We will help you every step of the way because the mere fact that you care for us enough to offer means so very much to all of us.
  • Listen to Us This might be the most difficult part for you; your mind is already spinning in multiple directions. If you want to include us, listening is an absolute necessary part of planning for safety. If you ask a question about menus or foods or products, realize that whatever we tell you is for a precise reason. Write it down, ask us multiple times if you have too but please be sure and listen to what we say.
  • Consider Our Journey Remember that none of us with food allergies asked to have a food allergy. No matter what you think we say, do or request is some secret way to cause aggravation that is not our purpose at all. Our food requests are not about you- they are all about us. Is this a bit selfish- yes but it can mean life or death so it must be this way.
  • Be Honest With Us If you feel unsure at any time with what we have told you to stay safe, tell us. Many of us are still trying to figure out all of the rules about our allergies so we absolutely don’t expect you to understand them either. Tell us you want us there but that you don’t feel that you can offer us safe foods. Honesty is like a safety hug.
  • Discuss the Menu with Us Go over the menu and ask us if there is anything that we are able to eat. We do ask that you be patient with us when we ask what may seem like thousands of questions. This is how our lives are and we are just used to investigating every single detail about our foods. You may learn things that you didn’t even know about your foods from us.
  • BYOF It’s perfectly fine to ask us to bring our own food! In fact, many of us travel with foods most of the time so that we are safe and there is no added pressure to us or to our hosts. We love our food just as much as you do but in the end, being safe and spending quality time with our friends and family is what counts the most.

There are just a few more wishes for the people who visit us in our homes as well. You might even say it is just part of our routine rather than wishes. Remember not to be offended or think that we are exaggerating- we will welcome you with open arms but it’s our house and our rules. These were put into place because this is what our home needs to avoid an allergic reaction.  Remember – it’s my child’s life – I can’t care if people get offended – he could die, period.  It’s not my job to make everyone else feel comfortable – only to keep my son safe and alive.  That trumps everything! Trust me when I say that nothing turns a holiday into a bad memory faster than watching an allergic reaction.  So all that said, I think you’ll understand a little more clearly why we insist on the following:

Wash your hands Do not stop to shake hands, do not touch my child’s face, do not touch any of our foods until you have washed your hands please. We are not afraid of germs- we are afraid of what allergic ingredients are hiding on your hands. That candy bar that you moved around inside of your purse to get to your lipstick? That could be fatal to us.

Please Don’t Debate Washing your hands or following our safety rules is not up for discussion. Our family has special needs and you must follow our request. You do not know all of the reasons and you don’t need too. We don’t need to know why you don’t agree with some of them. Please respect us enough to keep us safe- we will do the same for you.

Ask Before You Bring Food Don’t take this the wrong way- again, we love our foods. We appreciate that you want to share with us and feed us. But chances are, we won’t be able to eat what you have spent your time and effort to make for us. If you are thinking of bringing food, ask us what products we like and make us a gift bag of those items (keep them in the package- even preparing allergy-friendly items has its own set of safety rules).

Every family has a holiday routine and we would love to learn yours. This year, spending time with each other can be the best gift we are given. Take pictures, swap recipe ideas and cook with each to learn new methods of cooking and how to use new ingredients. If you are wondering what you should bring to the table, kindness is always an absolute winner.

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