Food Allergy Fears – It’s Ok For Your Child To Try Something New

Cute little girl sitting in the mother lap and smearing peanut butter on bread.Do you remember the last time that your allergic child tried a new food? If the answer is no, you are not alone. It’s a difficult task for both parents and children with food allergies. There is always the thought of “What if” no matter what the new food is. Every new ingredient, every new spice, every new menu item that your child might want to try to have a larger variety of foods to choose from is seen as a possible threat. The fear is very real and very understandable so how does an allergic family get over this bump in the road?

Always have medications within reach

Even with my second child, I always made sure I had any necessary allergy medications for immediate use when we decided to try a new food. In the past, antihistamines were the first line of action but to date, research and countless food allergy tragedies have proven that this may actually not be the case. First and foremost, having the correct items will ensure that those seconds could be spared. The most typical items that should be on-hand are two doses of epinephrine, some form of antihistamine and an inhaler (if asthmatic or your child has a history of needing a rescue inhaler).

Small or not at all

Our family has made it a habit of trying a small amount of anything new rather than having it as an entire meal. This may seem a like we are being a bit over protective but it makes perfect sense. The smaller the amount of allergic food ingested, the easier it should (hopefully) be to get the reaction under control. If you are allergic to peanuts and wanted to try an almond, would you eat a piece of an almond or an entire loaf of almond bread? Everything in moderation.

Stay together

I have never, ever given my allergic child any new foods and then sent him away or to bed for the night. Ever. If an allergic reaction occurs, you want to be with your child to make sure you can treat them properly, to watch for the specific signs or symptoms that came from that food and you want to show your child that they are not alone in having to deal with food allergies. It’s a silent support system but if you have seen that very distinctive, frightened look in your child’s eyes as they begin to react, you know that the best thing to do would be there with them from start to finish as much as possible.

No Mixing

This is very important! For the sake of your child and to avoid additional food allergy tests, always test out one new food item and no other new foods with that food item for at least three to five days. Will it take a longer time? Yes but you also want to make sure that the sandwich that your child took a bite from doesn’t contain so many possible allergic foods that you will be deeming a handful of foods as unsafe when really, most of them could have been eaten. Trying new foods is to expand your allergic child’s food options, not to limit them further.

Check your phone

Have a telephone ready and waiting. This means having it in your hand, in your pocket, on the table or somewhere that you can use it right away if you need too. Also, make sure it’s fully charged if it’s not a landline. Update your telephone list with current physician information and even print out a list of emergency contacts to have a fast and easy place to access. When an emergency happens you may not have time to think or react so the more you plan to be prepared, the faster you can deal with the situation as needed.

Support your child’s fears either way

As a parent, it is always difficult to know what the best thing to do is, especially when it’s dealing with food allergy concerns. You may feel that if you don’t encourage your child to try new foods that it makes you too laid back. Or, if you insist that your child try a food and they have a reaction, they will remember that event as a negative part of your parenting. Be open and discuss your own fears with your child- let them know that you are fearful to, that there is no way of telling what could happen and that the most important thing for them to know is that you are there with them.

When in doubt, step out

Many food allergy families prefer to do any and all food testing in their physician’s offices. Although this is recommended with most people, this is a personal decision within each family. Only your family can decide if you feel comfortable enough to test out new foods at home rather than under a physician’s watch. Consider all aspects, analyze any previous allergic reactions and make sure you ask your child what he or she also feels most comfortable doing.

New foods may always cause fear but so can many other things in life. Give your child the opportunity to know how many different foods are out in the world and how many they may have never tried had it not been for their food allergies. Teach them that their fears should be about what they don’t know what to expect, not from what they do know. Conquer your foods, conquer your fears but never let either be a part of what stops you from continuing.

Study: Processed Baby Foods Lack Nutritional Value

Time-to-start-solid-foods“Home-made baby meals better than shop food”, The Times reports.

The Times’ headline accurately reflects a widely reported UK study describing the nutritional content of commercially available infant foods in the UK.

Based on manufacturers’ information, the researchers compared the foods with breast milk, formula milk and examples of home-made weaning foods commonly given to infants, such as banana or stewed apple.

When should you start to wean your baby?

Before six months old, your baby’s digestive system is not developed enough to cope with solid foods.

Find out more, including foods to avoid when weaning.

Savoury ready-made “spoonable” foods were generally found to have much lower nutrient density than the sorts of home-made foods that might be given to an infant aged 6 to 12 months.

The received wisdom is that solid foods help a baby grow and develop because they are more energy dense than breast milk. However, the researchers said that the majority of products had energy content similar to breast milk, which means that the products would not be able to enhance the nutrient density of infant diets.

While ready-made foods provide parents with much needed convenience, they come at a cost, both financial, and from this research, that cost is also likely to be a lower nutritional value.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Glasgow. Sources of funding were not reported, but the authors say they had no competing interests. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The story was picked up by most of the UK media. Some had attention-grabbing headlines that focused on the “potential harm” these commercially available foods pose to infants.

However, the research did not look at harm to children, so these headlines do not accurately reflect what the research was about.The research simply goes some way towards confirming what many parents already suspect – food that you’ve prepared yourself is more likely to be nutritious than a processed, packaged, shop-bought version.

Reassuringly, once past the headlines, most of the media reported the study appropriately.

What kind of research was this?

This was a cross-sectional study that described the types of commercially available infant foods in the UK during 2010 and 2011. The study also described the nutritional value of these products and compared them with examples of home-made foods common in the UK, such as banana, mashed potato and stewed apple.

Because this type of study is only performed at a given point in time, findings from a different point in time may provide different results. This should be taken into account when interpreting results from this type of study. However, the nutritional content of products is not prone to frequent changes.

What did the research involve?

The researchers identified the four main UK manufacturers of infant foods during the period October 2010 to February 2011 through sales figures from previously conducted market research. The four companies, along with the number of products they had, were:

  • Heinz (103 products)
  • Cow & Gate (115 products)
  • HiPP Organic (115 products)
  • Boots (50 products)

They also identified two smaller organisations that produced organic foods:

  • Ella’s Kitchen (38 products)
  • Organix (58 products)

Products included ready-made soft and wet foods as well as dry foods that can be reconstituted with either milk or water, such as cereals, rusks, raisins, cakes and biscuits. Drinks, smoothies and milks were excluded from the analysis.

Nutritional information for each product was collected from manufacturers’ websites, direct email enquiry with the manufacturer, or from the products in-store (Boots products only).

The researchers collected information about the product name, recommended age and the type of liquid used for dilution (milk or water for dry products) as well as specific nutritional content, including:

  • Energy (kJ or kcal)
  • Protein (g)
  • Carbohydrate (g)
  • Fat (g)
  • Sugar (g)
  • Salt
  • Iron (mg)
  • Calcium (mg)

Using this information, products were classified as either sweet or savoury (“taste”) and put into four main food types (“texture”):

  • Ready-made
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Powdered meals that need to be reconstituted with water or milk
  • Dry finger foods, such as rusks (*hard, dry baby biscuit)

All nutritional analysis was per 100g of product. The products were compared to the typical nutritional value of breast milk and the average for baby formula milks.

Ready-made products were also compared to the nutritional content of examples of home-made food commonly given by parents to infants and toddlers in the UK, such as mashed potato, chicken, stewed apple and vegetarian meals.

Cereals and dried products needing reconstitution were excluded from the nutritional content analysis because of the difficulty in defining the nutritional values.

What were the basic results?

The researchers analysed 462 products. Of these, 364 were ready-made products (mostly baby jars or sachets) and 45 were dry finger foods, such as rusks or raisins. Nearly half of the products (44%) were targeted at infants who were four months or older and 65% of foods in this category were classified as sweet.

Other findings included:

  • Savoury ready-made “spoonable” foods generally had much lower nutrient density than the sorts of family food that might be given to an infant aged 6 to 12 months, with the exception of iron content. The researchers say that around 50g of a soft “spoonable” family food might have the same amount of energy and protein as 100g of ready-made “spoonable” food.
  • The average energy content of ready-made “spoonable foods” was 282kJ/100g, which was similar to the energy content of breast milk (283kJ/100g) and formula milk (281kJ/100g).
  • Ready-made “spoonable” sweet foods had similar energy density to home-cooked sweet family food but had lower protein levels.
  • Commercially available rusks and biscuits were on average more energy dense and contained high amounts of iron and calcium, but also tended to be high in sugar.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded that the UK infant food market mainly supplies sweet, soft, “spoonable” foods targeted at children aged from four months.

They say the majority of products had energy content similar to breast milk and would therefore not serve the intended purpose of enhancing the nutrient density and diversity of taste and texture in infants’ diets.

Conclusion

Overall, this study provides some useful information about the types of commercially available products in the UK during 2010 and 2011. It offers some basic nutritional content of these products and compares them with breast milk, formula milk and some examples of common home-made UK foods.

The main limitation of this study was that nutritional information relied on what was reported on manufacturers’ websites, which may not accurately reflect actual nutritional content.

There are also some other limitations to this study, including:

  • The researchers say that given the large number of products made, it is not possible to record the exact ingredient for each food, so the classification of food types relied on the name of the products.
  • Despite categorising foods by taste (sweet or savoury) and texture (dry, wet, ready-made), actual taste and texture was not assessed.
  • Only a select number of example foods commonly given to children in the UK were included  these foods may not reflect foods commonly given to all children in the UK.

Read more about when to start introducing solids foods.

Summary

“Home-made baby meals better than shop food”, The Times reports. The Times’ headline accurately reflects a widely reported UK study describing the nutritional content of commercially available infant foods in the UK …

Links to Headlines

Links to Science

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

 

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 10-19-2015 to 10-25-2015

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Safety News: Tips for Protecting Kids and Teens from Identity Theft https://t.co/8qU9U5Cd5z

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Meet Julia, Sesame Street’s New Character With Autism https://t.co/AIojkOzhCL

Jem and the Holograms is Sensory Friendly at AMC on Tuesday

AMC Entertainment (AMC) is expanding their Sensory Friendly Films program, in partnership with the Autism Society!  This Tuesday evening, families affected by autism or other special needs have the opportunity to view a sensory friendly screening of Jem and the Holograms, a movie that may appeal to both younger and older audiences on the autism spectrum. 

New sensory friendly logoAs always, the movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Jem poster-cropDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing Jem and the Holograms tomorrow, Tuesday, October 27th at 7pm (local time). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming in NovemberSpectre (Tues, 11/10), Peanuts (Sat, 11/14)  The Hunger Games – Mockingjay – Part 2 (Tues, 11/24)

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Editor’s note: Although Jem and the Holograms has been chosen by the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for thematic material including reckless behavior, brief suggestive content and some language. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.

Uncommon Halloween Safety Tips so Parents Can Avoid ER Trips

Little TigerHalloween time is an exciting time for parents and kids.  Halloween means parents and children decorating houses and lawns, picking out costumes and planning the inevitable trick or treating.  Halloween time and specifically Halloween night is an exciting time for EMS and hospitals …but not in a good way. Exciting to us means BUSY and there are things that we bring into the ER every year that makes us and the ER staff members shake our heads …things that hopefully – with these safety tips – parents will now think twice about.

  1. Candy and food allergies: We all know we should check the candy our kids get and make sure it looks safe, but did you know you should also check for contents that could cause allergic reactions.  Many candies have nuts and they get missed.
  2. Costumes and face paint irritants. Face paint is great and looks cool but the time to test it is not on Halloween night when it’s dark and you can’t see any reactions like a rash or breathing problems caused by full costume.  Colored contact lenses should be added to this list.  Kids like to wear them with costumes and if doing so should be made aware of what to watch for like irritations and damage to their eyes and taught how to put them on and  take them out properly.
  3. Real Props. Cuts, pokes, scrapes and real trauma from kids and adults using REAL PROPS. Using a plastic knife or pitchfork is ok.  Using real knives and pitchforks should not happen at all but especially around children.  A no brainer…but it happens.
  4. Letting kids wander alone. Letting your child wonder alone is your choice, all I can add to this is please think about who is going to speak for your child in the ER if YOU are not around.
  5. Broken Bones. Kids should have costumes they can move in and enjoy themselves in.  If your child cannot walk correctly or has trouble with then it should be changed so as to avoid trip, falls and possible broken bones.
  6. Carving Pumpkins. Many children end up in the ER every year with serious cuts from carving pumpkins with sharp objects that are not meant for carving or were left unattended.  Make sure kids are supervised and tools put away.
  7. Using Real Candles in Decorations.  Real candles add a certain effect to the decoration but also bring a danger of surrounding objects catching fire if decorations are bumped or knocked over or left unattended.  There are many brands of colored lights that can be put in decorations that bring a great effect and pose no threat to any one or home.
  8. Hayrides. Every child loves a hayride and they are great but like any ride and everyone should be secure, not just children. Injuries are mostly from falls and can be serious. Security, proper seating and slow speed should be requirements.
  9. Home Decorations. Decorating your home for Halloween can involve dark or no lighting and lawn inflatables.  A dark home with ropes all over the place securing decorations do not mix well with trick or treaters that will trip and fall and possible injure themselves.   There is nothing wrong with decorations, just try to make sure you don’t create a hazard at the same time.

All of the things outlined above can be avoided with planning and supervision.  However, all of the things above become more possible when drinking and alcohol are involved.   AAA and State Farm consider Halloween night one of the biggest drinking nights of the year and the deadliest night of the year for pedestrians with the rate of pedestrians struck by cars doubling.  So please be careful and have fun!

Thanks!

Goosebumps is AMC’s Sensory Friendly Film this Saturday

New sensory friendly logoEach month, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society are teaming up to bring families affected by autism and other special needs “Sensory Friendly Films” – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy their favorite “family-friendly” movies in a safe and accepting environment. They have also recently added movie screenings of films for slightly older audiences on the autism spectrum.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Goosebumps posterDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! “It can be challenging enough to bring ANY child to a movie theater” says PedSafe Special Needs Parenting Expert Rosie Reeves. “For a parent with a special needs child, attempting an outing like this may seem overwhelming. And yet getting out, being with the community and sharing in an experience with an audience can be invaluable for just such children”.

On Saturday, October 24th at 10am local time, Goosebumps will be screened as part of the Autism Society “Sensory Friendly Films” program. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, click here for a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access list, please scroll to the bottom of the page – and check with your local theatre to be sure they will be showing this Sensory Friendly film).

Coming later in OctoberJem and the Holograms (Tues, 10/27)

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Editor’s note: Although Goosebumps has been chosen by the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for scary and intense creature action and images, and for some rude humor. As always, please check the IMDB Parent’s Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.