In honor of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness month, we will share a series on food allergy focusing on everything from myths to personal stories of dealing with food allergy. Today we have a story written by Michele Benyue about her experience with a food allergy emergency. 

It was a typical Friday night and my children were asking for ice cream. Because of our oldest son’s food allergies, we always buy the same kind. I never thought to check the ingredients on this unopened container. It looked the same as always. Shortly after eating his scoop, my son told me he had a fat lip. He is 6, so I didn’t think much of it. I asked what he bumped his lip on and he said he didn’t bump it on anything. I took a peek and shrugged it off. A few minutes later he started coughing uncontrollably and telling me that maybe he was getting the flu because his stomach and throat hurt. It was in that moment that a light bulb went off. I asked him to come into the bathroom and I looked at his lips.

In honor of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness month, we will share a series on food allergy focusing on everything from myths to personal stories of dealing with food allergy.

There is a substantial amount of false information available on the internet and it can be very difficult to separate fact from fiction in food allergy.  This post will try to correct some of these myths. (This article is adapted from “Common questions in food allergy avoidance”, written by Maureen Egan, MD & Matthew Greenwalt, MD and published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, March 2018.)

MYTH: MY CHILD HAS A PEANUT ALLERGY, SO I NEED TO REMOVE ALL PEANUT PRODUCTS FROM MY HOME.

FACT: If a food allergic person touches a surface (such as a table top) that has remnants of the food still on it and then puts the hand into their mouth or touches their eyes, a reaction can occur, but this is considered an ingestion (eating it), not an inhalation (breathing it) reaction.  Some families may choose to be peanut free at home, but that is a personal decision. If a family chooses to keep peanut (or any allergen) in their house, they should wash their hands with soap and water after eating it, and clean the table top with cleaner or commercial wipes. Hand sanitizer does not remove food proteins.

(an occasional series by Dr. Pedersen about her experiences with allergy in her family)

Prior to becoming a mom, I was pretty sure that I would be calm, cool, and collected about my kids’ health. After all, I am a board-certified pediatrician and allergist. So, when my picky son (we will call him Mini P) was 9 months old and FINALLY ate a few bites of eggs and then refused to eat any more, I thought it was no big deal. When he got fussier and fussier over the next few minutes and just wanted to be held, I thought he was tired from a long day at daycare. When my husband looked at him and said, “he looks blotchy, and is he itching his ear?” I brushed him off. When Mini P refused his bottle, I figured he was overstimulated and brought him to his room to calm him down. When, as I was changing him into his pajamas, he began to projectile vomit multiple times, I finally realized what was going on.

Teal Pumpkins?

Written by Wednesday, 25 October 2017 18:38

teal pumpkinFor children with food allergies, Halloween is not just a time to dress up and have fun, it is yet another experience where they need to be vigilant about their food allergies. FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) started the Teal Pumpkin Project to make Halloween and Trick or Treating a safe and inclusive event for all children regardless of food allergies or dietary restrictions. Instead of only buying candy to hand out to Trick or Treaters, people who participate in the Teal Pumpkin project also have non-food treats available that eliminate the risk of an allergic reaction. (This also works for people who are worried about too much sugar and junk food being passed out on Halloween!)

Some people who participate in the Teal pumpkin project will have pumpkins pained teal outside of their houses. Other people will make or print out signs to show that they are participating. But, if you don’t have time to do that stuff, just having a separate bowl of non-food treats that you offer to trick or treaters will work!

Help make Halloween a safe and fun experience for all kids!

Sign up on the FARE website to let kids with food allergies know that your house is a safe place for trick or treating this year, and look for other people participating in your neighborhood! 

Ideas for non-food treats

Back to school asthma

Written by Monday, 11 September 2017 17:49

Summer is just about over.  Everyone in the family has hopefully been healthy, but now it’s back to school.  About 2-3 weeks after the summer school break ends there is always a big increase in children’s asthma symptom, and emergency room visits.  In the northern hemisphere (such as the USA, Canada, and Europe) it’s known as the “September Spike”.  It occurs earlier or later depending on when school reopens, but typically 2-3 weeks after the first day of school. In Australia and New Zealand, it happens after the Christmas break (which is the end of their summer recess).

The BUZZ about bee allergies

Written by Tuesday, 18 July 2017 19:37

Knowing where to look for bees and what to look for if you are stung can help avoid some of the fear of bee allergy.bee 1

Where are bees found?

Honey bee nests are in tree hollows and old logs and generally they only sting when provoked. They usually leave in the stinger with the attached venom sac (although some yellow jackets also can leave their stinger).

Yellow jackets build nests in the ground, so you’re likely to see them when doing yard work, farming and gardening.

Hornets build large nests in trees and shrubs. 

Wasps build honey combed nests in shrubs and under the eaves of homes and barns.

Yellow jackets, hornets and wasps are scavengers, often found at outdoor events where there is food or garbage and are more aggressive than honey bees. 

What type of reactions can happen when stung?

Thunderstorm Asthma

Written by Wednesday, 07 June 2017 19:16

Although not frequent, severe springtime thunderstorms have been linked to asthma attack epidemics. Last year, more than 8,500 patients overwhelmed hospitals and emergency personnel during a thunderstorm on November 21 (Australia’s springtime) in Melbourne.

So, what happens during a thunderstom that causes asthma to get so bad?

We all look forward to the springtime and want to open the windows and be outdoors, but for people with allergies, spring is a mixed blessing, and can mean feeling miserable. However, there are steps you can take to better enjoy this time of year.

What plants pollinate in the spring?

Some of the trees start pollinating in early March, so even if the snow is still on the ground, there can be tree pollen in the air.  By mid to late April, when the weather is dry and the wind is blowing, tree pollen counts can be quite high.  Trees continue to pollinate through June. The grass generally starts pollinating in mid to late May, but unlike the trees, the grass can pollinate even in April if nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees.  For people who are allergic to both trees and grass, the worst time is usually from mid May through mid to late June because both tree and grass pollen counts are quite high.