Monday, April 3, 2017

Two Kids and Food Allergies

It's official.
Both girls have food allergies.

A couple weeks ago we took Emma (our 10 year old) to get tested for allergies. The reason for the testing was to determine her seasonal allergies (she's been suffering a lot over the past couple of years). We also decided to do the standard food testing too ... just in case.

Long story short:

Emma has a LOT of seasonal allergies including: alfalfa (3/5), corn pollen (3/5), wheat farm pollen (3/5), trees (3/5), grasses (3/5), and ragweed (1/5).

And....she also tested positive for foods. The numbers I'm going to type out are based on the skin testing and a scale of 0-5, with 5 being "very strong" positive.

Sesame seed: 1/5
Soybean: 1/5
Almond: 2/5
Peanut: 2/5
Walnut: 2/5

Because I always follow up with a blood test too, these are the results. Less than .34 = class 0. They only tested foods with the blood panel.

Almond: .70 - class 1, low
Hazelnut: 23.30 - class 4, very high
Peanut: 11.90 - class 3, high
Pistachio: .77 - class 2, moderate
Walnut: 9.98 - class 3, high

To say I was floored by the food allergy results would be an understatement. Our PA at the allergist's office was shocked by the blood test results. Several of the numbers are MUCH higher than Olivia's results.

I've had several people ask HOW it is that Emma hasn't had a reaction to any foods. Honestly, I'm not sure. Maybe she's had a slight reaction and we missed it. Or maybe, because she doesn't eat peanut butter (has always hated it .. she's never had a PB&J) or any kind of nuts we just didn't know.

Regardless, she now has EpiPens and we're continuing everything we already did for Olivia - avoiding ALL tree nuts and peanuts and sesame seeds.

We just keep on keepin' on.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Peanut Allergies on a Plane

Flying with peanut allergies is usually a scary thought - especially since the airline industry seems to think serving little packets of peanuts is necessary for a good flight experience.

On a recent Delta flight from Orlando to Detroit I witnessed Delta trying to do something good but stepping all over themselves in the process.

On this particular flight it was just me and my husband - the kids had stayed home. So I didn't have to worry about Liv's allergies while we flew.

But, as we boarded the plane the flight attendant stopped two rows in front of me to talk with a mom who was traveling with her two daughters - both of whom had a peanut allergy. The flight attendant asked if the mom had EpiPens ("yes, we have about 10 of them" she replied). And then notified the mom that she'd make an announcement that peanuts would NOT be served during the flight.

Score one for Delta.

Then, the woman seated in front of me (which would put her directly behind the allergy mom) said, loudly and with sarcasm: "Well darn. Now I can't eat my peanuts!" ... and then proceeded to laugh.

A few thoughts:
1. Food allergies are never funny. NEVER.
2. Your inability to eat a small package of peanuts during a 2 hour flight is a VERY small sacrifice to make.
3. Your statement makes you look and sound like a total JERK.


While I give props to Delta for trying to do the right thing, the announcement made by the flight attendant after takeoff went like this: "We have passengers with peanut allergies on this flight today and therefore we will not be serving peanuts. We apologize for the inconvenience."

Again. Not being able to snarf down a package of honey roasted peanuts during a flight is NOT an inconvenience. Please stop treating it as such.

I posted something about the whole "bitching about not being able to eat peanuts on a plane" on my Facebook page before take off and two hours later opened Facebook to find a full-blown argument happening on my FB page. Essentially one person said she "felt bad" for the person who couldn't eat nuts on the plane because it was their "RIGHT" to eat peanuts.

Um. NO.

No one has a right to eat peanuts on a plane. I checked the Bill of Rights .. says nothing about the right to eat peanuts while putting the lives of others in danger.

However kids with food allergies DO have a right to travel without fear of an allergic reaction at 39,000 feet. NO ONE will die from NOT eating peanuts on a plane. But kids with peanut allergies CAN die from exposure to peanuts.

And my child's life will always outweigh your supposed "need" to eat peanuts.
End of story.

I quickly deleted the entire Facebook thread because I honestly don't have the time or patience to deal with such blatant stupidity - in fact I was so angry that I didn't even read all the comments. I then posted: "Do NOT ever debate food allergies on my Facebook page." And the peanut sympathizer came back to post more snarky comments. So I unfriended her AND blocked her.

To this day I cannot understand how anyone thinks that they have a RIGHT to eat food that could injure or kill another person. Peanut allergies - and food allergies in general - are no laughing matter. There is nothing funny about food allergies and until people stop treating them like a joke actions like those of the passenger on the plane and the ex-Facebook friend will continue.

As I always say, replace the words "food allergies" with a life threatening illness or other serious disease and see how "funny" and "amusing" you sound then.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Keep the Food Out of the Classroom

This year Olivia has been taking 'exploratory' foreign language classes - French and Spanish. And because schools can't seem to stop bringing food into the classroom, both classes have planned a "food" day where students can eat French or Spanish food to "learn" about the culture.

The French food day happened before we knew Olivia was allergic to gluten so I (begrudgingly) sent in a baguette and some brie. I also let the teacher know about Liv's allergies so that no one questioned why she wasn't eating the macarons and other stuff.

Next week the Spanish class is hosting its food day. This time we're dealing with the gluten allergy, a newly diagnosed shellfish allergy, and the constants of peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame seeds.

Olivia has decided she wants to make me to make some grilled beef salad (seriously the recipe is HUGE, but I'll do it). That might be the only thing she'll be able to eat unless someone brings in corn chips and salsa. I don't know how likely that is.

And once again I've had to email the teacher to inform her of all Liv's allergies and to ask that she makes sure no one gives Olivia a hard time about not eating food.

Honestly, I just don't get it.
Why do we have food in the classroom at all? 

With the prevalence of food allergies today why do schools/teachers/administrators still insist on bringing food into the classroom?

The classroom is a place to LEARN not a place to EAT. You want to eat? Go to the cafeteria at lunch time. Books in the classroom, food in the cafeteria.

I know events like this add stress for Olivia - stress that she doesn't need. She doesn't want to flaunt her allergies, she just wants to live with them and be as 'normal' as possible.

It's time to get the food out of the classroom.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Allergy Re-Testing Day

Today was the day - time for the every-18-months retesting for Liv's allergies. (Actually the original day was December 27 but we were dealing with hives and illness on that day so today was the new day).

First things first: ALWAYS ask what is going on at the allergist's office. They were only going to test her for the "seasonal" stuff today because they said her last skin test didn't show any positive food allergies (it did but I was armed with the results anyway). I pushed back and said "Here are her results from April 2015 and you can see that she's allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame seeds. You WILL be testing for food again today."

And they did test for food. And we have a few new items to add to our list.

Today the skin test results were positive for shellfish (totally new to us) and were once again positive for corn and soybeans (originally showed up on her first skin test back in 2011 but hasn't shown up again until today).

Liv's arms, halfway through the test

So...long story short: she eats corn products and items made with soy all the time with no issues so the allergist said to continue doing so unless we see an issue. The shellfish was a different story - we were told to avoid all shellfish. Which is fine, since Liv doesn't eat or like shellfish. Easy peasy.

Her positive reaction to almonds wasn't a complete surprise - we know she's allergic to almonds - but it's now a 4 out of 5 on the scale our allergist uses. Hazelnuts, peanuts, and sesame seeds were all still prevalent too.

[As an aside, I'm looking at her test results from 2015 and am seeing that at that appointment they didn't even run the tree nut panel - our results were from the blood test only! GAH! Another reason to always pay attention at an appointment].

The CNP today was great - she went down Liv's arm, one wheal (think: small hive) at a time making a determination by TOUCH of their severity. This had never been done at the office - except maybe back in 2011 at her very first visit. [In 2015 the nurse was hurried and didn't pay much attention at all, which is likely what lead to the miscommunication at today's visit.]

It was so nice to have someone take the time to discuss the new allergies and we even talked about the gluten sensitivity - and we're continuing the gluten free protocol because we're seeing positive (read: good) results with relation to the autoimmune diseases.

As always, we also did a blood screening for IgE levels for almond, brazil nuts, cashew, coconut, hazelnut, peanut, pecan, pistachio, walnut, sesame seed, soybean, and corn. Basically Liv spent 2 1/2 hours today getting poked by needles. 

Oh, and on the non-food side Liv is now allergic to horses and guinea pigs. Those are new to the list. Her "seasonal" allergies are getting better - so in 6 months we might be able to go to once-a-month allergy shots. At least we're making progress there. :)

And in the end we keep on keepin' on. Avoiding peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, and now shellfish. Keeping an eye on corn and soybean. And Liv is never getting a horse. Or a guinea pig.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Happy 13th Birthday

Olivia turned 13 earlier this week (!!!) and we celebrated with a night out at Georgio's, a high-end restaurant here in town.

We love Georgio's - and we try to go once a year (usually for Liv's birthday). It's really REALLY expensive but oh so worth it (and a gift certificate each year helps a lot).

In the past Georgio's has been great about Liv's allergies - we let the waitress know what needs to be avoided and the kitchen makes it happen. Of course, she's usually ordering steak so that's pretty easy.

This year we added "no gluten" to the mix and the kitchen was, once again, wonderful. Liv loves the sauteed Haloumi cheese ( need to order this!) and the kitchen used corn starch instead of flour to coat the cheese. She also ordered a steak dish that came with a red wine reduction and the kitchen made a roux WITHOUT FLOUR just for Liv.

And THAT my friends is how you deal with food allergies.

The only setback came when they brought out a slice of cake for her birthday - with candles and all - and the cake was a Macadamia Nut Bomb. The waitress felt horrible about her mistake and quickly returned with a bowl of vanilla ice cream AND chocolate creme brulee.

the cake with nuts! :(
If you're ever in Toledo and you're looking for a wonderful place for lunch or dinner, make the drive downtown for Georgio's. It'll be worth it.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year and Other Stuff we made it to 2017.

Life has been a bit crazy since the last time I blogged here.

Long story short...Liv was diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases in a span of 5 months last year. And then over the summer she broke a bone in her foot.
You're probably wondering how/why these two things might be related.

Well: at an ortho appointment the doctor noticed some sores on Liv's legs and asked if she had a gluten allergy. I said "not that we know of" but we had an allergist appointment the next week. At that appointment I mentioned the gluten thing to the doc and she ordered a blood test just to make sure.

Test came back with elevated IgE levels for gluten (but negative for celiac) and so the doc recommended a gluten cleanse.

Eight weeks later Liv's hair is growing back as quickly as she's losing it (and - knock on wood - she isn't losing much at all right now) and her skin has totally cleared up. No psoriasis plaques, no eczema, nothing. The pediatrician said if it seems to be working, stick with the no gluten diet.

[If you're wondering, yes...there is a link between gluten and autoimmune diseases].

As for Liv she's feeling better, she looks better, and she's handling the "no gluten" diet rather well.

Now, as I tend to do on this blog it's time to give some shout outs to local restaurants and their handling of food allergies, which now includes gluten.

A few weeks ago we dined at LaScola Italian Grill and they get a gold star for handling guests with gluten issues. The restaurant has a dedicated gluten-free menu - including rolls!!! - and they were amazing with Liv's allergies and gluten sensitivity. Also, her fettuccine alfredo was SO much better than the version with "regular" noodles.

We've dined at another favorite spot - Mancy's Italian - twice since Liv went gluten free and both times I've left with a not-so-happy feeling. Last week when we dined there I had made it a point to mention Liv's allergies in our OpenTable reservation and the waitress was aware of them when she came to our table (one point for Mancy's).

They also have a gluten free menu but (here's where points are deducted) they charge an extra $3 for gluten-free pasta dishes and an extra $7 (!!!) for gluten-free pizza. Seriously. 50 points deducted for Mancy's Italian.

Why in the world would you punish people for not being able to eat gluten? That's beyond ridiculous.

I will give our waitress a few points for giving Liv her own plate of olive oil (to reduce cross-contact), but the whole charging-extra-for-gluten-free negates any points.

Restaurants need to realize that food allergies are not a "fad" and they aren't going away - in fact they will likely continue to grow. As such, the industry as a whole needs to stop punishing diners for their food allergies and this includes putting and end to the "extra" charges for things like gluten-free pasta and pizza.

And with that I'll wish you all a Happy 2017! Here's to safe eating and allergy-friendly restaurants :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

I'm Back! Summer Vacation Allergy Adventures Edition

Wow. Would you look at that? It appears that the blog took a summer vacation.
(That's my story and I'm sticking to it).

So, what did you do on your summer vacation? We took two trips - a Caribbean cruise and a short weekend in St. Louis.

Managing Olivia's allergies on the cruise was pretty easy - we had an amazing head waiter in the Main Dining Room (on Oasis of the Seas) and he went ABOVE AND BEYOND to make sure Olivia was safe every night at dinner. Heck, he even cut her steak each night (LOL).

The one negative on our cruise was when we visited the ship's ice cream shop and the crew member told us that they "don't serve people with allergies." Um, 'scuse me? You 'don't serve' people with allergies? How about if you EDUCATE YOURSELF about food allergies and actually offer something that would be safe - or even TRY to make an effort to help passengers find an answer when it comes to allergens in the ice cream.

And then, St. Louis. We had some good and some bad. Let's do good first.

Since we were visiting St. Louis I decided we HAD to eat at Imo's Pizza - the home of the 'St. Louis-style pizza.' I emailed the company and told them we needed to avoid peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame seeds and within a couple of days I had an email in return! They assured me that the crust was safe but to avoid the sandwiches as the bread contained sesame seeds.

My review: pizza was great! We'd definitely go back - they made sure to note Olivia's allergies when we ordered.

Then the not-so-good - Angelo's Taverna in St. Louis. We decided to stop here for lunch since it was connected to our hotel. As we were being seated I noticed that the rolls were covered in sesame seeds so I knew those were off limits!

I told the waiter about the allergies - peanuts, tree nuts, and SESAME - and he assured me that he told the kitchen. We ordered calamari - but not before asking the waiter to again ask the kitchen if the breading was safe and free from allergens. He left the table and came back with an assurance that it was safe.

Olivia ate a piece of calamari and then she saw them - sesame seeds IN THE BREADING. Yes, seriously. She immediately stopped eating. When the GM stopped by our table I told him about the calamari and he said "there's no sesame in the breading." Then he checked with the kitchen and GUESS WHAT? They use their day-old bread that is COVERED IN SESAME SEEDS to make ALL the breading in the restaurant.

I told him he's lucky I didn't need to Epi-Pen my kid in the middle of the restaurant.

Seriously - train your wait staff to understand the severity and seriousness of food allergies.
Total fail for Angelo's.

On a brighter note: we also stopped at Culver's on our way to Missouri and they were WONDERFUL when it came to Liv's allergies. They actually type in the allergies as you order and Olivia was able to enjoy chicken tenders and fries. She didn't feel comfortable with the frozen custard - which was OK with me. I was just happy to find another spot that takes allergies seriously.

I hope you had a safe and allergy-free summer too!