Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Flavorings and Spice Are Not Always Nice

Sigh.  I took my daughter shopping with me, the other day, for groceries and she said she wanted to try hot dogs, again.  It had been a long time since she had them, so I went in search of the ones she had in the past.  They were the John Morrell/Rath Black Hawk Beef Hot Dogs.  Their label drew me in...On the front is a blue ribbon that reads, "Food Allergy Recognition*" and next to the explaining asterisk is "Free of the Following Food Allergens: No Milk * No Egg * No Nuts * No Fish * No Soy *No Wheat."

I read the ingredients list, which was as follows: Beef, water, corn syrup, modified food starch, contains 2% or less of salt, flavoring, spices, potassium lactate, dextrose, sodium phosphates, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, extract of paprika.

I was too busy re-reading the "No Milk * No Egg..." part, trying to see which of the Top 8 was not listed.  (I guess they were all listed, with "nuts" meaning peanuts and tree nuts and "fish" meaning fish and shellfish.)  With all of this allergy-friendly reassurance going on, I forgot to pay attention to my nemisis..."flavoring" and his evil sister "spices".  O, how I loathe them.  I cannot believe I let them get past me...

I made my daughter one hot dog, and cut it into pieces for dinner.  She ate them up and said they were yummy.  A few minutes later, she was bending over a little, telling me that her tummy hurt.  She would bend forward like she was getting a sharp pain and she was saying, "I don't know what's wrong, Mommy, I don't know what's going to happen."  She's 3, and she speaks very well, but her phrasing is still sometimes hard to figure out, so I kept asking questions.  She has had gas pains, before, so I wasn't sure what was going on, but she kept grabbing at her stomach.  She also likes to lean over the edge of the table, sometimes, and she said, "maybe I hurt my tummy bending on the table."  A little bit later, she said, "I need to go spit up" and left the table and went to the bathroom.  This was very unlike her.  Typically, her allergic reactions are swift, with projectile-vomiting and no time to make it to the bathroom.  She went into the bathroom and kept telling me that something was wrong with her tummy and that she felt like she might spit up.  I sat with her on the floor, holding her as she kept getting stomach pains.  My husband and I were discussing what it might have been that did it and I said, "she has had the hot dogs before" and he asked, "did they have mustard in them?" and I felt that sadly familiar pain in my own stomach...the pain of making a mistake.  I pictured the label in my mind...flavorings...spices...They often contain mustard/mustard seed!  Our daughter has never been tested for a mustard allergy, but we know she has one.  The first time she had yellow mustard...no problem...The second time...projectile vomiting everywhere.  It was banned after that.

My poor little girl was holding the bathroom trash can, and she was asking me, "Mommy, Mommy, why is my tummy hurting?  What happens when I spit up?  How does it come out?"  I explained that sometimes we eat things and our tummy does not like them and wants them out, so it sends it back up and out of our bodies.  She had that mild panicky look in her eyes and I knew that "I'm going to throw up soon" feeling and I felt so awful for her.  She finally threw up and looked up at me and said, "My tummy did it!  It got it out!"  I was saying, "Oh my baby, my poor sweet baby, I'm so sorry," and she said, "No, Mommy, it's OK, I feel better, now!" and she smiled at me.  Once again, she completely amazed me in the way she handled it.  We got her cleaned up and she went off to play, like nothing had happened.  We were watching her closely, of course, because you never know if a reaction will worsen.  I gave her a dose of Benadryl and some of her hemp milk and she took it like a champ.  She played happily the rest of the evening and was in the best mood.  She didn't have any further reaction, thank goodness!

I, however, was disappointed in myself for having made such a mistake.  I wrote to the company to see if their "flavoring and spices" did, indeed, contain mustard, or maybe even sesame.  This was their reply:
"Thank you for contacting us at John Morrell Food Group regarding our Beef Franks.  It is always a pleasure to hear from a customer who will take the time and interest to contact us.
 John Morrell Food Group abides by all requirements of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA). The flavorings listed in the ingredient text for this product will contain mustard, sesame is not an issue. " 
*Punch in the gut* Yes, I did, in fact, give my poor sweet girl mustard.  The email upset me even more, because I tried, and failed, to complete a petition to have FALCPA extended to include mustard and sesame, for just this reason.  I should know better!  However, I'm going to, as usual, try to do as I always tell others and not beat myself up, AGAIN, but to learn and move forward.

Perhaps I can start over and try, again, to see if the FDA will extend FALCPA to include things like corn, sesame and mustard, or anything that hides under "flavorings" and "spice".  We need transparent labeling across-the-board.  There is no reason why we should not be told what is in our food!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Delayed Vaccine Reactions

In my post about frequent ear infections, I wrote about the connection I made between my daughter's exposure to one of her high (at the time undiagnosed) allergens and an ear infection/bronchitis episode.  This connecting of the dots sent me digging to work on another theory I had brewing in the back of my mind.

I had read some posts from people talking about vaccines and wondering whether they should do the delayed schedule, or not vaccinate at all.  I'm pretty sure I responded once or twice saying that my daughter did fine with all her vaccines, except for her flu shots.  Well, now I'm not so sure.  Looking back, it looks like she had a problem with every set of shots she received.  

I started an Excel spreadsheet (yes, I am crazy like that) and I entered all of her pediatric doctor visits and the reason.  I then added in her immunization dates.  I sorted the records and lo and behold, there was a pattern!  
  • 2-month shots: DTaP/Hep B/IPV/Pneumococcal Conj. /Rotavirus/HIB-PRP-D [suspicious ingredients: bovine protein, whey protein, lactalbumin hydrolysate]
    • 25 days later: I took her in for a rash - this is when her first eczema developed and I do not, entirely blame that on the shots...
  • 4-month shots: DTaP/Hep B/IPV/Pneumococcal Conj. /Rotavirus/HIB-PRP-D [suspicious ingredients: bovine protein, whey protein, lactalbumin hydrolysate]
    • 7 days later: Green mucousy stools (sorry for the TMI)
  • 6-month shots:  DTaP/Hep B/IPV/Pneumococcal Conj. /Rotavirus/HIB-PRP-D [suspicious ingredients: bovine protein, whey protein, lactalbumin hydrolysate]
    • 14 days later: Upper respiratory infection (URI)
  • 9-months shot: 1st Flu shot [suspicious ingredient: egg protein]
    • 4 days later: Ear infection and "viral syndrome"
  • 12-month shots: MMR/Varicella/Flu shot [suspicious ingredients: egg protein, bovine albumin]
    • 12 days later: Congestion/Ear infection
  • 15-month shots: Diphtheria/Tetanus/HIB/Pneumococcal Conj. [suspicious ingredients: bovine protein, lactose]
    • 7 days later: cough/breathing issues requiring albuterol treatment
She first developed eczema at 3-4 months of age, which is a pretty common time for it to crop up, so I'm not too surprised about that.  I do have a feeling, however, that being directly injected with whey protein exacerbated, if not triggered, her milk protein allergy.  She basically had repeated injections of milk and egg protein, directly into her system.

I was never able to report any "adverse effects" to her shots, because they did not happen right away.  They told me that the symptoms were unrelated because it was too long after the shots.  Most times I didn't even connect the two, but in hindsight, it looks pretty obvious, since she hardly had any illnesses outside of those on that list.

Where does that leave us? Well, I don't really know.  I guess I will have to do some research to see if any vaccine formulations exists that don't contain her severe allergens.  I wonder if there are preventative measures we can take when she's due for her next shots.  When my daughter was born and we signed up with our pediatrician's office they said we couldn't be a patient if we didn't follow the standard immunization schedule, but I wonder if there are any exceptions for severe food allergies.  I have a little less than a year to figure that all out...

Update June 2012: I am adding a link to the reference document from the CDC website that lists the vaccine ingredientshttp://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/B/excipient-table-2.pdf

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hemp Chips!!

I went to Whole Foods (or "Whole Paycheck" as a friend just called it), and I was perusing the chip aisle, and I saw this new chip bag with the word "HEMP" on it and it stopped me in my tracks.

As you may know, I'm a big fan of hemp and hemp milk is my (daughter's) preferred non-dairy milk, etc.  Well, I had recently been wishing that they would made a chip out of hemp seeds, since they always have either flax seed or sesame seeds, to both of which my daughter is allergic.  I really didn't think it would happen any time soon, or ever, so I was amazed when I saw the bag.

It's by the "Food Should Taste Good" brand.  Here is a link to their Hemp Chip product page.  These are the ingredients: Organic Blue Corn, High Oleic Sunflower Oil and/or Safflower Oil, Hemp Seeds, Corn Bran, Sea Salt.

Yes! No sesame or flax seeds!  Now, I know what you might be thinking...What about cross-contamination issues?  Well, the company appears to be very allergy-conscious and they thoroughly clean the lines between allergen runs.  I called and told them that my daughter had a sesame and milk allergy and I am awaiting more details on their cleaning procedures.  They assured me that the lines are well cleaned, but the woman I spoke to said she would gladly get more information for me.

UPDATE: Wow, that was FAST!  They called me back within the hour and I am impressed!  The woman said she spoke with their manufacturing team and they confirmed that they follow stringent cleaning/allergen-control procedures in between runs of sesame seeds, dairy and soy, and their other products.  That's great news! 

So, while awaiting the additional information, I decided to break open the bag and give them a try, myself.  They taste great!  They taste just like a regular corn chip.  I ate a couple more chips and focused really hard trying to taste the hemp seed.  Since I am familiar with the taste, I was able to detect it ever so slightly as an after-taste, but it was very subtle.  I'm not sure anyone would notice if they've never had hemp seed.  I was truly amazed.

I love their site, because they suggest "accompaniments" for their chips and they have lots of dip recipes.  One of the suggestions for this chip was pureed edamame.  I hadn't even thought of that!  Well, only recently have we added soy back to my daughter's diet, but it sounds like something I might want to try, to get some added protein in her diet.  

Once I get the response from FSTG, I will proceed with caution in offering it to my daughter, due to her sesame allergy, but if you/your child does not have a sesame allergy - dig in!

Here is some more information from the back of the bag:
All Natural
Kosher (OU)
Low Sodium
Trans Fat Free
Gluten Free
Lactose Free
No Preservatives
Cholesterol Free
A Good Source of Dietary Fiber

This company has a long list of chip varieties, so you should definitely check them out!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Vanilla Pancakes: Egg-free, Wheat-Free, Milk-Free

I decided to do some experimenting with the pancake recipe on the back of the box of Gluten-Free Bisquick.  This recipe is egg-free, wheat/gluten-free and (cow's) milk-free, but it is not soy-free.  There is a soy cross-contamination warning on the GF Bisquick and I used Whole & Soy vanilla soy yogurt.

Update: After making this recipe a few times, I have tweaked it a little and achieved better results...
Vanilla Pancakes
Egg-free, (Cow's) Milk-Free, Wheat-Free/Gluten-Free
  • 1/2 c. Gluten-Free Bisquick
  • 1/2 c. vanilla soy yogurt
  • 1 T. canola oil (or safe oil of your choice)
  • 2 T. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 c. vanilla rice milk 
  1. Mix all of the ingredients.  Allow the mix to sit for a few minutes and it will fluff up.  
  2. If you have a 1/8 c. measuring spoon, scoop out 1/8 c./2 T. mix onto the griddle/pan and spread out the mix a little bit, since it will be a bit thick.  Feel free to experiment with shapes.  (The best I can do is a "Mickie Mouse" shape. :)  In my previous recipe version I was thinning out the mix with a little extra rice milk, which you can still do, but it make them a little gummier, and I prefer them with less rice milk, since they come out fluffier, this way.  They look the same as before, but the internal consistency is what improved.  
  3. You can also add in shelled hemp hearts, if you would like to add some protein to the mix.  I used Manitoba Harvest Shelled Hemp Hearts.  They are made in a dedicated hemp facility that is dairy, soy, nut and gluten free.  Three tablespoons adds in 10 grams of protein and the seeds do not add any grit or nutty feel to it.  My daughter didn't even mention the subtle change in flavor, which is probably because she is so accustomed to the flavor of hemp from drinking hemp milk on a daily basis.   

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Reactive Airway/Asthma Gear

Given that I'm going to discuss medical devices, I would like to direct you to my disclaimer page, before we proceed.  I am not a medical professional!

I know they don't like to label young children with "asthma" and call it "reactive airway disease", but I will often refer to my daughter's breathing issues as "asthma".

The website AsthmaFreeLife.com has a good explanation of the difference between "extrinsic" and "intrinsic" asthma:
Asthma is generally split into two categories: extrinsic and intrinsic. Generally speaking, extrinsic asthma is an allergic reaction and intrinsic is non-allergic. Basically, allergic asthma (aka extrinsic asthma) is caused by environmental factors.
Allergic asthma occurs when something foreign enters the body through inhalation. These foreign things are called "allergens" or "antigens," and we breathe them in.
When this happens, the body overreacts. The immune system kicks in, to get rid of these usually harmless particles.
Unlike intrinsic asthma, extrinsic asthma often begins early in life, often in childhood. Asthma, especially extrinsic, is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases. By adolescents, most extrinsic asthma sufferers are aware of the problem and have already sought some kind of treatment.
The only difference between non-allergic and allergic asthma are the source of the trigger. The reaction of the lungs and immune system is the same in either case. Understanding the way allergens come into the body is the key to treating the problem.
So, as I see it, my daughter has extrinsic asthma.  I'm hoping this means that as long as I can keep her away from her triggers, we should have less and less breathing issues.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Facebook Timeline

I know many people don't like the new Facebook Timeline, but let me tell you why I absolutely love it!

It basically acts as an online diary for your entire life.  For some, that makes them nervous, but I think it is awesome.  I can go back in time and fill in "life events" and photos from things that happened before I joined Facebook.  Also, I am now able to scroll back through time and easily access my old status updates.  A while back, they released the ability to download your entire data set.  I loved that, too, but it was hard to sift and search through.  Now, I know they don't have a search feature, yet, but I can go back to certain points in time and see what I posted.  In the post I made about ear infections, using the Facebook Timeline was exactly what helped me make the connection and figure out what really happened back in October of 2010.  I was wondering to myself, "did she eat anything different around that time?"  I went to my Timeline, and on the right-hand side, I clicked on "2010", the "Oct", because I knew from her medical records that the ER visit was on 10/30/2010.  I scrolled to the days around that and found the posts, below: (click on image to enlarge, if needed)

As you can see, on October 29th, I mentioned that she ate some corn muffins and on the 30th I made my post about our trip to the ER.  There were more details that I wrote in the Comments section that helped me piece everything together and remember what all happened.

You don't post your child's every meal and move, you say?  Well, I don't really, either, but I was lucky to have mentioned it around that time.  However, I now know that going forward, I am going to use the Timeline as a bit of an "activity and food diary", by posting statuses that are only visible to me and my husband and my father, who helps me take care of Morgan quite a bit.

To do this, in real time, just make a normal status update and change the Privacy settings to "Custom" and then "Only Me", specific people, or to a Friends List that you've made with people who care to track your child's meals/activities for future reference.

If you realize you want to jot down something from a previous date, you can click anywhere on your timeline and select Status and enter one and set the date for the entry.  You will also want to change the privacy settings away from "Your friends" to something more restrictive.

So, this is part of why I am really loving the new Facebook Timeline.  If you use Facebook often, you now have the chance to review the tons of information you've already poured into it.  If you don't use it much, you can now use it as an online diary tool, to help with putting together the many scattered pieces of your child's medical puzzle.  Either way, I think it's great and the best part is that it's free!

Frequent Ear Infections and/or Bronchitis - Could be Food Allergies

(This is a long post, but if your child has had recurrent ear infections, bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, etc., I hope that you will read it and see if anything "clicks" with you.  I wish I had put all these pieces together sooner for my daughter, but luckily, she's doing just fine.)

As I mentioned in my post, Review Your Child's Medical Records, it's a good idea to maintain in-house copies of your child(ren)'s medical records.  I have a train of thought constantly running in the back of mind, sorting through all of this information and I feel as if there is a crew working in there, going over everything, looking for connections and revelations.  Having these records on hand allows me to sift through and look for evidence to back up my theories, when a new one pops up in my head.  That, coupled with some time spent in the Google-verse, has produced an "light bulb moment" that I wanted to share.  It's not my discovery, as I'm not the first one to ever think it, but it's something that occurred to me and now that the light bulb has gone off in my head, I'd like to see if there are any other light bulbs out there that could use the same spark.

Part of the epiphany happened when I was trying to piece together the events of an ER visit we made with my daughter, less than a month before her 2nd birthday.  We left the ER with a diagnosis of an ear infection (otitis media) and bronchitis.  However, when I looked back to my Facebook statuses from that time-period (here's a link to my post about the new Facebook Timeline, and why I love it...) I saw a post I made referring to some corn muffins that I had made for my daughter.  I wrote that "she ate too many" and threw up, but that she seemed to be feeling fine after that.  The next night/morning, however, we took her to the ER for breathing issues.  It dawned on me that I had made those with corn meal, corn flour and *gasp* FLAX SEED!  I had used flax seed as the egg replacer.  At that time, I was not aware of my daughter's Class 4 allergy to flax seed.  I had only used it once or twice, but I had stopped using it, because I was suspicious of it.  That night of the ER visit was tense and stressful and sleepless and I had actually forgotten about the flax seed and so I just has a vague notion in the back of my mind that lead me to avoid it and then several months later, I decided to have her tested for a few more foods, including flax seed and sure enough, it came back as a Class 4 ("Very High").  It occurred to me that her developing an ear infection and bronchitis was not a random event.  I believe it was a all part of her reaction to the flax seed ingestion.  The immediate reaction was vomiting, but she obviously didn't go into anaphylaxis. (Edited to add: WRONG! Every time I think I've put some pieces together, I find more pieces and get to see a little more of the box top...See this post for an update, because that was most certainly an anaphylactic reaction...)  I believe it triggered an asthmatic flare which caused the bronchitis.  "Bronchitis" just means that the main air passages to the lungs are inflamed, so it's more of a symptom, than a stand-alone illness.  I also believe that the ear infection was caused by her reaction to the flax seed.  Here's an excerpt from the U.S. National Library of Medicine's page on ear infections:

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The Eustachian tube runs from the middle of each ear to the back of the throat. This tube drains fluid normally made in the middle ear. If the Eustachian tube becomes blocked, fluid can build up. This can lead to infection.
Ear infections are common in infants and children, because the Eustachian tubes become easily clogged.
Ear infections may also occur in adults, although they are less common than in children.
Anything that causes the eustachian tubes to become swollen or blocked causes more fluids to build up in the middle ear behind the eardrum. These causes include:
  • Colds and sinus infections
  • Excess mucus and saliva produced during teething
  • Infected or overgrown adenoids
  • Tobacco smoke or other irritants

Hmm, what was that first one? Allergies!  When people usually think of allergies, they think of seasonal allergies, like those to ragweed or mountain cedar.  It didn't really occur to me, though, that one of her food allergies could be the cause.

The doctor in the ER chalked it up to a viral infection that she must have picked up, but she had not been exposed to any sick kids, at least not to my knowledge.  She does not go to daycare and is in a playgroup, but we are all very good about letting other mothers know about illnesses that are going around.  I thought it was weird that she got some random virus, but was mostly focused on the happy fact that she was feeling better, so I didn't give it much more thought.

After making this connection, I did some more research and it looks like another frequent culprit for causing ear infections is a milk allergy.  If you Google "ear infections and milk allergy" you will find all kinds of interesting stuff.  So, I know I'm not presenting a brand-new theory, here, but I wanted to bring it front-and-center for anyone reading my blog and I also wanted to add that it doesn't have to be a milk allergy (even though my daughter has that, too.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Rookie Mistake

No matter how far along the learning curve we may get, there's always a chance that we'll make a "rookie mistake".  I'll share mine, as always, in the hopes of helping someone else avoid my mistakes.

We live near a wildlife ranch, where you can drive in your car and look at and feed the various animals.  They give you a couple of bags of feed and you mosey along the roads at your own pace.  My daughter loves to go there and I enjoy taking her on inclement weather days, since we can stay in the car.

We bought a season pass and after a couple of visits, it dawned on me that I hadn't even asked what was in the food pellets that we were given!  I had noticed a trend of my daughter being a little itchy after our visits there, but the pellets were pretty solid and she doesn't really put her hands in her mouth, so I didn't think too much of it.

On our last visit, however, we got a bag with what looked to be the "bottom of the barrel" and there was mostly dust at the bottom.  My daughter was digging into the bag and taking the pellets out and putting them in the door handle and dropping them in the process and "animal feed dust" was getting everywhere.

That night she was extra itchy and the next day her poor little face was all broken out in a rash.  Her legs also got a little splotchy and she was sneezy and snotty.  Her reaction never went beyond that, but I just felt terrible.

I went online to see if their website had any information about the feed, but it didn't, so I Googled animal feeds and found that many were made from corn and/or soy, which was not a problem, but then I found a picture of the feed that looked exactly like what we were given and it was made out of wheat! :(  Wheat is one of her moderate allergens and thankfully not one that she is anaphylactic to (so far).  She spent a few days, though, recovering from the exposure.  On our previous trips, there was always a little feed dust at the bottom of the bag and that ended up on the floor boards and all over the back of the car, so now I think that explains why she always seemed to get itchy after being in the car.  I remember thinking, "what is in this car that's bothering her?"  DUH!  I'm guessing the huge dose of dust on this most recent trip just put her over the edge and caused a more obvious reaction.

I cleaned out the car and my husband and I went to a car wash to use the heavy duty vacuums and we basically detailed the car, top to bottom.  We wiped all of the hard surfaces and cleaned the floor mats.  I spend all this time warning people about allergens in unexpected places, so I certainly felt silly missing this pretty obvious source.  Just because it's not food for her to eat, doesn't mean it's safe for her to touch/inhale!

Oh well, as always, I will just try to do better in the future and not dwell, but I wanted to come here and share.


A friend told me about this website which allows you to keep up with the blogs you follow.  You can also follow those blogs on your mobile phone.  I encourage you to check it out - thanks!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Portlandia - Allergy Pride Parade: Ignorant, Inaccurate and Ill-Timed

I saw this clip from the show "Portlandia", called "Allergy Pride Parade" on the Allergy Moms Facebook page and I was so upset by their ignorant mockery of a life-threatening condition.  

Here is a link to the video: http://www.ifc.com/portlandia/videos/portlandia-allergy-pride-parade

My first thought was to not re-post it, so as not to give it any more attention that it deserves, but on second thought, I realized that this gives us an opportunity to educate others.

First off, this video could not come out at a worse time, given that 7-year-old Ammaria Johnson recently died from an allergic reaction to a peanut, while at her school.  I understand that this skit was written and taped well before this recent incident, but sadly, Ammaria was not the first person to die from an allergic reaction.  Food allergies are, and always have been, a serious issue, with potentially fatal results.

I was just thinking the other day that before my own daughter had food allergies, I, too, had many misconceptions about what food allergies were, and how they worked.  The only thing I really "knew" about were shellfish and peanut allergies.  I understood that they could be severe and swift and cause life-threatening reactions.  I even had a professor in college who told me the most horrifying story about a reaction he once had to an accidental peanut ingestion.  Other than shellfish and peanuts, I didn't think other allergies really existed.  A few years ago, a met someone whose daughter had an allergy to peanuts and eggs, and I remember thinking, "how can someone be allergic to an egg?"  It's not that I didn't believe the allergy was real, but I was just shocked and surprised to know that people could be allergic to other foods.  My point is, I do understand that if you don't have personal experience with food allergies, you probably have a lot of misconceptions.  Even if you "know someone" with food allergies, you might not really know much about them.

So, let's take the video, which is rife with inaccuracies.  I'll go "joke by joke"...

"Some people called in sick..."
First off, this is just not nice.  People with food allergies are not always "sickly" people.  They can be perfectly fine and healthy most days.  The only time they get "sick" is when exposed to one of their allergens.  If they have a mild reaction, it might just cause a rash or hives.  If it's serious reaction, they're headed to the hospital and not merely "calling in sick".

The "Lactose Intolerance" group walks by and the caption reads, "Allergy: Dairy"
Sure, "tolerate lactose intolerance" might seem like a pithy thing to say, but the main thing that bothers me about this is that they are completely confusing lactose intolerance with a true milk allergy.  Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose.  It can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea and cramps.  That is certainly uncomfortable and not to be taken lightly, but it is simply not the same as a milk allergy.  I know it can be confusing because a milk allergy can cause some of the same symptoms as lactose intolerance, but a milk protein allergy has the added risk of causing wheezing, breathing problems and potentially anaphylaxis.  Also, those with a milk-protein allergy have to watch out for "non-dairy" and "lactose-free" products, which can still contain milk proteins and therefore are not safe.  Not to downplay lactose intolerance, but the basic difference is that a lactose intolerance cannot kill you, but a severe milk allergy can.  (Long-term undiagnosed lactose intolerance can certainly cause health problems, though, but it just won't cause a swift, deadly allergic reaction, like a milk allergy can.)  My daughter has a severe milk allergy and I've seen what it can do to her, even with a small amount baked into a food.  It's not funny.

"Bread hurts my head" was on the Wheat Allergy banner, with a caption that reads, "Allergy:Wheat"
Again, I think they are confusing intolerances with allergies.  It is true that wheat and/or gluten can cause migraines and other health problems, but that is still very different from a wheat allergy.  Wheat allergy can cause the same reactions as any other true food allergy: wheezing, hives, stomach cramps, and anaphylaxis.  For someone with a severe wheat allergy, even a small crumb can cause a severe life-threatening reaction.  So, for those with a wheat allergy, a headache is the least of their concerns.  (Again, I am not trying to downplay the seriousness of migraines, which is very different from a simple "headache".  I think they are absolutely horrible and I feel for those who suffer from them.)

He says something like, "Maybe 20 years from now we'll see an allergy sufferer will be sitting in the White House..."
I'm not sure what to say about this...It's an allusion to a racist/sexist comment along the lines of "maybe one day we'll see a black man/woman in the White House".

The next group that walks by is the "Soi Punks" whose chant is "Oy, Not Soy!"
I don't appreciate that they try to make all the groups looks like a bunch of misfits and weirdos.  People with food allergies don't look any different than anyone else.  People of all kinds can have food allergies and they're not "freaks".  People with a soy allergy don't have anything "against" soy and it's not a lifestyle choice.     They aren't trying to "rebel" against any particular food.

"The perfect storm of allergies - Pad Thai" and "For some people, a Thai restaurant is a death trap."
Now, I must say that I have had these exact same thoughts. My daughter is severely allergic to peanuts and eggs.  This is probably the only joke I could chuckle at, but with the kind of nervous laughter that comes from feeling uncomfortable.  It's not so funny when it applies to you or your child.  Calling pad thai the "perfect storm of allergies" is something that would be funny amongst those in the food allergy community, when discussing the issues internally.  It's like certain groups can crack jokes about themselves, but it's not OK for outsiders to make the same joke.

The last part had a man on stilts, "acting out" an allergic reaction.
My first comment is that this part was just plain stupid.  I appreciate witty humor, but this just wasn't funny.  The commentary was also not very nice, either.  "He's writhing in pain, spastic..."  How is describing the pain and suffering of an allergic reaction supposed to be funny?  It's basically re-enacting the death or near-death of a person.  It's a slap in the face to any of us who have seen our loved ones suffer a reaction.  Fred Armisen comes from Saturday Night Live, so he's no stranger to controversy, but I just think this is not what we, the food allergy community, need right now.  We work and fight to raise awareness and help people understand that this is a very serious issue and along comes this video to set us back a few years.  Food allergies are on the rise.  More and more people are going to be affected and the last thing we need is the perpetuation of myths and misconceptions.

So, I ask that you educate yourself and try and understand why we take this so personally.  For us, it's about our children and it's a matter of life and death.  It's not the least bit funny to us.

Pertinent reading: http://www.foodallergy.org/page/myths

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ammaria Johnson Fund - Important Details

As many of you may already know, Ammaria Johnson passed away from an allergic reaction to a peanut product, while at her school.  She was only 7 years old.  This is a terrible tragedy, and to make matters worse, her mother, Laura Pendleton, is now faced with the expense of burying her child.  No mother expects to have to bury their child and Laura was not prepared, emotionally or financially, for her daughter's untimely death.

An account has been set up at Wells Fargo, if anyone would like to make a contribution to Ammaria's funeral expenses.  This must be an unimaginably painful time for Ammaria's mother and family, so let's do what we can to ease their burden, even if it's only with a small monetary donation.  Let us stand together with a fellow food-allergy mother and show her our support.

Thanks to The Allergic Kid, for this information on making a donation to the fund:
  • Go to any Wells Fargo branch and fill out a counter deposit slip for Laura Pendleton, Chesterfield, VA, and whatever amount you would like to donate.
  • From this information the teller will be able to look her up on the computer.  Let the teller know, either verbally or by writing on the deposit slip, that the account it should go into is the "Ammaria Johnson Fund".
  • The teller WILL NOT be able to give you the account number, but will fill it in on the deposit slip and give you a receipt.
Let's do what little we can to help this grieving mother, so she's not further burdened by this sad, untimely loss.

ETA: I went to make my contribution, today, and they had a little bit of trouble finding the fund.  They finally located it and I asked if there was anything I could share with others to make it easier to find and they said contributors could reference the last 4 numbers of the account, to help in their search.  My receipt shows Account Number XXXXXX1834.

Also, to make it even easier for you, here is the link to the Wells Fargo branch locator.