Saturday, April 20, 2013

UPF 50+ Clothing - Protect Sensitive Skin

If you missed last year's post on UPF clothing, please check it out, but I wanted to provide some updated information.

I share information about these kinds of products, because this subject is pretty important to me.  I don't think people are really aware of how damaging the sun's rays can be and they are only getting stronger.  I spent so much time reminding my mother to stop trying to "tan" her fair skin, telling her it just wasn't going to happen.  She would only achieve varying shades of pink and red.  I told her that if she changed colors, it's because she was burned, but she wouldn't listen.  She would slather on baby oil (*cringe*) and basically fry her skin, in an attempt to get a "tan".  My protests were in vain and year in and year out, she would burn.  A few years ago, I noticed an odd growth on her cheek.  It grew and grew and until I convinced her to get it checked out (which was not an easy thing).  Sure enough, it was skin cancer.  Luckily, it was "only" basal cell carcinoma, but she had to have the cancer surgically removed from her cheek.  We started going to the dermatologist, regularly, to check for other cancers and several benign growths were found and removed.  I noticed a suspicious spot on her back, one time, and pointed it out to the dermatologist, who missed it during his inspection.  He used his special viewing tool to get a closer look and agreed that it needed to be removed and sent for analysis.  The results came back and it was a very early melanoma.  We got very lucky, and caught it early and it was removed in its entirety, but now we will be on the lookout for more, for the rest of her life.  (My mother is sight-impaired, so that is why I state that "we" will be looking for them.)

So, when you go out in the sun, for the love of your children, wear sunblock on yourself (so you can be there for them down the road) and most certainly consider covering your kiddos as much as possible to protect them from the sun's UV rays.  We just didn't know better when we were kids, but that is no excuse, these days.  Furthermore, I have had far too many sunburns in my life, with at least 2 of them being blistering sunburns.  Have you had one of those...the kind where you can't stand for your shirt to be touching your skin, it hurts so much?

*Owie* According to the Skin Cancer Foundation:
  • A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any age.19
  • One or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.  
About 10 or so years ago, I finally learned to take better care of my skin.  I don't think it's ever too late to make changes for the better.  (Another tidbit from "Contrary to popular belief, 80 percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is not acquired before age 18; only about 23 percent of lifetime exposure occurs by age 18."  Therefore, there's still plenty of time to change your ways!)  I also know that I can start off right with my daughter's skin health.  She already had to endure the use of topical steroids for her eczema, so I must do all I can not to add to any additional risk factors.

I went to get a new set of Sun Smarties for my daughter, for this year's activities, however, but the zip suit is no longer available.  Her shoes still fit, thankfully.  I headed on over to Coolibar, where I bought my UPF clothing, to check out their children's wear.  I was very happy to find this Girl's Neck-to-Ankle Surf Suit.

It provides even more coverage than the Sun Smarties outfit did!  I am so grateful that my daughter doesn't mind being completely covered.  She has always grown up wearing this kind of "swimsuit" and doesn't think anything of it.  I know I won't be able to control her wardrobe, forever, but the longer I can keep her skin protected from sun damage, the better.

(Edited to add: I wanted to add that I understand that not all children will tolerate being fully covered, either for sensory processing reasons, or any number of other reasons, so if you cannot cover them, and can apply sunscreen, safely, please remember to do so at least every 2 hours, no matter what the activity (water play, on dry land, etc.)  My daughter sometimes has an issue with tags in clothing, for example, and certain clothing textures, but she never seems to have a problem with her UPF clothing, thankfully!)

I also bought a second outfit, a two-piece set.  I bought these in a slightly larger size, so we can use them for two seasons, since they are not the cheapest of outfits.  As I've said before, though, I feel that it's well worth the money and cheaper than the treatments that would be necessary down the road, if her skin was not protected.

My daughter loves wearing her swim clothes and even though we live in the super-duper hot state of Texas, she does not get overheated in these outfits.  They breathe well, and I also feel surprisingly cool in my Coolibar clothing.  Here's a shot of me sporting a Coolibar top and leggings, to which I added some shorts.  I have never been the "Itsby Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini Type". ;)
Coolibar top and leggings

Even if you don't feel like going to the beach as covered as that, Coolibar carries plenty of other dresses, cover-ups, shirts, etc.

I hope I haven't nagged you all too much about protecting your skin, but I think we can all agree that it's pretty important to try and protect our body's largest organ! Whatever you do this sunny season, be safe and have fun!
Have a Happy, Fun & Safe Summer
from Amazing and Atopic!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Allergy-Friendly Homemade Raisins

I had been wanting to give my daughter raisins, to see if she'd like them, but every pack of raisins I found mentioned a cross-contamination risk, so I had shelved the idea for a while.  Then, it occurred to me that, as with most things, if you want something allergy-friendly, you just might have to make them, yourself.  So, I Googled a method for making homemade grapes, but found methods that involved many days of sunlight.  Then, I can across this method for dehydrating fruit (sour cherries, in their example), and thought I'd give a try.

Basically, you set the oven to 200°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grapes.  Place the baking sheet in the oven for about 8 hours.  (Yes, that is still a long time, but better than 5 days!) ;)

Grapes (next time I'd choose smaller ones)
About 4 hours in...

6 1/2 hours in
After all my dutiful raisin-making work was done, I gave my daughter one to try in the morning and she promptly spit it out and said, "yuck!"  Ha!  Truth be told, I don't even like raisins, myself, so I couldn't blame her.  However, it wasn't all for naught.  My husband likes them, so I made a batch of oatmeal cookies and mixed the raisins into half the batter.  :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Amazing and Atopic Etsy Shop - Food Allergy Memory Game

I'd like to take a moment to announce the grand opening of my Etsy Shop!

Amazing and Atopic Etsy Shop
(Click on banner to visit my shop)
I am participating in the San Antonio FARE Walk for Food Allergy, as a "virtual walker", as I have a wedding to attend, the day of the walk, but I figured that I can still work to raise funds for the event.  If anyone would care to make a tax-deductible donation to our walk team, please feel free to visit my walk page at:

My Etsy shop was born out of the desire to create useful and/or fun things for others, that I could sell and donate a portion of the proceeds to various "atopic"-related charities.  When thinking of the walk, I know that not everyone can afford to make large contributions (though please note that the minimum online donation amount, this year, has been lowered to $5.00), but I thought some might like to buy something fun for their family, while simultaneously supporting a good cause. :)

So, my first offering to you all is my Food Allergy Memory game!  My daughter loves playing Memory, and we have a Dora version, a Winnie the Pooh version, etc., but I thought it would be good to have one that helped her recognize common (and a few not-so-common) food allergens, by sight and name.  Even if she isn't allergic to all these foods, I think it's good for her to know about them.  When playing, we discuss which foods are safe for her and which are not.  The game also includes blank cards for making your own custom cards.  (Consider cutting out magazine pictures for the images.)

This game comes as a set of digital files for download that allow you to print the cards, to your liking, whether that be on Avery labels and affixed to a cardboard backing, or directly onto cardstock, or even on regular printer paper, if you so desire.
Food Allergy Memory Sample Images
Sample images from files (words not intended to match images shown)
50% of the proceeds from the sale of this game will go to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), the new merged entity comprised of the former organizations FAAN and FAI.

So much of what we deal with regarding food allergies is not fun, so I hope this will bring some entertainment to your day!  If you have any suggestions for other things you'd like me to offer, I'm all ears!  Thank you!

Monday, April 8, 2013

First Aid for Anaphylaxis Training - EpiCenter Medical

Elizabeth Goldenberg is the owner of Onespot Allergy, which carries epinephrine auto-injector belts, and she is the author of the highly informative blog of the same name.  She is a lawyer, by trade, and a mother of two boys, one of whom has life-threatening allergies to peanuts and tree nuts.  She is now at the helm of a new project, which serves a much-needed purpose in the food allergy and anaphylaxis community.  Together with  Dr. Mark Greenwald, Elizabeth Goldenberg has developed a training course on First Aid for Anaphylaxis.  It is provided via their new company EpiCenter Medical, Inc.

Here is a description of the training course, from their website at
This course was created to protect allergic individuals by ensuring that the first on the scene, which could be you, are trained to recognize an allergic emergency (anaphylaxis) and respond immediately with life saving anaphylaxis first aid. Upon completion, graduates are S.A.V.E. Certified by EpiCenter Medical to Save Anaphylaxis Victims in an Emergency.
Here is some additional information provided by Elizabeth:
As background, it was written and produced over a period of 9 months with Allergist Dr. Mark Greenwald and is solidly based on and closely follows the World Allergy Organization anaphylaxis guidelines. These unique World Allergy Organization Guidelines for the Assessment and Management of Anaphylaxis were created in response to the absence of global guidelines for anaphylaxis. The course material incorporates the contributions from more than 100 allergy/immunology specialists on 6 continents received through the WAO member societies and the WAO Board of Directors. The course's recommendations are therefore based on the best evidence available and supported by the most up to date research material.
The course is provided online, and takes about one hour to complete.  I had the great privilege of previewing this course, for free, but as always, I promise you my full, honest opinion.  Here is the 4-minute demo video, describing the course:

I found the course to be accurate and also very informative, as well.  I learned some things that I did not know, before!  I've been meaning to get my CPR certification renewed, which I still need to do, but the treatment and management of an anaphylaxis emergency is usually not covered in such a course.  Even if it was, it would not be covered to this extent and with such a level of expertise on this very specific emergency situation.

Even though Elizabeth was ever so gracious to allow me to preview this course for free, I will be purchasing it for my husband, so he can take the course.  I will also be purchasing a gift subscription for my parents and my husband's parents.  (Couples and immediate family not needing official scores and certification papers can view the course simultaneously, around the same screen.  I think this is a great opportunity for spouses and parenting partners to get on the same page.)  To me, each person I get trained, one by one, makes the world that much safer for my daughter, and for those like her, who are at risk for anaphylaxis.  They might even use this information to save themselves, one day, as adult onset food allergies can occur, as well.

Here's my only reservation about the course - it's EpiPen-specific.  As we know, the EpiPen is not the only auto-injector on the market - we have Auvi-Qs, too.  However, the Auvi-Q wasn't available at the time Elizabeth was developing this course.  Luckily, the Auvi-Q speaks for itself and as far as actuating the device, itself, there should not be a problem with people knowing how to use it.

An important thing to note is that Elizabeth Goldenberg and Dr. Mark Greenwald have self-financed this major undertaking, themselves.  They are not beholden to any company or organization.  This gives them the freedom to provide treatment recommendations, objectively and without interference.  This project is a labor of love and borne of pure necessity.  Sadly, we are only four months into the year, yet have already read about three food allergy deaths.  The problem is not going away any time soon.  Food isn't even the only danger, when you consider bees, fire ants, latex, medications, etc.  We need this kind of training to spread far and wide.

Imagine a world where everyone around you and your family are educated and prepared to handle an anaphylaxis emergency.  This course can help us get closer to materializing that reality.

A trained world is a safer world.  Thank you Elizabeth and Dr. Greenwald!

Update: Check out this post by my friend Jenny at Multiple Food Allergy Help: EpiCenter Medical Training.

P.S.  I've spoken with Elizabeth and she is perfectly fine with people taking the course in small groups, as an informal training session, without official certification.  So, if you don't have a need for a certificate or recorded scores, gather a small group of friends, neighbors, family members, etc. and split the cost of the license with them!  You will all have the watch the course, simultaneously, so consider hosting a "training session" in your home, or at a local library, depending on your library's facilities (internet access, projector/screen, etc.)   

Legalize Hemp Farming in the U.S. - A Mother's Plea

I am growing increasingly frustrated with the progress of industrial hemp farming legislation in our country.  I never gave the cause much thought, before my daughter was born, though.  I must admit I used to associate the promotion of hemp products with the marijuana legalization cause, because that's how it was portrayed in the media.  All it took was doing 15 minutes of research to educate me, otherwise, and see that hemp and marijuana are two separate things, and though the two advocacy circles overlap, they are not inextricably linked.

I became interested in hemp, when we found out my 18-month old daughter had multiple food allergies, including an allergy to cow's milk.  I was looking for a suitable non-dairy milk.  I couldn't use nut-based milks, like almond milk, and rice milk didn't have enough nutritional value for my liking, and we had been on soy milk for a while, but were trying to get off of that, as well.  All of my research resulted in this post, comparing the nutritional facts panels of many of the non-dairy milk options.  In my opinion, hemp milk was the hands-down winner.  Once I decided that, I contacted my daughter's pediatrician, who said hemp milk should be fine for her to drink.  I found a brand of hemp milk and saw a label about something called "Test Pledge", which assured customers that there was 0.00% THC, the "drug" component of cannabis.  Industrial hemp has about 0.03% THC, which is still not enough to produce any "high", but I can understand why people would want the reassurance that there is flat out no THC in their food products.

They sell hemp milk alongside a variety of other non-dairy milks at the health food store.  They sell hemp seeds near the chia and flax seeds.  Hemp seeds are ridiculously good for you.  It is one of my daughter's few safe protein sources, with 10 grams of protein per 3 Tablespoon serving.  I currently get my hemp seeds from Manitoba Harvest, which is a dedicated hemp foods company.  The only thing is, they are in Canada.  The same goes for Living Harvest, the company that makes our hemp milk.  I believe some Canadian companies sometimes have to source hemp from companies in Europe, as well, when weather affects their crops. I have lived in Europe and have friends in Canada, so I don't have anything against these fine nations, but I think we should have our own source of hemp, locally.  We should not be entirely dependent on other countries for something so nutritious and versatile.  I only use hemp for hemp milk and hemp seed, but as research will show you, hemp has so many uses and can benefit the economy in innumerable ways.

I have been following the legislative efforts to get hemp farming legalized and I am figuratively beating my head against my desk, in reading the comments of the opposition.  They say they are worried about how this might confuse children.  They are the ones confusing the children, by continuing to hold false beliefs that run counter to science, and lumping hemp with marijuana.  My daughter is only 4, but I don't want her to grow up and wonder why her legislators can't understand basic science and are trying to tell her that the milk she drinks and the protein she eats are confused for "drugs".  She isn't confused.  Do these legislators really think I would feed my sweet girl anything that I considered to be an "illegal drug"?  I'm flabbergasted at how they see that these hemp products are sold legally, all over the country, yet somehow think it will be a problem for our local farmers to grow the product, right here in the U.S.  

They also say that this might pose a problem for law enforcement.  Do not insult our law enforcement personnel by telling me that they cannot tell the difference between the plants.  Hemp is tall, marijuana is short and bushy, to put it simply.
Photo Credit:
I took my daughter to Sea World, recently, and bought her one of those plastic boxes you can fill with small plastic marine animals.  It has animals with hard-to-read labels on the bottom like "bottle-nosed dolphin", "spotted dolphin", "tiger shark", "whale shark", etc.  Some of those animals look quite similar, but she can tell them all apart.
Are you smarter than a 4-year-old?
Don't tell me law enforcement experts cannot discern one plant species from another.  Nobody is going to hide marijuana in a hemp field, because the hemp would ruin their marijuana and vice versa.  To me, saying you cannot grow hemp because it (supposedly) looks like marijuana (which is doesn't) is like saying you cannot sell baking soda at the store, because it looks like cocaine.  (Not that I know what cocaine looks like, but I've seen a lot of movies.)

So, if you have any decision-making powers in this arena, I ask you to consider the children who need hemp foods, as a source of safe protein.  I haven't seen this side of the story told, anywhere, so perhaps you're just not aware and think that all of this campaigning is just smoke-and-mirrors for the pro-marijuana side of things.  I want you to know that there are plenty of us out here who are interested in industrial hemp, purely for our children's sake and from a health perspective.  (I think everyone, not just children, should start incorporating hemp into their diet, as it's a great source of nutrition.)

For the rest of us, we can start by signing the petition below, to hopefully help things move along.  We need the support of the federal government, if this is really going to happen.  It's all well and good for states to pass their laws (which they should continue to pursue, as each piece needs to be in place), but if the federal government is not on board, it won't work out.  Your child might not even eat hemp food products, but please consider helping out those of us who need this protein source.  Your help and support is greatly appreciated!

Edited to add: There's a new petition on

For more information, visit

Though my intent, for this post, is to keep the hemp and marijuana discussion separate, this article on TheWeedBlog really states things very well:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

50,000 Pageviews Giveaway Winner!

...and the winner is...


Thank you to all who entered the giveaway!

Our winner didn't enter a question to be answered, so Dr. Paul Ehrlich answered one of the other questions submitted.  

Lauren asks: How accurate is the uKnow test in predicting anaphylactic reaction?

Dear Lauren,
Thanks very much for participating in the Amazing and Atopic giveaway.  I hope that if you didn’t win the prizes, you will purchase our books because they are a great font of information about most aspects of allergies and asthma. 
To your question, the uKnow test made by ThermoFisherScientific is an important new tool for diagnosing peanut allergies and possibly gauging their severity based on the nature of different proteins and the sensitivities of individual patients.  There are eight allergenic proteins in peanuts, three of which, Ara h 1,2, and 3 are most closely associated with systemic reactions.  According to Dr. Hugh Sampson of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, more than 90% of people with true peanut allergies have antibodies to Ara h 1 and 2 in most studies, whereas studies of Ara h 3 show great variation.  All three are altered very little by heat.  The others are less “potent” for a variety of reasons.  They may be more like pollens, or more sensitive to heat in processing.  A person with antibodies only to these lesser proteins is not likely to react as severely to peanut exposure as someone with antibodies to the first three.
For purposes of answering your question, there is no way to put hard numbers on accuracy.  Food allergy is not an either/or condition. The uKnow tests and the other “component” tests in Thermo’s catalogue are very good, and a big advance over previous tests, but no test by itself is adequate for diagnosing an allergy, let alone predicting its severity for every individual for every exposure.  That’s why it is crucial you work with a board-certified allergist.
~Dr. Paul Ehrlich