Food Allergy Awareness | My Child’s Allergic Reaction

Beach Allergic Reaction

Each year, my family takes a trip down to 30A in Florida. For as long as I can remember, we’ve picked up donuts from The Donut Hole to enjoy one morning of our vacation. Knowing my 3-year-old son’s allergies to eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts, my thoughtful brother and sister-in-law made a special trip to a bakery that sells vegan muffins (so egg-free) and other baked goods. They did their homework, asking the owner of the bakery about specific items and whether or not they contained my son’s allergens. They were directed toward several different nut-free, vegan options (or so they were told).

Excited to have found a special treat for my little guy to enjoy as we ate our donuts, we sat down for breakfast together. My son dove into his vanilla muffin along with the rest of his breakfast. Later, he got up from the table not acting like himself. When I asked him what was wrong, he quietly replied, “I don’t know.” We had just discussed the fact that it was our last day at the beach, so I assumed he was sad about that and didn’t push him to talk much more.

We proceeded to change into our swimsuits, lather up with sunscreen, and walk down to the beach. I was carrying my sleeping 6 month old, but when mom finally arrived with my 3-year-old, she commented that he was “moving at a glacial pace.”

He played in the sand for a little while with my dad and brother. A little later, he asked for a snack but didn’t really eat much. I knew something was up when he asked to sit in my lap. This kid had been sprinting up and down the beach all week! Something wasn’t right. He continued to become more and more clingy. At one point, he was sitting under the umbrella covered in a beach towel telling me he had a “feber” (AKA fever). He began asking me for medicine.

At this point, I also thought he might have gotten a little cool in the shade or that maybe he needed to go potty, so I began walking with him back up to our house. He didn’t want to walk, so I ended up carrying him the rest of the way. As we were walking, he began to scratch. By the time we’d gotten to the house, he was itching all over and clawing his neck, legs…really, his entire body.

Finally out of the sun, I was able to see his skin more clearly. It looked like he had a terrible, blistery sunburn. He sat on the tile floor and scratched while I called the bakery to re-check the ingredients of his muffin. Again, I spoke to the owner and was told the muffin did not contain eggs or nuts; however, this time he offered to have someone else check and call me back. I continued to observe my son while I called my mom to come up from the beach because I suspected an allergic reaction. My husband wasn’t able to come on this trip, so I called to let him know as well.

When the bakery called me back, I answered and began asking more questions about the specific egg-free, nut-free flavors the bakery offered. The woman who returned my call listed several options, but vanilla wasn’t one of them. When I asked about the vanilla, I was finally told, “Oh no. The vanilla muffin isn’t vegan. It contains eggs.” My heart dropped as I quickly hung up and went to get the Epipen. As soon as my parents walked into the house, we administered the Epipen amidst lots of screams and tears from my little guy.

Those moments and the ones that followed were so scary and heartbreaking. My son, already not feeling well, knew he was going to have to get a shot and was basically hysterical. As a mother, I was scared to death not knowing how quickly his reaction was going to progress. Many people don’t realize that allergic reactions can worsen over the course of several hours and that antihistamines (which my son takes every morning) can mask certain aspects of allergic reactions.

I was devastated, knowing he trusts me to never give him foods that would hurt him or make him sick.

We rushed, flashers on, to the nearest hospital. Though his heart was racing, my little guy was having a hard time staying awake. We watched videos and encouraged him to keep talking to us on our 15-minute drive to the hospital.

Fortunately, the emergency room staff was wonderful, and we were in a room within 5 minutes of our arrival. They administered a hefty dose of strong steroids and Benadryl and set him up on a heart monitor for the next several hours to watch for any rebound reactions as the Epipen wore off. Fortunately, his breathing was not compromised and his airways stayed open. We had lots of people praying for us by that point, too. I’m not sure what would’ve happened without his Epipen or morning dose of hydroxyzine. I am so thankful that I was with him and that my family, doctors, PA, and nurses knew how to care for him as well.

The bakery owner was very apologetic, tearfully offering to pay for all of my son’s medical expenses; however, this was a life-threatening emergency that could’ve had a completely different outcome due to this oversight and not taking our inquiry related to my child’s food allergies seriously enough. And this from the owner of the bakery! I was baffled, and it honestly makes me exponentially more wary of taking my son out to eat.

I recognize the extra effort that goes into researching the items that are served at bakeries and restaurants when patrons report an allergy and ask about ingredients. It’s additional time and work in a fast-paced industry. At the same time, I believe people not only need more training and awareness of the seriousness of food allergies, but our society, especially those who work in foodservice establishments, also need a little more empathy.

Though he has such a sweet attitude about it, it brings tears to my eyes to think that my son can’t just eat a regular piece of cake at a birthday party or enjoy our tradition of donuts at The Donut Hole. I hate that he can’t order whatever sounds good from a restaurant menu. It’s nerve-wrecking to know he has to rely on other people to tell him which foods are safe and which ones are not at this point in his life. It requires quite a bit of trust on his part, and it requires a ton of our trust in food service establishments.

I share our story in hopes that those who work in food service will see my son and others who have food allergies as real people who want to be normal, who want to belong, who don’t want to have to live in a bubble and eat at home all the time. I share it for friends and family members of those with food allergies to have a greater awareness of what allergic reactions might look like and how to react, knowing that my son’s reaction could’ve been much worse and progressed much faster. I share it so that others will understand the reasons why parents worry so much about foods served at school, parties, and other events.

There is no shame in asking lots of questions and reminding and re-reminding others about a loved one’s food allergies, and I’ll continue to model these behaviors (carrying the Epipen, asking questions, etc.) and to teach my little one how to take his allergies seriously, too.

Our story has a happy ending that includes memories of Veggie Tales videos and Minions stickers at the hospital, and I’m pretty sure my son is no longer worried he has a hole in his leg from the Epipen (yes, he asked). My prayer is that our story somehow prevents more stories of allergic reactions and gives additional insight about how to react with respect.


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Food Trends and FNCE Highlights: Top 5 Food Trends


Welcome back! Yesterday, I shared a recap of the Academy of Nutrition and DieteticsFood and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE). You saw all of that hard work I was doing (wink, wink!), so the time has come for me to share with you some of the trends I spotted and products I loved at FNCE 2015…

Focus on REAL FOOD

Real Food at FNCEEverywhere I turned, there were booths promoting REAL FOOD! It was nice to see simple and creative snack ideas that encourage people to get back to basics when it comes to eating. What do I mean when I say “real food?” In our office, we define real food as “anything that can be grown or killed.” I’m talking foods like eggs, tomatoes, raspberries, blueberries, beans, whole grains, avocados, nuts, fish, meat, honey, etc. Check out these snack ideas:

  • Hardboiled eggs on a stick…protein-packed, portable, and no need to touch the egg itself!
  • Grapes become a sweet treat when frozen.
  • Pre-portioned oatmeal cups…just add milk or water.
  • Harvest Snaps
  • Avocados can be mashed and stirred into a slaw or tuna salad instead of mayo.

Probiotics, Probiotics, Probiotics

Remember how I wrote about the importance of the gut microbiome yesterday? It’s probably no coincidence that probiotics are EVERYWHERE these days…in yogurt, kefir, your favorite beverage or smoothie, flavored powder, and pills and FOR EVERYONE…adults and kids.

So what is the gut microbiome?

The gut microbiome is the collection of microbes or microorganisms that inhabit your GI tract, creating a “mini-ecosystem”. Our gut microbiota contains trillions of microorganisms. Your gut microbiota is specific to you…like your own personal identity card.

Why probiotics?

Research on the gut microbiome and probiotics is in its infancy, but so far probiotics…

  • ProbioticsFacilitate digestion and absorption of nutrients.
  • May have benefits in people with non-digestive issues like eczema or other skin conditions.
  • Can serve as a complementary treatment for digestive diseases like IBS and Crohn’s disease.
  • Optimize the body’s immune system by increasing good bacteria in the gut (especially following a round of antibiotics which kills good and bad bacteria).
  • Keeps you “going” regularly (if you know what I mean 😉 … )

The Year of Pulses

PulsesHave you heard of pulses? Here’s a hint…you probably already have some of them hanging out in your pantry! They include dry peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Pulses are packed with nutrients, giving you a big nutritional bang for your buck. For this reason and the fact that they feed much of the world’s population, they are being called the “superfoods of the future.” Pulses contain protein, fiber, antioxidants, iron, folate and other nutrients.

Sharing the Truth about Food

With all of the propaganda, documentaries, and unofficial/unscientific studies out there about various foods, my clients come to me with lots of questions about where food comes from, how animals are cared for, and how the food on their table was grown and produced. Leslie Schilling, Rebecca Scritchfield, and I spent quite a bit of time at the “Ask a Farmer Anything” booth. You’ve probably heard a lot about “Farm to Table” and sustainability lately, and my clients have the same questions. What better way to learn than by talking to farmers themselves and visiting their farms?

Boning Up on Bone Health

Bone health isn’t just about drinking your milk to get enough Calcium and Vitamin D and getting plenty sunlight for
vitamin D production these days (although there seemed to be a focus on dairy at FNCE this year, too). Beyond milk and sunlight, you and your kids can do more to promote bone health…

Did You Know?Bone Health

  • Potassium, Magnesium, and Vitamin K play a role in bone health…and prunes contain all of these nutrients!
  • Some mushrooms now contain Vitamin D.
  • Exercises that involve jumping are most effective for building healthy bones.
  • Eating leafy greens can promote healthy bones.

FNCE is a great place for trend-spotting, but so is your local grocery store! What trends with food and nutrition have you noticed lately? I’d love to hear from you!

Food Trends and FNCE Highlights: Conference Recap

From the moment I drove into Nashville, it was non-stop food and nutrition with around 10,000 of my closest Registered Dietitian friends. The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics hosted their annual Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) on October 3-6th, 2015 at Music City Center. This conference never fails to provide great opportunities for networking, over 140 sessions on a variety of hot topics in the nutrition world, and an expo filled with over 300 exhibitors sharing the latest products and food trends.

Saturday

To kick off the conference, master innovator and former president of Trader Joe’s, Doug Rauch presented his keynote address: “An Innovative Solution to the Hunger Problem” at the opening session. He recently founded Daily Table (read their mission statement and story here). According to Rauch, Daily Table provides affordable food that moves people forward.

Did you know?

  • 1 in 6 Americans are hungry. Many may have enough calories but not enough nutrients.
  • Code dates and expiration dates are not federally mandated, and many Americans do not understand how to read code dates anyway. For example, Rauch showed a photo of honey with a code date on it, but did you know that honey never expires?
  • Between one-third and 40% of the food grown in the U.S. is never eaten. Lettuce is often thrown away simply because it won’t fit in a bag or box.

These statistics and facts about food waste were eye-opening, but Rauch says “All of us together can, and will, make a difference.”

Sunday

Sunday sessions began at 8:00am sharp. Whew! Here are the sessions I attended on Sunday (By the way, these sessions will soon be available to purchase, download, and listen to at home by following the links below):

Claim the Spotlight! Beyond Traditional Media: Videos, Podcasts, and Self-Publishing (Speakers: Julie Beyer & Melissa Joy Dobbins)

  • Who knows what you’ll see from me in the future?!

Interrogating Host Microbiota Dynamics in Diet, the Metabolome, and Disease (Speakers: Charlene Compher & Gary Wu)

  • What we eat shapes the composition of our microbiome which can in turn change our disease risk. Check back tomorrow, and you’ll see how all of this new research about the gut microbiome is affecting food trends…stay tuned!

Satiety Regulation and Measurement: Can Appetite Be Controlled? (Speakers: John Blundell & Richard Mattes)

  • We talk about hunger and satiety all the time in our office. This session focused on various factors that impact food choices and satiety (specific tastes, food labels, textures, food components, digestibility, etc.) and how eating frequency, portion sizes, and composition and timing of meals impact satiety levels throughout the day.

After brunching with Leslie Schilling on Sunday, we headed to the Expo floor to meet up with Rebecca Scritchfield…it was there the trend-spotting began…

Rebecca Scritchfield, Leslie Schilling, Blair Mize with Sabra HummusI promise we were working…

Sunday evening, I was invited to a Rooftop Reception and Tweet Up hosted by Food & Nutrition Magazine and sponsored by StarKist, Lekue World, CanolaInfo, and National Peanut Board. It was a great evening chatting face to face with many RDs I normally only get to chat with through e-mail and social media!

Networking with fellow RDs at Food & Nutrition Reception
It was an honor to share my Music City Barbecue Sauce recipe with Food & Nutrition Magazine this year! The recipe was featured in the FNCE 2015 issue of the magazine.

Food & Nutrition Magazine Music City Barbecue SauceMonday

After an early morning (hilly) run, I attended the following sessions on Monday:

The Young Female Athlete: Medicine & Physiology (Speaker: Albert Hergenroeder)

  • This speaker provided such a refreshing, realistic, and experienced perspective on health (especially bone health) and training for the female athlete.

Meant for Each Other: Health At Every Size and Motivational Interviewing (Speakers: Ellen Glovsky & Molly Kellogg)

  • This was probably my favorite session of the whole conference. You know from this post that I’m all about eliminating weight bias, and these speakers gave concrete examples of how to practice weight neutrality while using motivational interviewing. They encouraged practitioners to affirm patients and clients based on behaviors, attitude changes, and personal discoveries rather than on weight.
  • This session would be worth a listen for anyone who needs help addressing concerns about weight with a loved one.
  • Though there are mixed opinions about how a person should be counseled on nutrition, fellow RD Reba Sloan made a good point, “I’ve never treated anyone who didn’t diet their way to obesity.”

Food for Recovery: Resolving Malnutrition and Disordered Eating Patterns in Addiction and Substance Abuse Populations (Speakers: Steven Karp & Megan Kniskern)

  • Did you know that RDs can support mental health and play an active role in detox by getting the addict nourished? The body and brain must be fed before true recovery can begin. In other words, food is the best medicine!

With so many booths at the expo, I took a time-out from sessions for Day 2 of trend-spotting…

Angie Wallick, Blair Mize, and Sara Foley at Raspberry booth at FNCE
Siggi's Yogurt Booth at FNCE

What can I say? Work hard, play hard…

After stopping by the Ketchum Reception for a bit, it was time for dinner at Husk…delicious!

Tuesday

Tuesday morning wrapped up FNCE 2015 for this RD…I attended the following 2 morning sessions:

Mastering Your Domain: Using Technology to Grow Your Business Online (Speakers: Regan Jones & Anne Mauney)

  • I’ll be using lots of these tools and ideas discussed in this session starting on this blog post! Dietitian or not, if you blog or use social media, this session would be a great listen!

Supplement Savvy: Playing Safe, Smart, and Legal (Speaker: Ellen Coleman)

  • Ellen Coleman did a fabulous job of keeping us engaged on a topic where it could be all too easy to get bogged down in *potentially dangerous* ingredients you can’t spell or pronounce. 😉 One tip she gave, “If your supplement contains more ingredients than a Big Mac, don’t take it.”
  • Check out USA Today’s Supplement Investigations and this Supplement 411 YouTube video before taking any more supplements.

After this non-stop, whirlwind trip to the Music City, the only thing between me and home was a 3 hour drive! I was ready to get back to my family and my own bed (although my friend Emily’s cot was surprisingly comfy!), and I am looking forward to sharing even more information with you and my wonderful clients.

FNCE 2015 was a huge success!


Want to hear more FNCE highlights and food trends? Tomorrow, check out the Top 5 Trends that stuck out to me at FNCE 2015.