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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Teal Pumpkin Project: A Safe and Fun Halloween for Everyone

Halloween Blog Post on The Teal Pumpkin Project by Blair Mize, RD

Growing up, none of my family members or friends had food allergies that I can remember. My memories of trick-or-treating are filled with excitement, fun costumes, and excessive amounts of candy. Honestly, thoughts of food allergies rarely crossed my mind as a child. Over the years, food allergies have been on the rise. Today, 1 in 13 children has a food allergy.

When Halloween is too scary…

In the past, numerous parents have reported having to “cancel” Halloween for their children with food allergies. For some, Halloween equaled a life or death situation. Seriously. If families still chose to celebrate Halloween, parents were nervous wrecks as they watched their children like hawks to ensure their hands didn’t end up on the wrong treat.

Until 2014, food allergies and Halloween did not mix. 

Last year, the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) organization launched a national campaign called The Teal Pumpkin Project™ to raise awareness of food allergies and promote inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season. In the first year of this campaign, individuals in 50 states and 7 countries took the pledge to support the Teal Pumpkin Project. FARE predicts the campaign will grow to include over 100,000 households in 2015.

Our household took the pledge.

Our household couldn’t NOT take the pledge! If you have fun memories of Halloween like I did, wouldn’t you hate to see a child miss out on the experience of dressing up or be excluded from trick-or-treating? If you are the family member or friend of a little one, can you imagine not walking the neighborhood with them or having them stop by your house as they trick-or-treat? I know our family, friends, and neighbors loved seeing my brother and me all dressed up in our Halloween costumes…

My Childhood Halloween Memories  Halloween Memories  Halloween Memories from childhood

As the mother of a little boy with severe allergies to peanuts, almonds, and eggs, I am beyond grateful for the widespread adoption of The Teal Pumpkin Project in such a short period of time. I now understand from a personal AND professional standpoint the concerns and considerations of individuals and families with food allergies.

Perhaps you are fortunate enough to be allergy-free in your home…

Use the Teal Pumpkin Project as an opportunity to educate your children and teach them to be sensitive, understanding, and empathetic toward those who have allergies. Help them understand the importance of taking allergies seriously.

How does my family participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project?

1. Go online and pledge to participate in FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project™!

Shopping for Pumpkins at Sprouts on a Rainy Day

Rainy days mean pumpkin shopping at Sprouts…in his “Hallow-weiner dog” shirt!

2. Grab a pumpkin, teal-colored paint, and a paintbrush. 

Get the whole family involved in the Teal Pumpkin Project. Paint pumpkins together!

Get the whole family involved! While you’re painting your pumpkins, talk about why being respectful and inclusive of children with food allergies is so important.

3. Place your pumpkin outside your front door to signify your participation in the Teal Pumpkin Project.

 

4. Print a free downloadable sign to hang in your window stating “Non-food treats available here.”

Free Downloadable Teal Pumpkin Project Sign

The Teal Pumpkin Project is all about inclusion, so your household may decide to print the free downloadable sign that states “We have candy and non-food treats” (in separate buckets, of course).

5. Go shopping for your non-food treats.

Non-Food Halloween Treats for The Teal Pumpkin Project

We found ours at Target…they had a great selection! Concerned non-food Halloween treats may get too expensive? Consider this: a large bag of assorted candy costs $9.00-$19.00! The most expensive non-food treat I purchased (the 12 puzzle value pack) was $10.00…everything else was $1.00-$3.00.

Here are more examples of non-food treats: finger puppets, stencils, spider rings, playing cards, whistles, vampire fangs, notepads, crazy straws, comic books, kazoos, pinwheels…what am I missing?

6. Finally, don’t forget to SHARE information about and encourage friends to get involved in The Teal Pumpkin Project by using #tealpumpkinproject on social media.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!


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Easy to Make, Exciting to Eat School Lunches

For many families, “Back to School” means back to packing lunches. Though parents have had a summer-long vacation from sorting through the Tupperware containers to find matching tops, and kids have had a break from that same ole turkey sandwich and chips, the idea of packing lunches (and eating them) still leaves much to be desired.

This morning on ABC’s Local Memphis Live, I shared some of my favorite tips for serving up creative, nourishing lunches that are easy to make and exciting to eat. The best part: Though I might pack these lunches for my little boy, you don’t have to be a pro to make lunches children will love! Here’s a clip of the Local Memphis Live segment (and a recap below) in case you missed it…

I packed up all of these lunches in Easy Lunchboxes…order some here and save yourself the nightmare of sorting through tons of tiny plastic containers…with the 3 compartment, single-lid lunchbox, packing lunches is that much faster (who doesn’t love that?)!

Peanut Butter & Banana “Sushi” Served with Greek Yogurt and Raw Veggies

Peanut Butter & Banana

For the “sushi,” take a whole wheat tortilla and spread a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter* over the entire tortilla. Place a whole, peeled banana close to the edge of the tortilla and roll. [Sidenote: This would be such an easy way to get your children involved in packing their own lunches!] Once the banana is all wrapped up, use a serrated knife to slice into 1 – 1.5 inch pieces.

*Many children (including my son) have peanut allergies, and schools are not allowing peanuts or peanut butter in school lunches. If this is the case for your child, no problem! Sunbutter made from sunflower seeds is a nice alternative…it’s still creamy and delicious like peanut butter…no Epipen needed!

Caprese Skewers Served with Sliced Apples and a Hardboiled Egg

Caprese Skewers

To make the caprese skewers, roll up a slice of turkey and cut it into bite-sized pieces. On a 6-inch skewer*, place a small ball of fresh mozzarella, 1 basil leaf, 1 grape or cherry tomato, and 1 piece of the turkey. Repeat if you have room.

*Worried about sending your little one to school with a sharp, pointy object? Me too. Instead of using wooden skewers, try cocktail stirrers (which come in a variety of bright, glittery colors kids will love), skinny straws, or small popsicle sticks.

Greek Pita Pockets with Orange Slices and Cashews/Dark Chocolate Trail Mix

Greek Pita Pockets

These Greek pita pockets provide a way to use leftovers in a way that tastes new and different. Take a whole wheat pita pocket and spread hummus all over the inside of the pocket. Next, sprinkle the inside with feta cheese. Add a few cucumber slices, shredded carrots, or raw veggies of your child’s choice along with bite-sized pieces of last night’s chicken, pork, or beef. Better yet, go ahead and pack this lunch before you clean up dinner so it’s ready to go for the next morning.

Bonus Tip!

Do you have leftovers that wouldn’t be appetizing in a pita but would be excellent simply rewarmed? Did you know thermoses are good for more than just soups and hot chocolate? I didn’t either until recently! Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Take a small thermos and fill it up with hot water for about 5 minutes while you’re making your breakfast.
  • Then, heat up the leftovers you need for lunch that day until they are piping hot.
  • Pour the water out of the thermos, add your leftovers, and screw the top back on tightly.
  • When lunchtime comes, no microwave needed…just a fork or spoon!

Remember: You don’t have to be a pro to pack an awesome lunch…Guess what? You also don’t have to be a child to enjoy one of these balanced and “non-boring” lunches. Go ahead and get 2 of those Easy Lunchboxes out of the cabinet! One for your little one, and one for you! Enjoy!

Back To School Lunches