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Holiday Decorations & Kids: Hidden Dangers You Need to Avoid

the baby around the Christmas tree playing with lightsThe holidays are fast approaching and the preparation has already begun for Thanksgiving and eventually Christmas. Family will be coming over to your home or you will be traveling to theirs for food and festivities. While this time of year is a joyful one please keep in mind the little things that pose a danger to the children. Things like electricity from lights and decorations, breakable objects that can be knocked over onto a child or create sharp edges. Choking hazards are greatly overlooked during the holidays. While we are all aware of toys having choking hazards and warning labels , holiday decorations can have parts that are easily swallowed if found by a child such as small light bulbs, parts from battery operated decorations, holiday village scenes, snacks in snack bowls, and a host of other things that need to be secured and checked.

When I teach CPR classes for new parents, soon to be parents and even grandparents, I encourage everyone to go home and lie on the floor and see the world from a child’s perspective and see what a different world it is. I do this to emphasize a point that there are hidden dangers under furniture and that the children will find anything you have lost like pills, money and other objects. I encourage this around the holidays as well because it will give you a perspective of your home that will allow you to see how easily the holiday decorations and electrical cords can be reached by small children. Give it a try, I promise you it’s an eye opening experience.

I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season!

Have No Fear – Allergy Safe Food is Here

Wherever there is a diagnosis of food allergies, there is also a fear of food.
The thought of social events, eating meals that are not from your own kitchen and trusting that someone else is giving you something that will be safe can be almost just as crippling as the diagnosis itself. Walking into a room of food can set off all sorts of internal struggles and anxieties that may simply make it unbearable to even attempt for some people. But what if that room full of food wasn’t scary or dangerous? What if that room full of food was actually a safe haven where all of the foods were clearly labeled, everyone handing out food had gloves on and answered each and every allergy question that you have about that food?GlutenFree Expo

Jen Cafferty, Founder & CEO of The Gluten Free Media Group shares a personal experience: “There was a family that came to the Secaucus, NJ GFAF Expo and when they walked in, their son had tears in his eyes. He was about 10 years old and was crying. I was worried that something was wrong but then he said ‘This is better than Disney! I can eat everything!’”

With multiple locations across the United States, the Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo is the largest event for foodies with food allergies. Seeing the immediate need to offer more products for those with Celiac Disease, gluten sensitivities/ auto-immune/inflammatory disease and Autism, this expo is nothing short of a great way to regain your trust in food and to find new items that you didn’t even know were available for you.

For the price of an expo ticket you get:

  • 1 Day or Weekend entry to the vendor area with 100+ brands
  • A free reusable bag that has a bunch of wonderful items inside to add to it
  • Gluten free samples from the vendors
  • Discounts on many of the products at the event
  • Vendor coupons to help you save after the expo
  • Free classes to help you with a gluten free and allergen-friendly lifestyle
  • You also get to meet your favorite product vendors, authors and bloggers (like me!)

Why I Go

We all need a sense of community to strengthen our food allergy journey. I have personally found that attending these expos allows me to connect with other people on so many different levels. Being able to meet and talk to the product vendors about why they do what they do, what your family needs them for or even to recommend some new ideas brings about a newfound voice that many of us don’t know how to share. Bumping into other attendees and just having a conversation makes us realize that we are all in this together and regardless of how long we have known each other, what we do know is that someone else’s family is instantly our family in any allergic scenario. You may enter with caution because you are so used to fearing what these foods can do to you but when you leave, this will be the same food that GF Pastawill empower you to get through all of those difficult days. Between the delicious never-ending samples of food, the goody bags followed by even more goodies being handed out to you along the way and the personal touches of the expo, you will be reminded that food is fun. How long has it been since you felt comfortable saying that? Where else can you walk, talk, eat and have a picture taken with a giant fork? Whether you go alone or as a family, there is something for people of all age groups to pick up, pick at and pose for.

Our family has been to the Atlanta, GA Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo twice: once as a family (shared here) and this time I was honored to be a part of their press team. The only difference between the two trips- it got even better. Why am I sharing? Because it’s part of my passion to help others with food allergies and I want everyone to feel good about their food allergies. When you feel out of control or lost, there are places to go and people to meet who will help you. Why not enjoy the journey along the way?

For more information on the Gluten Free and Allergen Friendly Expo visit

Video: Stairs, Water & More – Preventing Child Accidents at Home

Katrina Phillips of the Child Accident Prevention Trust explains how to make your home childproof and prevent avoidable accidents.

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

There are hazards all around the home. This video covers the following key accident risks and areas of the house:

  • Stairs – barriers are needed at the top and bottom of stairs to protect young children – and toys at the top of stairs can be a risk for all family members
  • Bathrooms
    • Don’t leave cleaners under the sink or by the side of the toilet or bath – even if they have “childproof” caps – many 3-year olds can open these containers
    • Scalding bath water is a major hazard – always make sure the water is the right temperature before filling the bath

Note: In the UK, generally hot and cold water run through separate taps – so the advice in the video is UK-specific. In North America, the usual advice for bath water is to get the water running to the right temperature before filling it for your child – and to reduce the temperature of your hot water heater to avoid accidental scalding.

  • Bedrooms
    • Little girl playing with household cleanersIf your window can fully open, invest in window locks to prevent falls
    • Beware of window blind cords – young children can get wrapped in these and strangled
  • Kitchen
    • It’s important to keep pot handles and electric leads or cords away from edges of counters and small hands
    • Also ensure your cabinets have childproof locks – especially if they contain cleaners
  • Family Room or Lounge
    • Beware of hot cups of coffee or tea – Did you know a baby’s skin is 15 times thinner than an adult’s? – so hot liquid can do them much greater harm
  • Transportation Safety
    • Car seats are critical for kids – but ensure you have the correct seat for your child’s age and weight
    • Ensure your child always uses a helmet with a bike – even if just around your yard / driveway
    • Check out the video for more safe biking tips for your child – a healthy way to get around

School Snack Questions & Food Allergies

Primary School Pupils Enjoying Packed Lunch In ClassroomA new school year could bring another nail-biting semester for families with food allergies. Ensuring that your child will be safe in their new classroom is always a priority but are you asking the right questions each year? I’d like to share what has been very helpful with my son’s allergies and what you should consider discussing with not only the homeroom teacher but all of your child’s teachers. After all, any teacher or school staff member that will be with your child needs to know what is safe and what is not. To avoid confusion, it’s always better to discuss your thoughts about when and where so there will be less of a chance for why or why not.

“Are snacks brought in by each individual child or do the teacher’s ask for food donations from the parents?

This can vary from school to school or sometimes even grade to grade. Many schools are required to give the students a snack time so it should be no surprise when your child announces what everyone else brought in that day and ate near them. What you should find out is where the snacks are expected to come from. If the teacher is asking that parents send in snacks for the entire class, you need to discuss safe options that will work for everyone. Don’t be frustrated if you are met with a bit of discouragement- use that opportunity to meet new parents and help educate them on allergy-friendly snacks that all of the children can enjoy together.

“Can I provide a “Safe Snacks” box for my child?”

The topic of a safe snacks box has been a bit of a hot topic between parents within the food allergy community. Some feel that providing a safe snacks box may be seen as a negative experience- one that may make their child with food allergies stand out. There is also the flip side (which my family has been comfortable with) –not providing safe snacks could not only invite unnecessary allergic triggers but also leave your child feeling left out and isolated. Teachers who don’t plan ahead for children with food allergies don’t tend to think about the impact until after the fact. The important thing to find out is if there is an option to send safe foods for your child.

“Can I provide a letter to be sent out to all of the class parents giving them a heads-up about my child’s food allergies?

An effective way to let all of the other children’s parents know about your child’s food allergy safety is to draft a simple letter that gives brief but important details. Most teachers can include it with the initial paperwork so your letter will seem like part of the forms that need to be returned back to the teacher. Also consider that the parents who do not have an allergic child have hectic days and family plans that need to be addressed as well. Sometimes those reminder notes are more helpful than you trying to schedule a meeting time in between busy time. A simple example can be found here.

“How is snack time handled? Do the children eat at their assigned desk? Do they sit on an area rug? Do they move around?”

Kind of a multi-part, long-winded question but still important. Area of snack time and ages are two key factors when it comes to cross-contamination. If the classroom has younger children that don’t hand wash as often or try to share just for the sake of being nice, these are situations that need to be remedied before it’s too late. If there is a favorite rug or sitting area that also traps food particles dropped during snack time, perhaps it’s time to ask the teacher if foods can be kept in place that’s easier to keep clean up.

“Can I be a class helper at parties and celebrations?”

Only on a very rare occasion will you be faced by a teacher that refuses your help. With the growing number of children in the classrooms, teaches are very often grateful to get help with their class parties. I always say that I will be the silent helper with the Lysol wipes. In exchange for an hour or so of your time, you receive the benefit of spending time with your child, meeting their friends, seeming like the “cool” parent (as many others usually have to work) and you can quietly keep your eyes open for allergic reactions waiting to happen. Unfortunately, this will be harder to do as they get older and feel having a parent with them is uncalled for.

When in doubt, it’s always best to discuss everything far enough ahead to make sure snack time is not a scary time. Stay positive, stay involved, stay stocked with your child’s allergy medications and above all, educate others.

Food allergies do not just affect the children with them, they affect everyone that knows someone with food allergies or has witnessed a reaction.

Why not be cautiously prepared? There is nothing else better than to hear one of your child’s friends exclaim “She told me that if I eat something that makes me have an allergic reaction, she would take care of me too.” Snacks can always be replaced- a child’s life cannot.

Is The Food in Your House Safe to Feed Your Family?

Little girl and mother cooking together in the kitchen.Food poisoning is a real issue in American households and restaurants. It is estimated that 48 million food-borne illnesses are reported each year. That is pretty staggering when you think that the entire population of the United States is 318 million – 15% of the population is affected each and every year! Infants, children, the elderly and those that are already sick are the most vulnerable. We would be remiss if we did not discuss the basics in food safety.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics along with ConAgra Foods has put together an excellent website on food safety. They have put food safety basics in 4 categories: WASH, SEPARATE, COOK & REFRIGERATE.

This includes cleaning your hands, your food items and all food preparation surfaces.

Be sure to keep all raw meat, poultry and fish separate from other food until it is ready to cook.

Make sure all foods are cooked to a proper temperatures . Also make sure any leftovers are reheated to at least 165 degrees.

Refrigerate leftovers immediately in shallow containers to below 45 degrees. Do not keep leftovers beyond the suggestion times.

When cooking with your kids and teenagers, be sure to teach them food safety. Learn more details of each of these areas of WASH, SEPARATE, COOK & REFERIGERATE on the Home Food Safety website.

Children and Choking: Prevention and What to Do

Child CPR

the Heimlich maneuver

Recently, in the classes I have been teaching there has been an overwhelming amount of questions regarding choking in children and how to prevent it and what to do when it happens? With choking being one of the top 5 killers of children in the United States, there is never a bad time to cover choking in children and what we as parents and caregivers can do to prevent and deal with the situation.

Let’s face it, children choke on almost anything. If you have children or are a caregiver to children then you know that children love to put new things into their mouths and taste test everything and the younger the child, the more stuff they will put in there without any regard for what it might be. The questions of how to prevent choking in children has a lot to do with age. What I tell new parents or soon to be parents and grandparents are to go home. This may sound silly but home is where the battlefield is. I tell them to go home and see their home from a new perspective. We as adults see the world from very high up, our perspective tends to make us look down on most things in our homes. A small child or infant will see the home from an entirely different perspective looking up at most things in the home. So what I recommend to the adults is to go home and lie down on the floor in every room and see what an infant might see. It’s a whole new world down there with things like splinters under wood furniture, nail heads or staples sticking out, strings from fabrics, and the most important thing of all being that the infant or small child will find everything you have lost under all your furniture, including pills, paperclips, popcorn, you name it. So as I said before, go home and gain a child’s perspective on your home.

Preventing choking in older children has mainly to do with food and how it is prepared and eaten. We have all said “don’t stuff your face” or “chew your food “a thousand times, but the preparation is where we can make a significant difference. What I tell parents is to cut, cut and cut again. With foods like hot dogs, grapes, fruit and many other solid foods, cutting beforehand is the key. Other, lesser known culprits like popcorn, peanuts and even cereals can be broken down by simply putting them in a bag beforehand and crushing them a little bit to break them down.

What to do when the choking begins are the most important and the most frightening, but thinking is the key.

Baby CPRIf you have an infant that starts choking at home, the first step should be to bring the infant to you by taking them out of whatever apparatus they are in at the moment, highchair or bouncer for example. Secondly, you should scream for anyone you are with to call 911 and inform them of a choking infant, or you may have to bring baby to the phone and call 911 while relieving the choking yourself. Even if the choking was sudden and the event ends right away, at least help is on the way. The third thing should be to be seated and position the infant face down with the legs straddling your arm and your hand on the infants jaw, all while keeping the baby’s head pointed down in order to use gravity should anything come out or loose. You will use the palm of your free hand to strike down, but towards the head of the infant, between the shoulder blades 5 times. Then you will put your free hand on the back of the baby’s head and sandwich the baby and flip them over to your other leg and then place your two fingers between the baby’s nipples and do 5 chest compressions or chest thrusts. You will repeat this until the object is removed, the baby starts breathing, or the baby becomes unconscious.

Should the baby go unresponsive, lie the baby down on a hard, flat surface and begin cpr on the baby.

Choking for the older child is much the same as choking for an adult, just on a smaller scale. If you notice an older child that appears to be choking, you can ask them “are you choking? “ and if given confirmation that they are choking then you will kneel down behind the child, so you can be roughly the same height, and use the Heimlich maneuver, (see the picture at the top of the page) the same one you use on adults, to relieve the choking. If it is unsuccessful and the older child becomes unresponsive then lay the child down on a hard, flat surface and begin cpr.

The most important times in this event are the identification of choking, the sooner the better, and the call to 911, again the sooner the better. There are a million things anyone can choke on and our homes are where most of the action takes place so please take a little time and do some prevention work around our homes and as always, I recommend taking an official American Heart Association CPR class in your area that will cover the CPR and choking (click here to find a course) and give you ample practice time so you can be better prepared.

Thank you and be safe.

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