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The Last Time I Checked My Child’s Allergy Supplies Was…. ???

Last updated on June 12th, 2021 at 01:03 pm

As summer approaches and families begin making plans for long-postponed vacations, for our family, it means beginning a summer check up for our allergy needs. Especially since vacation time can also make us forget about other details, summer is a yearly reminder to clean out, update and refill.

Inhaler clean-out - smallCleaning Out A few months ago, something prompted me to check my son’s asthma inhaler. Upon examination, I was horrified. At some point, the inhaler must have discharged while it was enclosed in the holder and had “grown new friends”- yuck! Worse yet, I realized that my son had used the inhaler recently (which means all of what was hanging out in his inhaler was also having a party inside of his lungs too). In times of being a normal mom who worries about her son’s asthma, I was fast forwarded into dry-heave mode quickly followed by recycling the old case and getting a brand new one altogether. I sent the stretchy outer case through the washing machine and let it completely air dry.

The food allergy mom in me sent an email to the wonderful people at the Allergy & Asthma Network. With a tinge of embarrassment for feeling like I was the world’s worst allergy mom, I sent a picture and asked if they had any words of wisdom for me as well as to others on how to prevent a dirty inhaler from entering our lives again. They quickly responded with some helpful information from their Understanding Asthma Guide: “Clean your inhaler following the manufacturer’s instructions, usually once per week. Clean the actuator — not the metal canister — with warm water and leave time for it to air dry before another dose is needed. Holding chambers also need to be washed, especially when the unit becomes cloudy or filmy inside. Replace disposable parts as recommended to avoid bacterial growth. Talk with your doctor if there’s any uncertainty about cleaning your inhaler or holding chamber.”

Updating During my frantic summer allergy cleaning binge, I also noticed my son’s emergency contact paperwork was faded and torn. This is something that I consider to be an extension of safety for him in the event that he is unable to speak for himself. It contains a copy of my son’s Allergy Action Plan. I also updated his picture because, gosh, don’t all children seem to change overnight?! This is also helpful when your child is with people they normally aren’t around (such as a substitute teacher) so that they have immediate confirmation that the person with the food allergy pack matches up with the listed allergens and contact information. Never assume, always overdue. Nobody ever died from too much information, only not enough.

I also checked expiration dates on his medications both inside his allergy pack and the extras that we keep on hand in the house and made sure our stock was full. It only took one bad asthma night with just a few counted doses available in his inhaler for me to realize that expiration dates on these life-saving medications are something that cannot be forgotten. Again, as a mom of an asthmatic child, the last thing that you want to tell your child who is gasping for breath is to not use their inhaler unless they have to because it might run out. I’m not proud of that moment but it happens to the best of us and teaches us new organization and safety techniques to avoid future repeats.

Early script refills - smallRefilling Because of the discount cards available the past few years, this is one area that is super easy and non-stressful. Both EpiPen and Auvi-Q have continued to provide copay assistance, which means one less expense. Nothing can beat refilling a prescription for twin packs of epinephrine and seeing a giant $0 on the receipt. Don’t get me wrong- my son’s safety is priceless and I would gladly pay to keep him that much safer at all times but not having to spend that money each year is a food allergy parents dream.

I do recommend discussing how to write out the prescription correctly with your child’s pediatrician or allergy specialist. This will ensure full benefit of the copay discounts, additional epinephrine to have on hand and for the next school year and ultimately, it will save you time going back and forth to the pharmacy for repeat refills. Also discuss correct dosages of medications for your child’s height, weight and age to prevent wasting a refilled prescription (ex: filling an Epipen Jr prescription and finding out after the fact that your child is now considered to be within the EpiPen adult dosage range…then what to do with the wasted medications?)

Allergies can be tricky but each year brings new techniques and better ways to come up with a strategy on what works best for your child and family. Just remember to be accepting of what might not work in the beginning, or even the year after and always give yourself more than enough time to be ready for school. The better prepared and calm that you seem, the less stressed your allergic child will begin another school year.

Taking Time to Celebrate Your Non Allergic Child

Last updated on November 8th, 2020 at 02:43 pm

Its funny how having a child with food allergies suddenly changes every aspect of your life. You no longer have the ability to be spontaneous- every meal, every trip and every outing has to be planned to a certain degree. Foods are checked and double checked and when one person in the family has food allergies, the rest of the family is a part of it too. But while you are trying to keep up with everyone’s safety, you also need to keep up with everyone’s individuality as well.

Jules - smallEverybody needs a little one-on-one time and this is especially true when you have children that have an allergic sibling. Being able to disconnect from the world of food allergies is important- it’s wonderful to be educated about their brother’s or sister’s allergies but it’s not their responsibility to be expected to live within the food allergy shadow. Let them understand food allergies, let them learn to help, educate and keep others safe but also let them see the rest of the world through their eyes as well.

As difficult as it may be to find the time, it is important to make sure that each child gets that bonding time as an individual. Is it possible, even in today’s hustle and bustle? Yes!

  • Give special time Create something that is special for that child- this could be a phrase that you use when you say good night, it could be a certain way of hugging or even a favorite story that you read together. Chances are that these memories will be part of routines that your children will share with their children in the future.
  • Quality, not quantity In reality, we all understand that plans tend to change beyond our control. Don’t dwell on how much time you put aside for each child but do make an effort to utilize the time that you do have focused on them (not your phone, not your computer, not even your spouse).
  • Remember to praise Children respond to positive feedback more than negative feedback so tell them they make you proud! Make a small fuss (or a big one), hang up that picture of the cat with three heads and declare that moment in time as stupendous. Your child will shine and they should be encouraged too.
  • Take time off, alone Nothing shows your child’s personality more than time alone with you- truly alone. Parents often don’t get to see that sparkle when their child talks around other siblings- they can tend to feel overpowered or not as important to be heard. A great example is when I was able to spend two days with my daughter while dad and son went away- I saw a side of my daughter that made me realize I need to do more with her (aka girl’s time out) details here.
  • Laugh Laughter is the easiest way to stay close to your child, always. Studies have shown that laughing reduces stress, releases endorphins (what makes you feel good), lowers your blood pressure and (the best thing of all) it’s FREE! Not sold? Next time your non allergic child is showing signs of allergy-overload tickle away and see how much a good belly aching laughter session clears the mood.

Me and Jules - smallerFood allergies can be stressful for any family but they don’t have to be. With proper knowledge, sharing of experiences and family-oriented cooking segments, food allergies can be used as something to bring everyone together during the process. Just as food allergies can be unique, your children are too. Remember to be as vigilant with your affection as you are with your safekeeping. Being safe is doing a job right but showing love is being an accomplished parent.

Food Allergy Fears – It’s Ok For Your Child To Try Something New

Last updated on November 8th, 2020 at 02:53 pm

Cute little girl sitting in the mother lap and smearing peanut butter on bread.Do you remember the last time that your allergic child tried a new food? If the answer is no, you are not alone. It’s a difficult task for both parents and children with food allergies. There is always the thought of “What if” no matter what the new food is. Every new ingredient, every new spice, every new menu item that your child might want to try to have a larger variety of foods to choose from is seen as a possible threat. The fear is very real and very understandable so how does an allergic family get over this bump in the road?

Always have medications within reach

Even with my second child, I always made sure I had any necessary allergy medications for immediate use when we decided to try a new food. In the past, antihistamines were the first line of action but to date, research and countless food allergy tragedies have proven that this may actually not be the case. First and foremost, having the correct items will ensure that those seconds could be spared. The most typical items that should be on-hand are two doses of epinephrine, some form of antihistamine and an inhaler (if asthmatic or your child has a history of needing a rescue inhaler).

Small or not at all

Our family has made it a habit of trying a small amount of anything new rather than having it as an entire meal. This may seem a like we are being a bit over protective but it makes perfect sense. The smaller the amount of allergic food ingested, the easier it should (hopefully) be to get the reaction under control. If you are allergic to peanuts and wanted to try an almond, would you eat a piece of an almond or an entire loaf of almond bread? Everything in moderation.

Stay together

I have never, ever given my allergic child any new foods and then sent him away or to bed for the night. Ever. If an allergic reaction occurs, you want to be with your child to make sure you can treat them properly, to watch for the specific signs or symptoms that came from that food and you want to show your child that they are not alone in having to deal with food allergies. It’s a silent support system but if you have seen that very distinctive, frightened look in your child’s eyes as they begin to react, you know that the best thing to do would be there with them from start to finish as much as possible.

No Mixing

This is very important! For the sake of your child and to avoid additional food allergy tests, always test out one new food item and no other new foods with that food item for at least three to five days. Will it take a longer time? Yes but you also want to make sure that the sandwich that your child took a bite from doesn’t contain so many possible allergic foods that you will be deeming a handful of foods as unsafe when really, most of them could have been eaten. Trying new foods is to expand your allergic child’s food options, not to limit them further.

Check your phone

Have a telephone ready and waiting. This means having it in your hand, in your pocket, on the table or somewhere that you can use it right away if you need too. Also, make sure it’s fully charged if it’s not a landline. Update your telephone list with current physician information and even print out a list of emergency contacts to have a fast and easy place to access. When an emergency happens you may not have time to think or react so the more you plan to be prepared, the faster you can deal with the situation as needed.

Support your child’s fears either way

As a parent, it is always difficult to know what the best thing to do is, especially when it’s dealing with food allergy concerns. You may feel that if you don’t encourage your child to try new foods that it makes you too laid back. Or, if you insist that your child try a food and they have a reaction, they will remember that event as a negative part of your parenting. Be open and discuss your own fears with your child- let them know that you are fearful to, that there is no way of telling what could happen and that the most important thing for them to know is that you are there with them.

When in doubt, step out

Many food allergy families prefer to do any and all food testing in their physician’s offices. Although this is recommended with most people, this is a personal decision within each family. Only your family can decide if you feel comfortable enough to test out new foods at home rather than under a physician’s watch. Consider all aspects, analyze any previous allergic reactions and make sure you ask your child what he or she also feels most comfortable doing.

New foods may always cause fear but so can many other things in life. Give your child the opportunity to know how many different foods are out in the world and how many they may have never tried had it not been for their food allergies. Teach them that their fears should be about what they don’t know what to expect, not from what they do know. Conquer your foods, conquer your fears but never let either be a part of what stops you from continuing.

Keeping Your Food Allergic Child Safe At The Grocery Store

Last updated on May 4th, 2020 at 11:59 am

toddler girl sit in shopping cart in supermarketWhen someone becomes a food allergic parent, this changes every single aspect of your daily routine. Allergy triggers are everywhere and must be avoided as much as possible. This means preparing ahead of time to ensure minimal risk of exposure. This may also mean that your new routines will be forced to change as your allergic child grows and goes through new stages of their childhood. One of the trickiest, most nerve-wracking stages can be the years that your child is touching everything to seek out their new environment. How does a parent keep their child safe, allow them to process their newest childhood developmental stage but also be able to tackle a simple chore such as going to the food store? Luckily, it can be done.

When my son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, going food shopping became a new area of terror for me. We were surrounded by food and the worst part- most of his high allergy triggers were placed in open barrels throughout the store where anyone could touch them. We survived with little or no injury and I wanted to share my tips to make sure everyone else does the same. Food shopping for food allergy menus is stressful enough so let me help you focus your energy in other areas.

Always Have Medications

I cannot repeat this enough- ALWAYS have any necessary medications with you, no matter where you go. Always have two epinephrine auto injectors, antihistamine, and asthma inhalers- anything that you may need at a moment’s notice. Many people assume that they can avoid allergic triggers but there is no definite way of telling what, when or where an allergic reaction can happen. Being prepared means always being one step ahead of a possibly fatal incident. Your child’s life is worth so much more than not taking 20 extra seconds to pack these items up with your belongings for your venture out.

Stress Doesn’t Help Your Child

I know this may seem like a given but it’s a fact; the more stress you show your child, the more they see it, feel it and react to it. The calmer you are in the way you approach situations, the calmer your child will also be. Not only does this teach your child to go into multiple situations with a more focused way of thinking but it will show your child to always begin in a more positive frame of mind. Stress can also trigger some people’s allergies so it is best avoided as much as possible. Not to mention anyone who is stressed too often does not treat their immune system to function as optimally as it should. Less stress within a child’s behavior is better health for the child and better health for parents.

Use Wipes

We have been deemed as the “germophobe” generation – use it to keep your child safe. Many food stores offer free sanitizing wipes at the entrance, use them. This may not remove all traces of possible allergens from the previous person who used your shopping cart but it will be better than risking a simple touch of a handle bar that was just grabbed with a handful of a food. Children eat all of the time and children touch everything all of the time- this includes your shopping cart. If you prefer a gentler wipe due to chemical or ingredients, pack your own. There are natural brands such as Water Wipes or you can even bring a bag that has your own wet wash cloth with a gentle soap on it.

Cover Everything

As mentioned before- children touch everything. When they are teething, they also taste, lick, bite and try to put everything in their mouth as well. For a child with food allergies, a shopping cart can be a disaster waiting to happen in the blink of an eye. One of the best items I ever found was a reusable shopping cart seat cover. This is a cloth item that you can bring with you and fits most sizes of shopping cart seats. There are multiple types available but I recommend one such as Infantino because:

  1. Walker -shoppingcartcoverYou want a seat cover that will completely cover the entire shopping cart seat, including the handle bars.
  2. You want something that is thicker and more padded to keep your child comfortable (some products are very thin and less padding causes a cranky child).
  3. Your cart cover should include its own seat belt because those also go into your child’s mouth, which is another cross-contamination threat.
  4. Other options to look for are attachable sippy cups or areas to attach your child’s snack container, teething ring or pacifier. All of these items will fall on the floor if not attached and this poses another allergy threat as well as an unhappy child who looks to these for comfort.

Travel With Food

The best way to entertain my child and keep him seated so I could get my shopping done was (plain and simple) food. I always brought safe snacks for him to have. I even made an effort during our food shopping trips to see what other children were eating or what types of samples the store was giving out. If my child wanted to try it because he saw it, I would bring a similar food item so that he felt like he was also getting to try new foods like the other kids in the store.

It’s never about giving in to your child- it is about safety and planning out your routine as effectively as possible. Having a child with food allergies should never seem like something that cannot be a part of whatever you and your family do- there is always a way to do anything, you just need to find a new way to do it.

Food Allergies, a New Sibling and Hidden Blessings

Last updated on September 2nd, 2019 at 07:46 pm

Older-brother-holding-baby-sisterI remember the fear that ran through me during my second pregnancy. My first born has food allergies and at times, I really feel as if I am just unable to take another thing on. So being pregnant, I began to wonder how I would handle it if my second child also had food allergies. I would picture scenario after scenario of having to run from one to the other in just enough time to save them both. Was this my destiny, to see what else life would bring me?

But then, my daughter was born and my heart opened up even wider. Somehow, being a mother of two children became easier very quickly. Somehow, the moments that I need to split my attention are warped by time and space and I am able to just do it, with both children happy. It’s almost as if you are handed super powers when you give birth. How else anyone explain being able to take care of so much with even less time?

Then came time to try foods with my daughter- I was terrified all over again. I waited longer to give her foods that I gave to my son to make sure her fragile system could handle them better. Instead of getting the new food ready first, I armed myself with an EpiPen and antihistamine in case I needed to use them in a hurry. I made sure the telephone was close by and that my son’s diaper bag was packed up near the front door in case we had to go the emergency room. But then I realized- I wasn’t doing this out of fear, I was doing this out of knowledge and protection. I was doing this because I was a better parent than I thought I would be. And it was because my first born had food allergies…not in spite of it.

Having a food-allergic first child meant that when my second child was born, I honestly felt I was already scores past where I had been the first time around when it came to knowing what I needed to watch for. Whoever said “It was a blessing in disguise” was absolutely correct.

I tell people, always, that having food allergies is a positive thing and that there’s a reason for it, it should not be seen as a curse. The world works in mysterious ways. Little did I know that I would be taking my own advice.

But I also realized that it was not only a blessing for me – it was a blessing for my second child as well. My daughter is a better sister without even trying. As she grows up, she has the added wisdom of knowing what food allergies are all about and how to keep her friends safe if they have them. She knows why hand-washing is so important without making a fuss and that sharing foods is not even an option (which is good anyway because watching children share a half-eaten , soggy cookie grosses me out). And someday, when a mother at her school doesn’t know that a child is having an allergic reaction or what an EpiPen is, she will be able to tell them. How awesome is that? My daughter will have more knowledge about label-reading and cross-contamination than most adults and I am thankful for that.

Life truly does give you what you are able to handle. I’m not saying that it will always be easy but you will learn things about yourself that you would have never known if certain events had not happened to you. Embrace everything, both good and not so good. Someday, even you will be amazed at how your blessings have shown up in your life as well as whatever life has brought to you.

When is Your Mommy Voice The Right One???

Last updated on September 2nd, 2019 at 07:53 pm

“Babies cry, that’s normal.”

“You need to let your baby cry for awhile. If you don’t they will expect you to pick them up all of the time.”

“All babies are fussy.”

Which voice is rightAre these all things that you were told when your food allergic child was an infant? Do you remember thinking that there must be something that you are not doing right as a new parent? Something that one of the doctors is just not telling you or explaining the right way? Your baby cried, endlessly, for hours. They balled up their legs and you could hear the pain as their belly was gurgling and trying to let out some of that gas. Gas is normal. Colic is normal. Even if it seems to coincide with feeding times. It doesn’t matter if you happened to eat peanut butter before you breastfed- this could not affect your child in any way. Wrong, all wrong.

I have been there and I can tell you the truth- babies do not cry all of the time. All babies are not fussy and what you eat most definitely can affect how your newborn feels. Are you shocked? Are you nodding your head, thinking “I knew it, I knew it! In my heart of hearts, I knew that something else was going on with my child.” That is your mommy voice. That little voice in the back of your mind (that actually lives inside of your heart) is the voice that connects you to your child. That is the voice that lets you know what your child cannot say to you. And someday, that voice will be the one thing that you will follow and may ultimately save your child’s life.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because my son has multiple, life-threatening food allergies and I have learned to listen to that mommy voice. And yes, it has saved him (I feel) more than a few times. As a parent, it is essential to understand that you need to do what you feel is the very best for your child- even if this means going against what everyone else is telling you to do. You will feel extreme pressure to do the conventional things expected of you. You will get dirty looks and people will assume horrible untruths about you. You may need to go through many, many doctors to find the answers that you need. Like the time I met with a new allergy specialist who never even looked at my son but instead, chose to belittle the allergy tests that we had and went on to tell me that I am a terrible mother for not feeding him these foods. Upon check out, the woman behind the desk said “She wants you to make a follow up appointment” in which my mommy voice replied calmly yet fiercely “That woman will never touch my son again.”

What will this bring you? Listening to your mommy voice will bring you specific answers about your child. It will allow you to find the very best network of doctors, friends, support groups and to understand that you are not alone in how you think. This voice will keep you strong in times of need but will also soothe you during the times that you feel utterly lost and confused- and this is ok too. So what is a “mommy voice”? Some call it faith, some say its God or the Universe speaking to them, others say it’s just your conscience. Does it matter what it is labeled as long as it keeps your child safe? Learn to listen with an open heart because, no matter what, love is what will guide you, always.

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