Archive for the ‘Allergies’ Category
The holidays can be tough. You’re shuffling your family from school party to neighborhood shindig to a gathering with relatives. Throw food allergies into the mix, and what’s supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year can be stressful. Like really stressful.
We’re all too familiar with how exposures can be a matter of life or death for children with food allergies. We recently shared the story of Noelle Dilley (“Noelle’s story: The danger of one bite”) who suffered an allergic reaction after eating a cupcake that contained peanut butter. Sadly, she spent 31 days in our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) but is doing great today and back to her happy, spirited self.
Because food is often a big part of holiday celebrations, we want to help you navigate them with ease. We want the child in your life to be able to experience this time of the year like every other kid in the safest way possible.
So we talked with Ellen Wade and Janie Cooperman, dietitians at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, for tips. They emphasized that success is all about planning and offered these suggestions:
- If your relatives or neighbors are hosting the gathering, talk with them ahead of time about the menu and clearly communicate your child’s special health needs. Think about what will help your child be most safe. You may want to ask them to skip the bowl of mixed nuts or pass on the deviled eggs this year.
- Educate friends and family about cross-contamination. Even if a food item is removed, it leaves behind food proteins until washed with soap and water. Safe foods can get contaminated by touching other foods or residue from utensils, serving platters or even hands
- Bring safe alternatives for your child. Knowing the menu ahead of time will help you bring something similar so he or she doesn’t feel left out.
- Survey the scene upon arrival. Take a quick look for food allergens that may be present (even if you’ve already agreed on a plan with the host, someone else may have brought something). Some common offenders at other people’s homes may be food residue in play areas, dog food (may include food allergens such as eggs or milk) and bowls/platters of candy in open areas.
- Bring baby or disinfectant wipes to quickly wipe down surface areas your child may come in contact with, such as table tops or shared toys. Wipes are great whenever soap and water aren’t easily accessible. You can also use wipes to wash hands.
- Don’t forget your medicine kit! Even when you plan ahead, accidents can happen. Families with severe food allergies always need to have an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an Epi Pen, Jr) and an antihistamine such as Benadryl with them at all times.
We’ve collected a few recipes from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network you might want to use in your holiday meal.
Milk, egg, peanut and tree nut free
Milk, egg, wheat, peanut, and tree nut free
Milk, egg, wheat, peanut and tree nut free
Join us for more discussion about food allergies and the holidays during a Twitter chat on Wednesday, Dec. 12, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. We, along with Missy Berggren (@marketingmama), whose daughter has several food allergies, invite you to share your experiences and ask questions on Twitter. We’ll also have allergist Dr. Nancy Ott and Children’s dietitians on hand. Follow Children’s at @childrensmn and the hashtag #childrenschat.
Dr. Nancy Ott is a board-certified allergy, asthma and immunology specialist. She earned her medical degree at the University of Minnesota in 1984. She’s among Children’s professional staff and she’s been practicing with Southdale Pediatric Associates, Ltd., since 1991.
Missy Berggren is a parent to a 5-year-old girl with severe food allergies to eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish, and a 7-year-old son with no known food allergies. Her daughter’s diagnosis at 12 months old led Missy to learn about food allergies, and she now serves on the Board of Directors for the Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota to help support other families and raise awareness of life-threatening food allergies. She shares her experiences with food allergies in helpful articles on her parenting blog Marketing Mama and is a trusted ally and advocate for parents of children with food allergies. Missy has 15-plus years of experience in marketing and communications in the health care arena and is currently the brand manager at Allina Health.
Ellen Wade is a registered dietitian and has worked at Children’s for 11 years. She’s encountered many cases of food allergies and has helped guide families in navigating allergies while still enjoying a healthy diet.
Janie Cooperman is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She currently works in Children’s outpatient diabetes clinics and inpatient eating disorders program.
Noelle Dilley knew the moment she bit into what looked like a chocolate cupcake it was contaminated. Tears streamed down her face as she ran to her mom.
The cupcake had peanut butter in it. Noelle, 10, is severely allergic to peanuts.
She and her family were at a church picnic. The cupcake looked tempting. It would be for most 10-year-old kids. Who would have thought it contained the one ingredient Noelle can’t have.
Noelle was tested and diagnosed with a peanut allergy – among other allergies – when she was around 3 years old after suffering a reaction to a small amount of peanut butter, said her mom, Renae Zaeska. The Atwater, Minn., family was told that with every peanut exposure, the reaction would be worse than the previous one for Noelle.
When Noelle was 5, one bite of a Butterfinger turned into a helicopter ride and a five-day stay at St. Cloud Hospital.
This reaction would be worse, Zaeska thought.
Noelle’s mouth started to burn. He ears ached. Her stomach hurt. On this day – of all days – Zaeska didn’t have Noelle’s EpiPen.
She grabbed Noelle and sped to the emergency room at Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield, Minn. By the time they got there, Noelle’s eyes had started to swell and she began to wheeze. The medical team used an EpiPen and steroids. But Noelle needed additional care.
For the second time in her life, she traveled in a helicopter. She was taken to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota where she spent 31 harrowing days.
At Children’s, Noelle went into cardiac arrest and CPR was performed. Her heart started pumping again, but her lungs were so inflamed and full of mucous she was unable to use them. She was ultimately put on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), a technique that provides cardiac and lung support to patients whose heart and lungs are severely distressed.
She underwent surgery, endured numerous procedures including bronchoscopy and was tested time and time again as she recovered.
“After this whole accident, I’m terrified…I pray to God that we never have to go through this again,” Zaeska said. “I wish I could put a bubble around her.”
“For four minutes, she was gone,” she said.
Now, Noelle and her family – who were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House inside Children’s during the hospitalization– are home, where they belong.
“In the PICU at Children’s, we all have been privileged to care for Noelle and adore her family. To see her so desperately ill, knowing that her heart and lungs stopped working, to help rescue her from her critical illness, then to see her walk out of this hospital is indescribable. This is exactly why we embrace caring for children,” said Dr. Ken Maslonka, PICU medical director.
Noelle’s school has taken various precautions to help protect her and students with food allergies, Zaeska said.
School staff has eliminated peanuts and peanut products in the food served to children, Zaeska said. They’ve created a peanut-free zone for Noelle at lunch. They’ve also added a wash basin where kids can wash their hands before entering the classroom.
The school can’t limit what parents send with their kids, however, Zaeska said.
Noelle’s parents read labels, know which companies use peanuts in food process, and check out which restaurants are “safe” and take steps to prevent cross-contamination.
Their days of dining outside the home will be fewer since Noelle’s hospitalization.
“We’ve told Noelle that we won’t eat out like we used to,” Zaeska said.
According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), nearly 6 million or 8 percent of children have food allergies. Peanuts are a top food allergen.
“The best advice for families with severe food allergies is: know to the best of your ability what your child is allergic to, always be prepared for an acute allergic reaction every moment of every day, do your best to keep your child in a safe environment away from the offending allergens at home, school, restaurants,” Maslonka said.
You can read more about Noelle on CaringBridge.