Posts Tagged ‘food’

setbacks in “growing out of” food allergies

Today we went out for lunch after church. To Vietnamese, where you can get rice noodles, and grilled meat, and if you ask they’ll leave off the peanuts on the order.

On paper, the dishes seemed safe.

According to the waitress, the dishes should be safe.

Unfortunately, just an hour and a half after eating, she started to complain that her nose was itchy. Then her underarms. Then her elbows. Then she started crying that she was itchy all over.

Time to get the Benadryl.

Then it was into the bathtub for a cool water bath.

Then it was no end of trying to distract her from scratching herself raw by letting her play with my Blackberry. Eventually she fell asleep with me holding her. At least then she wasn’t scratching anymore! Kind of heavy, though. And as we were sitting at the kitchen table, on a somewhat uncomfortable chair… sigh.

On a side note, if you want the kids to be knocked out, Benadryl will definitely do it… not that I am advocating that you should use it for any reason other than its intended purpose… 🙂

When your food allergic child is having a reaction, it’s a bad feeling as a parent. Bad because you know that it was your job to make sure that she doesn’t eat anything that she’s allergic to, and bad because YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER, and bad because your child is crawling out of their skin with itchiness, and bad because you just may have caused her to be allergic to whatever it is for the rest of her life because of your carelessness. “Aaugh!!” as Charlie Brown used to say.

The prevailing thought is that how a child ‘grows out’ of an allergy is through complete non-exposure, and given that a child’s immune system is not fully mature until around age 5, if the child has not been exposed and has not had a reaction, when the body’s immune system does ‘set’ itself, it will do so with a reduced reaction or possibly no reaction to that particular allergen.

You can see how our anxiety is pretty high about these accidental exposures, and how disappointing it is when she does get exposed. I kind of view each one as a sort of setback, and it’s painful because you don’t know if this will be just a setback, or the straw that broke the camel’s back.

As I write this our daughter is sleeping peacefully, the bedtime dose of Benadryl having its effect. Hopefully the symptoms will stay away. I guess I can’t dwell on it too much. We just have to try our best.

Food and Allergies:

Food and Allergies:

“Eating isn’t too complicated for most us, but for kids with sometimes life-threatening allergies, mealtime can be a minefield. Here are the best websites for managing allergies.”

Thanks to H. Davidson for the reference and check out her excellent site Gluten-Free Guidebook.

We Love Tofutti

It’s hard not to love a company that makes dairy-free alternatives to difficult to substitute things like Cream Cheese, or Sour Cream. Tofutti is one of those companies whose items consistently top our shopping list. Not only are they dairy-free, but they also taste quite good, both in consistency and flavour.

But what really seals the deal, and what we first knew Tofutti for, were these:

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That’s right, Vanilla Premium Frozen Dessert. Sounds pretty boring, but this pint sized tub of frozen treat was the thing that allowed our daughter to feel included when everyone else was having ice cream after dinner. It was what saved us when we went out to dinner parties at friends’ houses. So it means a lot to us to have this product available.

As I alluded to, Tofutti also makes “Better Than Cream Cheese”, and “Sour Supreme”, excellent substitutes for Cream Cheese and Sour Cream, respectively. A more recent product which we also love, is their Soy-Cheese Slices. Having bought and tried a number of different soy and rice based cheeses, usually sold in blocks, and invariably having them either taste extremely foul or going bad before our daughter could finish all of it, these individually wrapped cheese slices were amazing. Normally we don’t get processed cheese slices, but I can’t argue with the sheer convenience and the long lasting nature of this product. It comes in two flavours, Mozzarella and “American”, and looks and feels just like a regular processed cheese slice. It’s great in sandwiches made with wheat-free, egg-free, diary-free bread, AND yes, it melts like cheese should melt. Awesome for grilled cheese. Or putting on vegetables.

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The company has a quirky sense of humour too, calling one of its ice cream bars “Marry Me!” bars:

“Tofutti’s Marry Me bars are a match made in flavor Heaven. Fine, full-bodied vanilla made with organic sugar partnered with a rich, deep organic chocolate coating create a classic love story that will leave you feeling happily ever after.
For a healthy, long lasting relationship.”

Hard to argue with that. I think I might just go have one myself. Excuse me… 🙂

Note: Not suitable for those with an allergy to soy.

Wheat Free Oyster Sauce

Oh, boy, I’m excited about this one! We just discovered a big brand oyster sauce that doesn’t have wheat in it! Here are the details:

Lee Kum Kee
Panda Brand Lo Mein Oyster Flavoured Sauce
UPC 078895134964

I must say I’m relieved to find this, because the previous brand of oyster sauce that we were using was a vegetarian oyster sauce, which kind of looked like corn syrup. Not only that, but we have had trouble sourcing it at our local Asian supermarkets, so we were going to run out.

Note: This product does contain oyster extract, so it’s not good if you have a shellfish allergy.

What it means: constant vigilance

vig⋅i⋅lance –noun
1. state or quality of being vigilant; watchfulness: Vigilance is required in the event of treachery.
2. Pathology. insomnia.
Origin: 1560–70; alter. ( -ance for -ancy ) of obs. vigilancy L. vigilantia; see vigilant, -ancy Unabridged (v 1.1) Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

What it means to have a kid with food allergies:

It means that I worry any time I open a packet of instant 3 in 1 coffee, because the fine powder that floats up out of the mug might settle on something I can’t see, and the milk in it will get into her food.

It means that every time I make a breakfast that involves bread or anything that has wheat, I have to wash my hands in between handling our food and her food. And if while I’m eating she needs help, like with cutting her special toast, for example, I have to wash my hands again before I can touch her food.

It means that I’m super anxious about crumbs at the table. I always wipe her spot at the table first when the cloth is the cleanest, then move on to the rest of the table.

It means that anytime we’re serving food, I have to watch to make sure there isn’t any accidental cross contamination into the safe foods. No crumbs, no drips, no using serving utensils for multiple dishes. No touching bowls of plates when serving out the food.

It means that if I’ve been drinking milk or tea, and she needs a kiss, I have to wipe my mouth carefully before I kiss her.

It means that at Halloween, we come home and go through her candy, sorting out all the chocolate and other things she can’t have, and trade her for the bags of chips and the fruit gummies that she can have.

It means that we can only eat out at certain restaurants, and even then only certain menu items are safe. We have pored over many a restaurant’s ingredients list online, and have spoken to many a chef to find out what a certain dish is made with. It means that whenever we find a place that does offer something safe, we make sure we go back there, and often.

It means that I thought about getting a separate toaster for her so that we wouldn’t contaminate it with our bread crumbs. In the end we got a toaster oven that has two racks, and we keep her bread toasting on the top, and ours on the bottom, so the wheat crumbs won’t fall on her special bread.

It means that she wears a MedicAlert bracelet whenever she goes out and she’ll be under someone else’s supervision (at school, playdates, parties, etc.).

It means that for the first three years of her life we’ve had to avoid shellfish (shrimp, lobster, crab) and fish, not because she was allergic to them, but because they are foods that people are commonly allergic to. Since I have a slight reaction to crab and lobster, combined with the fact that she has a lot of other food allergies, we were advised to keep her off fish and shellfish until she was older and could be tested for them.

It means that I go through the ingredients of everything we buy to make sure it’s safe, even those things which we’ve previously vetted, because the ingredients may have changed since we bought them last. It has happened.

It means that she always has two Epi-Pens and a bottle of Benadryl nearby at all times.

It means that at school she has to have her own snacks, her own special cookies and treats, and can’t use certain materials like Play-Doh or egg cartons. It means that I nearly cried when her kindergarten teacher got her whole allergy information from us, and then asked for recipes for wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free birthday cakes, so that she could make cakes for the monthly birthday celebration not only for our daughter, BUT FOR THE WHOLE CLASS. :*)

Help, my kid has food allergies!

When we first found out our youngest had numerous food allergies, we were initially overwhelmed. We found out quite early, pretty much as soon as she started eating solid foods. it started with a strange redness around the mouth and hives on her body, after feeding her baby food that had peas in it. Then we tried a cracker, and the same thing happened. Same with a banana. At that point we took her for an allergy test, and came back with a long list of things she was allergic to.

We made a decision pretty early on that we would try as much as possible to be inclusive rather than exclusive when it comes to food. With an inclusive approach, it means that meals, whenever possible, are completely safe for her to eat. The only exception is breakfast, where we all have our own individual things. And if there is something that she cannot eat, say when we are at a party or out for dinner, we make sure that we bring something that she can have so that she doesn’t feel left out.

Oh, you want to know what she’s allergic to?

  • wheat
  • dairy
  • egg
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • banana
  • avocado

This list seems pretty long, but in fact it’s shorter now than when she was first diagnosed. In the intervening 3 years, we’ve tried our best to keep her from any exposure to the things she’s allergic to. The medical advice we’ve been given is that if (IF) the body is not exposed to the things it reacts to, there is a chance that the body will forget the immune response to those allergens, and that when the immune system reaches maturity (around 5 years of age) that it will become permanently forgotten, and she will have ‘outgrown’ her allergies. This theory revolves around the ‘no exposure’ part of it, so it puts the pressure on being vigilant about it.

We have already seen her lose her reaction to peas, green beans, and we are hopeful that she will lose more as time goes on. But if not, we have already developed many strategies to navigate through the allergy maze.

One of the hardest parts for us, being Asian, is in the preparation of dishes that require a sauce, either soy sauce or oyster sauce, or other barbeque sauces and what not. You wouldn’t think that there’s anything in a sauce to be allergic to, but in fact the common ingredient in these sauces is wheat. There is wheat in soy sauce, wheat in most oyster sauces, and so on. But these are the flavours that make Asian cuisine, and it’s hard to substitute them. So we had to find sauces that don’t contain wheat, and that hasn’t been easy.

I’d like to share my discoveries with you, and I’ll be starting a new series of posts about food allergies and strategies that we’ve developed over the last three years with our own children. So stay tuned, and I hope you’ll find something helpful here!

going to school with food allergies

This past week, the Comic (our youngest) started school, and amidst all the excitement and wonderment of BOTH KIDS IN SCHOOL, the realities of navigating life at school with food allergies have tempered our elation with a little trepidation. Will she be ok? The teacher has been very good about asking us for a list of safe snacks that they will get for her, which is awesome. I’m most concerned about other kids, who may be eating something she’s allergic to, and who may have crumbs or whatnot on their hands and accidentally get it into her food. But food allergies don’t just affect what she can eat. There are many hidden sources of food allergens that you might not think of being at school. Continue reading