Posts Tagged ‘allergies’

wheat allergies and crafts

So our oldest just came home from school, and said, “Daddy! Guess what! we did paper mache today!” She held out the front of her dress, which was covered in white stuff.

“Oh cool! Wait, does paper mache have wheat? Did you use flour?”

She nodded.

I ordered her to the laundry room to take off her clothes and go change, and to not touch or hug her sister or anything until she was done. You see, her younger sister is allergic to wheat. She doesn’t have celiac disease, she isn’t gluten intolerant, she is allergic to wheat. She doesn’t have to eat it to have a reaction, it’s enough to just touch it on her skin, and in the case of flour, it’s easy to breathe it in as well.

That has some implications for school and any craft activities that occur there. It means that her classroom cannot have Play-Doh in it, as that’s made with flour and contains wheat. Other forms of play clay are ok. And now I guess it means paper mache will have to be made without wheat flour.

Boy, her Grade 1 teacher is gonna looove me…

The Halloween Allergy Sorting Ritual

It happens every year. The bags of candy are dumped on the table, and the Great Halloween Sorting Ritual begins.

“Is this safe?” “What can I eat?” “Can I have this?”
“Wait, let me check. What is it called?”
Frantic Googling of ingredients and allergy information ensues.
“Oh, wait, it’s processed in a facility that also processes wheat.”
Take that one out of the pile.
“Are Tootsie Rolls ok?”
“Um… let’s see. Nope, Tootsie Rolls have milk. So do Tootsie Pops.”
Out of the pile.
“What about this lollipop?”
“What is this? I’ve never heard of this. A Dum Dum? Let’s see… Oh, those are ok. Oh wait, does this one have gum inside? “This allergen info DOES NOT APPLY to Dum Dum’s with gum inside”… nope, that one is out.”
Out of the pile.

By the end we have whittled down the pile to chips, a few lollipops, Swedish Berries and Fruit gummies, and that’s about it for the little one. Her big sister gets the bulk of the chocolate and other candies.

Both are allergic to nuts so Mom and I get those. 🙂

adventures in eating out

Question: Where do you take a kid that is allergic to wheat, dairy and eggs for dinner?

Well, the answer is: not that many places… but thankfully that list of places is expanding.

Normal places that are safe*:
– Swiss Chalet (a Canadian rotisserie chicken restaurant): where she can eat the chicken, the sauce, and the fries (although they are a risk because they don’t use dedicated oil for the fries)
– McDonald’s: where she can eat the fries and the hamburger patty without the bun
– Japanese for sushi and maki/rolls (but nothing that has tempura or is fried with soy sauce, and she’s not a big fan of the wasabi either)
– we can also go to Chinese restaurants and order steamed rice and ‘plain stir fry’ veggies with garlic (aka ‘ching chow’ in chinglish… LOL)

As you might gather, it’s not the greatest variety. I should also mention that my daughter is just shy of 5 years old, and she doesn’t like lettuce that much (nor raw tomatoes or peppers), so ordering the Garden salad is not an option.

I will be starting a new series on places that we have eaten out where we were able to order something that was wheat/dairy/egg free**. Items off the menu, even! Tonight we’re trying a new place, Grace Restaurant on College. Check my twitter for pics of dinner at:

* Allergy information and complete ingredient lists for many restaurants can be found online at the restaurant’s own site, usually. McDonald’s is pretty good about it, as is Swiss Chalet.
**I should start a new acronym, like GF (for gluten free). WF/DF/EF? WDE-free?

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:

pp-vanilla-bg.jpg (JPEG Image, 907x409 pixels)
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

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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Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

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