A Note To My Readers….

This is just a quick reminder that very soon http://www.momversusfoodallergy.wordpress.com will become www.momversusfoodallergy.com.  This new site will give me some new flexibility, which I’m excited about.  

My tech-savvy husband has helped me make the switch, and we’ve figured out how to carry over your email subscriptions to the new site!  You will get an email to confirm that you would like to indeed receive new blog posts from the new site.  At this point, the choice is yours and I hope you’ll want to keep receiving blog posts from Mom Vs. Food Allergy!  We’ll be transferring email followers over in the next day or two, but I wanted to give you a heads up that you’d be receiving this email.

Those of you who that follow on your Reader will have to “Follow” the new blog on your own-that I can’t do.  I also hope you’ll continue to follow Mom Vs. Food Allergy.

I must say, I am very thankful for my followers and email subscribers-sure gives me a boost of confidence that I’m helping fellow allergy moms.  Thanks so much and enjoy your weekend with your family!

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New Things On The Horizon (With An Important Announcement)

This Sunday is the FARE Walk For Food Allergy!  This is the first time for our family to participate, so I’m looking forward to it.  I’m thankful for organizations like FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) for raising funds to research a cure for food allergies.  So far our location has raised over $22,000!  We have a group of 13 going, so we decided to get t-shirts for our team, Nathan’s All Stars.  THANK YOU to all of you who donated to our team-we appreciate it!

rsz_t-shirtfront                T-SHIRT.BACK

Nathan loves baseball, so my brother designed this t-shirt for us.  While I’m at it, I need to give him credit for naming this blog, too.  He’s an avid reader, great with words, and a huge supporter of Nathan-all that helps me out a bunch!

Notice anything different about the website on the back of the shirt?  It’s a bit different than the website you’re on now-and yes, it was on purpose.

If you’re reading this blog-THANK YOU!  A blog is absolutely useless if no one reads it, and it was my intention to reach out to fellow food allergy parents to help them on their food allergy journey.  I’m hoping you stay on this blogging journey with me and hop on over to my new (but very similar) blog site and enter your email address (I don’t share email addresses) if you want to continue to receive postings as soon as they happen, or follow the new site on your Reader.  This new site gives me a bit more blogging flexibility, so I hope you hang with me through the transition.  Thank you to my husband, Brent, for making it happen and for helping me put on the last few finishing touches in the next few days.

Again, THANK YOU, to my readers.  I hope to see you on the flip side at www.momversusfoodallergy.com (instead of http://www.momversusfoodallergy.wordpress.com).  Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Pinterest, too!

There’s An App For That! An Auvi-Q App Overview

There’s an app for that?! That was my reaction, too, when a representative from Sanofi came to our local food allergy support group meeting. The rep was there to show us the new Auvi-Q epinephrine injectors. My husband and I were really impressed with the Auvi-Q in general, and it was a very informative meeting. Then, he impressed us even more when he told us about the iPhone and Android Auvi-Q app. Forgive me if someone else has already done a post on this.  If not, then I’m surprised, but I’m also wondering how many people know about it.  Here’s what it’s like.

From the Home screen of the app you can start an Auvi-Q Trainer Simulator, dial 911, and notify contacts in the event of an emergency via text message. Now, I didn’t try calling 911 from the app, but the rep from Sanofi said you could dial is straight from there. You can enter contacts to notify, and then directly inform them from this Home screen.

auviqapphomescreen

On the Training page, there are 3 options. Each of the 3 options teaches the user how to use the Auvi-Q: the hands-on Simulator that uses swipes to activate the trainer, the Demo Video for more visual/aural learners, and the Written Instructions for those that like details explained in pictures and words. Also on this page is a button that takes you to your expiration date reminders and training reminders. You’ll see that I have my app to remind me quarterly to train on my Auvi-Q to refresh my memory on how to use it. You can also choose to set the trainer reminder for monthly or semi-annually, or no training reminder at all.

auviqtrainerapppage     auviqsimulator   auviqvideodemo

auviq-writteninstructions    auviqreminders

On the Profiles page you create profiles for the patient(s) requiring the Auvi-Q. On the patient’s profile page, you can add their allergens. This is the one page that I do not like about the app. You can select and add any or all of the following allergens: Fire ants, bees, eggs, fish, gelatin, hornets, latex, milk, muscle relaxants, peanuts, penicillin, sesame, shellfish, tree nuts, vigorous exercise, wasps, yellow jackets, other, or unspecified. They must have their reasoning for such a mixed list of allergens, but they didn’t include wheat and soy which are two of the Top 8 allergens. Hhhmm. Not sure what they were thinking, but I don’t like that. I also wish it allowed you to type in allergens. My son is allergic to carrots, pumpkin, and celery (among others), but they are not common allergens. I still want someone to know he’s allergic to them, even though I don’t think he’s anaphylactic to those. Anyway, this is the page where you can add a picture of the patient and add your contacts, epinephrine injectors & expriation dates, as well as health care providers.

auviqaddprofile             auviqprofile               auviqnathanprofile

The final page includes prescribing and safety information, an Auvi-Q app survey (which I’ll be filling out), contact information for Auvi-Q, and additional fine print “stuff” for the Auvi-Q.

auviqmoreinfo

Overall, this app is great and I wish there was a comparable app for the Epi-Pen made by Mylan. Here’s what I like about it:

  1. You can train family members, teachers, babysitters, etc… in just a few minutes. The training is at your fingertips and is so convenient.
  2. You can create reminders to refill your Auvi-Q prescriptions.
  3. You can create a list of contacts to notify ALL AT ONCE in the event of an emergency. This is done by text message.
  4. You can send the patients allergy profile by email to anyone you want.
  5. You can dial 911 directly from the app.
  6. It has anaphylaxis symptoms listed in the app.
  7. It’s a FREE app!

What do you think of the new Auvi-Q or the Auvi-Q app?

Preparing For A Food Challenge

It’s hard to believe we’ve come this far.  Tomorrow, N will have a food challenge for the very first detected food allergy!  Tonight I’ll be cooking some oatmeal to take to his fourth food challenge.  In January he had a soy challenge, the end of February he did a baked egg challenge, and in June he had a cherry challenge.  I know the doctors say there is no correlation between what a pregnant woman eats and what their child is allergic to, but I ate oatmeal AT LEAST once a day, sometimes two.  I love the stuff, and I’m praying that he passes the challenge-so he has more food options and so he can enjoy such a healthy food.

I feel like an old pro with this being our fourth challenge, but I have to admit I’m still nervous.  N’s original reaction to oat was a come-and-go rash on his belly with itching, and he never had hives….so, I’m hopeful that tomorrow will go well.  Here’s how we prepare for a food challenge….

1.  No anti-histamines.  N isn’t allowed to have any anti-histamines (like Benadryl) within the four days before the challenge.  Check with your own doctor on their rules on this.  We are super careful with his food (like always!) so he doesn’t have any weird reactions that require Benadryl.  We don’t try any new products that appear to be safe in the 4 days before the challenge, but that’s just our thoughts.

2.  Pack the food to be challenged.  We’ve done Silk Vanilla Soy Milk, eggs baked in muffins, fresh cherries, and tonight I’ll make oatmeal sweetened with brown sugar and a bit of Earth Balance soy free margarine.  I’m doing instant oatmeal for two reasons:  I think it’s mushy and I’m worried about cross contamination with nuts….and because I already have 2 canisters of old-fashioned oats in the cabinet.  Your doctor may give you specific items to bring for a challenge, so just ask if you’re not sure.

3.  Pack some entertainment.  We usually take a portable DVD player, the iPad, and books.  I let my son pick what movie/DVD he wants to watch so that he’s happy.  Challenges typically take 2-4 hours so movies are good.

With his DVD player at his soy challenge

With his DVD player at his soy challenge

4.  No food/drink after midnight.  Our doctor says no food or drink after midnight the night before the challenge.  Check with your doctor for their rules on this.

5.  Pack a lunch.  After the challenge your child will most likely be hungry, so pack a favorite lunch or plan to go to a safe restaurant to fill that hungry tummy.

What should you expect during a food challenge?  Here’s some basics from our past 3 challenges:

*An initial check of vitals

*Increasing amounts of food/liquid every 15 minutes

First bite at baked egg challenge

First bite at baked egg challenge

*A check of vitals every 15 minutes before they eat the next portion

*Staying in the same room during the challenge (other than bathroom breaks as needed)

*Waiting after the last portion is eating-this may vary from 30 minutes to an hour

*Be prepared to be with your child the rest of the day.  We have always been advised to be aware of a possible reaction for 6 hours past the last portion ingested.

Here are a few more tips to make the day go smooth….

*Prepare your child by talking to them about what will happen.  It’s up to you whether to warn them that an Epi-Pen shot is possible if things don’t go well.

*Ask to rub the allergen on an arm first to see if there is a contact reaction-this can save some time and agony!

*Take your spouse or supportive friend/family member.  Extra support is never a bad thing!

*Leave siblings at home, especially young ones.  You’ll need to focus on your child doing the challenge, not be distracted by entertaining your other children or having to change diapers.

*Ask questions before, during, and after if you’re unsure about something.

*Stay calm.  You’re in a monitored environment with trained professionals, so no need to freak out and pass that anxiety to your child.

*Remember, I’m not your doctor, but I can share experiences.  Talk to your allergist for the final word in your situation, and don’t use this blog post as medical advice.

*Never do a food challenge at home-it’s just not wise!

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite pictures from a previous food challenge…..He was so proud to take his paper mustache from story time the day before…

MustacheEggChallengeHe’s grown up so much since then!

Let’s hear from you food allergy moms….what are your thoughts or tips on food challenges?  

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for lots of things that don’t make a blog post!

I Love Stuff….That Makes Food Allergy Life Easier

I am really striving towards simplicity lately, because it keeps me much calmer.  Except shoes.  The more the merrier.  You too, huh?  Allergies, on the other hand, don’t have such a place in my heart.  But, if it’s something that helps this allergy journey a little less painful, a little more tolerable, or even a little more manageable, then who cares about simplicity?  I say, “Bring it on!”  Here’s a few things that help our daily life, and definitely made our  vacation activities possible.

1.  A waterproof container.  When we go on our vacation to the lake house, we float down the river to the ice cream shop at least twice.  Obviously we have to take my son’s Epi-pens as well as his inhaler, so we put it in a waterproof bag.  Last year the one we used leaked a little, so we had planned on just using Ziploc bags inside this same waterproof bag.  Instead, my sister-in-law, Jenny, let us borrow her new Aquapac, which she had purchased to protect her tablet at the beach.  It was perfect!  There was enough room for a twin pack Epi-pen, an inhaler & spacer, and still had room to spare.  We had Benadryl meeting us at our destination, so we didn’t send that along for the 35 minute float down the river.  The Aquapac worked really well, and I recommend it for those of you going to beaches, pools, spending time on boats, or anything that involves water.  You could even throw your small tablet or cell phones in it.  Thanks to the Aquapac, floating down the river safely was possible!  My husband is the one in the blue shirt, and he had the Aquapac over his shoulder, and N is in his own little floaty.

IMG_4580

2.  A Frio Cooling Wallet.  This summer we’ve gotten much more diligent about keeping our Epi-pens at the proper temperature by not letting them get too hot.  We spend a lot of time outside, so we opted to get the Frio Cooling Wallet, which is originally used for insulin.  It works perfectly for Epi-pens!  We have the Frio Duo Cooling Wallet, and it’s an exact perfect fit for a twin pack Epi-pen.  Once the cooling pack is activated it puffs up a bit and so I have to push the Epi-pens down in the sleeve, and it’s snug.  Do-able, but snug.  If you want it roomy, get the Large so you have plenty of room for  your Epi-pens and maybe something else.  We have two, one for the diaper bag and one for N’s mini-back pack for when we don’t have his sister’s diaper bag with us.

3.  Insulated Lunch Box.  We love our Bento Laptop Insulated Lunch Box with the Bento Buddies Containers.  Awesome lunch box.  Love it, ’nuff said!  The Ziploc brand lunch containers fit perfectly in a Bento lunch box, and are probably much cheaper than the Bento version.

IMG_4378IMG_4396

4.  Bug Repeller.  We used Jason brand natural bug spray and the Off! Clip On Bug Repeller.  We had no allergy trouble with either product, but do your own research, as I only researched for our particular allergy set.  I’d love to make my own bug spray sometime, but until then, these two things are doing the job when the mosquitos are trying to suck the life out of us!  I know this isn’t food allergy related, but we used it a lot on vacation, and I’ve heard of people having some pretty nasty reactions to mosquito bites.

5.  A mini backpack.  We use a mini backpack when just my husband or I take N by himself and just need his Epi-pens, inhaler & spacer, and Benadryl.  He’s too young to self-carry his Epi-pens, so this was a gender neutral alternative for my hubby and I.  We have another set of these things in the diaper bag for when the whole family is together.  The mini backpack is also big enough to put a few light snacks and a small water bottle.

6.  Safe Sunscreen.  We use Coppertone Kids Pure & Simple and N has done really well with it.  It doesn’t have any peanut derived oils that I am aware of, which so many sunscreens do.  It is also oat free, which is something else that is common in lotion type sunscreens.  It’s affordable and even makes the EWG’s list of best sunscreens with a rating of 2, meaning it is a minimal hazard to use.

Then there’s food products that I love, but I think that’s going to have to wait until another post.  I hope this list of products help you manage your family’s food allergies when you’re out and about .  They sure have helped make outdoor fun-in-the-sun much more attainable while staying safe!

Alright Allergy Moms (& Dads!), what are your favorite products to make life with food allergies less of a pain in the neck?  Leave a comment and share your awesome ideas!

To Epi or Not to Epi? That is the Question.

Last week at our local food allergy support group there was a sales rep presenting the new Auvi-Q epinephrine injector.  I LOVE the idea of a talking injector to walk you through what can be a very scary experience.  I’ve had to inject Nathan once with the Epi-pen and it was pretty scary.  More scary was the dialogue in my head debating whether or not he needed the injection or not.  If I didn’t inject him with the epinephrine, we were gambling big time with his life.  I wasn’t willing to do that.  Here’s what happened.

Let me just say, that even as diligent and cautious as our family is with my son’s food, sometimes it takes more than one of us to read new food labels, especially if we’re tired.  Or, how many of you have Almond Breeze milk sitting next to Rice Dream milk in the fridge and almost grabbed the wrong one?  Their containers are very similar (both blue) and I’ve almost grabbed the wrong one a couple of times.  In our particular situation, he was handed the wrong kind of cheese.  American cheese singles are very similar in color to Rice/vegan cheese singles.  We quickly realized the problem, and he had only taken a few bites.  Still, the hives came on pretty quickly, and so did the adrenaline racing through my body.  This was the first time he actually ATE dairy since his diagnosis.  I panicked. I whipped out the Benadryl and gave him a dose.  I actually had no idea if he was anaphylactic to dairy at this point, but I always assumed he was.  After an eternity (OK, probably just a minute or two) of watching him, the hives were still there and there was slight swelling of his lips.  I think I remember him coughing maybe once, but nothing too crazy.  The Benadryl just didn’t do enough fast enough for my liking, and between that and the slight swelling I did what I had hoped I never had to do.  He never was struggling to breathe, but I sure didn’t want the situation to progress that far.  Out came the Epi-pen and in 15 seconds the whole process was done.  It’s amazing how fast epinephrine works.  It’s amazing how fast I didn’t calm down.  I know I cried more than he did, and rightfully so-it’s a hugely emotional situation.  I was so scared, but more terrified of the outcome if I didn’t inject him.  When relaying the situation to our allergist at our follow-up appointment he said, “You did the right thing”.  Doing the right thing was so worth it-unnerving, but worth it.

Here’s another situation for you.  A friend recently had sushi two days in a row.  After the second day of having the fish with the sushi, she broke out in hives and was having esophagus spasms.  She took some Benadryl and went to bed, setting her alarm to wake up for the next dose.  By the next morning she was texting me, letting me know her lips were swollen along with the hives, and was heading to the ER.  They promptly gave her epinephrine, Benadryl, and prednisone.  Within a couple of hours she was heading home.  The only differences in this situation was that this was a slow, almost delayed reaction.  In some ways, I’d almost describe this as a biphasic reaction, but again, I’m no expert.

In both instances, there were at least TWO symptoms.  I am not a nurse or doctor, just another food allergy mom, but that is what I’ve been taught by our awesome allergist, and what I’ve always read.  I recently saw a visual guide originally from Allergic Living Magazine that outlines anaphylactic symptoms, as well as what to do after administering epinephrine.  Click here to see the guide and print it out to share with family and friends.  While you’re at it, print one for your refrigerator.  I’ve already printed mine and mailed it out to my sisters-in-law that wanted more info on our little man’s allergies.

How much does the general, non-allergic public know about anaphylaxis?  I just put out a quick survey on my personal Facebook page, wanting to know how much non-food allergy people know about anaphylaxis and administering Epi-pens.  Here it is….

Quick survey….WITHOUT using Google or other help, answer the following question. If you answer, I may use your (anonymous) answer on my next blog post.
What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis that needed an injection of an Epi-pen?

Here are the answers I received….

Response #1:  When I was getting allergy shots, I had an anaphylactic reaction (I know right?) Since it was at the allergy doctor’s, it wasn’t an actual pen, but I did get a shot of epi. What brought it on was a feeling of being far away and voices were very faint, I felt like I couldn’t swallow…felt like something was stuck and I couldn’t swallow it down or swallow around it. Also my palms and scalp got very itchy. By that point I’d flagged down someone and they gave me epi. It happened a 2nd time, and I had the same symptoms, only they manifested much quicker the 2nd time.

Response #2:  Shortness/loss of breath, swelling, sound becoming faint/roaring in your ears, weakness, redness, feeling faint, wanting to close eyes… I’m sure there’s more, but those are my reactions and why I’ve used my epi on myself.

Response #3:  Facial swelling (or other significant body swelling), respiratory distress, esophogeal tightening, or a reaction that involves two or more body systems. Coming from a person who just had my first ever allergy reaction.

Response #4:  ….sneezing and having trouble breathing by the second sneeze, and I immediately realized she was having an allergic reaction…

Response #5:  Swelling of the tongue or throat, difficulty breathing, “itchy” throat…

Now, all of these individuals except two have experienced anaphylaxis themselves.  Regardless, in all responses there were at least two symptoms being described, and that is my point with this post.  I want people to be aware of the symptoms and be ready to administer the Epi-pen first if it’s needed.  Something else to remember is to ALWAYS carry TWO Epi-pens or Auvi-Qs.  Why two?  The first one may malfunction, or if medical help has not arrived within 15 minutes and symptoms are still present you will need to administer the second injection.  I can’t stress enough the need to keep that epinephrine RIGHT THERE all the time.  As my son has gotten older, we now have his own “Epi Bag” that goes with him if our daughters diaper bag is not with him.  I currently carry is Epi-pens, Benadryl, and asthma inhaler, as I don’t feel he’s old enough to do that himself.  We are getting into a really good habit of keeping that bag with him at all times, or within a 60 second distance.  For example, if we’re playing at the playground, the Epi Bag or diaper bag is in the stroller at the edge of the playground.  Or, if he is going to the barn with his Poppa, the Epi Bag goes with them because it’s a 2 minute walk to the barn.  In the past few months, I’ve read too many articles of anaphylaxis deaths-three to be exact.  Why so many?  They did not have their Epi-pens with them, or in one case it was a first time reaction.  Bottom line?  Epinephrine saves lives.  Know how and when to use it, and don’t be scared to use it.  The outcome of not using epinephrine is way more scary.

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor.  The information here is what I have been taught and learned in our food allergy journey.   Do not use this information in place of medical care.  If you are having an allergic reaction emergency, call 911.