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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

An Allergen Free 4th Birthday Celebration!

Today has been pretty relaxing for a change!  This whole past week I have been preparing for N’s 4th birthday party.  Like all parents, I absolutely am in shock that he just had his fourth birthday!  It seems just like yesterday that I was holding him for the first time, unknowing all the parental ups and downs that were to befall me in just four short years ahead.  Here’s a picture from N’s 1st birthday where he’s eating his first dairy and egg free cupcake.  It’s crazy to think that is all he’s ever known.  I am comforted to know that  he loves his cupcakes and I make sure that he always has a safe one at every party we attend.

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Since then I have tried many recipes, gotten comfy (as in not so crazy-nervous) in the allergen-free world, and have become used to throwing great parties with yummy food that is ALL safe for N.  My brother (the one who named my blog!) always asks, “Everything is safe for N, right?”  This time it was everything except the mayo, which I don’t find as a huge threat to him.

Alright, let’s get this party started, and let me tell you what we served for N’s 4th birthday!!

He LOVES Disney’s Cars Movie, and that was our theme!  I wish I could say all of these decorations and accents were my idea but they’re not.  I am lazy and always scrambling, so I hopped on Pinterest and found some Over Achiever Moms who had already designed all of these things and done the hard work for me.  Follow me on Pinterest if you want to see those things.

Our menu for the party was sloppy joes, salsa, guacamole, corn salsa, tortilla chips, watermelon, veggies & dip (hummus and soy based ranch dip), and homemade Ranch seasoned (dairy free) Chex mix.  We also had Rice Krispie Treats and, of course, cake!  The cake was a Cherrybrook Kitchen mix, Nathan’s request.  To wet our whistle we had unsweetened tea, lemonade, and good ‘ole water.

Check out this spread….

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IMG_4621Did you catch the stoplight theme for my tortilla chip dips?

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I just LOVE these labels I found to customize for our food!  Not that food needs to be labeled, but it was just fun!  Are ya hungry yet?  Cause I am!  My husband and I are munching on leftovers right now 🙂  Mmmm, chips & corn salsa!

Here’s a picture, too, of our fun “road” tables.  Loved this idea I found on Pinterest, as well!

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Alright, I know you want to see the cake.  I STRESSED over this.  If you saw one of my FB statuses last Saturday, I mentioned spending nearly 3 hours working on eggless royal icing decorations.  Um, that became a royal mess.  By Wednesday, it was starting to shrivel up and the colors were bleeding.  I was bummed, but actually I’m kinda glad it didn’t work out, because look at this cake….
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Pretty awesome, huh?!!  I had already planned on putting the plastic cars on it and had bought the checkered flags at the local cake supply shop.  My mom found the giant “4” candle and I went to work.  The “sand” on the cake is Golden Oreos that I put in the food processor, the “road” is Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips, and the white icing is yummy Pillsbury.  The green, blue, and red icing is a homemade recipe I found and I adapted to be dairy free.  I was surprised to hear comments such as, “Did you buy that cake?” and “Did you make the cake, Rachel?”.  The kids were saying, “I want a part of the road!”.  I have to admit, I wanted his cake to be awesome.  I didn’t want a “That’s a cute cake” kinda cake, but a “Wow!” cake.  I must admit I have taken cake decorating classes in the past, so that helped.  This will probably be the first birthday Nathan will remember and was really aware of the details like the theme.  I think these pictures show his excitement and how overwhelmed he was with all of the attention.

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I think in the above picture, he was getting a little embarrassed, overly excited, and overwhelmed and how happy he was!

I was so happy to get the perfect picture of him blowing out his candle.  Makes a Momma happy!

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I had made these cupcakes with sprinkles for the kids, but I’m pretty sure the adults got stuck with them!

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And, here’s the aftermath…..

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Gone.  ALL gone.  Plates were scraped clean and hardly a crumb left.  Success.  Sometimes I wonder if anyone would know everything was dairy, egg, & peanut free (and 7 other foods) if they weren’t aware of N’s allergies.

About 5 leftover cupcakes were there for me to indulge in after the party guests had left and the kids were in bed.  I only ate one.  I promise 😉

I slept so good last night knowing that the party was a success, the cake turned out better than I had hoped, and above all Nathan was happy, content, and safe.  I’m looking forward to the the coming year and watching him change, learn, and grow.  As I sit here wrapping up this post while on my patio under the party lights I put up for my own enjoyment, I realize I am so blessed.  Food allergies and all, he’s still a happy 4-year old boy.  He’s healthy.  He’s determined.  He loves baseball and trucks.  He loves trains and books.  He’s normal.  He’s mine.  And I’m so proud that I can say that Nathan is mine.  All mine, and I’m so proud of him.

What do you say Food Allergy Moms & Dads….how do you throw an awesome, allergen-free birthday party?  What recipes from the party menu do you want??  Leave me feedback..I love to hear from you!

Vacationing With Food Allergies: Make It Happen and Enjoy It To The Fullest

On Sunday we returned home from a full week in Northwest Michigan, one of the most beautiful places this side of the Mississippi.  I love it there with the tall pine trees, the beach just beyond them, and the constant breeze keeping the sweat from rising up on my forehead.  If it weren’t for family here at home, I’d buy a house on a lake, pack up and move in a heartbeat.  My husband would be leading the way.

It was a lot of prep work to get ready for this vacation, but this view from our deck every day and the fun we experienced was totally worth it.

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Here’s how we did it.

1.  We rented a house with the family (and thanks to my in-laws for footing the bill!).  With a house, we could cook all of our meals which took a lot of stress out of the whole week.  I cooked most of the meat ahead and then prepped the sides once we were there.  My husband and I did all of the dinners.  That way, we knew exactly what N was eating, and he was safe all week long.  Renting may seem expensive, but it’s usually about the same as a hotel with a mini kitchen once you add it all up.  Plus, we went home with CLEAN clothes because we had a washer & dryer.  Not having to tackle the Mountain-O-Laundry once you get home might make renting a house worth it right there!

2.  We packed our meals for travel days and ate at rest stops.  This is a two for one.  Safe food and the kids get to RUN!  The kids love the picnic atmosphere and the fresh air energizes you for the next leg of the trip.

3.  Severe allergens were not allowed in the kitchen.  My sister-in-law and her man graciously kept their peanut butter upstairs in a bedroom and the door stayed closed.  At the end of the week, the dirty dishes/utensils came down and went straight into the dishwasher.   Thank you to Sharon & Adam!

4.  Relax.  Seriously, try to RELAX.  Yes, stay vigilant and cautious, but relax so you can think clearly and keep your food allergic kiddo safe.  One thing that helped me relax was locating the nearest hospital ahead of time.  Another thing that helped me was taking a TON of safe food.  Not knowing what the grocery stores were like there was nerve wracking, so knowing I had plenty of safe food on hand was comforting.

What did we do on vacation?  It’s more like, what didn’t we do?  We hiked, fished,

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floated down the river,

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ate (safe) ice cream at least twice, played in the sand,

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had s’mores, boat rides, beach trips, sunset walks, playground exploration,

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dune climb,

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and junior explorer class to search for bugs.

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You name it, we did it!  Food allergies don’t stop us very much, and our Epi-pens were with us every step of the way….even on the float down the river.  I want my son to be a kid, and experience things just like I did as a kid.  I try not to freak out (at least outwardly) so that the anxiety doesn’t rub off on him.  He had a blast, and this face…..

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….is totally worth it.

In my next post, I’d like to share some products that helped make this trip a little easier, and some foods that made this excursion lip-smacking good!

So…when it comes to vacations and managing food allergies, do you hold back and get scared, or do you relax and enjoy yourself?