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?  

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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!