Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Weekly Geeks #4: Food Allergies!

I have to admit, this Weekly Geeks task had me stumped for a while. The task is:
Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. Find several books addressing that issue; they don’t have to books you’ve read, just books you might like to read.
But once I found my topic, I knew it would be hard to stop writing about it!

My "social cause" is food allergies. I know this is not a huge topic like biodiversity or poverty, but it IS a huge issue in my house. My 6 year old son has multiple food allergies. He's allergic to: milk, egg, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, peanut, tree nut, beef, and pork. That means that he can't eat anything that contains - or has TOUCHED - these foods. Yes, I know - it sounds crazy. We've adapted to it in our house, but outside our house is a whole other story!

I need to pack food for him every time we leave the house because I can't just pick up fast food if we get stuck out at meal time. We can only eat at The Outback because so far it is the only restaurant willing to make my son's meals safely every time. And of course, restaurants can't heat up food for us so if we eat anyplace else, we have to cook at home for him and bring it with us (and hope we get our food before his gets cold). At school, his teachers have been wonderful, making the kids wash their hands any time they handle food (because merely the touch of milk on a table or someone's hands will make my son break out in severe hives, or worse). During lunch, his desk is pushed up to the edge of his class's table so he can still sit with his buddies without running the risk of an allergen being on his spot at the table.

I just want people to be aware that allergies are serious business, and that those severe peanut allergies you hear about are NOT the only severe allergies out there. In my son's case, milk is the worst of his allergies. If I eat something with butter on it, I have to wash my lips before I kiss his cheeks or he'll break out.

What do I want people to know about this issue? Kids with allergies are everywhere, and they are just like other kids. But, they do need a little bit of extra protection. Please wash your hands after eating - even after snacks - and before touching door handles or railings. Also, a food allergy is not the same as a food intolerance. Someone with lactose intolerance may get stomach aches if they drink milk ... food allergies are immune disorders so a person with a milk allergy who drinks milk will likely end up in the hospital in anaphylactic shock.

For restaurant managers, learn more about allergies and educate your chefs and servers - we want to eat out, but it's just to dangerous for us. If your restaurant can handle food allergies please advertise that fact! There are lots of us out here who will give you business. And for the medical community, please continue to research the causes of food allergies and search for treatments ... I'm hopeful that by the time my son is an adult, there will be a "cure" for his allergies.

I know this is a bit 'rambly' but this is a huge issue for me. It's stressful for our family. I always stay positive about it in front of my son, but his food restrictions really get to me and I feel SO bad for him at times. I hope you can all understand what I'm trying to say, even though I jumped around a bit here ...

If you need more info on food allergies, or know someone who is struggling with this, The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network is an excellent resource.

[The books pictured above are not exactly on my reading list ... I'm sort of "allergied out" after reading this stuff for the past several years. But they are excellent resources for anyone who wants to learn more about food allergies. I DO have The Food Allergy Cookbook though!]


Julie P. said...

Oh my gosh -- I so relate. My three year old also has life threatening food allergies. He's allergic to dairy, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and to a lesser extent soy. I can so relate to your situation and I just pray everyday that he'll outgrow some of them. I am terrified of sending him to school someday! It's a constant concern.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Julie - thanks for the comment. I do have to say that my fears about school were unfounded ... if there's one thing public schools are really good at, it's compliance with the law. And since schools have dealt with numerous lawsuits regarding allergies, they are very willing to listen to a parent's concerns. My son's school has been fantastic - better than I could have asked for! (and you know, from a parent's point of view, that's REALLY saying something!)

Alisa Fleming said...

I found your post on a search, and though I have been writing in the topic of food allergies for many years, I am not very familiar with the first two books you show. Have you found use in these?

Anonymous said...

Oops, sorry, I logged in the wrong way : ) - my regular site is, but I am always dealing with multiple food allergies so your story is of real interest!

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Alisa - Thanks for stopping in! As I mentioned in my post, I have not read any of the books there (except the one cookbook, which I use from time to time). Most of the info I found useful came from FAAN or other sources on the net, plus my son's doctors. FYI, I checked out your website and signed up for the newsletter - thanks!

Anonymous said...

Wow - my heart goes out to you and thank you for reminding me to be sensitive to this issue. My husband had horrible food allergies as a kid but grew out of them, I guess, but the stories I've heard are amazing - what his parents had to do...

Chrisbookarama said...

My girl has a peanut allergy so I can relate, although it's not quite the same as what you deal with. I was nervous about school but they are really good there. People are much more aware now, thank goodness.

Dewey said...

Food allergies are a serious issue for me, too. They say some people outgrow allergies, but the older I get, the more things I'm allergic to. Probably about three new foods a year go onto my can't eat list. My son also has allergies, though not as many as I have, and while schools have mostly been very good, one time in daycare there was a sub, who INSISTED he drink his milk, even though it was on his chart as a serious allergen and he was telling her he could not drink it. Of course there was vomit involved, as well as an asthma attack.

For me as an adult, it's not really hard to carry an epipen and feel safer, but what is really a pain is to constantly ask what the ingredients are in every food someone else makes. It's embarrassing, especially if they act offended that you're questioning their food, even if you tell them it's an allergy issue. My heart goes out to you and your son, because I think wheat is the most difficult food of all to avoid. It's in everything.

Just the other day I was amazed by the close-mindedness and (it seemed to me) self-centeredness of someone who felt insulted by my drawing her attention to allergens in the workplace. I'm allergic to fragrances, and I can manage to keep my own workspace fragrance-free. She has this coffee mug warmer, and she puts a scented candle on it at work, in a public place used by staff and students. Every time I have to use those rooms, I ask her to remove the candle, and she acts like I've just asked her to, I don't know, take off her clothes and work naked or something. Last time, she turned the warmer off, but left the heated candle on the still-hot surface, so that my face and neck broke out in red blotches and raised hives. I showed her these results and (politely, I thought) let her know that THIS is why I "make a fuss." She still insisted that my allergies should not affect her right to melt smelly stuff in a place used by over a thousand people. So I asked her if she had ever thought about the fact that maybe there are students who also have fragrance allergies, but don't feel they have the right that I, as a faculty member (she's a clerk) feel I have to speak up for myself. She just looked at me and said nothing. And the next day, her candle was all heated up on her mug warmer again. She doesn't even care if she's possibly endangering the health of students, possibly inducing asthma attacks (most common reaction to fragrance sensitivities) as long as she can have her workspace smell like awful chemical apples. People. They're strange.

Dewey said...

Um, sorry my comment was longer than the post, but at least you know someone understands? :)

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

bkclubcare and Chris - thanks for the comments, I'm glad there are other people out there who "get it" :)

Dewey - thanks for the comments ... there are some people who will just NEVER get it. Actually, I'm going to be doing another post next week sometime about "sensitivity" in relation to other people ... stay tuned!

Marg said...

Thanks for posting this link on my blog the other day. Dealing with food allergies is basically a pretty new experience for me and I am still trying to muddle my way through dealing with the school and things like that.

This weekend I am going to have to catch up with the people who care for me sometimes to show them all the information we have now, so that they are aware of what to do if something does happen.

N said...

(here from bridges)

Excellent excellent post.

I am lucky in that my food allergies (milk & corn) don't send me into anaphylactic shock. But it's such a hard topic, because a lot of people don't DON'T take them seriously.

JuliaS said...

That is a quite a bit to deal with - for all of you. I have a dear friend who is deathly allergic to coconut and perfumes. I stopped wearing perfume ages ago out of deference to her asthma and allergies. Her coconut allergy is like your son and some of his sensitivities - she can neither touch nor taste it.

Is this something that may improve (reactions lessen or maybe even disappear) over time? Sweet kiddo - just makes me want to hug him and you for dealing with this. Glad the school is being helpful and you are able to find other places also accommodating.

Good wishes!

ZM said...

Here from Bridges...yep, I'm allergied out too! But I do like the FAAN cookbook. I hand it to the Eldest's teachers at the beginning of the year, and they keep thanking me for it.

thanks for the post.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Thanks to all who stopped by from the Bridges post. I hope that post served its purpose, informing you a bit more on what it's like to live with food allergies.

And JuliaS, in response to your question - we're very hopeful that some of kiddo's allergies will go away with time, but his milk allergy only seems to be getting worse. It's by far his worst allergy, the one that causes us the most concern. Soy likely won't go away either, but we're hopeful about peanuts, treenuts, fish, and shellfish. You can be SURE I'll post about any allergies that go away! :)

Anonymous said...

Also here from bridges.

I'm allergic to nuts, lemon, tomatoes and seafood. I'm fortunate that none of them are epi-pen allergies (my seafood allergy is borderline).

I SO know what you're going through. When I was 8 there was a birthday party and the mother had Pizza. She wouldn't believe me that I was allergic and kept telling me that I couldn't have cake or anything else until I ate the Pizza. I was SOOOOO hungry that I ate the pizza. I then sat and turned into a big hive. My mom was livid. People just don't understand.

I have a few suggestions for you though. I don't know where you live, but have you tried Kosher restaurants? The milk won't be an issue at all (if they are meat restaurants). Also Kosher cookbooks might be helpful. Especially ones centered around Passover cooking, as that is a holiday we do without wheat.

How is the egg allergy? My mom has issues with it. She can't eat scrambled eggs or hard boiled eggs, but she can eat merange cookies.

Hope some of this helps.

Anonymous said...

Also here from Bridges - THANK YOU for writing under the allergy banner. Although I wish you (and anybody) didn't have to be under the allergies label.

DS (4yo) is allergic to eggs, fish & tree nuts. We meet with his Junior Kindergarten teacher tomorrow ... I am a ball of anxiety right now. I've just made out some sheets detailing an allergy action plan, guidelines to keep him safe, etc. The school actually seems really good for allergies so it may be unnecessary, but I still feel compelled to do it. Every time I detail out the list of possible symptoms I get so sad and scared. WE've been lucky really, as we haven't had a reaction that has required the Epi-pen - yet. Everyone has their first time, though, and we always have an epi on hand. We also avoid any trace of these foods, which has required some creative cooking (though you have had to be far more creative with your list).

The stories from commentators are a real eye-opener as to how some people really do NOT get it (ie. burning the scented candle, insisting on eating pizza or drinking milk). Just gives me some thought as to what my lie ahead for my treasured little boy.

On the good side, according to my allergist, her partner, and Dr. Robert Wood (author of "food allergies for dummies" - a great resource) - lots of progress is being made in research. IN 5-10 years, we may have a treatment like desensitization, or a pill that can be taken every morning to calm the IgE system. While this doesn't mean you can go ahead and eat your allergens, it means that a trace amount won't be cause for panic.

I never thought as an adult, I would fantasize longingly about bringing my family to Tim Horton's for donuts!

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