Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dove Chocolate

One of my blog readers sent me an e-mail about Dove Chocolate and their "awesome" labeling for peanut/tree nut allergens. I went on their website, but couldn't find a written statement. However, if you call their automated phone system (800-551-0704), there is an option to press for a list of peanut free products.

I hope my reader doesn't mind me quoting her, but she spoke to several reps from the Mars company, and I wanted to pass along what she found out. They told her that "they will always list "may contains" if it is manufactured in a facility or on shared equipment with peanuts." Several of their products no longer carry a "may contain" warning so the assumption is that they must have a peanut free facility.

Thanks to my reader for e-mailing me. She was excited to be able to buy a candy bar for her peanut allergic son, who was in heaven having such a wonderful chocolate treat.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Special Offer from Annie's HomeGrown

Annie's HomeGrown is giving away free garden gloves and packs of vegetable seeds with the purchase of two of their products.  We almost always have a box of the Bunny Crackers and/or boxes of mac 'n cheese in our pantry.  It was just a matter of filling out the information online.  The gloves come in either adult or childrens' sizes.  I selected the kid's size, and I'm going to put them to work in my garden this spring.
Free Root 4 Kids gardening kit is available with PROOF OF PURCHASE of any TWO (2) Annie’s Homegrown or Annie's Naturals products. Products must be purchased between January 5, 2011 and April 30, 2011.  Offer good in U.S only. Limit one per household or address. Must be 18 years or older. Supplies are limited. Offer expires April 30, 2011 or while supplies last.  Allow 8-10 weeks for delivery. 

Update 5-6-11 
We received our package today from Annie's.  The kids loved the gloves.  They fit Abigail perfectly, but are a little too large for my 3 year old.  He didn't seem to mind.  I loved the surprise coupons that were included.  $5.50 worth to be exact for Bunnie crackers, pasta, snack bars, dressings and cereal.   Hope you got yours!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

High School Freshman in Coma

A 14 year old, high school freshman girl is in a coma after going into anaphylactic shock. The coma is a result of delayed CPR and an extended period of time without oxygen flowing to her brain. There are plans later this week for her to undergo surgery so that a feeding tube can be inserted.

Apparently, she was hanging out with some friends after school and they were eating Kellogg's Crunchy Nut cereal for a snack. The words "peanut" or "nutty" appear about 20 times on the cereal box. She did know the severity of her allergy. There is no mention of an epinephrine pen anywhere in the article. Her dad mentions that Benadryl had worked on past minor allergic episodes to MSG and preservatives.  Here's the link if you'd like to read the full story and see the Fox News video clip interviewing the girls father.

I really don't know how to comment. It's a very tragic tale that brings up more questions than answers.  I can say this though.  It's a perfect example of one of the main reasons that my husband and I decided to pursue the peanut clinical trial at Duke, and why we're putting Abigail as well as our family through repeated 290 mile round trips to the Duke Clinical Research Unit, multiple blood and skin tests and a daily regiment of drops for 3 years.  We were very concerned of what would happen when our very strong-willed, opinionated daughter reached the pre-teen and teenage years and was no longer under the constant supervision of either ourselves or another adult.  My husband agrees.  Ironically, when I told him about this girl in Phoenix and the tragedy, his first comment was, "that's why we are in the clinical trial."  What a blessing this trial is for our family, and we pray that the results bless many in return.

A mom wrote on a food allergy message board that she trains all of her teenage daughter's close friends on the signs of an allergic reaction and the administration of an EpiPen.  Prior to letting her daughter go anywhere with her friends, she makes sure that they are all aware of where the EpiPen is and asks that they make sure it doesn't get left behind in the car.  What a great tip.

In the meantime, we need to keep this young girl and her family in our prayers.  I can't imagine what they must be going through or how much they are suffering.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Parents Protest in Florida

Did you see today's story about a group of parents in Florida that are protesting to have a 1st grader removed from public school? She has a severe peanut allergy, and as a precaution, students in her class are being asked to wash their hands both in the morning and after lunch as well as rinse their mouths out. The protesting parents think that she should be home-schooled rather than deal with the special rules required to keep her safe.

Obviously, something close to home for all of us parents with allergic children. Here's the link to the article on Yahoo News. If you don't want to become over-agitated, skip reading the comments. I'm constantly amazed at how narrow-minded people can be if they are the least bit inconvenienced.

Post Follow-Up: Here's a link to a news story about this protest that Ann did on the Today Show. I love her point that the protesting parents are really missing an opportunity to teach their children compassion.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Food Allergies & Birth Order

According to a new study, older siblings are more likely to have a food allergy than their younger brothers or sisters.  Here's the link to the article that was posted on yesterday.

What do you think?  It's applicable to our family, but I know of several families where the youngest child is the one and only family member that has a food allergy.

I love that scientist and doctors are doing so much research on food allergies.  Interesting that they now know that first born children have more food allergies than their younger siblings. Do you know what would be even more interesting though?? If they could tell us why!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rita's Ice - Celebrate the 1st Day of Spring

We've never been to Rita's or eaten a Rita's Italian Ice or Custard, but I have several friends with food allergic children that have been to a Rita's.  I did a little research on the company's website, and they do have a great allergen labeling policy. What was an immediate concern is that they offer "Mix-Ins" for their custards.  Mix-Ins include Reese's Pieces, Reese's Cups, M&M's, Heath Bars, Oreos and Nilla Wafers.  It's no news to you guys that the majority of these items are taboo for our peanut allergic children.  Up goes the red flag.

On a food allergy message board, I posted a question as to whether other moms with peanut allergic children have been to Rita's and asked their opinion as to whether they thought it was a safe place to eat.  I found out that these mix-ins are fairly new and are kept covered in separate storage containers.  There is also lots of signage stating their allergen policies.  One mom says she does go there with her peanut allergic daughter and they stick to the Italian Ice flavors.  The mix-ins weren't near the ice flavors.

So, it sounds like a place that might be worth checking out.  And, today might be the day to do it.  Rita's is celebrating the first day of spring by giving away a free regular size Italian Ice.  We'll be packing and moving today (more about that later) so it's not on our agenda, but maybe one of you guys could check it out and report back on your experience.  Or, if you've been in the past...what did you think?  Would you recommend it for children and adults with severe food allergies?  I'm still on the fence.  After all, the peanut product toppings for the McFlurry is one of the main reasons we stopped going to McDonald's (link to that post).  Is one food establishment okay and another not?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Peanut Allergy Linked to Genetic Defect

Results from an Australian study linking peanut allergies to a skin genetic defect were released this week. A group of scientist from the Dundee University found that the gene, filaggrin, found in human skin can triple the risk of a child developing a peanut allergy. According to the study, "a fifth of all peanut allergy sufferers have a filaggrin defect. Those with the defect can be three times more likely to suffer peanut allergy than people with normal filaggrin."  Here's the link to the article so that you can read the details.

I did a little more research on filaggrin because I'd never heard of it.  In an article on the New York Times website, I found that "filaggrin is a skin protein that serves as a natural moisturizer. Without it, the usually impervious barrier formed by the skin is compromised by cracking."  This article, dated back in 2006, reports how a group of scientist from the Dundee University (the same research team from the first article I linked) found the defective gene for filaggrin while researching the cause of chronic eczema.  Evidently, having shown that filaggrin was a significant factor in causing eczema and asthma, the scientist next decided to investigate whether the gene might also be a cause of peanut allergy.

Here's a couple of interesting sections from the 2006 article stating that eczema might not be a side-effect from allergies, but that allergies might be a side-effect from a skin defect:

For decades, allergists embraced the idea that eczema arose from an immune overreaction inside the body, leading to inflammation and cracked, itchy skin. Skin cracking, in turn, let in more allergens, irritants and microbes that further fueled the cycle. The theory was supported by the observation that eczema sufferers show high blood levels of an immune defense protein called IgE and often develop immune-related ailments like asthma, food allergies and hay fever. 

Many dermatologists, on the other hand, have argued that allergies do not cause chronic eczema. Over the last decade, some proposed that an intrinsic defect of the skin occurs first and then causes immunological weirdnesses. In other words, trouble develops from the outside in. 

I've have never heard the theory that skin can be defective (with a dry, filaggrin-deficient barrier) and let in environmental pollutants, food proteins, bacteria, dust mites, etc., and that those "foreign intrusions might activate immune cells to respond and crank out IgE, causing the inflamed skin lesions. That process may also prime the immune system to overreact to specific allergens, leading eventually to asthma, hay fever and food allergies."

If you're dealing with children that have eczema, it might be worthwhile to read these articles.  It's always interesting to hear different theories even if it does often confuse an already confusing issue.  This article goes on to quote a dermatologist not related to the study.  Here's an excerpt: "the genetic studies magnify the need to protect the dry, damaged skin barrier and keep out irritants and allergens by hydrating it and keeping it intact. That means that along with using anti-inflammatory medications, it is crucial for eczema patients to follow the basic advice on moisturizing to prevent flare-ups. For infants, the research even raises the possibility of prevention and points out that maybe we can reduce the impact of asthma and allergic rhinitis by treating the skin in kids with eczema early by moisturizing right from day one.”
I find it an interesting coincidence that Abigail had eczema, but her younger brother did not.  I should mention too that both her dad and I have also had minor boughts of eczema in the past, and that I suffer from really dry skin.  Too bad that filaggrin screening tests are a ways away. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Arthur: Binky Goes Nuts"

Abigail, my 3 year old son and I first previewed "Arthur: Binky Goes Nuts" back in August of last year. I was trying to determine if it was a good video to recommend to Abigail's teacher to show to her class.  I wasn't particularly impressed then, and I wanted to see if I would change my mind after seeing it a second time.

This time around, my now 3 1/2 year old, non-allergic son left the room in a panic as soon as he saw me put the disk in the DVD player. It evidently bothered him the 1st time (more on that in a minute), and he definitely didn't want to watch it again. This is from the Arthur series that runs on PBS Kids in the afternoons and is geared more towards older children.  I found a link to the full episode on YouTube.

The episode starts with Binky, Arthur's almost 10 year old friend, having signs of an allergic reaction on his skin.  Binky goes to the doctor and has skin and blood test which show that he's allergic to peanuts.  The doctor sends Binky home with lots of pamphlets and tells him that the "more he learns about allergies, the easier it is to cope with them" which is a great statement.  The episode goes on to highlight the importance of Binky reading labels, not being able to eat food he used to eat and having to sit at a peanut free table in the cafeteria at school.

Up to this point, there are a lot of good messages. I find it starts to get a little off base when Binky has a dream where he has to sit in the cafeteria at the special table with an over-the-top range of odd children.  Binky gets a cell phone so that he can call for help if he has an allergic reaction.  I'm on the fence with this particular message.  Personally, I think it is more important to teach children to find an adult for help.  I was trying to think of circumstances where Abigail, at age 9, would not be in the presence of an adult and would need a cell phone and couldn't think of any.  His mom calls him while he's in the school cafeteria (she's standing outside the window watching him eat) and there is some dialogue where mom is panicking about the sandwich he is eating.  We find out that she actually made it for him.  I guess the writer is trying to make light of us hovering moms.

Further in the episode, Binky goes to a candy store.  His mom doesn't think he's knowledgeable enough yet to make purchasing decisions, but he insists.  A friend with a milk allergy is there and she shows him some safe treats, none of which he wants.  Binky purchases cashews, eats them, and his throat starts to feel funny and he gets a rash.  He ends up back at the hospital where he has to get a shot.  The cashews were processed in a plant with other peanut products.

The scene that really bothered my 3 year old last fall and the reason he didn't want to watch it again was a dream that Binky has where he is about to get trapped in a giant peanut butter sandwich by an evil character until Super Bunny saves him.  Super Bunny's advise is to be "tougher than the allergy and let it know who's in charge."  Both my kids are pretty sensitive to TV shows so this part probably wouldn't bother most kids.  Abigail did not like it when she first saw it either.  This time she was better with the scene.

The shows ends with Binky reading all of the information that the doctor provided, doing research on safe restaurants and getting an epinephrine pen.

There were definitely some good messages woven in the program.  Back in August I decided not to recommend that Abigail's teacher use it as a tool to educate the class about food allergies.  I still think it was the right decision.  What bothered me the most is that Binky didn't have an allergic reaction to peanuts until he was almost 10 years old.  Is that possible?  My experience is with early childhood allergies. Can an allergy severe enough to result in anaphylaxis not manifest itself until a child is that old?  I would guess yes if there had been minor symptoms that were ignored prior to that age.  I did do a little research and found case after case of adults having sudden onset of severe allergies.  But, I wonder if non-allergic children watching "Arthur:  Binky Goes Nuts" would start fearing having a severe reaction due to the lack of explanation in the episode?

I guess in conclusion, I don't think there is any harm whatsoever of older, elementary school aged children watching "Arthur: Binky Goes Nuts."  If nothing else, it's a great way to open up some dialogue about food allergies.  For me, it definitely raised some questions about older children getting food allergies without prior symptoms, and I'm going to do some research.  I'll follow up and let you know what I find out.

Have you seen this episode of "Arthur"?  If so, please leave your opinions.  I'd love to hear them.