NoPeanutsPlease is an independent blog.

All views, opinions and conclusions are solely those of the author and do not imply endorsement or recommendation by any other party.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Do Eggs Make YOU Sick?

I thought I would share an interesting conversation that our 2 1/2 year old daughter had with her 2 year old friend. They were playing with our daughters' kitchen set. We have about 100 plastic food items and as they played our daughter picked up a plastic fried egg. The first time she saw the egg she asked us what it was. I was struck by that because we used to eat eggs every day but once we learned of her allergy we began to phase eggs out. She had never seen an egg!

As they played, our daughter turned to her friend and said ... 'eggs make me sick. Do eggs make you sick'? Her little friend had no idea what she was talking about.

I found this interesting because the day before I had explained to our daughter that not everybody gets 'sick' when they eat peanuts or eggs. I told her that though she can drink milk, other kids get sick when they drink milk. The point was that not everybody was allergic to peanuts, but there were things that were safe for her that others could not enjoy.

The concept of food allergy is very confusing for a two year old. Our daughter is starting to understand and it is fascinating to observe her as she scrambles up the food allergy learning curve.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Book Review: Mommy, Is This Safe To Eat?

I was recently contacted by Christina Black, author of two books for peanut allergic children and their parents. Entitled 'Mommy, Is This Safe To Eat' and 'Starting School With A Food Allergy', the books are intended to help young children understand how to stay safe while still having fun.

I decided that the best way to review these books was to read them to my 2 1/2 year old peanut allergic daughter. She has made great progress in understanding her allergy. Every time she sees peanuts, peanut butter or potentially unsafe cookies she says: 'No peanuts for me. Peanuts make me sick'.

That being said, it is very difficult for her to be aware of peanuts hidden in other foods. The photos in these books, such as those depicting potentially unsafe muffins or crackers, were very effective. She was confused at times, and the point was clearly made that Mommy and Daddy to help her determine if a food is safe.

The M&M's were particularly confusing since Smarties are safe, at least here in Canada. She pointed and shouted, "Smarties!" only to have Daddy tell her that they were not Smarties and that she should only eat things that look like Smarties if Daddy or Mommy say it's safe.

The books also capture food allergy safety from a child's perspective. The allergy learning process can be confusing and frustrating, and the books deal with some of the most challenging scenarios: grocery shopping , forgoing cookies or snacks in social situations and dealing with concerns that a peanut allergy is the antidote to fun.

In future titles I would suggest a more engaging narrative format to bring the child deeper into the book. Children love to follow a well formed story or theme. Another idea would be to have something, perhaps a peanut, that repeats on each page. Kids enjoy hunting for these items when they are hidden throughout the book.

Though there are many websites, such as Safe4Kids, with content related to food allergy in the classroom, sometimes it also helps to have a printed book with pictures. These books could serve as a useful teaching aid for all children, not just those with allergies, as they learn about food allergy safety.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Red Tag Lunches

I thought this was a cool idea. Though I abhor the term 'Peanut Police' I do like the idea of adding colourful tags to lunches that contain allergens. In this case lunches containing peanut are red tagged though no other allergens are identified. You could do the same for high risk foods such as dairy or wheat.

While many parents will immediately have a vision of adding so many tags to their child's lunch bag that it looks like a rainbow, within reason this could be a very effective way to give fair warning to those with allergies. It could certainly be something employed by the school lunch counter and parents could do their best to follow suit. Perhaps the home version would simply be a single tag that identifies that lunch as containing any of the major allergens.

The tag method is certainly a more pragmatic approach than a peanut ban.

Do Veggies And Omega-3 Reduce Risk Of Allergy?

(post by Mrs. NoPeanuts)

I recently came across a research study that claimed a diet rich in fish and fruity vegetables such as tomatoes or eggplant, can cut asthma and allergy incidence in children. As a biologist, I find the scientific side of my daughter’s allergy intriguing and the research (or lack thereof) always interesting to read.

Researchers from the Department of Social Medicine at the University of Crete, Greece, and writing in the journal Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, studied the diet of 460 Spanish children.

They discovered that children who consumed more than 40 grams of "fruity vegetables" a day - namely tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber, and green beans - were much less likely to suffer from childhood asthma. In addition they found that children who consumed more than 60 grams of fish with a high omega-3 content also suffered less childhood allergies.

The study adds to a body of evidence supporting the health benefits of omega-3 and a diet high in vegetables.

What is interesting to note is that my daughter and I ourselves participated in a research study for Omega-3 conducted at our Children’s Hospital. The purpose of our study of course was not to examine foods linked to allergies but to help determine whether a dietary supplement of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) during pregnancy has any effect on pregnancy duration or early infant development.

At 17 weeks pregnant, I started to take a supplement (which could have been omega-3 or I may have been in the control group) and continued throughout my pregnancy. The supplement stopped when I delivered.

For the first 18 months of my daughter’s life, the researchers monitored weight, height, head circumference and we ‘played’ games that observed eyesight, speech perception, problem solving, behaviour, motor skills and cognitive understanding.

Interestingly enough, when I became pregnant with our second daughter, we enrolled once again in the study and by complete chance we were put in the same study group, meaning whatever supplement I received with my first daughter I also received with my second.

And low and behold…my first daughter suffered from extreme eczema during her infancy and now also lives with anaphylaxis to peanuts and eggs. My second daughter, who received similar Omega-3 exposure in the womb (as I didn’t change my diet – except for the removal of peanuts and eggs), has no eczema and to date, thank goodness, no allergies.

“This is not the first time a diet rich in "fruity vegetables" has been linked to having the potential to reduce the risk of respiratory conditions like asthma, chronic bronchitic symptoms, and wheeze. However, this study claims to be unique because it assessed maternal dietary habits during pregnancy as well as children's dietary habits.”

“Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidant vitamins such as vitamins C, E and carotenoids, and other antioxidants such as selenium and flavonoids, that are thought to reduce airway inflammation by protecting airway cells from endogenous and exogenous oxidative damage,” the researchers said.

However, they found that no other fruits or vegetables were significantly associated with wheeze or allergy prevalence. The lead researcher, Dr Chatzi commented: "The biological mechanisms that underlie the protective affect of these foods is not fully understood, but we believe that the fruity vegetables and fish reduce the inflammation associated with asthma and allergies."

Though I do not know for sure, there is reason to believe that I did indeed have the Omega-3 supplement during my pregnancy for our first daughter, vs the placebo. There were no actual numbers provided in the Spanish allergy study but it does sound like our daughter’s Omega-3 consumption would make her an exception to the rule.

Despite all of the current research efforts, we still do not clearly understand what causes food allergy. There is an apparent randomness as to allergy incidence and severity.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Villager of the Month - Summer 2007

This spring I started a new series called Villager of the Month. The intent is to recognize people and organizations who do special or interesting things to help those with food allergies. This month I have been featured in Allergic Living. I wrote an article about the theory behind this very concept and the reception has been great.

The latest recipient of the Villager accolade dovetails nicely with my post about the work that PACT had done with Bill M210 in B.C. The Food Allergy Initiative is a non-profit agency that raises funds toward the effective treatment and cure of food allergies. It also works to raise awareness of the seriousness of food allergy.

In August the FAI was a major force behind New York Governor Elloit Spitzer's decision to sign into the law the Allergy & Anaphylaxis Management Act of 2007 (AAMA) . The FAI's contribution was significant. "During the past year, FAI led a coalition of food allergy support groups and parents across New York State to achieve the passage of the AAMA. In March 2007, as a result of FAI’s leadership of a coalition in New Jersey, a similar bill, PL. 2007, c.57, was signed into law."

“This vital legislation will save lives,” said Robert Pacenza, Executive Director, FAI. “If a food-allergic child accidentally ingests even a minuscule trace of the wrong food, it can trigger a reaction that can kill within minutes. The AAMA will provide New York parents and schools with sensible guidelines to help keep these kids safe. FAI is proud to have been the organizing force behind this effort.”

Congratulations Robert and team. Great work on this legislation!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

M210 Lives On ... In Spirit

This past spring bill M210 made its way through the legislative process here in British Columbia. As a result of a strong grassroots effort led by a group called PACT, the failed bill actually lives on, at least in spirit, via a new anaphylaxis directive handed down this week by Education Minister Shirley Bond.

“Children with life-threatening allergies need to be safe in B.C. schools, and our direction today is for all school districts to take immediate steps to ensure all students are protected,” said Bond. “Boards of education will now be required to have school-based anaphylaxis policies and practices that meet rigorous provincial standards.”

This is great news. PACT was my villager of the month for June and I am very pleased to see that in the absence of a true B.C. version of Sabrina's Law we do have protection for our allergic children in the province's skills.

Kudos to all of those involved in the lobby effort to make this happen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Allergic Living Features NoPeanutsPlease!

The Fall 2007 issue of Allergic Living magazine features NoPeanutsPlease. I wrote a column on the concept of 'It Takes A Village' and it was included on the last page of the magazine: "Parting Shots: A father needs help to keep his anaphylactic daughter safe.". The article is not available online but was highlighted as a feature of the current issue.