Questions from FARE’s Mail Bag

Every day we receive dozens of phone calls, emails, and letters from individuals and families who have questions about food allergies. Below are answers to just a handful of these questions that we have received recently and thought others may benefit from knowing as well.

Can a person with a peanut and/or tree nut allergy eat nutmeg?

Although the word “nutmeg” contains the word “nut,” it is actually a seed, not a nut. Used as a spice in baking and many ethnic cuisines, nutmeg is safe for everyone who does not have an allergy to nutmeg itself.

Can having a blood transfusion cause an allergic reaction because of allergens in the donated blood?

Dr. Scott Sicherer addresses this question in his book “Food Allergies: A Complete Guide for Eating When Your Life Depends On It.” He says, “When blood transfusions are processed, the liquid (serum) is washed away, so even if trace food proteins had been in the blood donation, the amount left in the material that is transfused would be negligible. There have not been reports of reactions in this situation, although it may be reasonable for a donor providing a directed donation to a person with a food allergy to avoid the allergen for several hours prior to the donation. There is one report of a platelet donation causing a reaction in a child with a peanut allergy (platelets are the blood-clotting component transfused without being separated from the serum). The report is not completely verified, but there may be risk.”

If a product is labeled “Kosher Pareve,” is it safe for someone with a milk allergy?

Kosher pareve is a kosher classification for a food that contains neither dairy nor meat, generally speaking. Kosher classifications do not address cross-contact, however, so a product can still be considered pareve if the product is made in the same facility as or has come in contact with milk. We advise you to not use Kosher labeling as a guide for if a product is safe for those with milk allergies.

I’ve heard some cities are using cheese brine mixed with ice salt as a de-icing agent for roadways. Does this pose a threat to those with milk allergies?

FARE investigated this question with the City of Milwaukee Health Department. Information provided by the Health Department and reviewed by allergists indicates this is a very low risk practice. There is an extremely small amount of protein content in the salt brine, roughly equivalent to three drops of milk per square yard of roadway. This amount is further diluted by mixing with melting snow and ice. It is very unlikely that a reaction could occur from this practice, and any reactions would likely be localized to the skin contact area.

Celebrating Food Allergy Friends

A good friend can make you laugh, have your back, and be there for you when you have a tough day. We hear from kids with food allergies all the time that their friends are such an important part of their support system. Tayvon and Katie are two remarkable kids – while they do not have food allergies themselves, they are helping their friends stay safe, educating others about food allergies, and setting an example for other kids in their communities.  We want to give a shout out to Tayvon and Katie, who are truly great pals to their friends with food allergies!

Tayvon

amylee

At seven years old, Tayvon is already an amazing advocate for his 5-year-old friend and neighbor Amylee, who is allergic to egg and peanuts. Without being asked, he washes his face and hands before going to Amylee’s house to play, and has even changed his clothes to be certain he didn’t bring any peanut into her home when he had eaten peanut butter cookies earlier in the day. He keeps a protective eye on Amylee and makes sure to warn other kids who may be eating or playing near her about her allergies. Thank you for being a great food allergy friend, Tayvon!

Katie

Girlscouts

When kids don’t have food allergies themselves, it’s not always easy for them to “get” what it means to live day to day managing the disease. At 11 years old though, when Katie learned that a friend in her Girl Scout troop had a peanut and tree nut allergy, she “got it” and set out to have her troop learn more about food allergies to earn the food allergy badge. She also volunteered at the FARE Walk for Food Allergy in Las Vegas last year, which was especially relevant to her since her dad  has a poultry and egg allergy. Katie will be volunteering at the walk again this year, and is excited to help her community and her friends with food allergies. She said that she hates that kids with food allergies get made fun of, which is why she wanted to get involved. Thanks to Katie for showing us that even at a young age, kids can make a difference for their friends and in their communities!

FARE Kids Who Care: Connor deMayo

connermayoConnor deMayo, a high school sophomore, just became an Eagle Scout after completing a community service project designed around making restaurants in his town more allergy aware. He enlisted the help of the boys in his Boy Scout troop and set out to educate the restaurants in New Canaan, Connecticut on food allergy safety. With guidance from a local FARE-affiliated group, he was able to reach chefs, owners, managers, and wait staff in more than 25 restaurants. We asked Connor to tell us more about his project:

1. What are your food allergies? What’s it like having food allergies?

I was diagnosed at age one to the following foods: milk, eggs, sesame, peanuts and tree nuts. 

Having food allergies means you can never let your guard down and always be vigilant. By understanding what you eat and reading labels carefully and being careful when ordering in restaurants you can make eating less scary and more enjoyable.  

2. Tell us about your Eagle Scout project.

My Eagle project was to provide local restaurants in my town awareness training of food allergies and cross contact, including ideas on how to serve food-allergic customers. I put together a 30 minute awareness presentation, including FARE’s restaurant video. Then, I organized and led more than 16 friends/scouts into four teams and we each set out to all the restaurants in my town (more than 25). I put in more than 170 hours from beginning to end.

We trained owners, managers, kitchen staff and wait staff.  They all were all eager to learn more. I also gave each restaurant FARE’s kitchen posters of the top allergic foods as well as a folder with copies of the presentation. The restaurants were all very surprised at the rise in food allergies, many of the staff had no idea a customer could actually die from a food or even from cross contact. My friends who have food allergies as well noticed a big difference when they ordered at these restaurants. They definitely made changes in their restaurant procedures after hearing my presentation.

3. Why did you want to do it? Why was it was important to you?

Eating out is scary for many food-allergic people. Increasing awareness makes this safer and more enjoyable, especially for pre-teens and teens who are just starting to navigate eating out without their parents. A few simple precautions may save lives. If I saved one life by putting in all these hours and training then it was all worth it.

4. How would you advise other kids or adults who want to do something similar?  

Recruit your friends and an adult to help. I was fortunate to have Mrs. Helen Jaffe as my mentor during the project; she is the Chairperson of a FARE-affiliated group in Connecticut.  She was very helpful to me during this project. Ask your local Boy Scout troop to help you as well.

5. How can you be a good friend to someone with food allergies?

Treat others the way you would want to be treated!  My friends have my back and ask me if it’s ok to go to a certain restaurant for dinner and if it’s safe for me to eat there. 

6. What advice would you give a younger kid who was just diagnosed with food allergies?

Take it seriously; have your epinephrine on you at all times; always read labels; and work with your parents to get educated. I would direct them to FARE and their great website with lots of resources. 

Thank you, Connor, for helping to make eating out safer for your friends and neighbors with food allergies! Visit our website to learn more about dining out with food allergies and the ServSafe Allergens Online Course for Restaurants.  

Sparking Valentine’s Romance Without Triggering Allergies

By: Kristen Kauke

love logValentine’s Day is the ancient rite of celebrating love by exchanging romantic expressions with the person who embraces your heart. Gifts such as cards, candy, flowers and other tokens attempt to convey your utmost adoration and affection for your Valentine.

If your Valentine has food allergies, you might find traditional attempts at cherishing your Valentine challenging as many candies, chocolates and flowers could trigger allergies instead of sparking romance. However, by following simple tips for couples who navigate food allergies, romance can reign!

  • I believe in the motto “no askin’, no gettin’.” Sometimes you need to direct your partner on how to best meet your needs. I’ve found sharing those “subtle hints” to not be so effective. I have no shame in clipping pictures from catalogs, circling the price and where to purchase. And be sure to let your loved one know about websites that sell your favorite allergy-friendly treats so they can order you chocolates, cupcakes, or other goodies that are safe for you.
  • Sometimes the most memorable tokens of affection are homemade! Don’t underestimate the power of the handwritten note! My husband won me over with the first Valentine’s card he ever gave me. It was made from yellow construction paper, with a lopsided heart drawn on the front. Inside he wrote, “To set the record straight, I swear I did look for a card, but nothing sounded like me.” His own words proved personal, sentimental, and superior to a store-bought card. Another one of my favorite gifts from him was a mix tape.  I know, I know, mix tapes are basically extinct.  So update the idea; just think of how touched your Valentine might be by a virtual video slideshow.
  • Priceless gestures might actually be priceless! Do something for your Valentine that eases their burden – run an errand, clean the bathroom, take their car for a wash. The task might even be mutual like walking the dog or trading backrubs.
  • If you’re heading out for a romantic meal, be sure to follow FARE’s tips for dining out with food allergies. Selecting the right restaurant, calling ahead, and remembering to bring a chef card and medication can help ensure you have a safe and enjoyable night together.
  • Cooking is a labor of love! Cooking together can be a very romantic experience.  Additionally, nothing says “I’m into you” better than when you take the time to plan and execute an allergy-free dinner for your Valentine. My husband makes great milk-free, egg-free, soy-free, peanut-free pumpkin & chocolate chip pancakes.
  • If you’re hoping for a kiss from your Valentine’s Day date, you will want to ask your date to avoid your allergens as well. Have this conversation prior to the day of your date.  The (unattractive) hives and wheezing that erupt are way more awkward than  just saying, “Dude, if you want to be with me later, don’t be with peanuts now.” You can learn more about the findings of “The Kissing Study,” which was specific to peanut allergy, on FARE’s website.
  • Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to involve food at all! Some of my favorite dates involve hiking, playing pool, or even rock wall climbing.

Kristen Kauke is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, who also happens to parent two boys with life threatening food allergies, as well as live with food allergies herself. She will be facilitating free educational webinar with FARE on February, 12 at 1:00 p.m. titled, “Safe and Sound: Relationships, Dating and Intimacy Challenges Associated with Having Severe Food Allergies.” Register to attend here: http://www.foodallergy.org/tools-and-resources/webinars.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day Tips for Parents

Homemade ValentineValentine’s Day is the sweetest of all the holidays, both in sentiment and in sweet treats. But with candy and confections being shared and parties being thrown, it’s also a good time to review some basics of effective food allergy management.

Here are some helpful reminders for parents of children with food allergy as this holiday approaches:

  • Remember that candy manufacturers may change packaging for holidays like Valentine’s Day. For example, a peanut butter cup might come in the form of a foil-wrapped heart instead of the tell-tale cup shape. Don’t assume anything. Read every label, every time. If a label is not available, don’t take chances and avoid the treat.
  • Buy some safe candy or inexpensive toys or trinkets and prepare a special Valentine’s goodie bag for your child. Or have these items available for a trade in case your child receives treat that he or she cannot have. Re-emphasize to your child that these sweets shouldn’t be eaten unless a trusted adult has read the labels and said it’s okay.
  • Invent your own holiday tradition, such as making homemade Valentine’s cards or baking allergy-friendly treats together and decorating them in keeping with a Valentine’s theme. (Need inspiration? Check out this recipe for Valentine’s Day Cake Pops on our Teen Blog)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Does Early Exposure to Nuts Lower a Child’s Allergy Risk?

ImageAre children more likely to develop a peanut or tree nut allergy if their mothers eat nuts during pregnancy or while nursing? Over the years, a number of studies have attempted to answer this question, but the results have been inconclusive. According to a new FARE-funded study, eating nuts during pregnancy does not cause food allergies in children. Further, although more studies are needed, it is possible that eating nuts may prevent a child from developing a food allergy.

In an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics on December 23, a research team affiliated with Harvard Medical School reported on their study, which suggests that mothers who do not have allergies and who eat nuts during pregnancy may lower their children’s risk of developing a peanut or tree nut allergy. The study, which was funded by FARE, received considerable media coverage.

The team, led by Dr. A. Lindsay Frazier, looked at the history of 8,205 participants in the Growing Up Today Study 2 (GUTS2) – children who were born between 1990 and 1994. The researchers reviewed records of the mothers’ diet immediately before and during pregnancy, and shortly after the infants’ birth. Of this group, 308 children had a food allergy, including 140 cases of peanut or tree nut allergy.

The incidence of peanut or nut allergies was significantly lower among the children of mothers who did not have food allergies themselves and who ate nuts at least five times per month compared to those who ate these foods less than once per month. “Our study supports the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy,” the researchers concluded. They noted, however, that additional studies are needed. “The data are not strong enough to prove a cause-and-effect relationship,” commented one of the authors, Dr. Michael Young. “Therefore, we can’t say with certainty that eating more peanuts during pregnancy will prevent allergy in children. But we can say that peanut consumption during pregnancy doesn’t cause peanut allergy in children.”

A study that should shed more light on this issue is currently underway. The LEAP (for “Learning Early About Peanut Allergy”) Study, conducted by Dr. Gideon Lack and colleagues at King’s College London, has been following 640 children since infancy to determine whether or not exposure to peanuts early in life can prevent the development of peanut allergy. This study, which is co-funded by the National Institutes of Health and FARE, should be completed in 2014.

2014 Patient Assistance Resources for Epinephrine Auto-Injectors

If you have been prescribed epinephrine, FARE recommends that you carry two epinephrine auto-injectors with you at all times to make sure you have quick access to this life-saving medication. It’s also important to replace any expired auto-injectors right away so that you always have an up-to-date device.

We know those prescription costs can add up, so we encourage individuals and families who are managing food allergies to take advantage of the following options to help make this medication more affordable.

copaycard-cc1. Mylan Specialty’s “$0 Co-Pay Offer” for EpiPen® Auto-Injector

Available to both cash-paying and commercially insured patients, the “$0 Co-Pay Offer” is valid for up to three EpiPen 2-Pak® cartons or EpiPen Jr 2-Pak® cartons per prescription, as patients may need to access two EpiPen or EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine) Auto-Injectors in multiple locations. Eligible patients can use the offer with an unlimited number of prescriptions until the coupon offer expires on December 31, 2014.

Learn More

auviq2. Sanofi’s “$0 Co-Pay Offer” for Auvi-Q® Auto-Injector

With the savings offer, most insured patients will pay $0 out of pocket for their Auvi-Q prescription. Cash-pay patients can receive up to $100 off per two-pack of Auvi-Q, up to a maximum of three two-packs per prescription. Fill out the form to join the “Support & Savings Program” to access the offer. This offer can be used an unlimited number of times until the coupon offer expires on December 31, 2014.

Learn More

genericcoupon3. Lineage Therapeutic’s “$0 Co-Pay Offer” for Generic Epinephrine Auto-Injector

The approved generic for Adrenaclick® is available as of June, 2013 and may provide a lower-cost option to patients. Commercially insured patients will receive their epinephrine auto-injector at $0 cost. Cash paying patients will receive up to $300 off their out-of-pocket cost (This offer is valid for a maximum savings of $100 per pack (limit of 3 packs)).

Learn More

Be advised that the devices operate in different ways, so it is important to discuss your options with your doctor and be properly trained to use the device. You can find tips for getting the auto-injector you want and links to important information about each product, and training videos on how to use them on our the epinephrine auto-injector page of our website. Please note that these offers are not valid for prescriptions covered by or submitted for reimbursement under Medicaid, Medicare, or similar federal or state programs.

Food Allergies in 2013: A Year in Review

What a remarkable year! As a community, we have accomplished so much to make life better for those with food allergies. With so many important milestones taking place in 2013, we decided to take a look back at some of the significant moments in food allergies from this year:

10. New auto-injectors became available
In 2013, two new epinephrine auto-injectors came on the market, providing more options to patients.

9. World Allergy Week and Food Safety Month were dedicated to food allergies
Demonstrating the growing prevalence and awareness that food allergy is a global public health issue, both World Allergy Week in May and Food Safety Month in September were dedicated to educating the public about food allergy.

8. Sports teams showed their support
Northwestern University hosted the first-ever peanut-free college football game in 2013. Additionally, Major League Baseball teams across the country welcomed families managing food allergies for nut-free or nut-controlled games. The Seattle Mariners, along with other teams, even invited kids with food allergies to throw out the first pitch.

7. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) published the first national school food allergy guidelines
These guidelines are intended to support the implementation of school food allergy management policies in schools and early childhood programs, and guide improvements to existing practices. Implementing these guidelines may help schools reduce allergic reactions, improve response to life-threatening reactions and ensure current policies are in line with laws that protect children with serious health issues.

6. Celebrities raised awareness
Celebrities like Julie Bowen, Adrian Peterson, Jerome Bettis, Jo Frost and Kenton Duty stood up to help bring awareness to the serious nature of food allergies. They spoke up on talk shows and public service announcements, and told their stories about their connection to the cause. Additionally, prominent bloggers gathered for the first annual Food Allergy Blogger’s Conference (FABlogCon) for a weekend of learning, support and inspiration.

5. FARE launched a public awareness campaign about food allergy bullying
During Food Allergy Awareness Week in May, FARE released a public service announcement about the growing concern of food allergy bullying. The video has more than 36,000 views on YouTube and helped bring attention to the issue. In December, a bill was filed which would require schools to put in place a policy that addresses food allergy bullying.

4. The media shined the spotlight on food allergies
The New York Times made a splash with their “Allergy Busters” article about the latest treatment for food allergies; they also ran an opinion column by author Curtis Sittenfeld urging increased availability of epinephrine in schools. And Anderson Cooper hosted teens Danielle and Lauren Mongeau, who advocated for the successful passage of a bill in Rhode Island that created a food allergy awareness training program for restaurants. Also related to restaurant awareness - FARE and the National Restaurant Association partnered to create the first comprehensive, interactive national training program for restaurant personnel to help them become more food allergy aware.

3. The FARE Walk for Food Allergy had a record-breaking season
The 2013 FARE Walk for Food Allergy season was the largest in its history, raising $3.6 million for food allergy research, advocacy, awareness, and education – a $1.2 million dollar increase from 2012.

2. The Discovery Channel aired a special documentary about food allergy
Narrated by Steve Carell, this documentary explored what it is like to live with life-threatening food allergies, how families and individuals managing food allergies are working to raise awareness in their communities, and the vital research underway to find effective treatments and a cure.

1.  The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act was signed into law
On November 13, President Obama signed this historic and potentially lifesaving legislation – the first federal law encouraging schools to stock epinephrine for use in allergic emergencies. At the signing ceremony, the president revealed that his own daughter, Malia, is allergic to peanuts.

Thank you to everyone who has volunteered, donated, and helped raise awareness about food allergies in 2013. We look forward to building on the momentum of this banner year to bring us even further toward fulfilling our mission in 2014: safety and inclusion for those with food allergies, while relentlessly seeking a cure.

Make a New Year’s Resolution to Benefit Those with Food Allergies

When it comes to food allergies, resolve to make 2014 a safe and fulfilling year for you and your family. The beginning of a new year is a good time to take a step back and think about what more you can do for yourself, a loved one with food allergy, and the food allergy community. We hope you’ll join us in making this year a great one by being prepared, raising awareness, and advocating for all those with food allergies. Here are a few New Year’s resolutions to add to your list:

1. Be prepared in case of an allergic reaction
Accidents happen. Make it your goal to take every precaution necessary to be prepared in case of an allergic reaction.

  • Wear emergency medical identification at all times. Through our partnership with MedicAlert, we offer discounted medical IDs and services through the MyVoice program. Whether you have a food allergy yourself or are the parent of a child with food allergies, the MyVoice program is there for you to help communicate your vital medical information in an emergency situation.
  • Always carry your epinephrine auto-injector wherever you go. Make it your goal to never leave home without your medication!
  • Develop an action plan. Work with your doctor to fill out a Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan. This document outlines recommended treatment in case of an allergic reaction, is signed by your physician and includes emergency contact information.

2. Volunteer your time to raise awareness about food allergies
There are many opportunities to get more involved with educating others and advocating for those with food allergies.

  • Sign up for a FARE Walk for Food Allergy or volunteer to help make your local event a success.
  • Give a presentation at a school, library, or workplace. You can use one of our template presentations to educate others and raise awareness in your community. You can also purchase a children’s book to read to a classroom at a local school.
  • Sign up for the FARE Advocacy Action Center to make sure you are notified when legislation in your area is pending that needs your support.

3. Learn something new about food allergy
Educating yourself and others about the serious nature of food allergies is critical to moving our cause forward.

  • Sign up for our free monthly webinars. FARE hosts educational webinars designed to help you live life well with food allergies. Each month, we feature leading experts discussing the topics related to food allergy that you most want to hear about.
  • Subscribe to our blog to keep up with the latest news. Our blog features recipes, news, activities, and more about all the most important matters in food allergy today.

Thank you for your support in 2013, and we look forward to fulfilling our New Year’s resolutions along with you!

Allergy-friendly Hot Chocolate and Nutmeg Cut-out Cookie Recipes

Whether you’re making cookies for Santa Claus, or a holiday party, these spiced sugar cookies are sure to please. Pair them with a steaming mug of milk-free hot chocolate and you’re all set for a festive treat that will please kids and adults alike!

Nutmeg Cut Out Cookies

Milk-Free Hot Chocolate

  • 1 T. plus 1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups vanilla-flavored rice beverage
  • 1 T. plus 1 tsp. molasses (not blackstrap)
  • Dash of salt

Place all ingredients in saucepan, over medium heat. Stir often to be sure cocoa powder dissolves. Serve hot.

Nutmeg Cut-Out cookies

COOKIE:

  • 1 cup milk-free margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 T. water, 1 1/2 T. oil, 1 tsp. baking
  • powder, mixed together
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • dash of salt

FROSTING:

  • 4 T. milk-free margarine, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 T. confectioners sugar
  • 2 T. water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat margarine and sugars until creamy. Beat in vanilla extract; and water, oil, and baking powder mixture. Beat in flour, nutmeg, and salt. Knead dough into a ball. Cover and chill overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide dough in quarters. Roll each quarter out, 1/2-inch thick, between 2 pieces of wax paper. Cut out dough with desired cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 11 minutes, or until done. Cool on wire racks. Frost with Cookie Frosting and decorate, if desired.

FROSTING:

In medium bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, combine all ingredients until smooth. More water or confectioners sugar may be added, 1 T. at a time, until desired spreading consistency is achieved.

These recipes, along with more than 150 others, are available in our Holiday Cookbook – available for just $12.99 on our online store