Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dairy doesn't just mean milk and cheese!

I am continually astounded by how few people know what dairy products are.  Dieticians and lunchroom managers are often not exceptions!  If you have a child who needs to avoid all dairy products, then you will need to give a list of dairy products to anyone who might be preparing or offering food to your child.

I do not allow my son to eat school food because they have proven to me several times that they have no clue.  This summer he went to a science camp held at his school and the Principal assured me that during this camp, with a smaller group of children, the lunchroom manager could accomodate my sons allergies.  The school sent out letters to all those attending the camp that the camp would be PEANUT FREE.  This was a very good thing.  I was extremely grateful for that! 

On the first day of the camp, I went in with my children and talked to the camp leadership about the food situation.   I wanted to remind them and make sure they knew that my son is highly allergic to peanut and egg products as well as peanuts.  The Principal was on hand and he assured me again that they would take care of things.   I left feeling glad that my son would be able to eat with the other kids in a safe, peanut-free environment and that his other dietary restrictions would be accomodated.

I found out that I was wrong about the situation when I picked him up that afternoon.   He told me that for breakfast he was handed some juice and a breakfast bar.  I don't know for certain that this bar had any dairy or egg, but I do know that I have yet to find a breakfast bar that is readily available in stores that is nut, dairy and egg free.   Thankfully, my son is cautious and did not try to eat the breakfast bar.   He also informed me that at lunch he was given a white burger bun with one piece of ham in it, Sun Chips, and dried apricots.   He didn't eat the apricots because, well - they're gross.   He didn't eat the Sun Chips because usually they have some type of dairy in them.  He was disappointed that he didn't get something more substantial than one piece of meat on a white bun.   I was a little disappointed too, but I encouraged him to eat the fruit next time. 

The next day's food was about the same and then on Wednesday he was given a bologna sandwich.  In my experience, bologna usually contains milk ingredients and I never serve it at home.  He did eat it without any noticeable ill effects so I can only assume that either it was safe or his reactions to dairy products are getting better.  However, his allergist has recommended complete avoidance of dairy and egg until he is more physically mature - around age 15 or so.

At this point I don't trust the school nutrition staff to get it right.  Here is a list of dairy products and dairy ingredients, if you don't know them already.  You can get cards and guides from the food allergy network.

Yogurt, Sherbert, Gelatto usually contain dairy
Most margarines still contain some butter or milk
Most convenience foods will contain some egg or dairy - like batter-coated chicken nuggets, baked goods, hot dogs, lunch meat - and you should always read & re-read the label.
Most non-dairy creamers still contain some dairy - also Cool Whip

Other ingredients:
artificial butter flavor
butter fat, butter oil, buttermilk 
casein and caseinates
lactose (and similar words)

Egg ingredients sometimes appear in unexpected places too.
Some candies and pastries are glazed with egg.
Pancake and cake mixes sometimes have some egg or milk ingredients already in them even if they call for adding more.
Mayonnaise is made from eggs - surprising that many people don't seem to know this.
Egg substitutes may contain some egg.
Egg noodles contain egg and sometimes other pastas do also.  Always ask the kitchen or chef to check the pasta ingredients in a restaurant.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A blog about being peanut free

I found this blog using "next blog": http://peanutfree.blogspot.com/
This peanut-free mom has been much busier in blogging about her pursuit of a life safe from peanuts than I have. If you are looking for more info than I have given - go there.

BTW, I'm actually coasting on the allergies front. I'm busier with ADHD, quirkiness, low vision, and thoughts of impending puberty. Check this out on http://spectrumkids.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

They know their stuff! They're not stupid.

It really pisses me off when one of my children does a good job of advocating for him or herself and the adults in charge won't listen! I encourage them to speak for themselves and advocate for their needs in a polite but confident manner. When they try and get ignored or rebuffed, it's tough to get them to try the next time.

My son knows his allergies and he is good about being cautious about what he eats. He knows what is likely to contain dairy or egg and to be careful of unfamiliar foods or baked goods. He typically stays well clear of all types of nut products.
Likewise, my other son, who is allergic to dairy with moderate reactions, knows pretty well what to be careful about. My daughter does not have any food allergies, but she knows about her brothers' allergies and she knows how to clean up and be careful if she eats any nut products.

I guess some adults just think all kids are stupid. This week all three kids are taking some art classes. It's actually a little art day camp. The director was informed about the allergies of my sons and I gave her a list of snack food ideas that were safe. Yesterday, when I picked them up they told me that the leader was making all three of them eat Sun Chips and the rest of the kids got potato chips and Doritos for snack. My daughter LOVES Doritos and HATES Sun Chips. She told the leader that she didn't have food allergies and that she can eat Doritos, but the woman refused to believe her. Also, Sun Chips were not one of the snack ideas that I gave the director. AND both boys can eat potato chips - which they spoke up about, but were not trusted.

Obviously, this camp leader doesn't know anyone with serious food allergies, because if she did she would know that a person seriously allergic to a food would NEVER lie about being able to eat that food. I had to go in this morning and straighten her out.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

He opted out on his own

My son is in fourth grade this year. He only fairly recently started complaining about feeling left out sometimes - maybe in the last couple of years. In the past he never complained at birthday parties about why he couldn't eat the ice cream and cake. He just ate his candy and graham crackers or Italian ice or whatever. For his own birthdays I usually bake an egg and dairy free cake, but he doesn't eat it. He acts all excited about it and takes that first piece, eats a bit and leaves the rest. I haven't had to worry about cheese substitutes and alternative baked goods because he didn't complain about not having them and he has never gotten familiar with the tastes of rich ice cream, buttery baked goods, cheese, etc. He does like soy butter, and in more recent years has developed a taste for soy ice cream. He likes Italian Ice better though.

But despite his relative lack of complaining and his long-standing acceptance of his allergy situation, I was still surprised when I found out that he had decided not to go on a class field trip. He didn't even tell me his decision. I overheard another kid in his class talking to him about it and he said he wasn't going.
"What?" I asked, "You aren't going?"
"No. They are going to be near a peanut farm and it is the HEIGHT of peanut season."

Well, it is not exactly the HEIGHT of peanut season but it is the beginning of the growing season. The class would be visiting an outdoor museum where they reenact early colonial life and it is located in peanut farm territory. His teacher had told me earlier in the year that they would be going on this trip. I had decided I would probably go on the trip with the class, take Benadryl and an Epi-pen, and be prepared to leave early if it seemed necessary. I figured he would probably be okay if he didn't go into the peanut field and they weren't harvesting.
But my son decided not to go. He didn't want to risk it. I honored his decision and I was proud of him. He is already taking charge of his own health and well-being. This makes me feel much better about the future when he goes off to college and out on his own.

BJ's shocking reminder about anaphylaxsis

I haven't been keeping up this blog. Maybe I can't handle two regular blogs.
I am pretty consistently posting weekly on my other blog about my younger son:
Brilliant Spectrum Child: The Adventures of Orangeboy and his Antagontists.

In the world of dealing with food allergies, we are mostly just taking everything in stride these days, but I did have some emotional turmoil for a few days on a topic that still nags at me:
the possibility of sudden death by anaphylactic shock.
I read an article from an allergymoms.com newsletter: "A Parent's Worst Nightmare" about a family who lost their oldest son, BJ, to a sudden food allergy reaction while on vacation. He had never had a serious anaphylactic reaction before. My son HAS had choking and drooling during past reactions. Thankfully he didn't proceed into shock because a quick double dose of Benadryl calmed his symptoms. But this article really hit home with me. The family didn't have their Epi-pen because they had never needed it before. That's us. I've gotten pretty negligent about making sure we always have an Epi-pen on hand because in ten years we've not used it. They cost about $80 each and have to be replaced now and then. It seems a waste if Benadryl does the trick. I wouldn't want to give him Epi unless it's absolutely necessary either.
On the other hand, if it was absolutely necessary I would want that fresh, 80 dollar Epi-pen on hand for certain.
Allergic reactions are tricky. To the same exposure there can be a mild reaction one time and a full blown reaction the next time. A serious reaction can be followed later by a mild reaction. One doesn't know which exposure will be the triggering exposure for anaphylaxsis.
It's hard to remember to always keep something on hand that you never use. I worried about this from the time we first got epinephrine for D. I worried that I wouldn't have it with us that one time we needed it. An Epi-pen isn't something that you can keep in your pocket like a mint or a pack of gum - it's a little larger than that. He can't wear it on his wrist. You can't even really keep it in the car all the time because freezing or extreme heat can make it go bad.
I don't like to be reminded that my son's allergies could potentially result in sudden death, but maybe I NEED to be reminded now and then - to keep it real. So I can remember the Epi-pen.
And my next question is: do I have to remind HIM? At what age do I have to show him stories like BJ Hom's and remind him that if he isn't diligent enough he could die from a common food?
I'd rather have the birds and bees talk.
But I am thankful for increased awareness of food allergies and I hope that research into treatments yields good results soon. Until then I guess I will have to use painful reminders to keep my son safe.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Fling-A-Meal! Spanish rice and kielbasa

I am a second generation Fling-a-meal cook. A relative visiting for dinner actually coined this term years ago. My mother was a working mom and she was quite adept at getting a decent meal on the table from start to eat in less than 30 minutes. So she became known as a great Fling-a-meal cook.

I am only working part-time at present but I don't enjoy spending my entire evening in the kitchen or many hours planning and shopping either. So I'm carrying on the Fling-a-meal tradition. But, of course, since retiring my mother has become more of a healthy gourmet.

And therefore, ladies and gentlemen (or lone reader as the case may be), I have decided to publish the occasional Fling-a-meal idea here for your amusement. These will be dairy, egg, and nut free.

My latest one dish meal was Spanish Rice and with Turkey Kielbasa:

I actually used one package of Louis Rich Turkey Smoked Sausage. The turkey kielbasa I saw had dairy in it. But potato/potahtoh! The smoked sausage looks the same and tasted very much the same, maybe with just a hint more of smoke.

There were four of us eating and so I used 1 cup of white rice (uncooked). The great thing about rice is it tells you exactly how to measure and cook it right on the package.

When the rice was about half cooked, I added some frozen, chopped spinach right out of the bag; probably about 1/2 a cup. (Measuring takes up time and this is a fling-a-meal)

A couple of minutes later, when the spinach has melted and the rice water bubbling again, I added one can of diced tomatoes in sauce. You could also use just diced tomatoes, or if you like it more tomatoey and gooey, use just a can of tomato sauce. A fancier, spicier variation could include a can of Rotelle.

At this point, season to taste. I added salt, pepper and about a teaspoon of minced garlic from the little jar in my refrigerator.

Cut up the sausage and either heat and brown it a bit in a nonstick pan or just toss it in as is.
(If you have a little extra time and want to play gourmet, you can chop some onion and brown the sausage with chopped onion and garlic.)

I actually got a little fancy and dumped the rice mixture into a round corningware dish and tossed in the browned sausage coins. It looked nice.

My children loved it. It was enough for us to each have a nice plateful. I could have expanded the recipe with more rice and tomato. One could also add some shredded cheddar over the servings of those in the family who aren't dairy allergic. Zap their plate in the microwave if you want to melt it on top.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nursery/ daycare and allergy ignorance

I was fortunate not to have to put my baby in daycare. I quit my job after he was born and a few months later starting working part-time with my husband and was able to take the baby with me. So I didn't have to fight with a daycare center about his diet. I'm thankful for that because it was hard enough dealing with the nursery on Sunday at church. For about a year I was even afraid to let them have him for an hour. He was a good baby, so I took him in to services with me. I was so paranoid that I didn't even let his grandmother keep him at her house until he was several months old.

Once Dal started to walk, he was a little too squirmy to hold in my lap for an hour during a church service, so I finally decided to give the nursery a chance. They had great safety and security procedures, it seemed. I was asked to complete an information sheet that would be keep in a notebook in the room he was to be in. They would give me a pager so they could contact me if there were any concerns. I talked to the lady who was in charge of the nursery for that year. She agreed that they would be very careful and not feed him anything that I did not provide for him. Everything was fine. I was shoulder-patted and reassured.

After he was officially diagnosed with dairy, egg, and peanut allergies; I informed the nursery volunteers and our church's Minister to Children. They were attentive and concerned and promised that peanut products especially would be kept out of Dal's presence. I was told that on Sunday morning, the little ones were only given soda crackers and water if they wanted a little snack. I was happy that they were so caring and open to protecting my son.

A couple of weeks later though, there was trouble. We picked Dal up from the nursery and he looked a little red in the face. Later he broke out with little hives and spit up some. The next day he had eczema. At that time, we were quickly learning that he was very sensitive to his allergens and would break out with even a tiny amount of exposure. I guessed that he was getting some sort of incidental exposure to something in the nursery; probably from another child or from something in another child's diaper bag. I spoke to the nursery people about it and they assured me they would be more careful. But we continued to have problems and then one day, Dal vomited several times after church.

To make a long post shorter, we finally figured out that a volunteer in the room was bringing and giving the kids goldfish crackers. And even though this person had been told about Dal's food allergies, the volunteer somehow didn't realize that goldfish crackers meant dairy product!
So this is when I learned that I needed to get together a list of dairy ingredients and give all caregivers a short lesson on what dairy, egg and peanut products were. At first I made a list with no-no ingredients in each category and had it laminated. Later, I ordered cards from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). I had a set of three little yellow cards: one with dairy ingredients listed, one with egg, and one with peanut.

You know, it is surprising how many people don't know what dairy or egg is in. I can understand that they may not realize some candies have egg; like the Wonka candy version of Skittles, or taffy; but it surprises me that so many people don't know that yogurt is a dairy product, and sherbert, and goldfish crackers!

So educate and advocate - that's what I say.