Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Nut-Free Mom Blog Gets a Food Allergy Blog Award, plus, Food Allergy Awareness

Thank you to Healthline for naming The Nut-Free Mom blog as one of their top food allergy blogs of 2014! This is the third year my blog has received this award and I am extremely grateful to be recognized in this way. Thank you, Healthline!

Click this link to see the other winners; you'll see some of your favorites and might even find some new ones. I'm definitely in good company. A big congrats to all of the winners!

As nice as it is to receive an award, the most important thing to me is the way that blogging has allowed me to connect with other parents and even teen/adult nut allergy sufferers coping with the same issues. If I have helped any of you in any way by sharing my experiences and knowledge, that is exactly my goal.

And if you are a new reader, let me give you a warm welcome and invite you to peruse my 630 + blog posts that deal with the many aspects of nut allergy management. Just type your key words into the space in the search bar located in the upper left hand corner of this blog and let it rip!

Since my receipt of this award is so close to May, which is Asthma and Allergy Awareness month, I've been thinking about some posts I've shared in the last year that have seemed to have resonated most with readers. I realized that many of these popular posts have, at heart, the issue of food allergy awareness. If you have already seen these posts, thanks for reading! If you haven't, I hope you'll give them a look.

Nut-free baking for the non-allergic. This is one of the areas that I feel needs the most awareness since it deals with the food allergy awareness "biggie" of cross-contact and how to prepare "safe" foods. If you haven't already read this post, here is a link (and you can find it in the right side bar of my blog as well.)

My best advice for parents of kids with life-threatening food allergies. I've thought a lot about this topic over the years and watching my own kids grow, this post sums up the most important things I've learned.

Working around food allergies at school parties. If you have school-age kids, you know this is a big one! Check out this post for tips on navigating the food allergy minefield that class parties can be.

Thanksgiving with Food Allergies: Let's Dish. Look, I know we just had the spring holidays, but the thoughts and suggestions in this post can be applied to pretty much any holiday, because what do holidays all have in common? Food! This post offers advice on coping with holidays and allergies.

What I really hope is that blog readers find practical advice and especially, helpful encouragement from a parent in their shoes. This is the other reason I wrote my nut allergy e-book guide for parents, because I firmly believe that even though food allergies are serious and must be regarded as such, they don't have to get in the way of anyone living a full life.

Thanks to all of you for your continued readership! Now, let's hear from you. What are some of the biggest issues you face when navigating food allergies?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hey, Easter Bunny! Here Are Some of My Favorite Nut Allergy-Friendly Easter Sweets Picks

The cutest chocolate bunny I've ever seen; it's from Dean's Sweets.

Easter is soon arriving and with it, one of the biggest candy holidays of the year. If you're worried about peanut and tree nut allergies, you may not be hopping for joy at the thought of all the candy out there that is clearly off-limits for your kids. 

Still, you'd be surprised at some of the good stuff out there, both in stores and/or online. I've posted some of my favorites for you to check out. Please keep in mind that YOU are the best judge of what to serve your allergic child or family member. If you have any questions, I urge you to call companies directly.

Some of these finds are peanut/tree nut only in keeping with the theme of my "nut-free" blog; but there are some goodies here that are free of many other allergens and/or gluten.

CHOCOLATE

Dean's Sweets, a nut-free chocolatier in Portland, Maine produces delightful seasonal items including the bunny pictured above. Both milk and dark chocolate available; they even have chocolate-covered matzos for Passover. You can walk into their charming store or order online. See this link for more information on their seasonal products.



Andes Mint Chocolates/Tootsie Candies. I found the Andes Easter-themed Chocolate Mint candies at my local Target and I just found out that Andes makes solid chocolate bunnies as well. A Tootsie Corporation Brand, Andes Mint Chocolates are peanut-free, tree nut-free and gluten-free. Click this link to see the Tootsie Corporation's complete selection of Easter goodies including egg-shaped Tootsie pops.



York Peppermint Patties Egg-Shaped Chocolates. This brand is part of the Hershey corporation so they will mark for allergens. My daughter loves these things. No nut allergy warnings but they do contain milk/egg. Read the label and call Hershey for more info.




Cadbury Mini Eggs (with the hard candy shell). These are made by Hershey and Hershey will list for cross-contact with allergens. We love these little candy eggs and they make a great cake/cupcake decoration. Please don't confuse these with the Cadbury Creme Eggs (you know, looks like an egg yolk in the center); those have nut allergy warnings. But you won't confuse the two, because you're reading labels, right? :) See the picture above and call Hershey directly if you would like more information.

New Easter treats basket from Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates.


Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates is a longtime family favorite that never fails to please. You can order pre-made Easter baskets or order individual nut-free bunnies, chocolate creams, jelly beans and other seasonal chocolates. My kids love them all. Click here to find out more.

BAKED TREATS

Nutphree's Easter cupcakes. Delicious cake with sinfully rich frosting.

Nutphree's Cupcakes (pictured above) makes beautiful cakes (like my daughter's most recent b-day cake), cupcakes and cookies. They are Chicago-area only, but well worth mentioning since I know a lot of you live in the Chi-town area. Call Nutphree's for more details; all info is on their website. And, for those of you near a new Mariano's grocer, you can find Nutphree's in Mariano's stores. Nutphree's is a sponsor of this site. 

Candice Foods Protein Bars are a healthy choice and they are SO delicious. You can get them in some Midwest natural foods stores but ordering online is a breeze. These are free of many top allergens, gluten-free and kosher. Like Nutphree's they are owned by a parent of kids with allergies. Click this link to find out more. Candice Foods is a sponsor of this site.

JELLY BEANS/GUMMY CANDIES



Surf Sweets jelly beans are all-natural and organic, available at Whole Foods and other natural foods stores. Really nice flavors and beautiful, springy pastel colors. They are nut-free, gluten-free and free of many other top allergens. See their web site for more info.



Haribo gummy candies are a family favorite, partly because they are available in so many different varieties, including "Happy Hoppers" bunny-shaped gummies. Here's an allergen info link for Haribo but call the company if you have further questions. Find them at Target, Walmart and your local supermarket.



Gimbal's Jelly Beans are a wonderful allergy-friendly find, available at many supermarkets including Walmart. I've also seen them at Walgreens stores. So many unique and delicious flavors and best of all, top 8 allergen-free. They have seasonal varieties (above) but their basic jelly bean is available year-round. See their web site for a list of all of their amazing nut-free candies.

These are my favorites; I'm sure you have yours, but I hope this helps those of you who may just be starting out with nut allergies, or maybe those of you who are looking for something new. You might also like this archived post where I talk about some non-edible Easter basket treats.

Just to be sure we're all on the same page here: You are the best judge of the foods you can give to your child, so please note that while some of these candies may be free from several allergens, you will have to check labels and check with companies if you have further questions. Thank you!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Welcome to The New Age: What We Should Expect From Schools and Managing Food Allergies in the Classroom


I've been dealing with food allergies at school since 2004 and while I do think there is much more awareness about allergies these days, it still seems as a lot of us are having problems managing allergies at school.

Some parents tell me that they are not being listened to or respected with regards to life-threatening food allergies, even though they have followed the school's rules, i.e., filled out the paperwork, visited the allergist, met with the school staff and the myriad other tasks that go along with managing food allergies in daily life.

Just to be clear:  when I say "respected" I simply mean acknowledging that the allergy is real and that certain reasonable, necessary accommodations may be required. The unfortunate facts are that food allergies can be life-threatening and some classroom practices might require a little adaptation. What is troubling is that some parents are being called upon to frequently justify their child's allergies despite the fact that they've provided medical documentation, doctor's notes, etc.

If you're a parent feeling drained or frustrated by allergy management at school, don't feel alone because it takes effort to make things go smoothly -- sometimes a lot of effort.  Lately, I've been wondering: does it have quite so intensely difficult, with parents needing to be "pioneers" each year? After all, food allergies are not a brand-new problem.

I don't have all the answers but I, along with my daughter, have been managing allergies at school for more than 10 years. We've always tried to work with the school and usually we have been successful -- though not without struggle at times. With the era of food allergy awareness definitely upon us, I think we can have the following reasonable expectations. To me, these are the basics:

1. To be taken seriously if you have provided the appropriate medical documentation for the allergy.

2. To be treated with respect by school staff if you have concerns about your allergic student. If the person you're dealing with doesn't have the answers, they should be ready and willing to send you to the person who does.

3. To be prepared as parents to offer reminders or to engage in follow-up discussions, but not forced to re-invent the wheel and start at point A each time there is a new class party or field trip on the horizon. Having to re-open our child's health issues each time an event comes up is not only frustrating, it's dangerous as all of the major questions and concerns should have been settled at the beginning of the school year (of course you may always have to tweak things and make adjustments but a basic plan should be in place that doesn't deviate.)

4. To be ready to offer our assistance in educating others about allergies, with the understanding that many of us are new at this and are still educating ourselves. At this point in our collective experience, we should expect schools to be providing all staff with some food allergy education beyond just the basic epinephrine usage training that many of them receive -- a great thing, but only one part of the puzzle. Some basic discussion on cross-contact and allergen avoidance is equally important.

5. To prepare our child as best as we can according to their age and level of development with the knowledge that if something goes wrong despite our best efforts and our child's best efforts, (accidents happen, mistakes can be made) that the school knows what to do in an emergency and will actually do it.

While I am a huge advocate of parental support and teaching kids self-advocacy, the fact is that when kids cross the threshold to school, the school has a responsibility to them, just as it does to all students. It isn't just one or two students with allergies any more and sadly, the numbers continue to grow. In addition, schools are accommodating many types of special needs and food allergies are under that umbrella, so don't let anyone tell you that "no one" has any of the same issues as you. Unfortunately, they probably do.

You might also like these posts from The Nut-Free Mom blog:

Planning for the School Year with Food Allergies

Working Around Food Allergies at Class Parties

Teaching Kids to Manage their Nut Allergies

For a crash course in managing your child's life-threatening nut allergies (including communication tips and lots of emotional support), click this link.

Note: I'm a parent just like you sharing my experiences. If you have any medical or legal questions, please consult the appropriate medical or legal resources. Thank you!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Nut Allergy Spring Roundup: Nut-Free Recipes, Spring Break Travel Tips and and More

Daylight savings time has officially begun, so for those of us huddled in our parkas in many parts of the country, (except for today -- it's warm(er) and sunny!), that means spring is on the horizon.

I've been hearing from many new readers lately who may have not seen some of the spring-related content, so I wanted to offer a post featuring some of my reader-favorite "spring" topics. For my longtime readers, I hope you don't mind a refresher course with some timely reminders.

Spring Break Travel
For those of you flying to your destination, check out this post. In particular, I talk about our experiences traveling by airplane, a stressful endeavor but not an impossible one. Lots of tips and resources in this post. If you have any questions about you or your child's ability to fly on a plane, it's a good idea to speak to your allergist.

St.  Patrick's Day
Looking for tasty, St. Paddy's Day-themed treats or crafts to do at home or at school? I hope you'll visit my St. Patrick's Day Pinterest board where I've admittedly gone a little overboard collecting "green" ideas for this fun holiday. You'll also find my two favorite Irish Soda Bread recipes -- easy and delicious and nice to have on hand since regular bakeries are off-limits to the nut-allergic. A word to the wise regarding anything I post on Pinterest: I do my best to screen out anything "nutty" but sometimes recipes do contain nuts. I am obviously not advocating that you use those recipes unless you are able to make a "safe" substitution. :) I often suggest substitutions in the "notes" potion of the Pin.

Spring Recipes Book
Last year, Surf Sweets collaborated with me on a spring sweet treats recipe book -- this little e-book is available for free online and has recipes that can be adapted not just to nut-free, but also to gluten-free and dairy-free. Check it out by clicking this link. Surf Sweets has organic, top 10 allergen-free jelly beans for spring -- click the image to the right side bar of this post to find out more.

Is It Allergies or a Cold?
Many people with food allergies also have seasonal allergies but often you can't tell the difference at this sniffly time of year. Find the post by clicking here. Remember - if you have any medical concerns about symptoms, call your doctor and/or allergist.

A Crash Course on Caring for Your Nut-Allergic Child
My e-book, The New Nut-Free Mom, is available on Kindle, Nook and to download to your iPad or computer. Click this link to find out how to get it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Kids with Food Allergies and Summer Camp


Heavy snow, rain and overall weather misery in many parts of the country aside, spring is nearly here, which means summer is on the way. It's definitely not too early to be thinking about summer activities -- like camp. But what if your child, like mine, has life-threatening allergies to nuts or other foods?

If some of you are skeptical of the summer camp experience for your severely allergic child, I know how you feel. I summed up our family's experience in this archived Allergic Living magazine article where I discuss the ups and downs of my daughter's week at Girl Scout camp (she was seven years old at the time). The bottom line: it was a big success in spite of a few scares -- all non-allergy related!

For any parent contemplating camp, food allergy awareness must come into play. Some parents don't want to deal with camp and it's your call to make. You know your child better than anyone and what they are capable of handling.

That said, if you can find a camp that accommodates allergies, consider giving it a try (once you've done all of your research and feel confident, of course). I remember how excited my daughter was to attend Girl Scout camp. She still talks about it! In recent years, she has served as a volunteer at our local library and she has been an advocate for the younger allergic kids she encounters. I'm sure the positive role models and teen counselors she met at Girl Scout camp served as inspiration.

That's why I was so excited to hear about Camp Wingate-Kirkland, a nut-free camp in Cape Cod and one of my current blog sponsors. I first learned of this camp a couple of years ago when I was on a panel discussion (via the parenting website The Motherhood) with Lori Sandler of Divvies. Our group included Sandy Rubenstein, one of the owners/directors of Camp Wingate*Kirkland.

The online panel discussion dealt with specific actions to take in order to ensure the safety of food-allergic kids during play dates, sleepovers and summer camp. You can see a write-up of that very helpful and informative discussion by clicking this link.

I received this message regarding the camp's allergy policies: "Camp Wingate*Kirkland is food allergy-friendly and peanut-free. The training and precautions made by the camp staff allow your child to be a camper, not “the camper with allergies.”  For more info, click the "Camp Wingate*Kirkland" image on the right sidebar of this blog. It will take you directly to their web site; you can find their specific allergy policies there, too. Thanks to the directors of this camp for caring about nut-allergic and food-allergic campers!

Important Note:

For your child's health and safety, always speak directly to any and all camp directors for specific information on food allergy policies and accommodations. Please do your own research as you are the best judge of your family's specific situation and needs.

FARE has compiled a list of camps that advertise themselves as allergy-friendly; you can find the list for 2013 by clicking this link. Remember, things can change so please do your own research.

Have you found any local camps that will accommodate your food-allergic camper? How did it go?