Family Food Allergy Foundation Memorializes Elijah-Alavi

Elijah-Alavi

The parents of three-year-old Elijah-Alavi were devasted by the loss of their son. While at preschool, Elijah, who had food allergies including dairy, was mistakenly given a grilled cheese sandwich. He suffered a fatal attack of anaphylaxis. From that tragedy Elijah’s parents embarked on a path of advocacy and education, so that other parents wouldn’t have to experience the same heartbreak. They founded the Elijah-Alavi Foundation, which includes “Elijah's Echo,” an initiative raising awareness of food allergies and anaphylaxis.    Read the article here.

Going Nuts, Dealing with Nut Allergies During the Holidays

Be Well PhillyParty nuts in cupsDo you check with guests about their food allergies before having a party? Every year we hear tragic stories of young lives lost from contact with peanuts, tree nuts or foods containing or exposed to nuts. Many schools are peanut- or tree nut-free zones, and we are seeing more and more food products carrying “school-safe” labeling. Not all kids with peanut allergies have other tree nut allergies, but for those that do, the issue can be even more challenging.

Peanut allergies can be very dangerous and cause a reaction known as anaphylaxis, which is a medical emergency. It can involve many symptoms including tongue and lip swelling, respiratory distress and cardiovascular collapse, which can result in death. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. This being the holiday season, I felt it timely to write about a personal experience as a host dealing with this very issue.

My daughter’s preschool friend has a peanut and tree-nut allergy. The other day, I had her family over for a little get together. Although I am well informed about the risks related to food allergies and the precautions required, I was crestfallen to see her mom’s facial expression when she walked into my kitchen and spotted a freshly baked pecan pie sitting on the counter.

The pie was not meant for the kids and was not near any other items. I was under the impression that she would be okay if it was served to the adults, in a separate room. She was, of course, but her initial reaction was one of fear and concern. I don’t blame her and was mortified of how insensitive I was to just leave it lying out. Of course, this was not intentional, but this mom’s reaction was genuine, immediate and telling: Nut allergies are no joke. Contact with another kid who’s made contact with tree nuts, such as pecans, can cause a reaction in her child. We all know kids are not as careful about touching their food and mouths and making contact with toys and other kids.

I quickly whisked the pie away and was very apologetic. I learned that while these parents do eat foods containing nuts when at restaurants, they never do so while in the presence of their child. I learned how their entire lifestyle revolves around keeping their daughter safe. This goes beyond car seats or teaching how to look both ways before crossing the street. Every outing, every party, every school event, every snack requires careful contemplation. For those of us who don’t have kids with potent food allergies, we really do take for granted the freedom we have. Her parents are forever educating, clarifying ingredients at birthday parties and carting their own food almost everywhere they go. They are dedicated to their daughter’s safety, and for good reason.

We are having them over for another holiday party where the food is inherently laden with tree nuts or related ingredients. I will be careful to purchase items from a store carrying “nut-free” labeled products, including dessert, ensuring that we can make everyone as relaxed as possible with no surprises. I know this family appreciates my commitment to their concerns. I would expect the same for my child, if needed.

- Bindu Kumar, M.D.

 

The Top 10 Myths About Allergies and Asthma

Family Allergy and AsthmaAllergens and woman sneezingMyth #1: Some dog breeds, such as Chihuahuas, are better for people with asthma and allergies.

Reality: The protein found in the pet’s saliva, dander and urine is what causes allergies, not the pet’s hair. There is not one breed that is better for people with allergies and asthma.



Myth #2: Inhaled medications are dangerous.

Reality: Inhaled medications that treat inflammation are the safest and most effective means to treat asthma. It is usually more dangerous NOT to use inhaled asthma controller medications if they have been prescribed for you.
Most common myths about Allergies

Myth #3: Children outgrow asthma and allergies.

Reality: Asthma is a constant state of airway irritability and not something that can be outgrown. Some children do have asthma symptoms that clear during the teenage years (while others may worsen) but they will always have airway irritability. The same holds true with allergies – you may keep your symptoms under control with medications, but you will never outgrow them

Myth #4: Asthma and allergies can be cured.

Reality: There is no cure for asthma or allergies However, with proper care, asthmatics can lead normal, active lives. Allergy shots are the closest treatments we have to a cure for allergies. Shots may dramatically reduce symptoms and the need for medications.

Myth #5: Alternative holistic medications are equally as effective as prescribed medications.

Reality: Alternative holistic medications, such as bee pollen or allergy “drops,” should never replace proven medical treatments for asthma and allergies. Bee pollen usually contains bee body parts, which may cause an allergic reaction. There is no evidence that shows using bee pollen has any benefit to the allergic patient.

Myth #6: Moving to a southwestern state will cure asthma and allergies.

Reality: Moving to a southwestern state may help allergies for a few months. However, new allergies to local plants in the new area can develop within a short period of time. There is no safe place to move away from asthma and allergies.

Myth #7 Allergies are a harmless problem.

Reality: Allergies are a serious problem and should be treated as such. If left untreated, allergies can lead to sleep and learning disorders. These symptoms, in turn, can lead to missed school and work. Untreated allergies can also cause more severe problems, such as sinus infections or skin disorders. They can also worsen asthma symptoms. Allergies to foods, drugs or insect stings can even lead to life threatening reactions.

Myth #8: Hayfever is caused by hay.

Reality: The term “hayfever” is misleading because it is not caused only by hay, nor is it a fever. Today, the term is used to describe nasal congestion, coughing, runny nose, sneezing, shortness of breath and other symptoms caused by any plants that produce pollen or molds that produce spores – usually in the late spring, summer or fall.

Myth #9: Pollen from flowers is the leading cause of allergies.

Reality: Although it may seem strange, flowers are least likely to trigger allergic symptoms. Pollens from roses and many other fragrant, colorful flowers tend to be heavy, waxy and sticky, making them less likely to be airborne. Allergies to these kinds of plants are very uncommon.

Myth#10: Allergies are “all in your head.”

Reality: Allergies may affect your nose, but that doesn’t mean that they are “all in your head.” An allergy is a real medical condition involving your immune system’s reaction to something unknown. Allergies are hereditary so you can pass the tendency to develop allergies to your children. You can’t however, pass allergies along to others like a common cold because they are not contagious.

Top Ten DON’TS

  1. Do not use ionizers, fresh air machines or ozone generators. Ozone is an air pollutant. There is no such thing as good ozone. Ozone causes you to lose your sense of smell and, thereby, covers up odors. Click here for more information.
  2. Do not use humidifiers or vaporizers. Molds grow on damp materials. Indoor humidity should be maintained below 50% to prevent mold growth. A dehumidifier may be beneficial in damp areas such as basements.
  3. Do not use vacuum cleaners with water reservoirs. Standing water is an excellent source of mold growth. Recommended products include central vacuum systems and vacuum cleaners with micro-pore or HEP A filters.
  4. Do not invest in questionable equipment/practices to treat allergies without consulting your allergist first. For example, the treatment of carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniture with FebreezeTM is only minimally effective.
  5. Do not just stir dust around when cleaning. Wiping with a moist cloth or with newer electrostatic fabric dusters, such as SwifferTM that trap the dust can remove over 90% of dust mite allergen that accumulates on hard surfaces. Wear a high efficiency filter mask approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) when dusting or vacuuming.
  6. Do not install wall-to-wall carpeting in the bedroom or in the basement. Carpets are excellent reservoirs for dust mites. Most persons spend at least 8 hours in their bedrooms daily. Dust mites, like mold, thrive in high levels of humidity. Carpet installed over concrete interferes with the evaporation of moisture. Consequently, that moisture can become trapped under the carpeting to promote mold growth.
  7. Do not allow items that encourage dust mite infestation such as drapes, pet bedding, stuffed animals and upholstered furniture in the bedroom. Stuffed toys should be washed in hot water every 1-2 weeks to kill dust mites. Dry cleaning and tumble drying on high heat for at least 20 minutes will also eliminate dust mites. Non-washable stuffed toys can be made washable by removing the stuffing and replacing it with nylon stockings. Do not freeze stuffed toys in an attempt to kill mites. The moisture build-up from the thawing process will promote growth of mites and molds.
  8. Do not leave food or garbage out in the open. Cockroaches feed on the same substances as humans. Controlling food sources will, consequently, reduce the cockroach population. In addition, spoiled foods contain mold. Emptying the garbage daily reduces indoor mold exposure.
  9. Do not open windows/doors during peak allergy seasons. Indoor air allergen levels are affected by outdoor air allergen levels. It makes sense that keeping indoor environments physically separated from the outdoors will reduce the amount of airborne particles inside the home. Also, avoid outside activities on days when pollen or mold counts are high. Wear a NIOSH 95/100 filter mask when doing yard work or mowing grass.
  10. Do not introduce furry animals to your home environment, especially cats, if you have allergies. Cats are the most allergenic animal. Virtually all allergic people who are exposed to cats on a regular basis will become allergic to them. If you already have a furry pet, such as a cat, then keep the animal away from carpeted rooms, sleeping areas, and upholstered furniture. It is impossible to adequately remove cat allergen from these items. Cat allergen can remain in the house for several years after the animal is removed.

Profile: NFL Star Adrian Peterson

Allergic LivingAdrian Peterson- Patrick Bennett

Allergic Living’s Patrick Bennett caught up with Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s 2012 MVP, to talk about his adult-onset shellfish allergy. Peterson has partnered with Mylan Specialty, the marketer of the EpiPen, to heighten awareness of anaphylaxis.

Job: NFL running back for the Minnesota Vikings
Lives with: life-threatening shellfish allergy

Allergic Living’s Patrick Bennett caught up with Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s 2012 MVP, to talk about his adult-onset shellfish allergy and how he has partnered with Mylan Specialty, the marketer of the EpiPen, to heighten awareness of anaphylaxis.

Allergic Living: Many of us heard that you had a big allergic reaction. Could you take us back to those moments: where were you, what were you eating, what happened?

Adrian Peterson: It was 2011 at training camp and we were at lunch. I had a bowl of gumbo – it had the normal stuff, shrimp, scallops, seafood. Maybe 30 minutes after I ate lunch and got back to my room, I was relaxing, resting up before afternoon practice – that’s when I started experiencing symptoms of anaphylaxis, though I didn’t know at the time. My throat started to itch, my eyes were extremely itchy. I remember laying down rubbing my eyes; it kind of raised a red flag.

When I stood up and looked in the mirror, I saw my eyes were swollen, and my throat was starting to swell up on me, so I called my athletic trainer and told him the symptoms. Immediately he was like, ‘Hold on, I’m coming up, just wait for me!’

When he got there, he had the EpiPen auto-injector, I administered it into my thigh, and immediately I felt my throat start to open up. I was able to breathe better, and it gave me the time I needed to get to the hospital to seek further assistance.

It kind of threw me off guard, because I eat seafood all the time, and I’ve always eaten seafood my entire life and then – just out of the blue – I have this life-threatening allergic reaction.

After training camp I went to see an allergist and found out that I’m allergic to shrimp, lobster and scallops. From that point on, I’ve had my action plan, which is knowing my allergic triggers, and always having access to my EpiPen, just in case I have an allergic reaction. I have my EpiPen on me at all times.

AL: As a professional athlete, do you now take extra care during special events you are invited to?

AP: If it’s an event where I’m going to be eating anything, I’ll know the menu; I’ll have my EpiPen in my coat pocket. I always carry it with me, after that first incident. You never know what you could be allergic to and when it can trigger, and my case is a perfect example of that – when I tell you my favorite food was seafood, I ate it all the time!

AL: It must be hard as an adult, changing your diet like that.

AP: Yeah, it’s extremely hard, but it’s a life-threatening allergic reaction. It takes lives, it’s nothing to play with, and you really have to be serious and have your game plan.

AL: Now that you can look back on this, do you think you ever had any food allergy symptoms before?

AP: It was definitely the first time ever, and that’s one of the misperceptions. People think that kids are the only ones at risk for allergic reactions, and that’s not the case. Here I was, 27, this was my first time experiencing this.

That’s why I’m partnering with Mylan Specialty for the 25th anniversary of the FDA approval of the EpiPen, and I’m working with [TV’s nanny] Jo Frost and we’re sharing our stories to raise awareness.

We’re urging people to go to 25yearsofepipen.com and there they can learn some of the misperceptions about food allergy, like the one I said – that kids are the only ones at risk – or that it limits your potential, or it makes you weak. Here I am, a professional athlete, and it doesn’t make me weak at all.

Also we want people to show us their EpiPens, no matter where they go. Like for me, when I’m in the locker room, or I’m traveling to Green Bay this weekend, I’m carrying my EpiPen with me, because you always want to be prepared and have your [emergency] action plan. You always want to have a game plan.

So we want people to show us their EpiPens, we want people to take a picture of themselves with their EpiPen no matter where they are, and upload it [at 25yearsofepipen.com].

AL: Have you had any close calls or reactions since then?

AP: No I haven’t, thank God, I haven’t.

AL: How much time do you usually spend traveling in a normal year?

AP: Probably about nine weeks we’re traveling, so I’m traveling a lot actually.

AL: When on the road, how do you ensure your food is shellfish-free? Do you talk to chefs personally?

AP: We get a per diem, believe it or not [laughs], they give us money so we provide our own food, which is great. When I’m at restaurants I make sure that I’m staying away from my allergic triggers, I’m always keeping my eyes open, making sure I’m avoiding those triggers.

AL: Do you feel uneasy now if you’re near shellfish?

AP: You know, it brings back memories, but I know my allergic triggers, so I’m able to avoid them. And I have my EpiPen with me. That’s why it’s so important for us to bring awareness so people can know, so people can be better prepared.

AL: A lot of kids look up to you as a role model. What advice would you give to kids growing up with severe food allergies?

AP: One of the other misperceptions is that you don’t have to carry your EpiPen with you. I would advise young kids to have an action plan and take it seriously. Always carry the auto-injector with you, wherever you go, make sure you are avoiding your allergic triggers, and know your action plan in case an allergic reaction happens.

AL: What made you decide to get involved with the ‘Show Us Your EpiPens’ campaign?

AP: Just my experience – it hit home with me. It was one of those situations where your life kind of flashes in front of you. God forbid that they didn’t have the EpiPen, it was very scary.

That was the main factor, to use my platform to bring awareness to anaphylaxis because it’s life-threatening, and if it takes me to open the ears of an elder or a young kid who’s a fan, so they can be best prepared and have an action plan in case anaphylaxis occurs in their life, then I’m here to voice it.

AL: What felt better: being chosen as the 2012 MVP, or having your allergic reaction stopped by the auto-injector?

AP: [laughs] Having my allergic reaction stopped! You know what the crazy thing is, after I got off the phone with my athletic trainer, it seemed like everything kept getting even worse. When I hung up the phone I couldn’t breathe out of my nose, period. Then my throat started to really close up on me, so I’m sitting there, I’m searching, scratching for air, just barely getting air.

I got to the point where I was actually leaving, to try and meet him wherever he was coming from – I just wanted to get help – and as soon as I opened the door he ran out the elevator, he had the EpiPen, and I administered it.

Do they always keep auto-injectors at the training camp?

AP: Yeah. When you’ve got 70-something guys in a training camp, you never know what can happen. That’s one thing that I feel blessed about too, that my trainer was able to recognize my symptoms by me telling him, and he was prepared. He came up, he had the EpiPen and he knew exactly what was needed.

AL: Where are your auto-injectors kept during games?

AP: Right on the sidelines.

AL: What have your teammates said to you about the allergy?

AP: Initially when it first happened, of course they were concerned. They wanted to know exactly what took place, and I was able to fill them in that I had an allergic reaction to the shrimp and the scallops that was in the seafood gumbo, and I had just found out I’m allergic to those.

I told them my action plan, this is what I have to do, knowing my triggers and avoiding them, keeping my EpiPen with me. So it’s a slight change, but it’s for the better.

AL: Good luck on Sunday versus the Packers and thank you.

AP: Thank you so much, I appreciate you taking the time as well.

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