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.

Yes, there’s an App for That!

justmeansbusinesslogo“Chow Checker” App Identifies Food Allergies

Created by High School KidsBlog Entry by Sangeeta Haindl in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies and that this potentially life threatening disease affects one in every 13 children (under 18 years of age) in the U.S. That’s roughly two in every classroom! The economic cost of children’s food allergies is nearly $25 billion per year. A study released in 2013 by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention shows that food allergies among children increased approximately 50 per cent between 1997 and 2011. Unfortunately, although the number of people who have a food allergy is growing, but there is no clear answer why.

So when a team of eighth-graders at The Hampstead Academy in New Hampshire created a smartphone app called the ‘Chow Checker’, which identifies food allergies, they won the grand prize at Verizon’s App Challenge, hands down. The school kids submitted their video pitch last school year and got to work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab to turn their idea into a reality. It is now available for download from Google Play. Alex Mielens, ninth-grade team member, says, “We knew that allergies were a pretty big problem and we thought we could help solve that problem in our school and other places, helping people who have allergies to stop from buying foods that may contain allergens.”

The ‘Chow Checker’ allows users to develop a profile and select up to 12 allergens. If they scan a food item or search for it in the app and it contains something to which they’re allergic, the app will instantly let them know. The app uses food ingredient data from Nutritionix, a company that provides daily updated data from grocery stores and restaurants. The database includes more than 300,000 food items and adds almost 1,000 more items each week.

Verizon thought this app was a very original idea and a winner, as it can potentially be extremely helpful for those with food allergies. However, no app is fool-proof and there is always a chance for error. For the ‘Chow Checker’, that means while the Nutritionix database is updated daily, it doesn’t include food-recall information, which can be an issue when food is recalled because of undeclared allergens. Unfortunately, every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department in the States; that is more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year.

In the meantime, researchers are trying to discover why food allergies are on the rise in developed countries worldwide and to learn more about the impact of the disease in developing nations. More than 17 million Europeans have a food allergy; hospital admissions for severe reactions in children have risen seven-fold over the past decade, according to the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI).
- See more here.

- Sangeeta Haindl
Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Sangeeta Haindl
Sangeeta Haindl

Eating Nuts During Pregnancy Could Curb Kids' Allergies, Study Says

huffpostparentsPregnant woman eating nutsPeanut and tree nut allergies are among the most common food allergies in children and adults, and they're on the rise. A new study suggests moms-to-be could hold the key to preventing them.

Children born to non-allergic mothers who frequently ate nuts during their pregnancies had a lower risk of developing the allergy, researchers from a number of hospitals and universities including Boston Children's Hospital and the Dana-Farber Children's Cancer Center found.

"Our study supports the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy," they wrote in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics on Monday.

Food allergies manifest when the body's immune system mistakenly perceives a harmless food and attacks it. The resulting symptoms can be relatively mild, such as hives, or potentially life-threatening, in the case of anaphylaxis. Between 1997 and 2011, food allergies among children in the United States increased by

roughly 50 percent, for reasons researchers do not fully understand.

 

Nuts are a particular problem. According to figures cited in this new study, the prevalence of childhood peanut allergies in the U.S. has more than tripled in recent years, jumping from 0.4 percent of children in 1997 to 1.4 percent in 2010. Unlike childhood allergies to eggs and milk, allergies to peanuts and tree nuts, including walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews and pistachios, are seldom outgrown.

According to the study's authors, previous research conducted on animals regularly found a protective effect resulting from maternal exposure to certain foreign substances during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Similar studies of humans, however, have been far less consistent. One U.K.-based study in the 1990s, for example, found that children under 6 who had peanut allergies were more likely to have moms who ate peanuts during pregnancy or while they were nursing -- the opposite of this study's findings.

To test the potential effect of maternal nut consumption on allergies, the researchers in the new investigation used data on more than 8,200 children whose mothers participated in the Nurses Health Study -- one of the longest-running investigations into women's health in the U.S. -- and compared information on the women's diets with subsequent allergy diagnoses among their children.

Women who had no peanut or tree nut allergies, and who ate nuts five times or more per week during pregnancy, had children with the lowest risk of the allergy.

While the researchers allow that further studies are needed to replicate their findings, they argue that their data supports recent decisions to "rescind recommendations that all mothers avoid [peanut and tree nuts] during pregnancy and breastfeeding." The American Academy of Pediatrics previously recommended that women who were pregnant or breastfeeding avoid peanuts -- a guideline that was nixed in 2008.

But the new findings do not apply to women who are themselves allergic to nuts.

"For women who already have allergies, obviously adding nuts to their diet [during pregnancy] would, absolutely, be the wrong answer," said Dr. Loralei Thornburg, a high-risk pregnancy expert with the University of Rochester Medical Center, who did not work on the study.

Thornburg added that the underlying mechanisms of the link between nut exposure during pregnancy and reduced allergy risk are not yet clear; it could be the exposure to nuts somehow "primes" babies' bodies and tells them that certain foods are safe, or it could simply be that non-allergic babies are born to non-allergic mothers.

"If you're a nut person, I would not avoid nuts during your pregnancy because of fear that it would induce an allergy in your child," Thornburg said, adding that she often advises her patients to eat plain roasted almonds, since they contain no unhealthy additives. "Nuts are a great source of mono-unsaturated fats and folic acid."

- Catherine Pearson

Allergy Advocacy Association Plans Albany Legislative Action for 2014

Whenever the topic for discussion is the New York State legislature, talk always begins with the word “change.” Whether you think of it as a buzzword, watchword, talking point or simply another everyday cliché, you hear it said time and again. And in certain respects change has been occurring across the political landscape of NYS. Some examples one might consider include the NYS property tax cap which limits a local government’s overall growth or the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (SAFE). New York State now has the toughest laws in America prohibiting cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle (NY VTL § 1225-C&D).

Regardless of your personal approval or disapproval of these new laws, on some issues the legislature has been able to act effectively.

Injecting epi pen through jeansConcerning anaphylaxis, epinephrine and schools, however, change to enact legislation providing improved access to the EAI (epinephrine auto-injector) devices is stagnant. None of the bills proposed last year and supported by the Allergy Advocacy Association were passed. Despite all the efforts of local, state and national organizations to upgrade and codify the existing NYS regulations into law by supporting improved access to epinephrine, many legislators still believe current state regulations are sufficient to protect school children with life-threatening allergies from anaphylaxis. Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D), chairman of the assembly education committee, has stated that the guidelines in the Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act of 2007 including the Public Health Law 2500-h are “comprehensive.”

Our association remains unconvinced. The only thing that this state law really "requires" is that the Departments of Health and Education produce the guidelines themselves. The guidelines are only intended for school districts to establish policies and set parameters based upon best practices. The guidelines are NOT mandatory and do NOT have the force of law. And by refusing to act, our association believes that the NYS legislature has left school children with life-threatening allergies at greater possible risk for an attack of anaphylaxis in all our school districts across New York State.

The American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) estimates 500 to 1,000 deaths per year in the US from anaphylaxis.

According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), one in 13 children under age 18 has food allergies, with an 18 percent increase having occurred between 1997 and 2007. During roughly the same period, the number of children with a peanut allergy tripled. Eight percent of US school children (potentially as many as two in every classroom) may suffer from a food allergy.

The Center for Disease Control states that twenty-five to 30% of anaphylactic reactions occur at school without a prior diagnosis or a prescription for epinephrine. Their data also indicated the majority of epinephrine administrations in schools were performed by the school nurse (92%).

Our association believes that there is wide-spread complacency throughout government, school districts, and the general population on this issue. When it comes to dealing with the risks of anaphylaxis, particularly involving food allergies, the mindset of many teachers, administrators, legislators, health care workers and even doctors is “We’re on top of this!” Fortunately no fatalities have occurred in NYS schools from anaphylaxis recently. We may be simply more lucky than good. Schools in other states have experienced such tragedies. In almost every case death occurred due to failure to administer epinephrine in a timely fashion to an afflicted individual.

Here is a list of bills in New York that our association currently supports

Student Carry of Epinephrine

NYS A2566 and S02210: Authorizes students to carry epinephrine and an epinephrine auto-injector in schools (also known as the “Student Carry” bill).

Senate SponsorMike Ranzenhofer (R); Assembly SponsorFelix Ortiz (D).

Teacher Training

S4876–2013 & A759-2013: Requires newly certified teachers to be competent in the use of an epinephrine auto-injector; also known as the “Teacher Training” bill.

Senate SponsorMarty Golden (R); Assembly SponsorLinda Rosenthal (D).

Nurse Authorize Stock Epi

S5789 & A07791-2013: Authorizes school nurses to administer epinephrine auto-injectors in the event of an emergency. School districts, boards of cooperative educational services, county vocational education and extension boards, and charter schools shall provide and maintain on-site in each instructional school facility epinephrine auto-injectors in quantities and types deemed by the commissioner in consultation with the commissioner of health to be adequate to ensure ready and appropriate access for use during emergencies; also known as the “Nurse Authorize Stock Epi” bill.

Senate SponsorJohn J. Flanagan (R); Assembly SponsorTom Abinanti (D).

Emergency Use of Epi

S4515-2013 Provides for the use of glucagon emergency injection kits by persons other than licensed health care professionals; provides for expanded use of epinephrine auto-injector devices in schools in emergency circumstances.


Senate SponsorKemp Hannon (R).

Change may be missing in action in NYS, but that is definitely not the case around the rest of America. The enactment of the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act in Washington, DC has been an important catalyst for change. The new law, signed in November by President Barack Obama, puts states with EAI device laws at the top of the list for Department of Health and Human Services grants usually used to combat asthma. Now the grants will also help schools buy Epi-Pen™ or Auvi-Q™ auto-injector devices and train school staff how to use them. Over thirty states have already enacted their own laws with Michigan being the latest. A rising tide of substantive change seems to be steadily sweeping ahead on this issue.


Does this development signal hope for our associations’ agenda in Albany? We certainly think such a dramatic change of the status quo elsewhere in our country is a step in the right direction. And we think that similar steps should be taken by the NYS legislature immediately.

We remain committed to supporting improved access to life-saving epinephrine in all the school districts in New York State. The goal of the Allergy Advocacy Association is simply expressed: “Not another life lost to anaphylaxis-not another life lost to ANY life-threatening allergies!”

Jon Terry
Founder

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