The Allergy Mom® Melissa Scheichl Provides Education and Support

Melissa Scheichl

Growing up Melissa Scheichl (aka The Allergy Mom®) of the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario, Canada, had both seasonal and food allergies and her mother suffered a dangerous anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting. As challenging and scary as these experiences were, however, allergies did not become a major focus of her life until her children were born almost 16 and 14 years ago.  
Read the article here.

Requiem for Andrea & Simon (and Ben & Curt)

Requiem for Andrea & Simon (and Ben & Curt)

We are reminded once again of the importance of carrying Epi-PensTM and other medications with you at all times if you have a life-threatening illness. Two young teenagers died recently because they did not have their epinephrine auto-injectors with them during an anaphylaxis attack. Our founder, Jon Terry, also presents some alarming statistics on the low percentage of people of all ages who are not keeping their EAI devices nearby or not using them when they should. Read the full article here.

Andrea Mariano and Simon Katz
Andrea Mariano and Simon Katz

By Jon Terry
October 10th, 2015

During September two young people with life-threatening food allergies died from anaphylaxis. Here are excerpts from the news reports I read on the internet.

Andrea Mariano, 18, who had just begun studying arts and sciences at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, passed away on Sept. 18, 2015 following a severe reaction. Andrea’s grieving family, who live in Thornhill, Ontario, said the cause of death was anaphylaxis. Andrea had known peanut and dairy allergies.

Hedellaine Valentin, Andrea’s cousin, told Global-TV News that the reaction happened after the young woman ordered a smoothie on campus. The teen was not carrying either of her two epinephrine auto-injectors, according to Valentin. The report also suggested that her reaction was so severe epinephrine would not have made a difference.

Simon Katz had no idea that the s'more passed to him Monday night at a Chatfield High School homecoming bonfire was made with peanut butter.

The 16-year-old junior, who was allergic to peanuts, took a bite, became ill, went into anaphylactic shock and died, his father, David, said Wednesday.

Simon had mistakenly eaten peanuts in the past, his father said in a phone interview, but "those incidents ended with an emergency room visit, some epinephrine and he was good to go." Simon became sick after eating the s'more, and his friends drove him home to get medicine. "I put him in my car," David Katz said, "and tried to get him to urgent care." The teenager went into shock during the six-minute drive, his father said, adding that he was administering epinephrine injections to Simon during the drive.

As the member of a family who lost a loved one to a fatal attack of anaphylaxis, I am always deeply saddened when I hear about these tragedies. What makes them even more upsetting is when they happen due to a delay in administration of epinephrine.

Ever since these two tragic deaths for some reason or other the quotations of Benjamin Franklin have been on my mind. Many of his words and phrases have as much clarity and wisdom in the 21st century as they did when he was a leader of the American revolution at the end of the 18th century. Here a few I find particularly meaningful:

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.
Well done is better than well said.
Fish and visitors smell in three days.

Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac, 1738
US author, diplomat, inventor, physicist, politician, & printer (1706 - 1790)

And here is one that I was unfamiliar with and just found out about:

A good conscience is a continual Christmas.

In other words, when my conscience is clear, then I have peace of mind. I believe these are words to live by. I think that applies very well when it comes to taking medications. If I neglect to take mine every day then I find myself feeling guilty, as if I have done myself a disservice. I get a sinking feeling that my irresponsible behavior may come back to haunt me later.

Perhaps instead of following the advice of Franklin I was taking a page from the lyrics of Curt Cobain:

And I forget just why I taste
Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile
I found it hard, it's hard to find
Oh well, whatever, never mind
'Smells Like Team Spirit'

Curt Cobain and Nirvana
Oh, well, whatever, never mind…
 

This attitude is one that I am personally very familiar with. Apathy, complacency and indifference pretty well sum up the meaning of that phrase for yours truly. I have to constantly resist the urge to blow things off, to act irresponsibly, and to act like a slacker in so many areas of my life. Not exactly a mature attitude I must confess. No doubt I might do a lot better.

My health is good, thank God, and I am fortunate that I do not have any chronic illnesses to deal with. However, as the founder of the Allergy Advocacy Association my concerns center on individuals at risk for anaphylaxis, particularly people with life-threatening allergies.

Our association is dedicated to supporting programs helping in the prevention of anaphylaxis through AWARENESS, ALERTNESS & ACTION. We participate in many kinds of public outreach events including exhibiting at health fairs. When people stop by our exhibit booth I try to engage them in a conversation for possibility. People don't know what they don't know and if you are at risk for anaphylaxis that can be dangerous.

The routine I follow goes something like this. I request they sign one of our legislative petitions; I offer to demonstrate how an epinephrine auto injector device works; And I ask them a couple of questions. "Do you have any family members with life-threatening allergies? Do you have asthma? Diabetes?”

I leave the most important question for last.

"Are you carrying your prescribed medications today?"

And all too often they say "NO, I DON'T HAVE THEM WITH ME."

Frankly, I find this very distressing.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America there are alarming patterns of inaction when anaphylaxis occurs: most patients are not keeping their EAI devices nearby or not using them when they should. A survey of the school systems in the state of Virginia showed that only 24% of the students with prescriptions for epinephrine actually had EAI devices. In a 2012 survey conducted in Canada by Sanofi Pharmaceuticals, out of 2,000 individuals with family members having life-threatening allergies, 57% of all respondents with a prescription do NOT always carry an epinephrine auto-injector as recommended by physicians. By group, 63% of adults and 51% of parents did NOT have an auto-injector immediately available at all times. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that eighty-eight percent of the deaths from anaphylaxis show significant delays or failure to administer epinephrine in a timely fashion.

It is not my intention to criticize the actions of Andrea and Simon or to trivialize their deaths in any way. Their families have had more than enough grief and heartache already. I am not here to praise Ben or condemn Curt (may they both rest in peace).

I just think that in this instance we all need to listen to Franklin, not to Cobain.

A good conscience is a continual Christmas.

I sincerely believe that people must heed the voice of their conscience and take positive action to protect their own lives. The Allergy Advocacy Association recommends that anyone with asthma, diabetes, life-threatening allergies or any combination thereof always wear a Medic Alert bracelet or dog-tag and ALWAYS carry ALL of their medications EVERYWHERE.

Antibiotic overuse might be why so many people have allergies

Antibiotic overuse might be why so many people have allergies

We are all familiar with the warnings that overuse of antibiotics can lead to drug-resistant bacteria. But researchers are now finding that antibiotic overuse might also be a cause of allergies. This applies to antibiotics pregnant mothers take as well.

Miscellaneous pills
Various pills. Credit: Wikipedia

By Avery August
September 28, 2015

Scientists have warned for decades that the overuse of antibiotics leads to the development of drug-resistant bacteria, making it harder to fight infectious disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that drug resistant bacteria cause 23,000 deaths and two million illnesses each year.

But when we think of antibiotic overuse, we don't generally think of allergies. Research is beginning to suggest that maybe we should.

Allergies are getting more and more common

In the last two to three decades, immunologists and allergists have noted a dramatic increase in the prevalence of allergies. The American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology reports that some 40%-50% of schoolchildren worldwide are sensitized to one or more allergens. The most common of these are skin allergies such as eczema (10%-17%), respiratory allergies such as asthma and rhinitis (~10%), and food allergies such as those to peanuts (~8%).

This isn't just happening in the US. Other industrialized countries have seen increases as well.

This rise has mirrored the increased use of antibiotics, particularly in children for common viral infections such as colds and sore throats. Recent studies show that they may be connected.

Antibiotics can disrupt the gut microbiome

Why would antibiotics, which we use to fight harmful bacteria, wind up making someone more susceptible to an allergy? While antibiotics fight infections, they also reduce the normal bacteria in our gastrointestinal system, the so-called gut microbiome.

Because of the interplay between gut bacteria and the normal equilibrium of cells of the immune system, the gut microbiome plays an important role in the maturation of the immune response. When this interaction between bacteria and immune cells does not happen, the immune system responds inappropriately to innocuous substances such as food or components of dust. This can result in the development of potentially fatal allergies.

Exposure to the microbes at an early age is important for full maturation of our immune systems. Reducing those microbes may make us feel cleaner, but our immune systems may suffer.

Do more microbes mean fewer allergies?

Research done in Europe has shown that children who grow up on farms have a wider diversity of microbes in their gut, and have up to 70% reduced prevalence of allergies and asthma compared to children who did not grow up on farms. This is because exposure to such a wide range of microbes allows our immune systems to undergo balanced maturation, thus providing protection against inappropriate immune responses.

In our attempts to prevent infections, we may be setting the stage for our children to developing life-threatening allergies and asthma.

For instance, a study from 2005 found that infants exposed to antibiotics in the first 4-6 months have a 1.3- to 5-fold higher risk of developing allergy. And infants with reduced bacterial diversity, which can occur with antibiotic use, have increased risk of developing eczema.

And it's not the just the antibiotics kids take that can make a difference. It's also the antibiotics their mothers take. The Copenhagen Prospective Study on Asthma in Childhood Cohort, a major longitudinal study of infants born to asthmatic mothers in Denmark, reported that children whose mothers took antibiotics during pregnancy were almost twice as likely to develop asthma compared to children whose mothers did not take antibiotics during pregnancy.

Finally, in mice studies, offspring of mice treated with antibiotics were shown to have an increased likelihood of developing allergies and asthma.

Why are antibiotics overused?

Physicians and patients know that overusing antibiotics can cause big problems. It seems that a relatively small number of physicians are driving over prescription of antibiotics. A recent study of physician prescribing practices reported that 10% of physicians prescribed antibiotics to 95% of their patients with upper respiratory tract infections.

Health care professionals should not only be concerned about the development of antibiotic resistance, but also the fact that we may be creating another health problem in our patients, and possibly in their children too.

Parents should think carefully about asking physicians for antibiotics in an attempt to treat their children's common colds and sore throats (or their own), which are often caused by viral infections that don't respond to them anyway. And doctors should think twice about prescribing antibiotics to treat these illnesses, too.

As we develop new antibiotics, we need to address overuse

As resistant bacteria become a greater problem, we desperately need to develop new antibiotics. The development process for a new antibiotic takes a considerable amount of time (up to 10 years), and drug companies have previously neglected this area of drug development.

Congress has recognized that antibiotic overuse is a major problem and recently passed the 21st Century Cures bill. This bill includes provisions that would create payment incentives from Medicare for hospitals that use new antibiotics.

But this approach would have the perverse effect of increasing the use of any new antibiotics in our arsenal without regard for whether bacterial resistance has developed. This would not only exacerbate the problem of resistance, but potentially lead to more people developing allergies.

Congress should consider more than just supporting increased development of new antibiotics, but also address the core problem of overuse.

This may stave off the further development of antibiotic resistant bacteria and reduce the trend of increasing development of allergies.

First Halloween with Food Allergies

First Halloween with Food Allergies: Parent Intuition Trumps All

A Switch Witch! Why didn’t we think of that? Read about one mother’s solution to ensure her son only has access to Halloween candy she knows is safe.

Halloween Candy with Label Warning

By poetologie
October 2nd, 2015

So it’s our first Halloween since our 4 year old son was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies.

We love Halloween, and always will, but this year is different.  There is so much more at stake.  There is so much more to think about.

A holiday that once brought total joy, now brings a certain amount of fright.

I will become the Bride of Frankenstein on steroids as I try to protect my son this year:

Bride Of Frankenstein

Deciding whether or not to allow your child with food allergies to continue to trick or treat is a personal choice.  One not to be taken lightly.  Food Allergy Parents will have many questions such as:

  • Will the safe candy we receive be cross contaminated?
  • Will my child eat any unsafe candy while I’m not looking?
  • Should my child wear gloves?
  • Should we only accept non-candy goodies?
  • Will we see any teal pumpkins, as part of the Teal Pumpkin Project?
  • When should I switch out the unsafe candy for safe candy?
  • Is the Switch Witch real?  Does she hang out with the Elf on the Shelf?
  • Is trick or treating really worth the risk?

This year we have decided to take the risk, with many precautions such as switching out his collected candy with pre-selected candy.  This pre-selected candy will be allergen free, and will combine safe treats we find at local stores such as Whoppers, Smarties, Dum Dum lollipops, Charleston Chews, and items we will order from Vermont Nut Free Candy Company.  We will also include some non-candy treats.

We want to try to let our son have as normal a childhood as possible, despite his food allergies.  He may act like a purple minion during a tantrum, but he deserves to have fun:

Author's son Dressed As Super Mario

He will be dressed as Super Mario, and his sister will be dressed as Luigi.  I can’t wait to see them together!  He will wear gloves, and learn to conquer Halloween with food allergies.  He will be powered up with the love, strength, and education we are providing him with:

Power Up Against Food Allergies logo

And we hope he has a wonderful and safe Halloween this year.  I wish that for all of your children too.

As parents we have to trust our gut instincts as we make many decisions, big and small.

We may decide to continue the tradition of trick or treating, or not.

We may decide to host a house party instead.

We may decide to do start a new tradition on October 31st.

And whatever we decide is okay, because we are good enough and we are smart enough to make those decisions:

Frightened Actor Looking In Mirror

There are many dangers lurking out there, too many to count:

Scene From Old Frankenstein Movie

We must weigh the risks, and do our best.

We may lose some sleep as we ponder certain decisions.

That is because we love our little ghosts, ghouls & goblins more than anything.

We would sleep in a cabin at Camp Crystal Lake for them, we would battle Freddy in our dreams for them, we would fight Michael Myers better than Jamie Lee Curtis ever could for them:

Horror Scene: Face Behind Woman With Knife

We will learn to trust our instincts.

We will use our intuition as awesome food allergy parents!

Because we know that parent intuition trumps all…..

Movie Scene: Parent Putting 2 Kids To Bed

Nuts About My Son

Poetologie

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