About Me

Note from Maria: I am a Registered Dietitian with a Master of Public Health Degree in Nutrition from UNC at Chapel Hill. I have a passion for helping people with nutrition & wellness, especially moms. Women & moms provide care for everyone else often at the expense of considering their own needs. I hope to provide good resources to you to help you make nutrition and wellness a priority.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Food Allergy Awareness Week

Food allergy awareness is a topic near and dear to my heart. My sweet 9 year old daughter unfortunately is allergic to peanuts. I learned of this when she was 16 months old when I gave her a granola bar with peanut butter. She had an awful reaction and I gave her benadryl. I was not a Dietitian at the time, but I did have a BS degree in Food Science and still did not realize how serious it was. I should have brought her to the Emergency Room, we were very lucky that it didn't affect her breathing and that the benadryl worked. She was diagnosed later that week with severe peanut allergy and mild egg allergy. She has since then grown out of the egg allergy but remains allergic to peanuts. If anyone ever has a severe reaction (also called anaphylaxis), call 911 and give an Epipen if it is available. Copied from the FARE website, here are the symptoms to look for:

Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis often begins within minutes after a person eats a problem food. Less commonly, symptoms may begin hours later. About 25 percent of patients have a second wave of symptoms one to several hours after their initial symptoms have subsided. This is called biphasic anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis is highly likely to be occurring when any ONE of the following happens within minutes to hours after ingestion of the food allergen:

1.  A person has symptoms that involve the skin, nose, mouth or gastrointestinal tract and either:

Difficulty breathing, or
Reduced blood pressure (e.g., pale, weak pulse, confusion, loss of consciousness)
2.  A person was exposed to a suspected allergen, and two or more of the following occur:

Skin symptoms or swollen lips
Difficulty breathing
Reduced blood pressure
Gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., vomiting, diarrhea, or cramping)
3. A person was exposed to a known allergen, and experiences:

Reduced blood pressure, leading to weakness or fainting

Here are other things I have learned/tips:
  • Do NOT hesitate to give an Epipen!!  Administering the shot when a person doesn't need it will literally give them a rush of adrenaline and it is extremely unlikely to cause any harm. However, delaying or skipping the shot is the cause of death in most people with allergic reactions. 
  • Always go to the ER if you have a severe reaction, even if your medicine is helping. Sometimes you can have a second very severe reaction after the medication. 
  • Peanut/nut and fish/shellfish allergies are unpredictable, you may have a mild reaction once and a very severe one the next time. So you cannot assume you will always have mild reactions if you are allergic to either of these. Food allergies to dairy and egg are consistent. If you have a mild reaction the first time, that is typically the type of reaction you will always have. 
  • It can be unbelievably stressful when small children are first diagnosed with food allergies. It is very sad when you learn that your child can die from a food that most other children eat all the time. It is also very worrisome in small children that put everything in their mouths and are likely to pick up/take food from anyone/anywhere. 
  • Make sure your medications are not expired. If you figure out your meds are expired at the time of a reaction, using them is more than likely better that not giving them at all. 
  • You can ask your MD to prescribe 6 or 8 Epipens at a time. This allows you to pay one copay and get multiple sets. This gives you the ability to have sets in multiple locations such as at home, at school, at a caregivers house, one for your purse, etc. 
  • Food manufacturers are required to list the 8 top allergens clearly on the ingredient label. They DO NOT have to disclose if the products are made on the same line or facility as other allergens. Most large food companies do disclose this but if you are not sure call and ask. Eating whole foods is much easier to navigate than eating processed foods. (Whole foods are generally much better for you anyway.)
  • Joining a support group is invaluable when you have a child which is first diagnosed. They can help you figure out what you can/can consume and offer tremendous emotional support. Our local support group in the Raleigh, NC area is such as NC Faces, here is a link to their webpage:   http://www.ncfaces.org/
  • The national organization which promotes awareness and research is FARE. Here is a link to their website with many resources: http://www.foodallergy.org/home
  • Don't go anywhere without your medication/Epipens.
    I found my daughter an awesome little belt with a stretchable pouch that she can wear when she doesn't want to carry a purse. It is called a SPIbelt. They have lots of colors and patterns. We ordered this adult sized peace sign belt and it is perfect. Here is their website.  http://www.spibelt.com/products/spibelt

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