Back To School With Food Allergies

It pains me to write a post for back to school when it is still July, and we have about five more weeks of summer left here in Texas. But, as most of you already know, there is much to do in advance of that first day of school…especially when your child has food allergies.

Below is a compilation of information on back to school forms, school and food allergies, prescriptions, lunches, and even allergy literature for kids!

Please be sure to use the social media buttons below to share on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

What are some of your tried and true back to school tips for parents of children with food allergies?  Please share them below in the comments section!

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Here are a few back to school posts (oldies but goodies) that I refer to at the beginning of every school year.

-Getting Your Forms In Order

-Food In The Classroom

-School and Food Allergy Basics

 

Filling Prescriptions For The New School Year

Need your EpiPen refilled and already dreading back to school expenses?  Don’t miss this offer for the EpiPen.

Epi $0 CopayWhat’s For Lunch?

Need lunch ideas for your child’s lunchbox?  Check out some of these fantastic recipes from guest blogger, Tracy from Sugarcrafter.

Courtesy of Tracy at Sugarcrafter

Courtesy of Tracy at Sugarcrafter

 

Educating Children About Food Allergies

Looking for a great book about food allergies to give your child’s classroom?  Check out Stephanie Sorkin’s Book, Nutley the Nut-Free Squirrel.

Food Allergy Awareness Week Part 3: “Don’t Scare.”

Happy Food Allergy Awareness Week!  It starts May 11th and goes all week long!

I’ve been contemplating my posts for this week for quite some time.  What issues should I cover?  Who should I reach out to?  How can I positively raise awareness for food allergies?

Finally, my husband and I worked together and came up with the following slogan for this week’s posts:  “Be Aware.  Be Prepared.  Don’t Scare.”   It’s short, sweet, and covers just about everything.

For information on how to “Be Aware” and “Be Prepared” please take a few minutes to read my previous posts.

For this final Food Allergy Awareness Week post, let’s focus on how we, “Don’t Scare.”

I’m going to come clean here, this post is one that is so very near and dear to my heart.  And this is why.  I’m going to say something wildly unpopular and controversial here…so you might want to sit down.

I don’t think bullying is something only between children with and without food allergies.  I think as food allergy caregivers we sometimes unintentionally bully each other.  We can scare each other into wrongfully thinking that if I don’t follow your way, or vice versa, we are not doing our best.  Making someone think that they aren’t doing everything they can to protect their loved ones from food allergies…that IS scary and heartbreaking!

Let me clarify.  At some point, we are all guilty of thinking “our” way (whatever way that may be) is the best way to handle the food allergy life.  And although it may very well be the way that works best for OUR family and OUR diagnosis, it doesn’t make it the best for ALL food allergy families.  Just because it’s not my way or your way, it doesn’t make it wrong.  It just makes it different.  Because out of the whole food allergy community and even this great big world, not any two of us are exactly alike.

As a whole, I think every caregiver’s goal is to keep their loved ones safe and happy.  It is possible to impart the seriousness of having a life-threatening food allergy to others without making them feel threatened.  For example, think of how it would feel to be caring for a child with a diagnosis you knew nothing about.  Would you want their caregiver to calmly and carefully walk you through caring for their child or instill in you a fear so great, you feel too immobilized by panic to act?

It is my own personal experience that living in constant fear is really no life at all.  Living in a constant state of awareness and vigilance is absolutely necessary.  Fear doesn’t have to be.  In the beginning of my son’s diagnosis, I was so immobilized by fear that I made myself and those around me sick with worry.  It is not a stage of my journey I recall fondly, yet going through it is what eventually bridged the gap to where I am today.  Almost ten years into our family’s food allergy journey: I am educated (but continuing to learn new things every day), I am responsible, and I rely heavily on my faith.

I don’t have my head stuck in the sand.  I realize it won’t always be a perfect life.  But all of these things combined, give me and my family the peace we need to live a positive, common-sense approach to the daily food allergy life…one day at a time.

Courtesy of FARE

Courtesy of FARE

Here are some of the “Don’t Scare” techniques we employ in my family:

-Literature for kids:  “Nutley, the Nut-Free Squirrel”  by Stephanie Sorkin is a wonderful picture book for young children learning about food allergies.  It can also be used as a learning tool in peer groups.

Nutley

-Literature for caregivers:  My favorite food allergy book for caregivers of all time is The Food Allergy Experience by Dr. Ruchi Gupta.  It is not a book of here is what you should do and here is what not to do.  It is simply a wonderful compilation of quotes from parents from various places on the food allergy spectrum.  No one is condemned or hailed superior.  It is a way for caregivers to see the many different sides of living with food allergies.  Personally, I found myself in many of the quotes…each at a different stage in my family’s own food allergy journey.  I absolutely love this book!

-Fundraising:  Participating in the annual FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) Walk is tradition for my family and I!  (If you want to support us, click here.)  It began as a way to find camaraderie…to find others that knew the same struggles my family struggled with on a day to day basis.  Then it morphed into a wonderful opportunity to learn about medical and grocery vendors serving the food allergy community.  Now, we walk every single year for the opportunity to meet new friends, find new products and services, and raise money for a cure!  There are FARE Walks happening throughout the year all across the nation.  To find the event nearest you, click here.

-Support Groups:  It is crucial to find credible online and in-person support groups.  Even more important is to find positive and credible support groups.  Case in point, I once joined a local support group thinking it would be just the thing to get me thinking positively.  Do you know that when I left, all I heard was an earful about how hard life would be from this moment forward?  Ugh.  NOT what I was looking for.  Several of my favorite uplifting blogs to follow are:  Mom vs. Food Allergy, Keeley McGuire, and Dr. Ruchi Gupta.

-Thanks:  Thank those around you who work so hard to keep your loved one safe from allergens.  Thank your teachers, nurses, restaurant servers, Sunday School teachers, doctors, allergists, family, and friends for giving of themselves to protect another.

Courtesy of AAFA and KFA

Courtesy of AAFA and KFA

Thank YOU for all you are doing to raise food allergy awareness and serve the food allergy community!  Smile on, friends!

Food Allergy Awareness Week: Be Prepared.

Happy Food Allergy Awareness Week!  It starts May 11th and goes all week long!

Courtesy of Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE)

Courtesy of Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE)

I’ve been contemplating my posts for this week for quite some time.  What issues should I cover?  Who should I reach out to?  How can I positively raise awareness for food allergies?

Finally, my husband and I worked together and came up with the following slogan for this week’s posts:  “Be Aware.  Be Prepared.  Don’t Scare.”   It’s short, sweet, and covers just about everything.

For information on how to “Be Aware,” please take a few minutes to read my previous post.

Today, let’s focus on how we can “Be Prepared.”

In my opinion, it is critical for those with and without food allergies to be prepared.  The number of individuals diagnosed with food allergies is on the rise and it is imperative that we, as a community, know how to educate, protect, and take action.

If you or someone you know has food allergies, here are some great tips on being prepared:

Medication and Emergency Forms

  • ALWAYS carry your prescribed epinephrine autoinjector (and antihistamine medicine your allergist prescribes you).  Always check for money-saving coupons like these for the EpiPen and Auvi-Q.
  • Register your medications online (if they offer that service).  EpiPen will allow you to register your epinephrine injector and set a reminder for when you need to refill the subscription.  This is especially handy for those prescriptions sent off to school.
  • Download the EpiPen app available on iTunes.  The app provides a short video demonstration of how to administer an adrenaline auto injector, a picture-based user guide to walk you through the administration of the auto injector, and multiple allergy profiles complete with offending allergens and symptoms that may indicate an allergic emergency.  My favorite part of the app is that it allows you to share the allergy profiles you create with anyone via email.  This means you can email it to grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters, teachers, soccer coaches, and everyone in between.
  • Download and print the new Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan from FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) here.  Don’t forget to include a color picture!  I usually make several copies at the beginning of the school year and give two to each of my child’s teachers:  one for them and one for their sub folder.  I also provide one to the school nurse.
  • Store your epinephrine wisely and accessibly.  My son carries his EpiPen via the SPIbelt, an amazing product that works beautifully for him and is very durable.
  • Consider a medical ID bracelet.  My son has a medical bracelet we purchased from Survival Straps and we have been extremely happy with it.

Food

  • ALWAYS read and reread labels.  It is not uncommon for a company to change their ingredients or the labeling of their ingredients.  Need help learning how to read labels?  Read this document from FARE to brush up.
  • Bake and freeze.  The freezer is my friend…and it should be yours too.  I bake safe versions of cookies, breads, and even casseroles and then freeze so there are safe foods available at a moment’s notice.  It comes especially in handy when mom is sick, because all dad has to do is warm and serve.
  • Consider purchasing allergy cards such as these from FARE to help you and others identify potential allergens when grocery shopping and dining out.  I keep these in my wallet and find them extremely helpful!
  • Plan ahead.  Whether you are going out to eat, to visit relatives in the next town over, or on a vacation half way across the country…make sure you research and plan ahead of time.  It will make traveling so much easier and more pleasant.  (Check out some of our great vacation posts on this blog.)

My last post, and possibly my favorite, in this series will be posted Thursday night or Friday morning.  This post will focus on the “Don’t Scare” component of our food allergy awareness week slogan.  So don’t forget to tune in…

And don’t forget to share this post with someone for Food Allergy Awareness Week!

 

Food Allergy Awareness Week: Be Aware. Be Prepared. Don’t Scare.

Happy Food Allergy Awareness Week!  It starts May 11th and goes all week long!

Courtesy of Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE)

Courtesy of Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE)

I’ve been contemplating my posts for this week for quite some time.  What issues should I cover?  Who should I reach out to?  How can I positively raise awareness for food allergies?

Finally, my husband and I worked together and came up with the following slogan for this week’s posts:  “Be Aware.  Be Prepared.  Don’t Scare.”   It’s short, sweet, and covers just about everything.

For today, let’s focus on how we as a community can, “Be Aware.”

When I think of raising awareness for anything, I think the key is to do so in a positive way.  Let me say that again, because I think it is absolutely worth repeating.  When I think of raising awareness for anything, I think the key is to do so in a positive way.

Being positive doesn’t diminish your message or take away from it’s importance.  In fact, in most cases, it increases reception with your audience and, at times, can establish a motivation for their involvement in the cause.

As we begin food allergy awareness week, remember that you are acting as a face and voice for the food allergy community.   We want to communicate the definition of food allergies and anaphylaxis.  We must communicate the life-threatening seriousness of food allergies.  We need to communicate thanks for all that is already being done to help those that make up the food allergy community.

Whether you have food allergies or not, here are some ways you can help create food allergy awareness this week:

  • Wear the color teal today and all week long.  It is the official color of ribbon worn for Food Allergy Awareness Week.  If someone asks you about it, take that opportunity to share why you are wearing teal.
  • Use social media like Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter to share this post (see the share buttons below this post).
  • Use social media to share a food allergy fact every day.  Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) has some great suggestions for Twitter and Facebook here.
  • Read and then share Kids with Food Allergies’ (KFA) informational graphic titled, “Children With Food Allergies: What Parents Need to Know.”

Especially if you have a family member with food allergies, consider these additional ways to raise food allergy awareness this week:

  • Join FARE’s Twitter Party on Monday, May 12th at 3:30pm, ET by following @FoodAllergy and #FAREChat.  With members of FARE staff moderating, Ruchi Gupta, MD, PhD and Wayne Shreffler, MD, PhD will answer questions submitted by parents or individuals with food allergies, or anyone else interested in the topic.
  • Post a note of thanks (which you can find at here courtesy of KFA) on social media.  It is a fantastic way to positively raise awareness.  Thank you is always nice to hear!
  • Thank a friend, teacher, nurse, doctor, or family member for all they do to keep your family member healthy and safe!

What will you do to make a difference and positively raise awareness for food allergies this week?  Have a great idea that others might benefit from duplicating?  Be sure to share it here!

World Asthma Day Is Today

Today is World Asthma Day!  Take a few minutes to read this post because chances are, if you don’t have asthma, you DO know someone who does.

So, what is asthma?  According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), “Asthma is a disease of the lungs in which the airways become blocked or narrowed causing breathing difficulty.”

Still think the asthma issue isn’t applicable to you?  Maybe you don’t know your family, friends, and co-workers as well as you think you do.  According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), “About 1 in 10 children had asthma and 1 in 12 adults had asthma in 2009.”

And asthma appears to be on the rise.  According to Talisa White, AAFA External Affairs Manager, on average, nationwide, between 2001 and 2010, asthma prevalence increased from 7.3% to 8.4%, an increase of over 4.3 million new cases.

I used to think asthma didn’t apply to me.  I’m not proud of it, but I’m willing to admit it so that it will resonate with someone out there reading this.  Then my son was born, and everything changed in what felt like heartbeat.  For the last ten years, he has battled asthma and together we have learned far more about nebulizers, inhalers, steroids, and so on than we ever knew possible.  And, for the most part, we’ve done it with a smile…determined not to let this chronic disease define us.

So on this World Asthma Day, take 60 seconds to do one (or all) of the below and show someone else with asthma that when you are educated about this disease, it loses its power to define you!

Thank you!

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A special thanks goes out to Mike Tringale, SVP External Affairs AAFA, and Talisa White, AAFA External Affairs Manager, for letting me share the below press release and all that they do to support the asthma and allergy communities!

CITIES THAT TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY

Courtesy of AAFA

Courtesy of AAFA

New List of 100 Most Challenging Places to Live with Asthma Highlights the Burden Nationwide, and it’s not Just About Air Quality

World Asthma Day comes in May when everyone wants to be outdoors enjoying the breathtaking sights, sounds and smells of springtime. But for the 25 million Americans with asthma, breathtaking is what they’re trying to avoid.

The national burden of asthma costs Americans over $50 billion per year in healthcare expenses, missed school and work days, and death. With asthma rates continuing to climb – now over 8% of the U.S. population – the burden of asthma on our cities is also growing. But it’s not just about asthma prevalence and air quality.

For the 11th year in a row, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) released its Asthma Capitals report, ranking the 100 most challenging cities to live in with asthma. The annual study is the most comprehensive nationwide longitudinal analysis of metro area asthma data for the largest cities in the U.S. AAFA looks at 13 critical factors regarding asthma prevalence, environmental conditions and healthcare utilization. No place is completely safe from asthma, and AAFA’s report shows that where you live can make a difference on exposure to asthma triggers, quality of life, costs and access to care.

Richmond, VA, is in the number one spot for the second year in a row. Memphis, TN, came in at #2, followed by #3 McAllen, TX, #4 Oklahoma City, OK, and #5 Philadelphia, PA. The ranking assesses factors such as asthma prevalence, morbidity and mortality, local smoking laws, air quality, pollen counts, number of asthma specialists, medication use and the number of emergency room (ER) visits for asthma. Richmond’s final score based on all factors contributed to its top ranking again this year. To see the ranking methodology and details for all 100 cities visit www.AsthmaCapitals.com.

Severe asthma patient Kenny Beyer has lived with asthma his entire life and understands the risks. “I have been hospitalized 24 times in the past 7 years, and admitted to the intensive care unit 8 times,” says Beyer. “I felt like I had to live in a bubble so I wouldn’t have an asthma attack.”

“There are many things that we can improve now to make life better for people with asthma,” says AAFA spokesperson and asthma patient, Talisa White. “Some patients have a hard time avoiding their triggers, others just don’t take daily medications like they should or they don’t have access to proper asthma care and education,” says White. “Our Asthma Capitals report helps to shed light on the asthma burden in each city, but it also provides a roadmap for improvements.”

New Top 25 Asthma Capitals™ (To see the full report visit www.AsthmaCapitals.com)

1 Richmond, VA
2 Memphis, TN
3 McAllen, TX
4 Oklahoma City, OK
5 Philadelphia, PA
6 Chattanooga, TN
7 Fresno, CA
8 Tulsa, OK
9 Chicago, IL
10 Detroit, MI
11 New Haven, CT
12 Allentown, PA
13 Atlanta, GA
14 Augusta, GA
15 Pittsburgh, PA
16 Louisville, KY
17 Bakersfield, CA
18 Springfield, MA
19 Milwaukee, WI
20 Jacksonville, FL
21 Dayton, OH
22 New Orleans, LA
23 Cleveland, OH
24 Stockton, CA
25 Toledo, OH

 

Gerbs Allergen-Free Granola: Product Review

Granola.  It and my family have a love-hate relationship.  We love granola and hate that we can’t find a safe and tasty granola all of us can enjoy.  I am gluten-free and my son is peanut and nut-free (also chickpea and sesame free).  As most of you already know, it’s not easy to find a granola that meets all of these dietary requirements.

Until I found Gerbs.

IMG_3633The blurry photo is so attractive, I know.  But that’s what happens when you are trying to take a picture and hold the family back from early taste testing.

The company is family-owned and operated and owns all of their own machinery.  Because of this, they are able to guarantee every product they sell is made from all-natural ingredients and is free from the top 8 major recognized allergens:  gluten, peanut, tree nut, soy, dairy, milk, egg, sesame, shellfish, and crustacean.

That “free-from” list is enough to impress all on its own.  Still, I was skeptical because I haven’t found a granola yet that is free from the top 8 allergens that doesn’t taste like a clump of sawdust.

Despite my skepticism, we ripped this package right open when it arrived.  Hope lives eternal, I suppose!

And thank goodness for that…because Gerbs granola is a total WINNER!  The granola has a great rich, crunchy texture with just a hint of sweetness.  We received the Original Blend Granola which is composed of roasted oats, roasted sunflower seed kernels, sunflower oil, honey, roasted pumpkin seeds, and roasted brown flax-seed.  It was fabulous!

We are nearing the end of our bag which makes me a little sad, but we have put it to excellent use!  So far, we’ve used the granola on cereal, mixed with yogurt, and mixed into cookie dough.   Every single combination experiment was a hit!

Liking what you are hearing about an allergy-friendly granola?  Well there’s more!  Gerbs also produces seeds, salad fixings, snack mix, oats, flours, rice, crackers, pretzels, and a whole host of other allergy-friendly goodies.

Bottom Line:  This is the best gluten, peanut, nut, and sesame free granola I have found on the market to date and imagine I will be a repeat customer.  I love that the company is so allergen-friendly and takes great pride in their products!  Thank you, Gerbs!

Touch of Sea Salt Pumpkin Seed Kernels
Light Sea Salt Whole Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Sunflower Kernels Lightly Sea SaltedSalad Fixin’s:

Cape Cod Antioxidant Mix
SuperSeeds Mix
Cracker Crunch Mix

Snack Mix Collection:

Crunch Monkey
Sweet & Salty
SuperFruits

Granola’s:

Original Blend
Cranberry Harvest
Banana Dark Chocolate

, but please check out our online ordering page, you will see we have over 12 flavors available for sale in Whole & Kernel Pumpkin & Sunflower Seeds, plus we offer:

Flax Seeds
Hemp Seed Kernels
Whole Hemp Seeds
Raw Black Chia Seeds
Dried Blueberries
Dried Cranberries
California Raisins
Cherries
Goji Berries
Banana Chips
Pumpkin Butter
Sunflower Butter
Hemp Butter
Granola Collections
Salad Toppers/Fixin’s
Snack Mixes
Seed Meals/Powders – See more at: http://www.mygerbs.com/about-us/default.aspx#sthash.JPircPgn.dp

Our top priorities are customer satisfaction and taste. We accomplish this by using only the finest all-natural ingredients to deliver you a delicious snack that’s both healthy and fun to eat. Gerbs are high in fiber, packed with protein, and naturally low in carbohydrates. As well Gerbs seasoned lines are dry roasted without any added cooking oil, and packaged on our dedicated equipment in our facility by our caring staff, ensuring your Gerbs are as fresh as the day they were roasted! Another benefit of owning our own equipment, is we guarantee each product we sell is free from the 8 major recognized allergen’s: gluten free, peanut free, tree nut free, soy free, dairy free, milk free, egg free, sesame free, shellfish free, and crustacean free! – See more at: http://www.mygerbs.com/about-us/default.aspx#sthash.JPircPgn.dpuf
Our top priorities are customer satisfaction and taste. We accomplish this by using only the finest all-natural ingredients to deliver you a delicious snack that’s both healthy and fun to eat. Gerbs are high in fiber, packed with protein, and naturally low in carbohydrates. As well Gerbs seasoned lines are dry roasted without any added cooking oil, and packaged on our dedicated equipment in our facility by our caring staff, ensuring your Gerbs are as fresh as the day they were roasted! Another benefit of owning our own equipment, is we guarantee each product we sell is free from the 8 major recognized allergen’s: gluten free, peanut free, tree nut free, soy free, dairy free, milk free, egg free, sesame free, shellfish free, and crustacean free! – See more at: http://www.mygerbs.com/about-us/default.aspx#sthash.JPircPgn.dpuf
Our top priorities are customer satisfaction and taste. We accomplish this by using only the finest all-natural ingredients to deliver you a delicious snack that’s both healthy and fun to eat. Gerbs are high in fiber, packed with protein, and naturally low in carbohydrates. As well Gerbs seasoned lines are dry roasted without any added cooking oil, and packaged on our dedicated equipment in our facility by our caring staff, ensuring your Gerbs are as fresh as the day they were roasted! Another benefit of owning our own equipment, is we guarantee each product we sell is free from the 8 major recognized allergen’s: gluten free, peanut free, tree nut free, soy free, dairy free, milk free, egg free, sesame free, shellfish free, and crustacean free! – See more at: http://www.mygerbs.com/about-us/default.aspx#sthash.JPircPgn.dp
Our top priorities are customer satisfaction and taste. We accomplish this by using only the finest all-natural ingredients to deliver you a delicious snack that’s both healthy and fun to eat.Gerbs are high in fiber, packed with protein, and naturally low in carbohydrates. AswellGerbs seasoned lines are dry roasted without any added cooking oil, and packaged on our dedicated equipment in our facility by our caring staff, ensuringyourGerbs are as fresh as the day they were roasted! Another benefit of owning our own equipment, is we guarantee each product we sell is free from the 8 major recognized allergen’s:gluten free, peanut free, tree nut free, soy free, dairy free, milk free, egg free, sesame free, shellfish free, and crustacean free! – See more at: http://www.mygerbs.com/about-us/default.aspx#sthash.JPircPgn.dpu

Our top priorities are customer satisfaction and taste. We accomplish this by using only the finest all-natural ingredients to deliver you a delicious snack that’s both healthy and fun to eat. Gerbs are high in fiber, packed with protein, and naturally low in carbohydrates. As well Gerbs seasoned lines are dry roasted without any added cooking oil, and packaged on our dedicated equipment in our facility by our caring staff, ensuring your Gerbs are as fresh as the day they were roasted! Another benefit of owning our own equipment, is we guarantee each product we sell is free from the 8 major recognized allergen’s: gluten free, peanut free, tree nut free, soy free, dairy free, milk free, egg free, sesame free, shellfish free, and crustacean free! – See more at: http://www.mygerbs.com/about-us/default.aspx#sthash.JPircPgn.dpuf

Mylan Specialty Listens To Food Allergy Moms

Do you ever feel like you are battling your family’s food allergies all alone?  Do you think that if only someone would listen, great ideas could be born?  Do you wonder who is taking care of you while you are taking care of your family?

This post is for you because Mylan listens!

Who is Mylan?

Mylan is one of the largest generics and specialty pharmaceutical companies in the world, manufacturing and marketing more than 1,300 different products to retail, wholesale, government and institutional customers.  They manufacture or market 1 out of every 11 prescriptions in the United States.

IMG_3651

What do they have to do with food allergies?

Mylan Specialty, a subsidiary of Mylan Inc., develops, manufactures and markets prescription drug products for life-threatening allergic reactions, more specifically, the EpiPen® (epinephrine) 0.3 mg and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine) 0.15 mg auto-injectors.

 

Why should I care?

Mylan Specialty has hosted three Blogger Summits for prominent mom bloggers in the food allergy community since January 2013.  A typical summit lasts a day and a half and is comprised of an average of 15 food allergy bloggers.  The agenda usually includes ground-breaking news on education, advocacy, and research.  The most amazing and inspiring part of the summit is when they open the floor to hear from mothers and bloggers who are on the front lines every day protecting our children and living the food allergy life.  And you know what?  Mylan actually LISTENS!

It’s a brilliant concept for a pharmaceutical company to spend money on listening to parents and caregivers in the food allergy community and then asking how they can help.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why more companies don’t do it.

2014 Mylan Blogger Summit  (Left to right: Homa Woodrum, Kelley Lindberg, Joanne LaSpina, Dr. Ruchi Gupta, Lisa Rutter, Colette Martin, Jenny Sprague, Keeley McGuire, Elizabeth DiBurro, Ruth LovettSmith, Kimberly Pellicore, Lindsey Steffensen, Kristen Rutter, Rachel Hayden, Tracy Bush)

2014 Mylan Blogger Summit (Left to right: Homa Woodrum, Kelley Lindberg, Joanne LaSpina, Dr. Ruchi Gupta, Lisa Rutter, Colette Martin, Jenny Sprague, Keeley McGuire, Elizabeth DiBurro, Ruth LovettSmith, Kimberly Pellicore, Lindsey Steffensen, Kristen Rutter, Rachel Hayden, Tracy Bush)

The group of food allergy moms gathered at the 2014 Mylan Blogger Summit were greeted by and introduced to none other than Tony Mauro, President of Mylan North America.  I’m guessing Tony’s day is filled with back-to-back appointments and meetings, but he took over an hour to sit in with some food allergy moms and hear about their children, their jobs, and their food allergy journeys.

Tony Mauro, Mylan

Tony Mauro, Mylan

While many of my blogger counterparts that attended the summit are renowned authors and activists, I am simply a mom who began this blog years ago because there was a need for a positive, common-sense approach to daily life with food allergies.  I’m not a book author.  I’m not a rock star.  I’m the mother of a child with food allergies doing the best I can for him, for me, and for my family every day.  And the President of Mylan North America wanted to hear all about it.

Mylan listens.

And last week when they were listening to me, they were really listening to you because I was simply the voice for everything all of you have and continue to share with me about your food allergy journeys.

 

What Can I Expect?

As you can guess from the above, Mylan was gracious enough to invite me back for the 2014 Mylan Blogger Summit.

IMG_3656

In the coming days, I will be posting some exciting things Mylan Specialty shared with me: information about education, advocacy, research and even the EpiPen®.  Be sure to stay tuned…

*In the interest of full disclosure, Mylan did pay for my flight and hotel accommodations.  However, I can tell you that the summit was provided as an educational service and I am not required to blog about or share any information I obtained while there.

 

**I disclose in any communication made by me about EpiPen® (epinephrine) Auto-Injector and/or the Mylan Specialty Blogger Summit that such communication is at my own discretion and based on my own opinion.  I also disclose that my travel expenses were compensated by Mylan Specialty in exchange for evaluation and feedback on information presented during the meeting.

 

AAFA Releases U.S. Spring Allergy Capitals™ Report

To say that winter has outlasted its welcome in much of the United States is an understatement, if judging by the complaints on social media.  I understand that even now, the first half of April, the northern half of our country is still experiencing snowfall!

Snow and Spring

Oddly enough, the extreme winter weather and cooler than normal temperatures have many Americans complaining of symptoms commonly related to the warmer allergy season.

The following is an excerpt from a recent press release from Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

“Nearly 45 million Americans are living with nasal allergies and 25 million have asthma,” says Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, Medical Director of Allergy and Asthma Care of NY and an Ambassador for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). “Allergy and asthma patients already have a chronic sensitivity to things like pollen, mold and other airborne allergens, but they can also be more susceptible to rapid changes in temperature, moisture and air quality,” says Bassett. “A blending of the winter and spring means these patients are at risk of multiple symptoms simultaneously.”

This fickle combination of spring and winter meteorological phenomena and extreme precipitation means an increased presence of mold in areas affected by all this moisture as well as intermittent tree pollination, all of which can trigger allergic reactions. “No matter what time of the year it is, and no matter what Mother Nature sends our way, people with allergies need to be prepared and proactive to avoid allergy misery,” says Dr. Bassett. “Now we have the ability to prevent symptoms before they even occur, but patients have to take the first step to visit their doctors and to get ahead of their disease.”

One readily available resource in getting ahead of environmental allergies is AAFA’s recently released Spring Allergy Capitals™ report.  The study ranks the 100 most challenging cities to live in with allergies in the United States. “It’s the 12th year for this report, and it’s a reminder that, no matter where you live or what the outdoor conditions are, people need to take allergies seriously and have a treatment plan,” says Mike Tringale, AAFA’s Senior Vice President for External Affairs.

Curious about the top allergy offenders?  The below Top 20 list is courtesy of AAFA.  Want more information on how your city and/or state ranks?  Visit the complete findings here.

Top-20:  The 2014 Spring Allergy Capitals™ (Full List of 100 Cities at www.AllergyCapitals.com)

2014 Rank  Last Year’s Rank  

Metro Area

 

Total Score
1 5 Louisville, KY 100.00
2 8 Memphis, TN 97.10
3 10 Baton Rouge, LA 91.93
4 9 Oklahoma City, OK 91.19
5 1 Jackson, MS 90.61
6 3 Chattanooga, TN 90.18
7 23 Dallas, TX 88.82
8 22 Richmond, VA 88.68
9 14 Birmingham, AL 87.71
10 4 McAllen, TX 87.61
11 7 Dayton, OH 86.52
12 6 Wichita, KS 85.47
13 43 New York, NY 85.46
14 34 Columbia, SC 84.96
15 24 San Antonio, TX 83.63
16 2 Knoxville, TN 82.80
17 16 Providence, RI 81.69
18 13 New Orleans, LA 80.99
19 21 Tulsa, OK 79.68
20 31 St. Louis, MO 79.50

Many thanks to Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) and Mike Tringale for the above information and for their express permission to share it with you!

Wellapets: A Must For Children With Asthma!

Asthma can be difficult to deal with at any age, but it can be especially challenging for young children trying to grasp how the diagnosis translates into daily life.

Alex Ryu, Co-Founder and CEO of LifeGuard Games, Inc., has risen to the challenge by creating the Wellapets app. “Wellapets focuses on teaching and motivating kids around the 3 educational objectives of correct asthma management, as described by our pediatrician advisor:  1) Correct inhaler technique and timing  2) Trigger avoidance and 3) Symptom recognition.”

Courtesy of Wellapets

Courtesy of Wellapets

Sounds great in concept, but why educate with a game?  According to the Wellapets website, “In studies involving kids ages 6-11, studies have shown that educational games can help kids understand their health and treatment, feel confident about managing their health, and stay well. In these studies, kids more often took their medication when they were supposed to and had as many as 70% fewer flare-ups.”

My son was diagnosed with asthma almost ten years ago and is still battling it today.  So rather than playing the game myself as an adult, I thought it might be more appropriate to have my ten-year-old review it since it is for his intended age group.

I looked on as he played and will admit that at first, I was not sure what to do.  Sadly, I believe that is a personal issue more than an app issue.  My son dove into the game and immediately understood what to do with the help of pop-up directions.  I may or may not have dragged out the iPad after he went to bed so that I could do a little catching up.  :)

Courtesy of Wellapets

Courtesy of Wellapets

In this app, the player helps his Wellapet (ours looked like a baby dragon) conquer his asthma by administering a virtual inhaler (great for inhaler demonstration), practices how to take care of their Wellapet (great for learning proper nutrition and other ways to care for the body), and learns how to create and use an asthma action plan.  Each of these concepts are achieved through a series of mini-games.

According to Ryu, “The app uses virtual pets to convey health concepts and engage kids and provide a relatable character that shares kids’ health conditions, thereby alleviating the stigma that many kids experience.  Finally, Wellapets also incorporates a soft limit on screen time while still encouraging regular play, by only refreshing missions twice per day, corresponding to when kids should be taking their maintenance inhaler.”

Courtesy of Wellapets

Courtesy of Wellapets

I have to say, thinking back on the days when my son was younger, I think the concept of timing missions so that they coincide with treatments is pure genius.  If a young child is going to have to do his inhaler, maybe he can help give his Wellapet the inhaler at the same time.

Although currently, Wellapets features the asthma app only, in subsequent releases, it will feature apps for food allergy, as well as other conditions. Existing apps will be updated with fresh new content to help keep children engaged.

Wellapets3

Bottom Line:  I absolutely recommend this game for children who have asthma!  It is a positive way to reinforce the ABCs of asthma treatment in a fun, non-threatening way.  As a parent, I wish I’d had access to something like this when my son was diagnosed because it can be just as informative and educational for parents new to asthma as it can be for children.

Thank you, Alex Ryu and LifeGuard Games, Inc., for making it fun for parents and children to learn how to manage asthma.  I can’t wait to see the food allergy app!

Cotton Patch Cafe: A Restaurant Review

A very dear friend of mine recently got married and that meant a rare road trip for just me and the hubby.  And I do mean rare….

After a delightful six-hour road trip (and no that’s not sarcasm…we had a fabulous visit) up to Wichita Falls for the wedding, we dined at Cotton Patch Cafe.  We first ate here at this exact location a year or two ago on a different road trip, and had such a wonderful experience.

With some advance research, my son (peanut and nut allergic) and myself (gluten-free) were able to eat safely here and had fabulous service.  I really can’t say enough wonderful things about this establishment.  However, for the purpose of this review, I will focus on my own experience from this month when I dined at the Wichita Falls Cotton Patch.

When we pass through small towns on a road trip, the food isn’t something I really want to get carried away with.  While I am usually able to find something safe to eat, I prefer to save my calories for a nice sit-down dinner when we reach our final destination for the day.

So when we finally arrived at Cotton Patch I was starved and ready for a nice meal.  Both the hostess and the waiter were very knowledgeable about food allergies and already had a gluten-free  menu available.  (They have several allergy-friendly menus available upon request.)  I had plenty of choices, but opted for the sirloin steak and loaded baked potato with steamed veggies.  Doesn’t it sound fabulous?  The steak was cooked to perfection as was the rest of my meal and the staff came and check on me periodically to make sure everything was satisfactory.

Dinner at the Cotton Patch where we usually stop on our way up to COMy hubby in front of Cotton Patch Cafe in Wichita Falls, Texas

Bottom Line:  Cotton Patch Cafe is a dining establishment that my family and I will continue to seek out when traveling because of their amazing customer services and attention to special dietary needs.  I give this restaurant an A+!  Thank you Cotton Patch!