FARE Weighs In On Food Allergy Awareness Week

As you probably already know, this week is food allergy awareness week.  Today I’m honored to have a guest post from Mike Spigler, Vice President of Education of FARE.  FARE (formerly FAAN) is a one-stop shop for the caregiver of a child with food allergies.  They offer so many grass roots and nation-wide opportunities for YOU to become involved in the food allergy community.  I don’t know what we’d do without them!

Thanks so much to Mike and Nancy for this fabulous post!

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A Guest Blog Post by Mike Spigler, Vice President of Education of FARE

Mike Spigler of FARE

Greetings! I’d like to thank Kimberly for the opportunity to be a guest blogger during this momentous week – the 16th Annual Food Allergy Awareness Week!

We’ve come a long way in raising awareness of this potentially deadly disease that affects 15 million Americans, including 1 in 13 children. But there is still so much work to be done to increase understanding of food allergy as a serious public health issue.

As the vice president of education at FARE, I have the opportunity to be a part of a growing movement to ensure the safety and inclusion of all those affected by food allergies and anaphylaxis.

I’d like to share with you just a few of the things we’re working on this year:

  • We’ve just wrapped up our first Food Allergy Conference in Oak Brook, Ill., and will be hosting our second spring conference in Arlington, Va., on May 18. If you’re on the west coast, I hope to see you in Anaheim, Calif. on June 1. Every conference is packed with sessions intended to help you live well with food allergies. If you haven’t yet attended a conference and you’re nearby, I encourage you to register today!
  • This week, we launched a national public awareness campaign aimed at raising awareness about the potentially life-threatening nature of food allergies and curbing food allergy bullying – a serious issue that is becoming more common and has potentially dangerous consequences. I encourage all of you to watch and share the “It’s Not a Joke” PSA (available in 30- and 90-second versions). We have already gotten tremendous feedback on this campaign. It’s a moving piece, intended to spark discussion and help others understand the impact of their actions.
  • We will be launching a series of educational webinars later in the year, with guest experts on wide-ranging topics. FARE members will have the opportunity to receive priority placement for live webinars, which will later be archived on our website.

These are just a handful of the exciting activities on the horizon this year at FARE. Stay tuned for more exciting news throughout the year. We also hope you’ll also join us at a FARE Walk for Food Allergy near you!

Mike Spigler

Vice President of Education, FARE

A Bowl Full of Lemons, A Guest Post By Lauren of Our Life as an Epi-Family

It is Food Allergy Awareness Week!  For some, it is a golden opportunity to educate those outside the food allergy community.  For some, it is the perfect time to raise advocacy and research efforts.  But for some, it is time to band together within the food allergy community and share our stories, ideas, and recipes with each other in this seemingly, and sometimes literally, never-ending food allergy journey.

No caregiver can ever REALLY say that they know everything there is to know about food allergies because the learning curve is ever-changing.  In addition to a FARE membership, one of my favorite ways to continually educate myself and stay connected is to follow the blogs of fellow food allergy moms.

Today, I’m beyond thrilled and so very proud to present to you one of my favorite bloggers, Lauren of Our Life as an Epi-Family.

EpiFamily Photo

Seriously, LOVE this talented lady!  Her positive attitude and faith-based encouragement are positively contagious and a delight to read!

Please grab yourself a nice, cool glass of lemonade, take a seat, and settle in for a good read.  Then be sure to click on over to Lauren’s blog and share the love!

Thank you, Lauren, for helping spread the food allergy love this week and all year long!

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A Bowl Full of Lemons

I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

I’ve always loved the image that this phrase creates, especially because it involves lemons.  I love lemons!   They are the most beautiful yellow color and a totally unique shape.  Have you ever drawn a face on one?  Do it, I guarantee it will make you smile!  I love bright colors and I always try to surround myself with them {tastefully, of course}.  It’s probably why I love fresh flowers so much.  Their vibrant colors awaken my soul and with one look can turn any bad day into a good one.  Just writing about the color of lemons, I find myself grinning from ear to ear.

Bowl Full of Lemons

As mentioned above, this phrase is one that I’ve always liked but up until a few years ago {2 ½ to be exact}, it didn’t truly resonate with me.  You see, 2 ½ years ago our food allergy journey began.  My oldest, now four, was eating scrambled eggs for the first time.  As he does with nearly everything he eats, he was dipping each bite into the 7th food group known as Ketchup, so his face was already covered in a red mess.  But it wasn’t long before I noticed the red welts that were beginning to appear around his mouth.  I hurried over and cleaned him off and sure enough his whole face, hands and wrists were swollen and covered in large, raised hives.  He seemed okay aside from the itchy hives.  I quickly gave him some Benadryl as instructed by my pediatrician and proceeded to watch him for the next few hours.  All was good.  It wasn’t long after that we were able to see a pediatric allergist and an egg allergy was confirmed.  I was told what to watch for, shown how to use an EpiPen and sent on my way.  I was a bit overwhelmed but I thought to myself,

“How hard can egg be to avoid? This isn’t too bad.  After all, {cue the Destiny’s Child music} I’m a survivor. I’m gonna make it.  I will survive.  Keep on surviving.”

What I didn’t know was that it was only going to be a matter of months before my youngest {8 weeks old at the time of my oldest’s diagnosis} was going to have an anaphylactic reaction that would change my life forever.  To brief you on my youngest’s first 8 months of life, I tried to supplement with formula when he was four months old as he was still demanding to nurse every 3 hours.  We used regular {dairy based} formula and everything the formula touched swelled and he was soon covered in hives from head to toe.  Five weeks later we tried a soy-based formula.  He took down the whole bottle but shortly after began projectile vomiting followed by head to toe hives.  With each newfound allergy, I continued to nurse and removed the new allergen from my diet.  By the time he was eight months old, I had removed dairy, soy, wheat, gluten, fish, shellfish and egg from my diet.

On that fateful day of my youngest’s first anaphylactic reaction, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch and rinsed my hands but didn’t think to wash them with soap and water.  Not long after, it was time for my youngest to nurse.  After he finished I began to notice that his face appeared to be swelling.  Soon his body was bright red and the hives were creeping down his torso.  I quickly called 911 while I fumbled with the Benadryl bottle.  As I went to administer the medicine he began to gasp for air.  The paramedics were at our door in no time at all and he was a bit better.  He was still bright red, crying and covered in hives but he appeared to be breathing okay.  We were incredibly blessed because there have been a number of families in the past few months whose stories ended quite differently.

Needless to say, after my youngest’s diagnosis, the egg allergy that my oldest son had truly seemed like a walk in the park in comparison.  My youngest was diagnosed at 10 months old with a dairy, soy, and peanut allergy.  We were also told to avoid tree nuts, fish and shellfish.  Since that diagnosis, we’ve also added all tree nuts, including coconut and sesame.  I’d like to say that we’ve been reaction free but that’s just not the case.  Both boys have had a pretty severe reaction since their diagnosis.  My youngest’s most recent reaction to sesame was the scariest yet, one I relive from time to time in my dreams.

Following my youngest’s first anaphylactic reaction and his food allergy diagnosis, I found myself truly understanding what it meant for life to hand you lemons.  I had more lemons than I truly knew what to do with.  The sourness was seeping into every cut that I had and caused me to cry out in pain.

“Why God, why?  Why me?  Why my family?  Why my precious little men?”

I soon found myself wallowing in my circumstances {food allergies} and fears {loss of a child}.  Just a few short months prior I was ready to tackle the food allergy diagnosis with gumption and optimism.  Where was my “I’m a survivor” attitude?  Where had that gone?  This wasn’t me.  I’d forgotten just how good lemonade was on a hot summer’s day.  So recognizing that I wasn’t alone on this journey, I decided to roll up my sleeves, put an apron around my waist and dancin’ shoes on my feet because God teaches us to be joyful in all things {1 Thessalonians 5:16-18}.

I taught myself how to become an expert food label reader, I converted old, favorite recipes into allergy free ones, I found new ways to label foods in the fridge and pantry to help keep my little men safe and I slowly began to trust others to care for them as well – allowing myself to slowly venture out for a little, much needed “me” time.  It wasn’t long before I found the joy that was once lost.  Helping other families following a food allergy diagnosis learn to read labels, grocery shop and cook was the chicken soup for my soul.  What about you?  Are you stuck in the sourness or have you begun to taste the sweetness that’s waiting for you?

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It’s more of a mantra for me now.  A phrase that I’m dying to put up in my kitchen.  A constant reminder that things in this life may be sour but we shouldn’t let the source of the sourness define us.  Instead, we should look for the sweet moments and victories that lie in the mix.  Because when carefully stirred together – it becomes delicious lemonade remembered by everyone who stop by to have a taste.

A little taste of the “lemonade” that we’ve created…Our famous Mint Chip Chocolate Cake

EpiFamily MintChipChocolateCake

A Guest Post from Jenny Kales of The Nut-Free Mom

It is Food Allergy Awareness Week!  For some, it is a golden opportunity to educate those outside the food allergy community.  For some, it is the perfect time to raise advocacy and research efforts.  And for some, it is time to band together within the food allergy community and share our stories, ideas, and recipes with each other in this seemingly, and sometimes literally, never ending food allergy journey.

No caregiver can ever REALLY say that they know everything there is to know about food allergies because the learning curve is ever changing.  In addition to a FARE membership, one of my favorite ways to continually educate myself and stay connected is to follow the blogs of fellow food allergy moms.

Today, I am honored to share a guest post from Jenny Kales, a freelance writer and author of the blog The Nut-Free Mom.  Jenny has been writing about food allergies and sharing her journey with other moms and caregivers for several years now.  I am so excited to share her guest post today about the importance of being a “plugged-in” member of the food allergy community.

Thank you, Jenny!

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By Jenny Kales

Jenny Kales Family Pic

“I feel alone.” That’s the number one thing that I hear from parents who have just begun navigating the world with a child who has life-threatening food allergies. I understand that feeling. In fact, it was that sentiment of feeling alone and wanting to connect that prompted me to begin writing my blog “The Nut-Free Mom.”

My family’s food allergy story is probably similar to many of yours. When my daughter was four years old, she ate one bite of a peanut butter sandwich and suffered an anaphylactic reaction that quickly became life-threatening. It was a truly frightening experience.

I was lucky that my allergist pointed me towards FAAN (now FARE). This group provided a huge amount of information and support to me at a time when I had a lot of questions. I also discovered Kids with Food Allergies Foundation and their corresponding web site, another great source of info.

In the early days of dealing with my daughter’s life-threatening food allergies, no one in my circle was in my same situation, but I knew others had to be out there. Being a writer by profession, writing about food allergies seemed like a natural way to connect with others while also spreading awareness. I began with Chicago Parent magazine who published my article about navigating play dates and parties.  Then, to connect even more directly with food allergy parents and inspired by the struggles of my daughter, I decided to start a blog.

Eventually, I found readers who had their own food allergy blogs, and we became a source of support and information to new food allergy parents, as well as to each other. All of us can now benefit from a devoted parent-to-parent network of information and support that was unavailable to me when I first started writing my blog five years ago. The many writers, readers and advocates with online forums continue to be a wonderful source of food allergy news, recipes and product info for both me and my fellow food allergy parents. Perhaps most important of all, connecting online allows us to find helpful emotional support about the sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking situations we find ourselves in as parents of kids with life-threatening food allergies.

Especially rewarding to me is when readers tell me that the information and support I’ve shared has helped give them courage as they approached their schools, family and friends with their food allergy needs. But it’s a two-way street. Hearing from others – readers, other bloggers, food allergy advocacy groups – gives me a boost too, because every time I’m faced with a difficult situation with regard to food allergies, I know I’m not the only one.

Raising a nut-free kid in a nutty world is not easy, but it certainly helps to know you’re not alone. Thanks to all of you who have helped create this online parent support network! And thanks to Kimberly for hosting me today on The Food Allergy Mom.

Food Allergy Awareness Week Begins Today!

Today is the first day of Food Allergy Awareness Week.  🙂

2013 Food Allergy Awareness Week Logo

It seems as though this week holds different meanings for different people.  Some celebrate their family or friend living with food allergies and pay acknowledgement to the struggles they face each day.  Some are fundraising for their local FARE walk so there will be more funding for education, advocacy, and research.  Some are taking the opportunity to simply educate others about food allergies.

For my family, we are celebrating my son and his success at not letting food allergies define him!  He lives every day with a smile and seldom, if ever, complains about his diagnosis.  Our family has registered The Food Allergy Mom Team for the Houston FARE walk and are already fundraising.  Want to support us?  Please make a donation or register to walk with us here.

What will you do this Food Allergy Awareness Week?  Need a few ideas?

  • Register for your local FARE walk
  • Make a donation to support a friend walking for FARE
  • Make a new allergy-friendly recipe for your loved one
  • Write your state representatives to let them know where you stand with food allergy legislation
  • Give your family/friend with food allergies a hug and tell them how proud you are

Want to educate others with some fast food allergy facts?  Check out the below statistics and share with others.

  • 1 in every 13 children has a food allergy. That’s two in every classroom.
  • Every 3 min, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the ER – that’s more than 200,000 visits per year
  • 8 foods account for 90% of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish www.foodallergy.org/allergens
  • Food allergies can begin at any age and affect children and adults of all races and ethnicity. Learn more: www.foodallergy.org
  • There was an 18% increase in food allergy from 1997-2007. Learn more about research on new therapies www.foodallergy.org/research

Have a fabulous idea you want to share with others?  Please comment below or on our facebook page to share with the food allergy community.

Stay tuned for a wonderful guest post on Tuesday from one of my fellow food allergy bloggers!