Deaths are a reminder of food allergy dangers
August 26th, 2011
07:30 AM ET

Deaths are a reminder of food allergy dangers

Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW is an author, food allergy advocate and life coach. She works with people of all ages to manage their food allergies safely and effectively while still having fun. Her book, Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well With Food Allergies and her award-winning blog, Please Don't Pass the Nuts, offer advice in understanding and living well with food allergies.

The untimely, tragic and preventable deaths last week of two young men in Georgia highlight the seriousness of food allergies and the need for people with food allergies to have an Emergency Allergy Action Plan.

By local news accounts, Jharrell Dillard, 15 from Lawrenceville, Georgia and Tyler Davis, 20 studying at Kennesaw State University, knew what they were allergic to and were vigilant about what they ate. But this one time, without knowing it, they ate something containing their allergen and, caught without an auotinjector of epinephrine, perished.

I was born with severe food allergies to tree nuts and salmon. I’ve had anaphylactic reactions and ended up in the emergency room. Now, as a licensed social worker, I write and counsel clients about how communicate with medical professionals, create emergency allergy action plans, build support systems, dine out and travel, all safely and effectively. These recent deaths are every person with food allergies nightmare and every parent of a food allergic child’s worst fear realized.

Food allergy help for grown-ups

Food allergies are real and, as these recent deaths demonstrate, their effects can be serious and tragic. In June 2011, an article in the journal Pediatrics concluded that 8% of American children under the age of 18 have a life-threatening allergy. According to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, between 150 and 200 Americans die each year from anaphylaxis, and from 2003 to 2006, food allergies resulted in approximately 317,000 visits to hospital emergency departments, outpatient clinics and physicians’ offices,

Ninety percent of all food allergic reactions are to the “top eight”: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Symptoms typically include hives, swelling, wheezing and vomiting or diarrhea; in some cases, anaphlyaxis occurs. If not treated immediately with epinephrine, a synthetic adrenaline injected into the body, anaphylaxis can be fatal.

For every child with food allergies heading off to school, for every young adult heading off to college and for adults like me with food allergies heading off on dates or to dine out, it is essential to take our food allergies seriously.

What does taking food allergies seriously mean? It means:

-Understanding what you are allergic to and relying on a medical team including a board certified allergist that understands food allergies
-Creating an emergency allergy action plan with an allergist that includes always carrying your emergency medication, including an autoinjector of epinephrine
-Creating a robust support network of friends family teachers colleagues who can assist in an emergency

Sadly, tragedies like the deaths of these two young men will happen. They are an awful reminder of just how vital an emergency allergy action plan can be.

Online resources:

National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI)

Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network

soundoff (111 Responses)
  1. bs

    How about making epinephrine auto injectors (Epi-Pens) OTC and making them standard equipment in all first aid kits? We already have AEDs in most public places, why should we not have equally life saving Epi-Pens in the same places?

    August 26, 2011 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • 12346

      They would not be able to make that OTC, because of the chance of people purchasing it to abuse the product (which is unfair). Keep in mind that even though Epi-Pens save lives, the main ingredient to them is still epinephrine, which people would use to get a "speed high".

      But, I do agree that they should be mandatory in first aid kits, especially in kitchens/restaurants/cafeterias.

      August 26, 2011 at 08:17 | Report abuse |
    • Yes

      @123456 I understand the "no abuse" rationale, but they could dispense it in the same way they are handling cold medicine now. Would be easier than having to make a special trip to my allergist every year just to get a refill on my epi.

      August 26, 2011 at 08:33 | Report abuse |
    • TE

      That will not happen. The doses are prescribed to an individual and have different dosages. What might work for an adult could kill a smaller individual. Some people cannot take this due to heart conditions, etc. The best course would be for those with allergies to always carry their pen with them and wear a medical alert tag while not at home. My dad is deathly allergic to wasps and does this as if more than a few minutes from the hospital without it will not make it there.

      August 26, 2011 at 10:50 | Report abuse |
    • Cathy W

      Actually, they are dangerous to use, if given to someone who is NOT in anaphylaxis – they cause racing heart and arrhythmias, and even cardiac arrest. they also tend to make the person feel revved up (unsurprisingly) but also nervous and jumpy – I don't think it's really all that pleasant. And when you MUST use epi, it makes you feel awful the next day – they cause a neurotransmitter "crash" of some sort in your brain, which leaves you lethargic, depressed, and exhausted for a few days afterward (like you are recovering from a bad case of flu).

      August 26, 2011 at 10:51 | Report abuse |
    • Jess

      Wow thats a really really good idea, I never considered that but your right, Epipens should be over the counter. I have to carry an epipen on me for shellfish. I had a reaction on the fourth of July (stupidity on my part for not asking the ingredients of what I was eating) and I had to use my epi-pen but often times I'll accidentally forget it at home and we have to make a mad dash to the store for benadryl which only works half the time. Thats a great idea and should seriously be considered!

      August 26, 2011 at 12:44 | Report abuse |
    • sonas76

      Hey, for that matter, there are folks who go into insulin shock and don't have insulin with them...why don't we make insulin OTC? Wouldn't that save a bunch of lives? What a good idea, right?

      No, it's not a good idea, same with OTC epi-pens. You could kill a person with a dose of epinephrine, the same way you could kill someone with a dose of insulin. Some products will NEVER be OTC for very good reasons.

      August 26, 2011 at 13:29 | Report abuse |
    • erdoc

      That's a horrible idea. Several hundred thousand people die a year of heart disease in america. <200 die of allergic reactions. An AED only shocks you if you need it; however, I've seen more people injured with an epi pen then saved by one, and many more people who gave themselves epi that probably didn't need it.

      August 26, 2011 at 13:45 | Report abuse |
    • Yes

      @Sonas76- Insulin is actually OTC. The needles are by prescription only. My dog has diabetes and uses human insulin. We can just walk into any pharmacy and ask for the insulin, but must have a prescription for the needles. Go figure.

      August 26, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • Jason K

      12346, that sounds like a BS excuse for not having them OTC. I mean look at Sudafed, you can make Meth out of that! Their solution of having to sign a log is crap and doesn't really keep people from getting other people to buy it for them to make meth.

      The fact is this device is designed to save lives. By restricting its purchase the parties responsible are effectively telling the public that monitoring drug abuse is more important than saving lives.

      August 26, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
    • Umm

      Monitoring/restricting the use of potentially deadly drugs IS saving lives...

      August 27, 2011 at 09:42 | Report abuse |
    • keepItReal

      maybe if it was not as EXPENSIVE people would be able to keep one with them.

      August 27, 2011 at 15:15 | Report abuse |
    • Kat

      Epi-pens should NOT be used by anyone for whom they are not prescribed because of risks of potentially deadly side effects, such as to people with heart conditions. They are a prescription drug for a reason.

      August 28, 2011 at 01:51 | Report abuse |
    • jklapper

      Insulin IS OTC. It's the needles that tend to require prescriptions.

      August 28, 2011 at 08:31 | Report abuse |
    • Bek C

      Actually, the treatment for insulin shock is glucose (or a glucagon shot)... Insulin shock = too much insulin/hypoglycemia.
      Thankfully, orange juice and glucose tabs doesn't require an RX! 🙂

      eply to: sonas76

      Hey, for that matter, there are folks who go into insulin shock and don't have insulin with them...why don't we make insulin OTC? Wouldn't that save a bunch of lives? What a good idea, right?

      No, it's not a good idea, same with OTC epi-pens. You could kill a person with a dose of epinephrine, the same way you could kill someone with a dose of insulin. Some products will NEVER be OTC for very good reasons.
      August 26, 2011 at 13:29 | Report abuse |

      August 29, 2011 at 06:09 | Report abuse |
    • _Susan_

      According to my pharmacist last week, Epipens are available OTC but they are expensive and a drug plan will only remit if it was prescibed.
      FYI-Dey pharmacy (makers of Epipen) have a financial assistance program for those who qualify.

      August 29, 2011 at 06:56 | Report abuse |
    • Allie

      I agree that epipens are probably too dangerous to dispense to just anyone, but wish it were possible to make them more widely available to school nurses, daycare owners, and other people who could be trained in their use. I used to camp with a group at a location more than an hour from the nearest hospital. Once someone was stung by a bee and had a bad reaction – she had never had a reaction before – she almost died before we could get her to help. Following that experience I asked my doctor if there was a way for the someone in the group to carry an epipen in their emergency kit in case something like that happened again. We had several participants trained in CPR, a nurse, and a paramedic in the group, but it turned out not to be possible to get hold of an epipen unless it was prescribed for a particular person.

      August 29, 2011 at 06:58 | Report abuse |
    • KAM

      Actually there is legislation pending in several states to allow facilities to maintain EpiPens that are not patient specific. (The pens aren't really "dosed" other than children or adult. They are not specific to an individual patient.) There is a lot of call for these in schools since many of the reactions for which they are needed are in children who have not yet been diagnosed with an allergy. The risk of NOT having one available in such instances is far greater than the risk of a questionable injection. EpiPen administration should be part of basic first aid training and the EpiPens should be standard equipment in these kits. I don't see it as any different than the push to put defibrilators in public buildings.

      August 29, 2011 at 23:00 | Report abuse |
  2. HH

    We need more education as well. Protect allergy patients from idiots who think allergic to a food = just doesn't like the food. They sneak the offending ingredient into a dish and watch the patient eat it, waiting to gleefully tell them, "See? I told you it was good!" and instead the patient reaches for their e-pen or goes to the ER.

    People with allergies are depicted as "wimps" by the media, which doesn't help.

    August 26, 2011 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anne

      And then there are the parents whose infants tested positive for peanut allergies on the blood test, and translate that to "My child will die if he sees a peanut butter sandwich across the cafeteria!!" So when parents overreact to diagnoses without understanding what they actually mean (blood test =/= deathly allergic), the widespread hysteria they cause only fuels the misconceptions.

      August 26, 2011 at 10:51 | Report abuse |
    • OvernOut

      Excellent post. Nerds are depicted as going for their inhalers. From what I have observed, it's the athletes–jocks–that are just as likely to be hitting their inhalers before a game or a meet. People with asthma are very involved in sports, and must take care of themselves, but this is never depicted as such.

      August 26, 2011 at 11:00 | Report abuse |
    • jj


      August 26, 2011 at 17:28 | Report abuse |
  3. Morbus

    You can't be born with an allergy. You don't have a gene that makes you allergic to a particular thing. An allergy is developed AFTER exposure to something; the first time you're exposed, nothing happens, and the next time you're exposed, the immune system overreacts to it, producing the allergic reaction. People can also gain new allergies and lose old ones throughout life. It is very far from a permanent condition that is inborn.

    August 26, 2011 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cathy W

      Actually, a person CAN be born with an allergy – if the infant were exposed in utero to the allergen through the mother's diet. It's not common, but it CAN happen.

      August 26, 2011 at 10:57 | Report abuse |
    • DesertRat

      The tendency toward food allergies, however, can be hereditary.

      August 26, 2011 at 14:40 | Report abuse |
    • CincyCat

      Actually, infants *can* be born with allergies. I exclusively nursed my second daughter for several months, and almost from day 1, she exhibited symptoms of a food intolerance (at the very least). We couldn't figure out what I was eating that was making her so sick but we later found out it was eggs that she was allergic to (at the age of 8 months). She had never had an egg (or anything containing egg) a day in her life before her first serious-had-to-go-to-the-ER- reaction.

      August 26, 2011 at 14:41 | Report abuse |
    • CincyCat

      I also wanted to add that she is now 6 and is naturally outgrowing her allergy. She tests negative for yolks, and only barely registers for whites.

      August 26, 2011 at 14:42 | Report abuse |
    • daradar

      Babies can be born with allergies, two of mine were. I had an undiagnosed and untreated reaction to an ingredient in the prenatal vitamin. One child was exposed in the last half of the pregnancy and the last child, during the first half. My children had the same identical allergies. The first child exposed, didn't show the allergies for four or six weeks, in the last child, the allergies were present in the first week. My first child, which was not exposed to this ingredient, did not have allergies. It was most unfortunate for my children that three doctors in my OB-GYN group failed to detect my problem. I finally saw a doctor, who diagnosed the problem in five minutes, but the damage was already done.

      August 26, 2011 at 15:06 | Report abuse |
    • JC

      Uh, I'm a little curious then about why they do PKU testing right away. Allergies don't ALWAYS manifest only after a first exposure. And, given that babies in utero are exposed to pretty much everything their mothers are exposed to...yes, you can be born with an allergy.

      August 26, 2011 at 17:36 | Report abuse |
    • daradar

      JC, PKU is not an allergy test, but a test for a metabolic genetic disorder. It is critical for the child's health for this condition to be detected early so the proper treatment can be started.

      August 26, 2011 at 22:36 | Report abuse |
  4. Dr.Science

    As a parent of a child with severe tree nut allergy, I worry every day about his safety. He is not in school yet, and his meals are controlled but once he is out of the preschool (which has no nuts policy) and in kindergarten, where kids bring their own meals, I have no idea how to approach the situation. Even though he is 3, he knows that he can't have peanuts (or almonts, of walnuts...), but what if someone gives him a cookie and he doesn't know it is a peanut butter cookie....He has his epi-pen with him all the time....I hope we never have to use it!

    August 26, 2011 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kim

      My daughter is severely allergic to peanuts (we found out when she was 2). From that day on, we have always stressed to her how important it is that she not share food, or take food from anyone other than mom and dad. Now that she's 5 and starting to read, we point out the word "peanut" on a package so that she can start to learn how to read labels herself. We have a 504 plan in place with her school, and talk to her teachers about how to handle her allergy (not banning peanuts from the class, but rather how to keep her safe among kids who are eating things that may not be safe for her). Most school districts are well versed in dealing with allergies, since they see so much of it. Your son must learn, even at this early age, how to take care of himself, since ultimately he will have to be responsible for managing his allergy one day. For now, he has to know that he can't take food from anyone, and if he feels "funny" or "itchy" that he has to tell an adult immediately. And, he will learn from you–watching you read labels, pointing out foods in the grocery store that are not safe for him, hearing you tell a restaurant server about his allergy, etc. Our goal is to make something that is abnormal "normal" to her, and not something that singles her out. She just has to learn to adapt her eating and behavior to keep herself safe.

      August 26, 2011 at 12:09 | Report abuse |
    • CincyCat

      I agree 100% with Kim's approach. The earlier the child learns for him/herself to ask about – and reject – suspect foods, the better. In our case, we had to send kiddo right back to daycare 2 days after the "eggs" diagnosis, so no opportunity to maintain complete control of her environment. The caregivers there were GREAT, though, and helped us reinforce teaching her to "ask first". It's automatic for her to ask now that she's 6 years old, and she will NOT eat anything that she feels unsure about, even if her own parents hand it to her! LOL!

      In addition, we did not offer "alternative" egg-free foods to her until she was old enough to consistently ask first. If pancakes could contain egg, we did not serve them at the house. Cookies and cakes contain egg, so again, not served at the house. That way, it also reinforced that certain foods simply were not to be eaten.

      What was a hard lesson to teach was that although some menu items in restaurants are automatically off limits to her, that doesn't mean they are off limits to her older sister. It seems cruel to do that, but the lesson learned was critical. In the end, she's completely gotten over food-jealousy, which makes us feel a LOT better about her ability to resist pressure to eat things her classmates might offer her at school.

      August 26, 2011 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
    • daradar

      I agree completely with Kim. This is how we raised our children, as well. They did not attend peanut free schools and it was critical for them to know, they could not take food from others, or touch anyone else's food. My children are now in their late twenties and while it has been difficult, it is possible to lead a "normal" life with severe allergies.

      August 26, 2011 at 15:18 | Report abuse |
    • MomCared

      Also consider talking to the teacher as well as the lunch staff. Maybe even send home a newsletter asking other parents to share allergies about their children. I grew up with a girl allergic to chocolate. Of course, my favorite cupcakes to take on my birthday were chocolate. My mom always asked the teacher about any allergies (were talking 1960's here folks) and made the effort to make a batch of chocolate and a batch of white cupcakes sent in separate containers. When my kids got to school age, I always asked the teacher to ask about allergies, my daughter has a Sept. B-day so was usually the first to bring in birthday treats. I've run across, nut and strawberry allergies in the past and made sure to accommodate them. Even had some parents thank me for thinking about their child. The school district in later years banned all peanut products from the school because the family of a young child did not keep money in his lunch account, did not provide him a lunch and did not teach him as has been suggested to be wary of food nor did they inform the school of his allergy, the school provided a standard free lunch which was a peanut butter sandwich, he was lucky and survived. Don't just live in terror, teach your child and the responsible adults around him, share information among other parents, most will be interest and care as much as you do to keep your child safe.

      August 26, 2011 at 16:20 | Report abuse |
    • Julia Putman

      Our 9 year old son is deathly allergic to milk, and I was terrified of him starting school also. We taught him to never eat anything unless Mom or Dad checks it and says it's ok. We taught him that from the very beginning. He was 8 months old when he had his first reaction, and ever since we've been food police. He's very good about not accepting any food from anyone. He just says "no thank you, I can't eat it." Teach your child not to eat anything unless you've given it the ok, and that will give you a little more peace of mind when they're at school.

      August 27, 2011 at 15:33 | Report abuse |
    • JK

      Perhaps you should teach your child not to accept food from unknown sources, rather than panic all the time. If my kid brings a peanut butter sandwich, if your kid doesn't eat it, nothing will happen. While food allergies can be extremely serious, the propensity of parents to overreact has reached epic proportions.

      August 29, 2011 at 10:43 | Report abuse |
  5. Kmol

    Medication allergies are just as unpredictable and can be fatal. There is no test available to find out if you're allergic ahead of time. My husband found out at the age of 37 that he is allergic to tylenol 3 prescribed to treat headaches. He nearly died from anaphalaxis. Thankfully my mother - a nurse - answered her phone in the middle of the night to tell me what to do. He would have been dead by the time paramedics arrived. I've learned that while an Epi-pen is the best option (particularly if the throat has already completely swelled shut), a 50 mg dose of Benadryl can also be a life-saver – you don't need a prescription and you can keep it stashed away in several places. It worked within 15 seconds.

    August 26, 2011 at 09:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Linda

    Unfortunately, not everyone is well managed by the medical industry because a major lack of their understanding about the cause and treatment of allergic reactions, or allergies in general. You'd think in this day and age they'd pay attention t research. But many doctors are sadly several decades behind in their understanding of allergies. And unfortunately, there are now more people with allergies who are going to suffer. I have a particularly dangerous reaction to epinephrine, where it DROPS my blood pressure, rather than raising it. An epi pen could literally kill me. Second to that, I have a weird problem metabolising epinephrine, breaking it down into neurotoxins that cause damage to motor neurons. A dose from an epi pen, if it doesn't kill me, could cause permanent paralysis. And finally, not all doctors know enough about allergies to be able to help many people who have allergic reactions, but don't test positive to them on allergy tests, or who have allergic reactions to things doctors assume are hypo-allergenic. The simple truth is that the medical industry is dismally inadequate in helping many people to be able to cope with allergies. I had to live with hives covering almost half my body for decades, with doctors not being able to understand it or provide sufficient help before I finally sought out alternative medicine therapies that have allowed me to eliminate many of my allergies and to control my remaining allergies without dangerous things like epi pens, including methods for treating anaphylactic reactions within seconds, without any medications or tools of any kind. If the medical industry would pay attention to what the alternative medicine industry knows about allergies, there would be fewer people suffering or dying from allergies.

    August 26, 2011 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Beth

      Epi pens do not cause a drop in blood pressure. However, anaphylaxis can and even if you have an epi injection that doesn't guarantee you will get better or even survive the anaphylaxis. It helps more than anything else to ensure survival of a potentially life-threatening anaphylactic event, though. It is considered very safe except for those with heart issues. If you had the epi and your blood pressure dropped I would assume that was part of the anaphylaxis, not a response to the epi pen. Alternative medicine has NOTHING to offer those who are at risk for anaphylaxis. ZERO. Seek it if you like but carry those epi pens because those alterna treatments are snake oil. I wish they worked. Would be nice. There are real treatments that are in studies now all over the country that really do work and are standard Western medicine. There is also the Chinese herbal treatment that is being studied by rigorous protocols and it is very promising as a treatment. These treatments may not cure food allergies but will make them less severe in many and are our best option IMO. Epi pens are not dangerous things as you say for those who do not have heart conditions but NOT having an epi is tied to fatal anaphylaxis in those who have ana allergies.

      August 26, 2011 at 21:12 | Report abuse |
  7. NeverStopLearning

    One of our two boys is severely allergic to peanuts and most tree nuts. He's been hospitalized twice because of anaphylaxis. Anytime I read some ignorant comment from a person who claims that "parents are making it up for attention" or some similar asinine comment, it makes me want to smack them upside the head. But then I remember that it may be karma.

    Before I had kids, I had my own "theories" on food allergies. I joked about "inferior genes" and "hypersensitive coddling" and thought that all this fuss must certainly be some kind of manifestation of overprotective parents. Sometimes life teaches you lessons in ways you don't expect, and after diving head first into research for the past 4 years, it has become apparent to me how little we still really know about the intricacies of immunological disease and allergy. To make things worse, there is crossover between commercially hijacked crazes like "organic" foods and gluten free diet which makes it easy for ignorant know-it-alls to characterize people who are concerned with allergy as some kind of pretentious food hippies.

    I just want to ask them if they have ever been wrong about something and felt any shame for being ignorant and rude. Have they ever taken the time to consider their lack of real knowledge on the subject? Perhaps a visit to the ER would help their outlook. It didn't take much for me to change my mind when I saw my 2 year old son pumped full of drugs and struggling to breath on a ventilator with hives all over his body because he accidentally ate a tiny piece of a brownie that had been made with pecan nuts. If they still think that any sane parent would make this up and want to see their terrified child looking to them for some kind of reassurance that everything is going to be ok, then perhaps I would reconsider a smack upside the head.

    Thank you for the work you have done, Sloane. It is appreciated more than you may know.

    @Morbus – there is no conclusive evidence on whether pre-natal exposure or exposure through breast milk to allergens can cause sensitivity in infants, but I hope that research will one day help determine that. We did bank cord blood and if that can somehow be used some day for this kind of research, I would gladly donate it. I am hoping that some statistical correlations can be drawn in the near future after the salmonella-tainted peanut incident from a few years ago resulted in peanut products being unavailable in most supermarkets for nearly a month.

    August 26, 2011 at 10:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Julia P

      @Mr. Difficult- How dare you say our children are inferior and that they have no right to reproduce? I am so appalled at your Nazi-esque view towards children with food allergies, that I'm wondering who else in your esteemed opinion shouldn't be allowed to spread their inferior genes. How about children with ADHD, or other behavioral issues? Maybe kids with learning disabilities too? Or maybe kids who are overweight? Your post made me sick with your disgusting elitist view of who should be "allowed" to reproduce. You'd better get going, you don't want to miss your meeting with your fellow Nazis. I'm sure you have a busy agenda of adding to your list of inferiors to persecute.

      August 27, 2011 at 23:11 | Report abuse |
    • Carrie

      While some Hollywood actors having taken up eating gluten free, PLEASE do not label the gluten free diet as only a "pretentious food hippie" fad. Celiac and gluten intolerance may not be allergies, but are still extremely serious and life altering conditions that must be treated with complete avoidance of all gluten. My celiac disease almost left me disabled from the severity of symptoms until it was diagnosed and I started living gluten free.

      August 29, 2011 at 07:11 | Report abuse |
  8. where's the editor

    Please edit. Grammar issues really do distract from the article's content. Thanks.

    August 26, 2011 at 10:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. William Allstetter

    good advice as far as it goes...but I think parents could really use more explicit advice about coping with food allergies at school, from National Jewish Health...


    August 26, 2011 at 10:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Cathy W

    The best prevention of allergies of all types is breastfeeding. I know it's not possible for all mothers and children, but if it is possible, it's an excellent preventative. And the longer, the better. My family has an extreme history of allergies of various sorts, as does my husband's family. My daughter (so far) has no allergies at all, and I attribute that to extended breastfeeding, and the fact that my house isn't as clean as I'd like (sigh...).

    August 26, 2011 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anne

      Unless you're eating something that they're allergic to, and then they can have an allergic reaction to the trace amounts in the milk.

      August 26, 2011 at 11:19 | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer

      I breastfed all three of my children. My two sons both have several food allergies, while my daughter does not. I ate the same thing through all of the pregnancies.

      August 26, 2011 at 11:26 | Report abuse |
    • Jim C

      You're a moron.

      August 26, 2011 at 12:27 | Report abuse |
    • Cathy W

      It's a statistical preventative, not a cure all. Of course there will be people who get allergies despite being breastfed.

      August 26, 2011 at 12:49 | Report abuse |
    • Esther

      Please do not spread medical falsehoods. People with food allergies have enough to deal with. Breastfeeding is no more likely to stop allergies as is wishing away the allergies. Kellymom.com is lousy with information on how breastfeeding mothers can do elimination diets for food-allergic newborns. The studies about allergies and breastfeeding are so horribly flawed as to be nearly useless. Please don't spread around more lies that just get allergic people bullied and harangued by the general public as well as the media.

      August 26, 2011 at 13:54 | Report abuse |
    • DesertRat

      On the other hand, my daughter was exclusively breastfed until 8 months, and she has allergies. Anecdotal evidence, unfortunately, isn't really evidence. I would like to see actual studies.

      August 26, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
    • CincyCat

      Anne is correct. My daughter was exclusively breastfed, and she reacted with severe stomach upset whenever I ate something with egg (we didn't put 2+2 together until after she was diagnosed with her allergy at 8 months old).

      August 26, 2011 at 14:56 | Report abuse |
    • MomCared

      No really true, I breast fed both my girls. One has a contact allergy to metals and dyes. First found out when we tried the 'really cute new jumper' on her Christmas day without washing it so we could get a picture for Grandma. She broke out all over in hives, the scariest part was when we got the the hospital all the hives had disappeared and the nurses looked at us like crazy first time parents (she was 7 mo. old). They took her blood pressure and when they removed the cup, underneath she was all over hives again. Just leaning her face against a metal pole will cause it to swell up, belts and button on jeans are toxic too – she has to cover their metal surfaces with nail polish and still can't wear some belts because the allergen leaches through the polish.

      August 26, 2011 at 16:27 | Report abuse |
    • jj

      I was breastfed and have had several food allergies all my life.

      August 26, 2011 at 17:27 | Report abuse |
    • Beth

      Did not work for us. There is zero proof that breastfeeding reduces food allergies, actually. ZERO.

      August 26, 2011 at 21:13 | Report abuse |
    • christine

      I agree. I tried to breastfeed all my children, my 2nd was breastfed the least due to me getting sick and loosing supply when my sister in law helped me take care of her. My oldest child never gets sick and can eat pretty much anything, my youngest is just 3 months and is still breastfed. but my middle child has allways gotten diaper rash very easy after introducing solids, some foods if they contact her skin will break her out, especialy sour cream and icing. im not sure if it's an allergy or food additives though, I started to switch to organic (at least what i can find organic, small town) and her diaper rashes allmost never happen. Im not sure if breastfeeding is the connection but she is very sensitive to any food additive, coloring, many baby washes and shapoos and lotions, many laundry soaps, ect.

      August 27, 2011 at 03:34 | Report abuse |
    • Kabra

      Yes, there is actual scientific understanding of why breastmilk is protective. It contains IgA which provides a coating on the inside of an infant's gut and helps keep the intact protein particles from getting through. Protein particles that pass through the gut are what the immune system mistakenly reacts to and causes food allergies.

      August 28, 2011 at 00:32 | Report abuse |
  11. Gina Hesse

    @ the AUTHOR: Thanks for writing this article. Could you please elaborate on "But this one time, without knowing it, they ate something containing their allergen ..." ? As a mother of two children with severe food allergies, I'd like to know whether it was a particular brand that had not declared the ingredients, a restaurant meal or something else.

    August 26, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Chris

    My wife is allergic to Nuts and Seeds. She does not always carry her auto Injector. When in an emergency situation,
    gargling "Coca Cola", and only "Coca Cola" will help reduce the swelling of the throat and give you extra time to seek
    professional medical help. Just an FYI.

    August 26, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sonas76

      As a nurse, I've heard of using Coke for a sore throat, an upset stomach and to clean a blocked feeding tube. I also know you can use it to remove paint and kill slugs.

      There are also people highly allergic to the caffeine and corn syrup in Coke. My own child is allergic to bees. I would not use it in place of anything if he were stung.

      August 26, 2011 at 13:52 | Report abuse |
  13. Kay

    Please push for legislation in your state for school nurses to be able to stock several epi-pens for emergency use! Right now, except for one or two states, we are only allowed to use an prescribed epi-pen for the particular child it was prescribed for! One poor nurse lost her license saving a child's life with an epi-pen because there was no prescription!!

    August 26, 2011 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kat

      Kay, there is a good reason for that rule, and that is because Epi-pens can be dangerous to people with certain conditions or on certain medications. Even simple cold or allergy medications can cause adverse reactions when combined with Epi-pen use, which is why Epi-pens should not be used without prescriptions.

      August 28, 2011 at 02:02 | Report abuse |
  14. FoodAllergyQueen

    Sloane, thanks for your excellent advice, as usual! It helps us #foodallergy people immensely when the general public learns more about the dangers of food allergies and how easily it can be for allergic people to ingest something dangerous. Regardless of whether people are eating brand name foods or in food service establishments, there are those who will not pay attention to food prep instructions,and food allergy people MUST to be prepared to take care of their own health! Your advice in your book to empower yourself (and your family/support system) to learn and educate others to help you stay safe and more importantly FEEL safe while out in the world is a blessing. Thank you! The FAQ

    August 26, 2011 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Laurie

    I'm allergic to so many things that I use the phrase "allergic to my world" in order to lend a little humor to an otherwise un-humorous situation. I can avoid most with the help of menu descriptions or names with clues, however two of my allergies have proven to be very challenging and not easily managed. The first, latex, crops up at work where the housekeepers wear the same latex glove all day to protect themselves from contacting something ‘gross’ then touch everything in sight, i.e. door knobs, elevator buttons, my desk! And the hidden exposure, kitchen staff who handle food, out of my line of sight so I don’t know until I begin to itch and my skins starts to crack and bleed. Even if I do ask the server, to ask the chef/cook to remove their gloves, the people who prepped the chopped food, handled the plates, and such, have all worn theirs. The other, and even more troublesome is my allergy to opioids (codeine including all it’s derivatives and synthetics). I’m allergic, period. However, I have had a physician say to me “Do you trust me or the pharmacist?” I trust myself. I know that I’m allergic, please don’t slip some to me when I’m too ill to be as vigilant as I usually am. Please be careful what you prescribe and administer. Torodol – no codeine, Tramadol – does have codeine: once I’m sick it becomes obvious. I was given something I’m allergic to. No need for discussion. I’m sick of hearing it. Often these discussions happen with people who just met me. I’ve been allergic most of my 46 years. Who is the expert? My advice to those who are allergic includes the strong family, friend network, and also a strong advocate to accompany you to medical appointments and hospital visits. When you can’t be vigilant bring someone you trust that can!

    August 26, 2011 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. aubrie

    I'm over 50 and I just remember other children having the number of food allergies that we see today... Not only are they more prevalent, but also more severe. I can't help but think that our environment has something to do with this... We are poisoning ourselves and our children and this is the result. We breathe foul air, drink water that's treated with massive chemicals, eat food sprayed with pesticides and fertilizers. It's all around us. If this is an indication of our future, I shudder to think what our children's children will have to deal with.

    August 26, 2011 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sonas76

      Allergies are not very common in the developing world where people live in dirtiier conditions and often have some sort of parasite infection.The immune systems of the individuals in these 'dirty' conditions are too busy fighting off major disease to be concerned with allergens. In fact, there is a major study going on right now involving people with hookworm infections (pretty darn rare here in the west). These folks almost never have a single allergy.

      You might also be interested to know that polio was considered a 'rich person's disease'. It was much more common in the U.S. among those with indoor plumbing and clean homes. Folks living out in the country and exposed to more germs and dirt didn't get it nearly as much.

      August 26, 2011 at 13:43 | Report abuse |
    • ChrisC from the D

      You are right. I am only in my late 20's and as a child, I do not remember knowing ANYONE with a food allergy. My mother knew of a girl that had an allergy to shellfish. It was in the late 1990's/early 2000's that food allergies seem to have exploded. This is also the same time genetically modified food entered the scene.

      I know some people will point to a study that shows "GM foods are perfectly safe" but I don't buy it. We can't prove it yet, but we can see how our genentically altered food is affecting us.

      August 26, 2011 at 13:54 | Report abuse |
    • sonas76

      Anoither reason for the rise in allergies is better testing. I am almost 40 and know quite a few people who have only now found out they have had food allergies all their lives...Why all the wait? Better testing and more Doc's willing to test for them. My own sister was lactose intolerant for years and wasn't given the diagnosis until her 30's because our mom never brought it up to her pediatrician when we were kids. She just considered my sis to be 'gassy', not to have a food intolerance.

      August 26, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
    • Kathleen

      I'm 53 and allergic to peanuts and tree nuts for my entire life. (First reaction I was 2.) We were around back then, but you didn't hear much about us because: 1) nobody believed it; and 2) if people knew then they would try to slip you nuts in food because of 1). I was taught to never announce a lethal vulnerability because someone would use it against you.
      My mother was a very sharp lady who noticed that I stopped breathing when fed peanuts or tree nuts (sitting in an emergency room with a toddler will have you trying to figure things out). Mom even figured out that physical or aroma contact with peanuts was bad, when she had to take me to the hospital after I handed my sister peanut butter cookies in the car. But even she didn't think of peanut butter smeared on a cafeteria table, etc. I missed so much elementary school that, if I wasn't smart enough to pass end of year tests, I was in danger of repeating a grade.

      August 26, 2011 at 14:32 | Report abuse |
  17. Allie

    As a school nurse I cannot tell you the times I have had to be the advocate for a child with severe allergies. People are selfish and they pass these traits on to their children so that children with severe allergies are quite often ostracized.
    The easiest way to help your school aged child with their food allergies is to have an action plan and individualized health care plan in place. 504 is for educational issues that impact health. It is not an appropriate use of 504 in almost every instance.
    Good communication and realistic expectations from parents as to what the school can and cannot do is imperative. DO NOT tell people that your child has an allergy and not contact the school nurse. NOTHING can be done for your child in a school setting without an order from the physician. DO provide MD orders and Epi-Pens as approrpriate and ensure the school has Benadryl on hand for your child with specific dosages for reactions.

    It is unreasonable to expect the school to promise you they will not have allergens in the school. If that is a problem for your child or your family, then please homeschool your kids. Accomodations must be reasonable in order for them to be enforceable. Making people pledge that your school will NEVER have any allergens is not only stupid, it is a lie and sets the system up for a huge liability.

    Educate yourself on blood testing for allergies. Not every sensitivity means your child will turn blue and keel over. Skin testing is still the gold standard for a reason. You can physically see the reaction.

    August 26, 2011 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sonas76


      My youngest child will start school next year. I do not expect the local school to promise me that bees will not be found anywhere on the school grounds. Hence I will be making an action plan with my son's Pediatrician and the school's nurse.

      August 26, 2011 at 14:13 | Report abuse |
    • Beth

      Skin testing is NOT the gold standard for diagnosing food allergies. Skin and blood tests have about the same accuracy–at best only 50% accurate for positive results and may be as low as under 20% accurate for positive results according to one recent study by top allergists at National Jewish Hospital. They are over 90% accurate for negative results. Unless a person has a past history of reactions test results alone mean very little. Children should be safe at school. Schools may not be able to go totally free of any given food but they must ensure children with food allergies are safe and kept away from their allergens. Food-free classrooms with food eaten in the cafeteria is one solution. Doing away with the excess of food and parties and birthday and holiday, etc treats is another. We do not expect our children's worlds to be food free. We just expect you to keep our children safe and alive at school by keeping them from allergens. We do not ask schools to guarantee a bee-free school but we don't stick bee-allergic kids into rooms full of bees and if a bee gets into a room an adult actively tries to get it out. There is a big difference between doing something and doing nothing and between saying, 'we can't guarantee blah, blah cover your butt statements' and TRYING your best to keep food allergic kids safe. We don't expect the impossible.

      August 26, 2011 at 21:22 | Report abuse |
  18. Angie

    My son has a several peanut allergy. He was breastfed for over two years, and we never gave him peanut butter (because it's not terribly healthy in most cases and a choking hazard), but at the age of two years, he was doing a craft in preschool with peanut butter, got some on his hand and rubbed his eyes. Within minutes, he was on the floor in full-blown anaphylaxis and had we not gotten him to a hospital within minutes, he would have died (as per the emergency room physicians). Since then, he's not had a reaction, because we've been very diligent. We work very closely with his school and teachers to minimize the risk. No school is perfectly safe – you will still have children that had peanut butter for breakfast that might not wash their hands before they get to school; you still have kids that will get peanuts in their lunch; and, you still have those kids who are bullies and don't understand that shoving a peanut in my son's face could kill him. Then, you still have the ignorant parents who say things like, "Well if it's so bad, keep your kids home and homeschool them" or "Why should my child suffer through not being able to eat peanut butter at lunch because your kid is allergic". I want my child to have as normal life as possible – so he goes to a small private school where parents are much more understanding, and don't believe their rights are being infringed because their kid can't eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.

    August 26, 2011 at 14:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • daradar

      My children with severe allergies were breastfed, as well, as my first child who did not have allergies. My son's first reaction was at age 14 months. It was only with allergy testing that we were able to to determine the cause of his reaction. He had only touched the edge of his older sister's PB&J sandwich and then touched his face. After allergy testing, the doctor told us his peanut allergy was so severe he would not survive ingesting any peanut product. My youngest child has the same identical allergies. I explain what was determined to be the cause in an earlier post. Over 26 years ago, we did not know anyone else with a peanut allergy. We felt by sending the children to a small private school that we would be able to protect them the best. There were no restrictions on others, but the other parents and students went out of their way, without asking, to help keep the children safe. One of our biggest concerns for the children at school was another child becoming angry and intentionally exposing our child. Young children do not have an understanding of the permanence of death. We were fortunate this never occurred. Growing up with a severe food allergy is a difficult life. One of my children had a period of bitterness, but all people have a problem to bear. You do the best you can and go on and try your best to lead as normal of a life as possible. Our biggest problem was with my husband's family, who refused to accept the seriousness of the allergy. One member almost killed my son and that's a whole other story.

      August 26, 2011 at 15:49 | Report abuse |
  19. momof2inMS

    We are blessed to not have food allergies, but both my husband and daughter are allergic to fireants. I dont know about the res of the country, but down here in the south they are everywhere. We keep our yard free from fire ants due to my constant "parameter check" I feel like a guard in a war! At school however, they do pop up on the playground. My daughters teachers know, and the school nurse knows, and I have a form on file from the doctor. My daughter knows how to spot them and avoid them, but sometimes the pesky critters can be anywhere. Being an advocate for your child is what you have to do, to keep them safe from their allergies. Its tough enough having this one, I really feel for parents and kids who have to deal with a serious food allergy 🙁

    August 26, 2011 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Rina

    You have listed 8 major food that causes allergies but my daughter has severe allergies to chick peas/hummus/ and lentils. We have rushed her to the emergency after she had contact with the chick peas/lentils. Most of the kids who are allergic to peanuts are also allergic to the chick peas but I guess not a lot of people are aware of this. She avoids all mediterranean food as they are known to use lots of hummus and other lentils.

    August 26, 2011 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Kevin

    I knew a kid with a severe allergy to peanuts and he could smell it on your breath standing a few feet from you in a room. He would get wide eyed and instantly serious. I had a peanut butter sandwich. He and his parents cant chance anything, its scary.

    August 26, 2011 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. razzi

    Don't forget to call 911 immediately after administering the epi...

    August 26, 2011 at 16:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shawaz

      Kelly, thank you so much for sharing!!! I am hinavg so much trouble with my son's school. He just started Kindergarten and I feel they are discriminating against him because they are all so afraid of him. He has multiple food allergies and is anaphylactic. The school refuses to do a 504 plan instead they have made their own plan. I have not thrown a fit yet because I am trying to be cooperative. I made him homemade cupcakes for some birthday in his class- not knowing what they would bring but the teacher refused to let my son eat them. She told him she was not sure if he could eat them. ( I made them!) The birthday students only brought in fruit snacks( which is a snack he can have) the teacher has in class for him but because they were not Curious George they were Scooby Doo fruit snacks the teacher refused to give those to him either. My son has been in Day care and Preschool since birth they were never this bad. This is just out of control and I don't know what to do! It feels like they do not want to deal with him. They just play too safe and I feel are excluding him from everything. I tried talking with the principal who then told me to just talk with the teacher. I have tried to talk with his teacher but I just don't think she gets it. Now they claim he is always on Red for things that do not even sound like my son is doing. Nor has he ever been in trouble in day care or preschool. He is such a sweet soul and has enough to deal with and I feel they are just being so unfair to him. Any advice would be fantastic!!

      March 6, 2012 at 00:33 | Report abuse |
  23. Moli

    I agree EPI-Pens should NOT be available over the counter unless the person had some sort of Epi-pen Card or something similar. I also agree that everyone who has severe allergies wear a mandatory bracelet or something identifying said people as highly allergenic. That is to help those persons, its easier to teach a child that the 'red bracelet' means you can't give Johnny any for your 'insert food'. I don't agree with 'treenutfree schools' it is not fair to the rest of the student body, of a school of 300 only 2 allergic children disrupting 298 people(not including staff). I am severely allergic to sulfates(please check to see how much more common they are than even peanuts) and have been hospitalized on several occasions as a result. I have never told anyone that they could not use sulfates or demand that they change their behaviors because on MY problems. I know the world does not revolve around me and treat the world as such, I modified MY behavior to safeguard myself against harm.

    August 26, 2011 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Beth

      Small children can't know that touching a desk that some other kid just touched after eating a peanut butter sandwich has a near invisible smear of peanut butter on it that just got on his or her hands and that if they now touch their eyes, nose or mouth they could have anaphylaxis. We can teach our children to only eat food from home, etc but we can't teach them to not touch things that we can't see. I am assuming you do not react to contact ingestion. Many who have peanut and tree nut allergies do. So, your comparison is not a good one.

      August 26, 2011 at 21:25 | Report abuse |
    • daradar

      I am against any mandatory bracelet for an allergic person. It is a choice. My children did wear bracelets during school, including college, but as adults in their late twenties, they do not want to anymore. I do feel it is foolish to not have one on any young or school age child, but nothing should be mandatory. Why single out people with allergies? Lots of people have serious life threatening medical conditions, would they be included in this mandatory rule? Just because something is wise and logical is no reason to make something mandatory. And sure, I wish my children would wear a bracelet, but it is their choice.

      August 26, 2011 at 21:27 | Report abuse |
    • daradar

      Beth, it is possible to teach very young children to not touch things that may be contaminated. I had great success with my two children, beginning the week the older one turned two, when the allergy was confirmed and the younger one was raised as if she was allergic, until she was old enough to be tested. Their allergy was so severe, we were told neither would survive if they ingested any peanut product. The younger one also had inhalation reactions from breathing peanut dust. Twenty-six years ago we did not know of anyone else with this allergy. My children had to learn rules and to follow those rules as their lives depended on it. It requires teaching the children to never eat or touch any food unless you are 100% certain of what it is. You never touch anything where someone else is eating. I hated doing this, but I made my children not be the touchy type. We limited their hugs to immediate family, as best we could. They knew they had to be cautious when touching or being touched by others. When in school, other children were great at always washing their hands well after eating, without being asked. My children's lives depended on them being on guard at all times. My son's almost dying at age four, may have helped get the point across to the children the seriousness of their allergy. I was fortunate to have the guidance of a great pediatrician, who went on to be a child psychiatrist. My children had to grow up faster than other children and learn to be responsible at a very young age. It required the frequent going over of the rules, of what was safe for them to do and what was not, every time we left our house until it was second nature for them. They had to learn to rely on themselves to stay safe and not others. My experience with my children was not perfect, but it was better than what I have observed of some today dealing with a peanut allergy.

      August 26, 2011 at 22:15 | Report abuse |
  24. jj

    I have several food allergies that were not diagnosed until I was in my 50s. It is amazing that I lived to adulthood because I regularly stopped breathing at night. I finally learned what anaphylactic shock is. I am never without my epi-pen. I am thankful that I persevered and was finally diagnosed.

    August 26, 2011 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jdoe

      Maybe you just have sleep apnea.

      August 27, 2011 at 03:07 | Report abuse |
  25. Diana Keh

    Peanuts need to be banned off airplanes. I'm extremely allergic to peanuts and being close to them makes my throat start to get itchy. I'm sorry but people can wait a few hours if they want to peanuts once they're off the plane. This isn't infringing upon their rights. Its infringing upon my right to not die. Thanks.

    August 26, 2011 at 19:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Beth

    I hope those who push having cupcakes and food parties at school will take pause at these two recent deaths. There is an epidemic of obesity in this country and school instructional time is very precious. And passing out 24 cupcakes to a class of 25 seems so wrong. Would you want me to come pass out 24 toys to the class and 'run out' just before I got to your child? I would NEVER do that but many others do that to my child regularly. Also, just because YOU want to give your child a treat why does that mean my child has to eat one (from his allergy-free treat box) and all the other kids in your child's class. I want to be the one who decides when and if my child gets treats? Most adults would not want to sit and watch everyone else eating something yummy so why do this to children. Treats in school are unnecessary. No one is stopping you from having all sorts of food parties at your home.

    August 26, 2011 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • daradar

      It is difficult when a child is left out when special treats are served. It happened to my children more times than I can remember. It did cause bitterness. I made a deal with them for when it happened. I would always make sure they got a special treat when we got home. Most parents were nice enough to let me know when and what they were sending in, so then I could send in something comparable. It is a difficult life, which never gets easier.

      August 26, 2011 at 22:31 | Report abuse |
  27. Lyn

    As someone in their late 20's who developed in their early teens a very severe peanut allergy, it's a frustrating world. Ultimately you are responsible for your own health. But there are ways to have polite talks with your managers and co workers about your allergy. I'm not going to stop you from eating your food but I will ask you to clean up after yourself and wash your hands after eating. I carry packs of wipes with me, and I wipe down the computer at school, I wipe the computer at work before I use it. I even clean the break room before I eat, some people are just slobs and it's disgusting to sit in someone else's mess.

    For the airline, immediately after booking your ticket call the airline. In my experience they have been good at working with me. I check in, obtain my boarding pass and then a special paper that lets the flight crew know they have to clean the plane and can't serve nuts. Also, southwest's pretzels have the may contain peanut traces label.

    I also agree with Kim, the earlier you teach your child to responsible for themselves, the better off they are going to be. When my friends and I host parties, we have information on our usual guests for food allergies and ask for them again as a general thing for anyone we are not sure of.

    It comes down to good hygiene and respect. My school nurses were not allowed to have my epi-pen in high school but we had a plan, I had to inject if I could, and they call 911 and my parents. I made my teachers and classmates aware. A no eating in the classroom policy is a good one.

    If I had a dollar for each time someone said they'd slip some peanuts to me or some variation, I'd be a very rich woman. The fact is it's bullying and it's wrong, the child needs to say that they don't appreciate it. My usual comment is I'm going to make them watch me get treated and pay for my ER bill and my replacement epi-pen. That usually stops them. Sometimes I'll also say, do you really want to have to fill out workers comp for a peanut incident?

    August 26, 2011 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. jdoe

    Why aren't there more desensitization treatment programs for these kinds of allergies? They have been shown to be at least moderately successful. Even if it doesn't cure the problem, it can potentially reduce the severity of the reaction.

    August 27, 2011 at 02:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Carol

    Sure, have a "medical team", an "emergency action plan", and an epi-pen, great idea – but what if you're an adult like myself with inadequate medical coverage? Because I haven't had a bad reaction in years (thanks to my vigilance and cooking most of my food at home) my insurance company doesn't think I need to see an allergist for any reason, and won't pay for an epi-pen. They don't care that twice in my adult life I've wound up in an ER with a life-threatening reaction, they tell me that since nothing bad has happened in the past 10 years it "obviously" is no longer a problem. I just DO NOT have the money to pay for that out of pocket. So I worry, and hope to God I don't accidentally eat something that will send me to an ER or even kill me. So what am I supposed to do? Deliberately flaunt with death so this stupid company will take my medical condition seriously and I can get referred to a specialist? Or just keep on being as careful as possible and hope nothing bad happens?

    August 27, 2011 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • charls

      Carol, I am sorry for your problem. My son is allergic and has no insurance because his job is low paying and has no benefits. I suggest that you carry an anti-histamine (like Benedryl) and big tube of over the counter cortisone cream. When my son ate some cake containing nut oil, I used the cortisone cream to counter the allergic reaction. It was not the best solution but I did not know anything else to do at the time. These two items might give you enough relief to get to the ER in time. The US has a crummy medical system but fixing it will be an uphill battle against the GOP party. If you lived in France or Canada, this would not be a problem.

      August 29, 2011 at 08:02 | Report abuse |
  30. Diana

    I'm allergic to aspartame (NutraSweet), and metal. The metal allergy so far has been fairly mild, I get hives with extended exposure but it takes a while. I do nail polish gromits and such on my clothing, where they're going to touching for extended periods. I can't wear most jewelry or watches. I also can't wear a medic alert bracelet, because.. they're *metal*!

    My aspartame allergy is a lot more severe, I've had reactions from a friend making a pitcher of crystal light while I was in the room. You know how you can "taste" it in the air because the powder is so light? Guess what, air-born aspartame! I've also had waitresses mix up my drink with a drink at another table, she gave my Dr. Pepper to someone else and I got their Diet Coke. I ended up in the hospital with an anaphalactic reaction, it only took one sip, just enough for me to taste that it was wrong. Now my husband or a friend will try some of my drink before I have any, if I'm by myself I order something that doesn't come in a diet form or can't be mixed up with one.

    Personally I feel people who intentionally 'slip' someone something they are allergic to should be charged with attempted manslaughter at least, if not attempted murder. Now I'm not talking charging 3 and 4th graders, I'm talking the adults, the teenagers who should know better. And I'm not talking accidental I'm talking the bullies who 'don't believe' there's an allergy, or who are just being cruel and want to see what happens. After all, these reactions can be fatal. If someone put poison in your food, they would be charged. Putting a known allergen into someone's food intentionally is the *exact* same thing. To them it *is* poison.

    August 27, 2011 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jennifer

      You can order a plastic medical bracelet. My son is 4 and the metal are not practical for a little one nor are the fabric ones that stay wet when he washes his hands. I had his medic alert information printed on a plastic bracelet (design-a-band.com) and he loves them. They're similar to the yellow bands that you see people wear for cancer. I also had both my husband's and my cell numbers printed inside should he get lost. Piece of mind.

      August 29, 2011 at 07:54 | Report abuse |
  31. Lo

    For the first time after a car wreck, I developed a food allergy but didn't know it at the time. I broke out in a rash with terrible itching. I took some benadryl and a couple days later I was ok. A month later, I had another reaction, went to the ER. I sat there quietly, itching and in pain. Several others went in front of me. I think it was because I was not carrying on like the others were doing. I sat there, starting to have some difficulty breathing. By the time I got to a room, they were hooking me up with meds. The dr. said that I would feel better in 20 min. It didn't work. They repeated the series of drugs 3 times. I started gasping for air and there is a nurse asking me if i had a living will and did I want to be resucitated. I was scared enough as it was, I managed to nod my head yes. I was finally stabilized an was placed in ICU. I now wear a medical alert bracelet, carry three meds and an epi-pen. After that experience, being so scared, I will never touch any food I even think I am allergic to. I now will have to do the food allergy testing in two weeks. every one who is close to me knows what to do if i get sick. I just hope it never happens again.

    August 27, 2011 at 22:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bhavet

      Hi Kelly,I came across your blog after psrchauing your book Vegan Baking Classics as I'm a vegetarian striving to eat a more plant based diet. My two children don't have allergies, and I will admit that when I first realized that there were no nut products allowed at my daughter's school I thought what the heck am I going to do? All she'll eat is peanut butter! Now of course I have a different point of view. Though she still prefers real peanut butter, she makes due with soybutter and other alternative lunches. I think it's a small price to pay to keep children safe. Now that I have children of my own I put myself into your position, and it is terrifying! This year, my daughter wanted to have a few friends at our family birthday party. One of them is severely allergic to nuts, and since every inch of our home has at one time come into contact with nuts, as well as my baking sheets and baking tools, I was terrified that being in our home could harm her even if nothing actually contained nuts. I decided not have her friends over this year, and I'd deal with it next year. Do you have any advice?

      March 4, 2012 at 13:50 | Report abuse |
  32. larry

    Because there is no control of what's put into processed food I'll bet that allergy problems are made worse by these chemical surprises that come in packages at your local grocery store.

    August 28, 2011 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. d

    people that are repeatedly exposed to something that makes them sick, can, and do develop a tolerance for it, just like the guy who handles poisonous critters, the same can be done with food allergies. Our society is so tuned into making drugs to solve everything, making up excuses and sickness's so they can feel special, and hysteria that we are a nation of wimps and pansies.

    August 28, 2011 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Julia P

      It's people like you who don't take food allergies seriously that end up sending someone's child to the hospital. These children are not wimps or pansies, on the contrary, they're quite brave. As far as being exposed to their allergen in order to build up a tolerance goes, that doesn't happen. The more they're exposed, the more their immune system will respond to the allergen. It is an immune system response. Your immune system believes the food is an invader and attacks it, instead of just ignoring it. If you keep the allergen away, there may be a chance the immune response will lessen over time. We were hoping our son would outgrow his allergy by age 5, he's now 9 and still highly allergic. So it's not a choice, it's biology. I hope this has enlightened you and others who misunderstand food allergy.

      August 29, 2011 at 03:43 | Report abuse |
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