Monday, March 3, 2014
Things We've Learned about Food Allergies
by Lauren Wu
When we first found our son had allergies, he was allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, egg, dairy, soy, wheat, avocado, banana, oats, sesame and beef. I'm sure there other things I've forgotten. After 3 years, we are down to peanuts, tree nuts and egg.
Here are some things we've learned:
1) Develop a support network. Join FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education.) We just got a lifetime family membership. They send out helpful information regularly. I am also part of a Facebook SF Food Allergy Network group. There is likely something similar in your area.
2) For dairy allergies, it's not enough to avoid things that contain milk. Check ingredient lists carefully and avoid butter, cheese, casein, whey, etc. If you want a milk substitute to drink you can go with hemp milk, coconut milk, almond milk, and soy milk. Your child is over 5 so technically rice milk is okay but given it has high arsenic levels I would drink that sparingly as well.
3) It is tough to find snacks that don't contain wheat! My son used to eat rice crackers nonstop. Depending on the brand and ingredients, they are safe. Dried seaweed is also popular with him which is shocking given how picky he is. The brand Seasnax is great because they use olive oil and they make individual packets.
4) Find Enjoy Life brand foods. Try are free of the top 8 allergens. My son loves the Rice Milk Crunch which tastes just like a Nestlé Crunch chocolate bar but doesn't contain milk etc. Enjoy Life also makes a line of cookies and all sorts of snacks.
5) Namaste makes a line of pasta that does not contain wheat. They have a pasta called Say Cheez that tastes great. It doesn't contain dairy yet is close enough to Mac n cheese that kids will eat it.
6) There are cheese substitutes but they won't melt properly in the oven or microwave. The best one we've found is Daiya but it's still a little lacking. They make a line of "cream cheese" and pizza which I haven't tried yet but gets decent reviews.
7) 10% of people allergic to dairy are also allergic to beef so watch out for that and observe carefully.*
8) Make sure you're seeing a great allergist. It took me 3 tries to find a good allergist.
9) If you did IgE blood tests, have them redone once a year so you can see the trend. That's how we were comfortable enough to do a food challenge for dairy this year.
10) Make sure your kids have enough vitamin D and zinc. There is a link with those deficiencies and food allergies.
11) How is your child sleeping? It turns out my son has environmental allergies and his sleep apnea is partially due to that. That's a whole other long discussion.
12) The is a lot of cross contact in foods. So if you eat oats for instance, make sure you specifically get gluten free oats.
13) You have to be a strong advocate for your child. If s/he goes to public school, have a 504 plan in place. Make sure his/her school has provisions to keep him/her safe.
14) I suggest a medical alert bracelet for children who have an IgE allergy. We use Allerbling.
*Milk Allergy Diet by Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library Online