I posted early this spring about advance planning for my tween's food allergies: updated 504 accommodations, learning to self-inject EpiPens, and the like. As we face growing older with food allergies, I find myself unable to rely on the basic parent-centered tenets I used in the playdate phase of life:
Now, we are shifting to tenets of self care, so soon and too suddenly (for me, at least!):
Mostly, this is going well. I have found myself searching out resources again, though, much like when we first found out about the severity of these food allergies. This time, I have a ton of great places to go already---from Kids With Food Allergies to the AAFA, FARE, ACAAI, and more. Still, I sometimes come up short with just where we need help (like when we looked for role-playing examples of how a child can speak with an adult who really isn't understanding the seriousness of her food avoidance needs).
My latest search is for a pocket card about when to use the EpiPen.
We figured out quickly that Jo needs not only to know HOW to use the pen correctly but also WHEN. And, truly, that's something that is still unclear to a lot of adults, especially when we are in the middle of a scary situation. To ask a child of any age to do it too weighs on my shoulders. Knowing how and when to do this goes hand in hand with her independence, though, and the card has to be small enough to go with her pens but in clear enough language for anyone of any age to understand it quickly. That's a lot to ask from a 3x5 piece of paper!
I've found some great posters, action plans, and other full-page resources from the usual amazing sites:
This 2013 ACAAI anaphylaxis card via Kids With Food Allergies comes close to what I'm seeking, but it doesn't give as much clarity as I'd like for our specific needs. Something between these medical basics and the details of the posters would be ideal, really.
So, for now, I decided to make our own personalized, plain-language "When to Use Epi" card and try it out for the summer. After talking through scenarios with Jo and her allergist, I decided to include more common food experiences that might not need epinephrine but might be confusing to a tween with food allergies when a parent isn't nearby. We'll laminate a copy of this for her new purse-pack and for the swim bag.
I've added the downloadable PDF version of our front-back card here in case any of you are seeking similar* portable cheat sheets for your growing kids with food allergies.
*Medical disclaimer time: The instructions I put on OUR card are instructions from OUR allergist to my daughter for her particular situation at this particular time. Although anaphylaxis does have some consistent presentations, its triggers, speed of onset, and treatment plans vary slightly for every person and situation. Please feel free to use this card only as an example of how you might formulate your own card with your allergist's help. I highly suggest taking any example of your own to the allergist for approval, too.
Today is Wear Red Day for heart disease awareness, one of the many efforts to kick off National Heart Awareness month this February. This is the perfect time to honor all of the doctors, nurses, surgeons, cardiac techs, nutritionists, rehab specialists, and so many others who work daily to help keep hearts healthy. It's also a good time to assess our own efforts at heart health, no matter what your age, exercise routine, or family history. Like so many chronic conditions, heart disease is a hidden problem---it can build slowly like a sneak attack on your health. I've actually lived with an imperfect heart valve my entire life, but it took preparing for and recovering from open heart surgery to really dive into the February and year-round heart awareness efforts.
You might wonder how heart month is relevant to food allergies, or to kids at all. Actually, kids with allergies could have up to twice the risk of heart disease, according to a large study published about a year ago in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Other research makes connections between asthma, allergies, and heart health, too, in kids and adults.
Luckily, kids aren't forgotten by the American Heart Association, and neither is family time in the kitchen. The AHA's Life's Simple 7 for Kids helps families teach kids to make good food and lifestyle choices as part of their daily routine, setting them up for a lifetime of good self care in so many ways. And their Simple Cooking With Heart for Kids models their adult recipe collection and starts teaching kids the tools they need to enjoy making homemade healthy meals for the rest of their lives. These and other tools aren't just good for kids with heart disease risks or allergies; they're good for all kids, anywhere.
Although the processes---including inflammation from allergies potentially damaging healthy tissue or lifestyle choices from immune conditions leading to obesity or poor food choices, for example---are still unclear, the bottom line really is that all of us should consider ways to keep our hearts in the best conditions possible. And the food choices we make play a large role in that condition.
So, on a practical level, both food allergy and heart disease patients need to keep a careful eye on their diets. Whether the concerns are cholesterol and sodium content or a top-8 allergen, learning to plan every meal can be daunting at first but ultimately lifesaving for both groups.
My family now adapts to a plethora of dietary needs: we avoid a long list of food allergens (different for each of the four of us, naturally) and we try to make low-cholesterol, low-sodium options, too. Sometimes that means reworking a recipe that is allergy-safe but uses a vegan margarine or salt into one that uses a healthy oil or herbal flavorings instead. Our mealtimes usually work out pretty well; snacking turns out to be the most challenging time for food choices.
I've found that my favorite snacks need to have a crunch to them to stay satisfying. My top three heart-healthy, allergy-safe munchies right now are carrot sticks, air-popped popcorn with light olive oil and different seasonings, and our personal homemade unbaked chex mix.
All three are quick to make and portable. I'm always on the lookout for something else to add variety, though. What are your favorite healthy snack ideas?
Hi, I'm Nicole.
ABOUT THE BLOG
An apothecary is a person or a place. Either one implies healing and relates to pharmacy in its truest sense, as a source of treatment and advice.
This blog is my way of uniting my pharmacy training with my efforts to provide a healthy and safe lifestyle for my family. In true apothecary form, I research and prescribe alternative ingredients that work just right in each specific recipe, and I would like to share the results with anyone who needs help making their own family’s kitchen allergy safe and heart healthy.
Nicole Van Hoey's books on Goodreads
Bakery Bites: Breads and Treats Without Dairy, Eggs, Nuts, Seeds, or Soy
ratings: 1 (avg rating 5.00)
Kitchen Adventures With Multiple Food Allergies: A Recipe Collection for Celebrations Without Dairy, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Seeds, or Soy