Archive for January, 2010

Peanut Allergies…coping strategies

January 29th, 2010 1:29am

When I initially set out to write this series, I was a little disheartened by the lack of information available through my school. But I was most impressed with the outpouring of information from the many people who handle kids with peanut allergies on a daily basis. With all the information out there though, nothing can compensate for a childs own ability to self-manage their allergies. Parents with allergic children need to prepare their child for life in busy crowded situations like school by giving both the child and their teachers as much information as possible to be prepared.

A teacher with ample information to send home to a child’s classmates parents will be able to provide a much safer environment than a teacher with no tools to supply their parents and students. As Elizabeth Cowles Johnston, a member of School Nutition Association states, “schools want to ensure that sutdents are also cognizant of their own allergy risks – another reason tables or areas of “peanut0free” are more prevalent than complete bans as they are more manageable to monitor.” Elizabeth offered us two great printouts entitled “School Foodservice and Food Allergies: What We Need to Know” and a comprehensive “Food Allergy Action Plan” that parents can fill out for their kids to take to school and give to their teachers, parents or other involved faculty members.

Lor Aronsky from Food Allergy Ally shared some more suggestions of “nut free” treats and alternatives to send to school:

  • Instead of Peanut Butter, try Soy Nut Butter (IM Healthy) or Sunflower Butter (Sun Butter).
  • Treasure Mills Allergen Sensitive Snacks make school safe treats such as brownies, chocolate chip treats, oatmeal raisin cookies, etc. and are sold at Whole Foods Stores.
  • Divvies makes delicious treats for school.
  • Vermont Nut Free has amazing candies, treats, etc.
  • Entenmanns makes several nut free deserts and many popsicles and water ices are safe but a caution with these products…READ LABELS as not all of these products are made without nut contaminants.

Lori also offers some suggestions on home safety should you have a child with nut allergies over to play. It is fine to have nuts and peanut butter in your home but keep them out of reach and even out of sight if possible. If you have prepared peanut butter sandwiches on your table tops, simply wipe them down well. Remember to check labels before giving any food to the child. Recognize that they can safely eat fruit, vegetables, cheese, yogurt and MOST Mac and Cheeses and MOST pizza snacks but again…CHECK LABELS! Be sure the parent leaves 2 epi pens and they train you how to use one in case.

Other suggestions for classrooms are to make sure if you have a child with allergies, to bring a bag of “safe” treats to school for your teacher to keep on hand should someone unexpectedly bring questionable treats to school for the kids. Most teachers prefer kids bring in pencils, markers, stickers or other school supplies as an alternative to treats anyway.

Always wash hands after snacks or lunch to make sure that nut contaminants are not transferred to classroom materials.

A great web find was the Stuck on You labels. They offer many customized stickers, bags, labels, bracelets and school supplies that will help parents protect children by alerting caregivers to their specific allergy. They have some very fun ideas and supplies worth checking into.

Another suggestion came from Alana Elliot, Founder and President of Nonuttin’ Foods Inc. She suggests providing a large, color poster to the school with a picture of the allergic child, their food allergies, and no more than 3 simple steps to follow if an allergic reaction is suspected. Make enough copies for the child’s classroom, the staff room and the office. “While some people may be concerned about their child being labeled,” Alana says, “it’s advisable to have all in the school aware of your child so they can respond accordingly in an emergency and not all staff will know the child so must have a visual to refer to.” She adds,”Safety trumps privacy in this situation.”

Alana also recommends keeping your child’s epi-pens on their person. “A teacher in the playground with your child will not have time to go get an epi-pen in the school and return to your child.” Kat Eden, an employee at and mother of an allergic child, suggests a “teaching” epi-pen is worth having around so that parents can take a moment at the beginning of the school year to educate a teacher or other faculty member how to use the pen correctly without fear.

Kat also  has taught her son some choice phrases to help him communicate with the other children about his allergies. Politely refusing treats with a “no thank you” or even a more direct “I’m allergic to peanuts” will alert kids but may also invite teasing. So Kat suggested her son try a little humor of his own by saying “my body doesn’t like peanuts and if I eat them or touch them I’ll get very sick. But my body LOVEEESSSS chocolate!”…she adds, “I’m not sure why but that cracks him up every time!”.

Here are a few more helpful links worth checking out…

We hope you have found our unfortunately rather long blog posts this week helpful as we strive to keep our kids safer in school. It is also our hope that you will take this information and share it with as many others as you can so that we can continue to understand this allergy better, with less fear and with more understanding. As Jessica Cohen, a parent of a child with multiple food allergies, states “the more the people around him understand the seriousness of it, the more we can all work together to keep children like mine safe.” Mike Spinney, another concerned parent, adds “clearly communicating the reality of our daughter’s situation opens eyes, and when they know there’s a potential for death, they pay attention.”

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Peanuts…to ban or not to ban?

January 26th, 2010 1:44pm

To ban, or not to ban...that is the question. But what is the answer?

According to the “School Nutrition Operations Report: The State of School Nutrition 2009” released in September by the School Nutrition Association, only about 34.7% of schools have banned any foods due to food allergies. The most commonly banned food item is peanuts. The report also tells us that as a direct result of food allergies and sensitivities, more than 20% of districts now offer gluten-free food options. While many parents of allergy affected children have sought a complete ban on peanuts at schools, there are mixed emotions as to whether or not this would actually solve any problems.

Elizabeth Cowles who works with the non-profit School Nutrition Association, expalins “one common concern we’ve heard many school foodservice professionals cite is the false safety that a complete ban can create.” She continues,”they ultimately have to rely on compliance from all parents and students to make a food ban effective.”

Elizabeth’s concerns are echoed by Corinne Gregory, founder and President of SocialSmarts (a nationally-recognized schools-based program that teaches good social skills, positive character and values). Bans and isolating a student with allergies can further alienate a child who already feels “different”. Corinne has encountered increasing occurrences of bullying in the form of “tainting” foods or even trying to force-feed a child the very ingredient they are deathly allergic to. She adds “kids have beven been known to contaminate personal items or work surfaces with the allergen”. Such bullying tactics are absolutely horrific to imagine actually taking place but Corrine stresses “it’s vital that parents, teachers, and the public know about this nasty practice as they strive to keep kids safe.”

So if bans and isolation are not the answer, then what can we do to help these children? Enter Lori Aronsky, owner of Food Allergy Ally. She volunteered some wonderful strategies that are already being successfully practiced at many schools. First, education. Fellow classmates, teachers, parents and other faculty must be aware of the severity and risks involved. She recommended some wonderful books for kindergarten and first graders to help them understand and hopefully sympathize with the difficulties of living with a food allergy:

On the subject of classroom etiquette, Lori ads that “when a child brings nut products to school it is by choice. When a child comes to school with nut allergies, it is not by choice.” She points out that if you create a “nut table” and a “safe table”, the “safe table” will invariably be the larger of the two, further isolating and alienating the allergic child. Kids like to sit with their friends. She ads “my experience has been that most kids will decide to bring safe food to school, so they can sit with their friends with nut allergies…even remind[ing] their parents not to send nut products” so they can sit with their allergic friends. She recommends having a contraband table where those who bring nut products must sit. This keeps the allergic child from being isolated and encourages kids to bring safe snacks so they can sit with their friends.

Several others spoke up with great methods for addressing the cafeteria concerns. Gina Lincicum describes the arrangement at her cafeteria as ideal for helping her son who deals with a severe peanut allergy feel more accepted. The lunchroom is arranged so that the kids with allergies can sit with their own class rather than a separate table off in a corner. At the end of each table, there’s a section marked off with tape and pcitures that clearly read “No Peanut Zone”. Adult monitors help younger children sit in the right section. Anyone with PB&J is moved to the father end of the table. Those with n-PB lunches can sit in the middle or even in the No Peanut Zone. Her son is even allowed to participate in cafeteria cleanup with the rest of his class, usually being assigned sweeping instead of table washing). “it is very integrated and comfortable”, Gina adds.

Tatia Prieto, a K-12 consultant, primarily in the operational areas (a.k.a. school lunch) explains her cafeteria’s similar arrangement. They  generally eat lunch by classroom. A card is attached to the end of each table with a color coded dot for the various types of medical emergencies the staff needs to be aware of at that table. Confidentiality is maintained by faculty having a binder near the cash register that includes student names and even pictures that correlate to the dots on the table cards.

Join us again tomorrow for tips on how to help a child self manage their allergies at school, suggestions on classroom safety and more “safe” snack and lunch suggestions. Share your ideas, suggestions, and concerns in our forum.

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Peanut Allergies and your kids in school

January 25th, 2010 1:53am

Food allergies are thankfully not something I have had to deal with directly with my children. But I have been frightened enough for several kids that play with my own children and have peanut allergies that I have felt compelled to learn more about them. What I have discovered is a world of wonderful parents and specialists that have an immense amount of experience and knowledge and were willing to share it with me. I would like to take the time this week to share some of this insightful wisdom with all of you in hopes that it will help enlighten us all as to ways we can keep all of our kids safe and positive at school.

I’d like to start off this series by clarifying some of the different peanut related allergies out there. Most nut-related allergies seem to fall into two major categories…Peanuts and Tree Nuts, with the peanut allergy usually being the most volatile and sever. As with all food allergies, label reading is a necessity. According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, all FDA-regulated manufactured food products that contain peanut as an ingredient are required by U.S. law to list the word “peanut” on the product label. If they contain a tree nut as an ingredient, they are also required by U.S. law to list the specific tree nut on the product label.

In addition to any foods with warning labels that reference “may contain nuts” or “may be manufactured in a plant that processes nuts”, here are some foods that should be avoided in a child with a “peanut” allergy:

  • African, Asian (especially chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese), and Mexican dishes
  • baked goods (e.g., pastries, cookies)
  • candy (including chocolate candy)
  • chili
  • egg rolls
  • enchilada sauce
  • marzipan
  • mole sauce
  • nougat

If you are dealing with a tree nut allergy, here are a few of the ingredients you should avoid:

  • artificial nuts
  • beechnut
  • Brazil nuts
  • butternut
  • cashews
  • chestnuts
  • coconut
  • filberts/hazelnuts
  • ginkgo nut
  • hickory nuts
  • macadamia nuts
  • marzipan/almond paste
  • natural nut extract (e.g., almond, walnut)
  • nut butters (e.g., cashew butter)
  • nutmeat
  • pecans
  • pesto
  • pine nuts (also referred to as pinyon nuts)
  • pistachios
  • praline
  • shea nut
  • walnuts

As an extra warning, Wal Mart brand “great value” has now started processing everything with nuts even down to their ice cream and whale crackers. So avoid these foods altogether.

For those of you who are like me who don’t have a child with allergies but want to know some “safe” snacks you can send to school with your child that will not harm one of his friends that have a peanut allergy, here are some suggestions from a fellow mom who deals with this allergy in her own son. She offers these suggestions with the warning that manufacturer packaging and processing continually changes so please READ LABELS of any snacks you choose and watch for any of the following: peanuts/nuts, peanut/nut butter, peanut/nut oil, peanut/nut flour, peanut/nut meal, or any of the statements “May contain traces of peanut/nuts” or “Manufactrued in a facility that also processes peanuts (and/or other nuts)”…

  • Crackers: Pepperidge Farm Cheddar Goldfish (plain, pretzel or cheddar), Cheez-Its, Cheese Nips, Keepbler Twon House Crackers, Ritz Crackers (plain), Triscuits (original), What Thins (original), Chicken in a Bisket Crackers (original), Kraft Handi-Snacks Crackers with Cheese Dip
  • Potato Chips: Pringles, Lays (plain), Cheetors, Tostitos, Fritos
  • Pretzels: Rold Gold
  • Cookies: Original Oreos or Double Stuff, Teddy Grahams (not the trail mix), Barnum Animal Crackers, Rice Krispy Treats (plain), Nabisco Vanilla Wafers, Honey Maid Graham Crackers (plain or cinnamon), Fig Newtons, Chips-A-Hoy (NOT MINIS), Hostess Ho-Ho’s & Twinkies, Pepperidge Farm Milano/Chessmen/Shortbread/Sugar Cookes
  • Candy: Smarties, Starburst, Swedish Fish, Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Pops, Skittles, Bubble Gum, lollipops, Sweet-Tarts, Air Heads, Lifesavers, Hershey Kisses (plain, not with almonds & not Hugs), Jet Puff Marshmallows
  • Gummy Snaks: (NOT Brachs or Jelly Belly) Only Betty Crocker or Nabisco Fruit Snacks including Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Roll-Ups, and Gushers.
  • Doughnuts: Krispy Kreme “Original Glazed” (only from the store – with or without sprinkles. Not pre-packaged from a grocery store).

Join us in our forum all week as we discuss the topic of peanut allergies and how to deal with them in schools. Coming up this week…Suggestions for helping your child self-manage their allergy, Bullying and ways to avoid it, Lunch room techniques and Guidelines for safety in the classroom.

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We’ve got a yummy dessert idea, courtesy of Plush Puffs Gourmet Marshmallows, that could be a fun alternative to a traditional birthday cake…your kids can even have fun helping to make it! It’s called a Brownie S’mores Dessert Pizza (can you really go wrong with a name like this?? I don’t think so!).

Here’s the recipe which serves 8…


One box brownie mix
1/2 cup marzipan
1/2 cup cream cheese

1 cup Vanilla Bean Plush Puffs (cut into 1/4″ pieces)
1 cup Caramel Swirl Plush Puffs (cut into 1/4″ pieces)
1 cup Chocolate Chipetta Plush Puffs (cut into 1/4″ pieces)

1/2 caramel sauce
1/2 chocolate sauce


Generously grease a 12″ springform round pan.  Prepare the brownie using the directions for the cake like brownies.  Pour brownie batter into the greased pan.  Combine the cream and marzipan cheeses – using table spoon, drop dollops of cheese mixture randomly on top of brownie batter – using a knife swirl cheese dollops in a paisly like shape.  Bake brownies according to box instructions.

Cool brownie round and release from the spring form pan.  Mix the Plush Puff pieces and spread equally over the brownie round.  Using a kitchen torch – toast the mallows until golden brown and gooey – drizzle caramel and chocolate sauce over the marshmallows -and sprinkle with toasted pecan pieces if desired. Cut into pizza slices and serve!

Give it a try for your next birthday party! Could be a fun activity for a girls party!

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I have a child that has been diagnosed with “Reactive  Airway Disease” which is a fancy way of saying “asthma”. He was placed on the medication Singulair when he was 5 yrs old, among others, which seemed to help his symptoms a great deal. It has been several years and we have found that we have been able to take him off of all the asthma medications now but one…Singulair. While this medication has noticeably reduced his asthmatic tendencies, we found there was one unusual side affect. We noticed that we were beginning to have frequent bed wetting issues again. This sincerely upset my little one because it was not something that he consciously did. He would wake up very sad that it had happened. We were surprised since it had been nearly 3 years since we had had to deal with this. It seemed odd that it’s recurrence coincided with the use of the Singulair. This was not a connection that I made on my own but linked the two after talking to several parents that surprisingly were having similar issues. Interestingly enough, we had all been giving the Singulair to our children in the evening. Once we changed the dosage to the morning, the bed wetting stopped!

As I began to research this phenomenon, I discovered that I was far from alone in these observations.  While there is no conclusive evidence available to support the link between bed wetting and Singulair usage, there are many parents out there that have observed these same effects. If your child has to be on the drug Singulair and is having issues with bed wetting, I would encourage parents to experiment with giving it at a different time of day. For us, dosing in the morning rather than the evening made all the difference. I hope this discovery can help other young children dealing with this difficult issue.

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