Tracking Down Allergens

detectiveOne of the more frustrating parts of dealing with food allergies in children is trying – with varying degrees of success – to work out what is causing a reaction. Our son Gabriel has, in recent weeks, been dealing with a new bunch of skin rash issues, mostly behind his knees and on his belly. We know from past experience that this can be caused by a variety of things, and aggravated by others. Heat or sweat, for example, can aggravate a reaction. Over-exertion or emotional stress can actually cause one.

Our house is not allergen-free. We have never gone quite that far. While I was still nursing him, which I did for the first two years of his life, I limited my diet to exclude all of his food allergies (banana, barley, dairy products, wheat, eggs, sesame, flax, and any other food that I suspected, until it had been ruled out). Once he weaned completely, I re-introduced these things back into my diet, although we have always been careful about things like cross-contamination.

Recently my husband, who is a vegan, has been using a lot of tumeric in his cooking. One day when I was cooking potatoes for my son in what I thought was a clean pan, I found that they had turned yellow. This led me to thinking that if tumeric residues were being left in a pan after washing, then other residues might be doing the same.

We are now carefully preparing and cooking his foods on surfaces (cutting boards) and pans that are “his” alone. We also wash his dishes separately, or at least before the rest of the dishes – and always in detergent-free soaps.

I give some credence to the idea that trace exposures to some allergens may aid or speed his body’s chance to “outgrow” the allergen. With some allergens we have learned from experience that we cannot permit even traces to reach him for fear of a serious reaction. It’s a tricky little balancing act, and far from an exact science, but we remain vigilant, ready with his epi should the need ever arise, and aside from some restrictions and precautions, try to keep our lives as “normal” as possible.

We are now pretty sure that tumeric is an allergen for him. Possibly not a
“serious” one, but definitely an irritant. Either way, it was a good eye-opener for us. We know that if we take these food preparation precautions for another week or more and find that his allergic responses are fewer, we may be a step closer to pinning down a cause – specifically cross-contaminations. What the suspect substance is, we may never know for sure…

SISU Dophilus Chewable tablets recalled



SISU has issued a voluntary recall of their Dophilus Chewable tablets, due to trace amounts of dairy in what is incorrectly labeled as a dairy-free product. One person has already declared an adverse reaction to these tablets, and others with milk allergy are advised to stop taking the product and to return it to the place of purchase for refund. (from CBC story 7/25/2009)

For regular information on recalls of products in Canada due to undeclared allergens, see the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website where you can view advisory and recall information online, or sign up for email updates or RSS feeds.

In the U.S., see the FDA’s Recalls, Market Withdrawals & Safety Alerts page.

Allergy Free Birthday Cake



Gabriel turned three last Friday. (Happy Birthday, Little Man!!) As ever, I found myself trying to figure out how best to create a nice birthday cake for him without using wheat, eggs, dairy, banana (and a few other things besides), while still creating a cake that is tasty to the rest of the folks who will be eating it! Now, I love to bake, but I am finding it a bit of a challenge to bake without half the ingredients I’m used to using. The consistency of the pre-baked batter always looks or feels ‘wrong’ to me! But this year I found a terrific recipe that worked out really well, and was a hit with all concerned. See this link for recipe – Allergy Free Birthday Cake. Apparently this recipe was born during the war, when most people couldn’t get their hands on such “luxuries” as milk and eggs. This was their creative solution.

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Allergy Buttons


These are kind of cool…tiny little buttons that you could attach to your child’s cap or shirt, indicating which foods should be avoided. A variety of buttons to choose from.

“Child’s Food Allergies Take Toll on Family Plans”…Well, DUH!

duhIn a March 15, 2009 news release from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, two studies were introduced in advance of their presentation at the Academy’s upcoming Annual Meeting. These studies were about the toll that children’s food allergies could take on their families. From the press release:

In looking at the lives of thousands of caregivers to children, researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute in Little Rock found that caregivers with a food-allergic child were more likely to stop working, reduce work hours or incur financial problems.

I don’t know about you, but to me this is a no-brainer. When your child has food allergies, it changes your life, forces you to re-evaluate your entire lifestyle.

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When other people Just Don’t Get It…

frustration_relief2For the majority of people not living with allergic kids, the concept that a child could get very sick or even die from their allergies is foreign at best. They may understand on an intellectual level, have seen it on the news, heard about it from others, but only have the vaguest understanding of what it feels like. Parenting is a tough enough job without this added degree of difficulty!

When my son was very small, he was covered in eczema from head to toe, most noticeably on his face. I came to dread leaving the house for the number of stupid comments that admittedly well-meaning folks were wont to utter. I used to fantasize about the various ways I could respond to this frequently-heard gem:

“He’s got a bit of a rash, there, eh?”

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Food Content Alerts

Now this is nifty! This site allows users to create a free account, then set up lists of “safe” foods, which will then help to generate recipes and shopping lists that are safe for their particular needs. Especially for those of us dealing with multiple food allergies, this is a pretty cool resource. You can take the recipes and shopping lists that you have created, and share them with friends, family, schools, camps or whomever. And you can also check your list on the fly, from the grocery store, for example.

Worth a look.

Food Content Alerts.

Safe AND effective sunscreen for your whole family

When you have allergic kids, especially ones with ongoing skin conditions like eczema, you tend to become a little paranoid about which products you put on their skin. My son is a true redhead, with beautiful red-gold locks, blue eyes and alabaster skin – skin that burns faster than you can say “SPF 30”! So if we’re playing at the beach or a park on a hot, sunny day, sunscreen is a must.

Meanwhile, new research shows that 3 out of 5 sunscreens are either ineffective or contain hazardous chemicals. This funky widget comes to us courtesy of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website, and will help you to choose a sunscreen that is effective yet safe for your kids and yourself.

Germ factories: to avoid or not to avoid, that is the question…

The Wee Lad has been sick since Thursday. Just a cold, which started out as not much more than a sniffle. He seems more-or-less fine in the daytime – cheerful and playful as ever, if a little stuffy – but at night, getting to sleep and staying asleep is tricky for a little guy whose node id all stubbed ub! And then when he finally does get to sleep, he starts coughing. It’s a nasty, phlegmy cough now, which means it’s loosening up in his chest, but again, hard to sleep through. 

We don’t take extraordinary measures with a simple cold – just some Vicks vaporub (baby version) on the chest, and good ‘ol Hylands homeopathic Cold and Bronchial Cough remedies. We also run a vaporizer in the bedroom, and go in to comfort him whenever his coughing wakes him all the way up. 

And, much as we curse the germ factory that is our local drop-in play centre (where we spent last Tuesday morning, and where we suspect this latest bug was picked up), we don’t consciously keep him away from other kids, even in settings where we know he will probably contract some kind of illness. As difficult as it can be sometimes – both for him and for us – we also know that his childhood illnesses are actually strengthening his immune system.

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Allergen-free cooking

When you have a kid with multiple food allergies to cook for, most recipes become an exercise in substitution! And many recipes – particularly baked goods – don’t lend themselves well to this, especially when you need to eliminate all wheat, egg and dairy, for starters.

There are lots of books out there for allergen-free cooking, but what I love about this one is that it offers each single recipe with multiple variations (dairy free, egg-free, gluten-free, wheat-free, nut-free, and/or low sugar) and suggested substitutions. It helps a lot when you’re just learning how to cook without half the ingredients you’re accustomed to using!

This one even has recipes for allergen-free play-dough!

The writer is herself an allergy sufferer, who as a kid often had to sit out when the cookies or birthday cake was passed out. She introduces the book as being written because “Every child deserves a cookie.”

The Kid-Friendly Food Allergy Cookbook: More Than 150 Recipes That Are Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, Egg-Free, and Low in Sugar