Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Beware at Zehrs

I was at our local supermarket this morning, and saw a box of Farmers Market cookies. What caught my eye was that the label on top of the box said “No Nuts”, as you can see below.

IMG_0497 sorry about the quality – the macro on my cell phone sucks

So, having trained myself to religiously read labels, I flipped the box over – only to read the following underneath the ingredient list …


WHAT??? According to the label from Zehrs, this product contains no nuts, but according to the manufacturer (Farmers Market – and kudos to them for clearly listing the allergens, BTW) there may be trace amounts of nuts (and apparently perhaps a fruit pit as well, but I digress).

The store manager won’t be in until later today, but we’ll need to ask them the reasoning for, and if they could change the confusing front label.

To some it may seem that I am unfairly targeting Zehrs, but they are the only supermarket in our small town and the closest competitor is 20 km away. Not many choices for parents looking for quick and easy snacks to send with their children to school.

Again, make sure you Read the Label every single time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fighting False Information

I always find it amazing how in a society that prides itself on tolerance and acceptance, there can be so much hatred directed towards people – and children, no less - with medical conditions that in some jurisdictions are classed as disabilities.

In the latest issue of Chatelaine magazine, you can find an article that dismisses food allergies as an overreaction by “parents and schools [who are] cowering in fear of the tiny peanut”. The article is a parent of a picky eater who has been inconvenienced by her son’s school enacting a ban on peanuts for the sake of safety of another allergic student.

The author proceeds to misquote studies and figures to support her theories. A good take on the article – and the overall reaction by the public and Chatelaine’s editors - can be found here (and yes, that’s my comment as ‘Hi-Lander’). I can understand the editors’ reasoning for publishing the article … it creates controversy, controversy creates sales, and sales create profit.

How often do the people with these negative opinions think about how it affects those of us that have to deal with food allergies on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis? Reading through the comments on both the original and CBC News articles rub salt deep into a fresh wound for me, as we are still dealing with the effects of one such parent at our sons’ school. Krystyne or I now have to be in the classroom from the morning bell until lunchtime to monitor for a possible reaction in hopes to catch Liam before it turns anaphylactic. What’s sad is that before this, Liam had no reactions in the two years he was in school. Since this change (read my last post for the details), Liam has had two reactions within three weeks. This is also the reason the blog has been so quiet lately – the whole thing is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining – as it is still not resolved.

When it comes to peanut allergies, there are varying triggers that require varying precautions.

The trigger with the highest threshold for causing a reaction is when someone actually eats peanuts. This is relatively easy to avoid – one commenter on the Chatelaine article (connieg) relates to this – simply don’t eat peanuts. This has no effect on picky eaters as long as food is not shared. Education of your own child is the key to keeping them safe.

The trigger for the next-lower threshold is in touching something with peanut protein (residue). In this case, the education of others is necessary as well as the child with the allergy. This is the reason that some airlines create “buffer zones” where peanuts are not allowed to be served. As long as the child doesn’t touch anything outside of that buffer zone, there should not be a reaction. In school classrooms, the easiest thing to do is ban peanuts from the room (at least in primary grades, until the child is old enough to manage their own allergy). There is a Kindergarten student at our boys’ school who is touch allergic to peanuts.

Many people believe that using an anti-bacterial hand wash or spray can clean surfaces of peanut residue, but anti-bacterial is not anti-protein. When wiping a surface with peanut protein using anti-bacterial wipes (or sprays, or alcohol-based cleaners), you are merely smearing the protein around. It needs to be washed with ‘regular’ cleaning agents (i.e.: SOAP).

Liam’s trigger has the lowest threshold (rare even in his allergist’s experience). He is in the 1% of peanut-allergic children who are airborne-allergic to peanuts. This means that if you ate peanut butter for breakfast, he can react (and has reacted) to you. With each reaction, the allergy gets more severe, and lessens any chances he may have had of growing out of it later in life. His reaction times have lowered from over an hour (airborne) to within 15 minutes, and from minutes (ingesting) to seconds. This is another reason why many schools put peanut bans in place, and why Liam always carries his EpiPens with him.

With more misinformation, such as in the Chatelaine article and related comments, comes the need for more accurate education. When Anaphylaxis Canada learned that the article was to be published, they penned and submitted a formal rebuttal letter, and started a discussion forum in Chatelaine’s Health section – which has since been buried by discussions on H1N1 concerns.

Education is the key, but like all keys, needs to fit the lock.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Enough is Enough

For the last few weeks, I’ve been fighting the strong urge to speak out publically about an issue at Liam’s school – one that’s seen him miss classes and made us the topic of conversation in the staff room – but, as Popeye would say, “That’s all I can stands. I can’t stands no more!”

I do apologize that this will be a long post, but I’ve included headings to help organize my thoughts and assist in reading.

All three of our boys are allergic to peanuts. Joseph and Keeghan, our older two, only react if they eat trace amounts. Liam, our youngest, is by far the worst reacting of the three. He is anaphylactic to trace amounts (down to 10 ppm) but he is also airborne allergic. This means that if you eat peanut butter – or anything else with nuts – and are in the same room with him, he will react to you. Our allergist has told us that he is in the 1% of children with peanut allergies who have this airborne trigger. His reactions are also atypical – there’s no swelling or rash. Instead, he loses blood pressure that if left unnoticed can (and has) put him in the emergency room.

School Life Before
Liam was diagnosed with this allergy three years ago. Two years ago, at age 4, he started school. The boys’ school and the parents of his classmates until now have been very understanding and supportive. The school has an “avoidance policy” for every student with a food allergy. This policy describes accepted and agreed-upon procedures for reducing the risk of exposure to the child’s allergen(s). Part of Liam’s avoidance policy is that the students’ lunches are checked for non-peanut-free snacks.

This school (which I will not name, because the faculty and staff have been very cooperative with us over the years) is too small and too crowded (read “old”) to allow for a lunchroom, let alone a peanut-free table within it. For this reason the primary students eat their lunch and snacks at their desks. Hence the need to ensure that, as the school board policy states, “the students have a safe environment in which to learn”. So for the last two years, Liam’s class lunches have been quickly checked each morning. The children place their lunches on a bookshelf outside the classroom. While class begins, the lunches are discreetly checked – not someone groping through the lunch bag, but a quick glance at packaging and gently shaking the bag to see any that may be obscured. This is something that my wife Krystyne has volunteered to do since Day One. She is phenomenal at differentiating “safe” and “unsafe” items quickly – it still amazes me. If something is found, Krystyne quietly asks the teacher to speak to the child, and they are asked if they could put the “unsafe” item in their backpack to enjoy after school. The student is then offered a peanut-free item to replace it (which we have bought with our own money and left in the classroom for this purpose), and the day continues.

In this way, we are taking the responsibility of keeping Liam safe back on us rather than burdening others with it. The teachers, staff and other parents have often thanked us that this worry has been lifted from their shoulders and that, as one mom put it, “even if I screw up and accidentally put something in there, I know it’s going to be caught.” Krystyne has also volunteered to do this for another touch-allergic student who started Kindergarten this year as part of his avoidance policy. And despite everyone trying their best, there have been “unsafe” foods found.

But No More - “The Incident”
Three weeks ago, the mother of a child in Liam’s class decided that this showed a “lack of trust” on our part and asked the vice-principal that the lunches no longer be checked. The mother suggested that Liam could eat his lunch outside of the classroom instead. The vice-principal agreed with us that this did not help avoid exposure to peanuts, as Liam’s classroom could still be contaminated. Not finding any satisfaction, the mother then went to the school board complaining now of privacy concerns. In a knee-jerk reaction, the school board went against Liam’s established avoidance policy and put a stop to the lunch checks.

In a long, tearful meeting with the vice-principal, we came to the conclusion that if the school was unable to provide a safe environment for Liam, he could no longer attend until it was resolved. We offered to sit down and talk with the other mom and asked the vice-principal to convey that message to her, but in the end we were left with no other choice but to keep Liam home until the matter could be addressed.

Sadly this decision affected the touch-allergic child as well, as his classmates’ lunches were no longer being checked either.

School Board Miscommunication
After downloading and reading through the policies available on the Durham District School Board’s website we saw that, indeed, the board was going against its own guidelines. We left messages for trustees, administrators, superintendants, but got no answers. At this point we called our MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament), who assured us that under Sabrina’s Law we were fully within our rights and that he would gladly help us – but cautioned that the matter would become immediately public once he got involved. We thanked him and declined his offer for the moment to allow the possibility of a resolution through the school board. Liam remained home, feeling that his friends no longer wanted him in the classroom.

Finally we were contacted by the School Board’s administrator, who informed us that she had talked with a representative from Anaphylaxis Canada and been told that in her words, “airborne allergies account for only 1% of food allergies, so don’t worry about it.” Needless to say we were taken aback. We spoke with the same representative at Anaphylaxis Canada who assured us that she was grossly misquoted, and that the school board administrator did not even mention that she was inquiring about an airborne allergic child. It took a few days of back-and-forth calling for the administrator to understand Liam’s documented sensitivity and severity.

Since then, we have talked with other members of the school board (we were originally told to only deal with the administrator), and a plan was arranged to be put into place.

Baby Steps
For the first week, Krystyne was constantly on the phone. The principal at Liam’s school had taken over the matter from the vice-principal, and one morning we went in to discuss if there was any progress since talking with the board. We brought Liam with us, as it was his education (and life) we were dealing with, and we make it a point not to lie to our children about what’s going on. Within 5 minutes of being in her office, I noticed the first signs of Liam having a reaction – you could start to see the veins through his temples. If we catch it at that point and keep him active (natural adrenaline), we can usually halt the reaction with Benadryl, which he also carries with him. While Liam munched on the pills and bounced around the office, we explained how we can never know what triggers his airborne reactions – maybe residue on a doorknob or surface, someone in the outer office, anything – and that’s how subtly they start. While unplanned … and definitely unwanted … Liam’s reaction that morning helped the principal understand what she was dealing with. So a “lunch check permission form” was drafted to be sent home with board approval.

During this time, a number of parents had come to us and asked if we knew which mother it was (“No.”), if we wanted them to write a letter (“Sure, but only to the principal or board. Not the media.”), or if there was anything else they could do (“Just keep praying.”). We didn’t tell many people what was going on other than the bare minimum, since we didn’t want to be what everyone was talking about around the dinner table.

The school board has since said to us that they have never received as much support – or even comments either for or against – on any issue in the past as with the support from parents on this one.

A few days later, all but 2 permission forms had come back with resounding support of the lunch checks, and the decision was made that any children with “No” forms would eat in another classroom and have to wash their hands and faces before coming back into Liam’s class. After a full wash down of the classroom, we sent him back to school, and all but those 2 lunches were allowed to be checked in the manner they were before.

The next week, another complaint came in from the same mother that her child was being singled out by eating in another room. So in another knee-jerk reaction, all of the students are once again eating in Liam’s classroom regardless if their lunches have been checked or not. Once again policies are being thrown out the window and a child’s life is being threatened.

The two Grade One classes fully interact with each other – they use each other’s classroom for activities often, such as making crafts, and using wooden geometric shapes and blocks in math. This is why originally both classes’ lunches were being checked. The closest sink/washroom to the classrooms are two floors down, so sending them downstairs before each time they merge would take away too  much instruction time.

Under the advice of other principals in the region, the school’s annual bake sale was cancelled and replaced with a “peanut-free Halloween treat sale”. The school actually made more money with it than with previous bake sales.

And this is not just overreaction by a food-nazi or an overprotective parent. There have been incidents in the school with kids bringing mixed nuts for snack, or claiming they have peanut butter on their fingers as they chase known allergic children around the playground. A couple years ago, one mother in another grade heard that they were not allowed to send peanut products with their child and deliberately packed a jelly sandwich with a dollop of peanut butter in the middle. Luckily, their child knew she had, and took their lunch to the school office to tell them about it.

The Last Straw
This morning while Krystyne was checking the lunches, she was handed a note about an upcoming class activity in which the primary classes will be making a vegetable soup lunch. Among the list of things for parents to bring is french bread. Bakeries are understandably notorious for cross-contamination. In the past, we have offered and provided treats and peanut-free baked goods for the class. Krystyne offered to bake all of the bread and bring it in. She was told by Liam’s teacher that it might be better to keep him home that day instead.

For the first time since all of this started, the classes merged for an activity this morning. Within minutes Krystyne noticed that Liam was having an airborne reaction to someone else in the classroom. So out came the Benadryl and she stayed with Liam to make sure that the reaction had been halted.

So while the principal and most of the parents have been very supportive, the matter is still unresolved and we can no longer trust that Liam has a safe learning environment. For that reason we have decided to bring it forward publically in the hopes that this can help educate others, and raise awareness about the need for safe learning environments for students with severe food allergies.

Other information on Sabrina’s Law can be found here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Disciplinary Abuse, Criminal Negligence, or Worse?

This is certainly a story to keep a close eye on. There is no crime being brought against this teacher, but should there be?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Peanut-Free Field Trip

Krystyne often volunteers at the boys' school. From baking to shopping for peanut-free snacks to chaperoning field trips, she's a regular in the halls.

Recently, Keeghan's cross country group had a meet at another school and Krystyne volunteered to drive some of the students. Before she left, she printed up some small signs on cardstock to place inside the van to mark it as a "peanut-free zone". Since Liam is trace-amount allergic nuts are allowed nowhere near our house or car.

The kids' reactions were cool. They noticed the signs right away, and asked if the stuff that they had brought with them was ok. They thought it was great that there were alternative, peanut-free snacks in the van just in case something needed to be replaced.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

First Day Down

First off, I want to apologize for not posting lately. My laptop has been put out of commission and I am taking longer than expected to get things back up and running on an older computer.

Tuesday was the big day. As many parents of peanut-allergic children, we were nervous wrecks the day before and on edge the morning of. But I am happy to report that everything went extremely well.

All of the class lists were posted on the outside walls of the school, and the teachers were mingling about their individual areas of the schoolyard to meet the students and parents. We found each of the boys’ areas and Joseph ran off to play with friends – Grade 6’s won’t wait with their parents :)

Keeghan’s and Liam’s classrooms are across the hall from each other, so we were able to wait in the same area for them to meet with both teachers. When the bell rang, we headed up to Liam’s classroom to help with the morning routine.

The children swapped their outdoor shoes for newer indoor ones and then placed their lunchboxes on a table and shelves outside the classroom.

lunchboxes waiting patiently

Then Liam’s teacher took the class on a tour to show them where the washrooms were – and wash their hands as part of their morning routine – then back to the classroom where Krystyne had prepared a little talk about allergies – we need to get a copy of Allie the Allergic Elephant for Liam. We also had Be a PAL cards (from the PBS Kids’ Hooray for Health activity book) for the teachers to give out. Then Krystyne and I were off to follow up with the Vice Principal.

The really cool thing was that within the novella of take-home notices from the school that night we found the Peanut Alert notice that the Principal drafted based on Krystyne’s letter to parents that she had created for Liam’s Kindergarten class. AND the one-page notice that alerted parents to the fact that there are peanut-allergic students asked (in bold) for cooperation to make the school a peanut-free school.

Liam went through Junior and Senior Kindergarten with no reactions at school – we’re praying that this streak continues … and big brother Joseph has volunteered to be a lunch monitor for Liam’s class again this year, so he’ll help keep his brother safe.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Back to School

We're coming down to the wire for sending our kids back to school. Most parents view this time as - like the Staples commercials suggests - "the most wonderful time of the year". Parents of children with food allergies more often view this as the most stressful time of the year.

Along with the return to classes comes the return of communal lunches, school bus snacking, and field trips with school-provided food. To the parent of a food-allergic child, each of these have the potential for cross-contamination and allergic reactions.

Anaphylaxis Canada has put together a Back to School podcast to help share strategies for returning to school. It can be found under the Anaphylaxis Learning Centre on their website. Below is also a checklist they originally posted for returning to school.

Back to School Checklist:

Educate your child about his/her allergies and review key recommendations:

  • Do not share foods or take food from others.
  • Read food labels. Avoid any foods with precautionary warnings, such as may contain.
  • Always carry an epinephrine auto-injector, i.e. EpiPen or Twinject when age appropriate.
  • Wash their hands before and after eating.
  • Wear medical identification, such as a MedicAlert bracelet.
  • Talk to others about their allergies.

Work with your child's school staff and community:

  • Establish open communication when developing avoidance strategies and plans. Strive for allergy-safe, not allergen-free environments.
  • Provide completed medical forms and in-date auto-injectors at the start of the school year.
  • Advocate for no eating policies on buses and other settings where no adult supervision (for younger children) is provided.
  • Help educate the school community about anaphylaxis with credible allergy-related information.
  • Consult with foodservice/cafeteria staff to inquire about their allergen management policies for food prepared at school.

Review emergency procedures with staff:

Stay informed

Remember, anaphylaxis management is a shared responsibility that includes allergic children, parents, educators and the entire school community. Only by working together can we help keep our kids safe.

We wish you all a happy and safe school year!

Anaphylaxis Canada

I (Shawn) would also like to add a few more resources for you from earlier posts:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Peanut-Free Contest !!!

If you haven't already, make sure you enter the Pack a lunch with panache contest from Dare Foods!

As a back to school treat - for the parents :) - Dare is giving away a great lunch tote from Built, along with a Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottle. AND you also get a selection of Dare's peanut-free snack products to go in the tote!

Get more details and sign up for the contest here.

... Sorry, but the contest is only open to Canadian residents.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

So Close, and yet So Far

Peanut-Free Snacks!

This is the sign that greeted me last night when I walked into the local grocery store. Hallelujah! Along with all of the Back to School binders and pens and backpacks, here were some school-safe snacks for parents to pick up as well. I wandered over to check out the stash.

Large packs of Mars bars, Tootsie Rolls, Wonka candy, and Dare Bear Paws all stared at me with smiling "No Peanut" symbols. But then, what was that? There's some Cadbury boxes on the shelf. Has Cadbury finally joined the ranks of companies offering peanut-free lines? Is that a Caramilk package I see?

I went in for a closer look. Yes, it was a Caramilk package. I eagerly turned it over, ready to scan through the ingredient list for the may contain warning, newly free of peanuts.

Nope. There it was in bold lettering - may contain peanuts, tree nuts ... Then I saw the Mr. Big package next to it.

Now I knew there was a problem. One of the main ingredients in a Mr Big bar is peanuts. Read the label - there it is. Mind you, the may contain warning only listed "tree nuts", but up just one line from it was the word "peanuts". I grabbed a bag of both and walked to the nearest cashier.

"Is there a Duty Manager I could talk with about the Peanut Free section?", I asked. Now, I know that a 6'4, 350-lb man coming up to you late at night may seem intimidating, so I smiled and made sure to stand a "safe" distance from her. After a second-take and a little blink, she called upstairs and shortly thereafter, the night manager came downstairs.

"First off, thank you for the peanut-free section," I started (It's always good to start and end with praise, sandwiching the concern in the middle - Management 101). "But I noticed there are a few things in the section that contain nuts."

"Oh? Well my understanding is that it's only the one wall that is peanut-free, she replied."

Wait, what? - that part was thankfully only in my head - "Ok, but couldn't that be a bit confusing?", I asked as we walked towards the small corner at the store entrance.

She looked over the layout which was "only supposed" to be peanut-free, and nodded in approval. "Yep, this is the side."

This side mostly contained cookies. The candy bars behind me were apparently a mixed bag of nut and no-nut treats and separated from the safe snacks only by a small block of drink boxes.

"Ok," I calmly retorted, "but again, couldn't this layout be confusing?" I then turned to the Cadbury boxes and pulled out another bag (I still held mine) for her to read the label. "See, it says 'peanuts' right here. If someone picked up one of these, thinking they're peanut-free - because it's in the 'peanut-free' section - and gave it to their child for lunch, and then that child ate it while sitting next to my airborne-allergic son, that would be enough to send him to the emergency room."

"Oh, but ... Oh!" Her eyes went wide as the lights came on, and she grabbed the 'peanut-free' sign and moved it next to the end-cap of the side with the cookies. "I'll get the Grocery department to change this for tomorrow," she apologized (it was almost closing time). "The last thing we want is to send a child to the hospital."

She then picked up one of each bag of candy to check the ingredients. We then spent a few minutes reading the backs of the packages together, discussing shared manufacturing lines and differing label laws for Canada and other countries. She then figured out which ones would need to be moved from the section to make the whole corner "peanut-free" rather than one side of the shared shelving unit. I thanked her and then went deeper into the store to find the oil that I originally went there to buy (100% Vegetable Oil; Ingredients: canola and/or soybean oil).

For those of you pissed off that the food police are at it again, let me say that we're not trying to remove all peanut-containing products, or asking manufacturers to change recipes for a minority of consumers that can't eat their products anyway. We're only trying to make it easier for all consumers to make informed decisions. Not everyone is as used to reading the labels so carefully as the parent of a food-allergic child.

Allergy awareness happens at all times of the day, in all places. My wife or I will probably drop in later this afternoon to check on the section again.

Binky Goes Nuts

Helping a food-allergic child understand their allergy can be difficult. There's also the fear of singling them out and over-protecting them. All three of our boys are allergic to peanuts to some degree, with Liam having the worst of all reactions - analphylactic to trace amounts. His blood pressure drops and, if we don't catch it, he goes comatose. More than enough nights have been spent waking him up evrey 15-20 minutes and waiting for his secondary reaction - projectile vomiting. When this is the option, there really is no such thing as "over protecting".

The makers of the Arthur cartoon series understand a child's need to see that they are "normal", and even included food allergies. One of the main characters - Binky, the school bully - has a peanut allergy, and the show Binky Goes Nuts deals specifically with this.

You can download a number of pdf files in the parent and teacher section of the pbskids website, located here, in their Hooray for Health series. The DVD of the episode is available at Amazon - in Canada here and the US site here. If you want to preview it, I found the episode in two parts on YouTube (I didn't put it there, so don't please yell at me for not respecting copyright):

Binky Goes Nuts, part 1 of 2
Binky Goes Nuts, part 2 of 2

I found a list of other TV characters that deal with food allergies that I posted here. Did you know there are characters in Star Trek: Enterprise and StarGate: Atlantis with food allergies?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hidden Allergens

There's a commercial for peanut-free Quaker Chewy Bars up here in Canada that shows a mom about to put a cupcake in her child's lunch when all of a sudden a peanut jumps up through the top of the cupcake. The purpose of the commercial - other than to sell the Chewy Bars of course - is to highlight the hidden allergens in some products. At the end of the commercial we see the peanut "in jail" within the box of cupcakes that declares on its side may contain peanuts.

The point is, we can't tell what's in a product unless (a) we make it ourselves, or (b) the manufacturer clearly labels what is present as an ingredient or may be present due to cross-contamination from shared lines. And these allergens can be anywhere. Check out the short list of non-food items that I posted earlier that contain peanuts.

I have also noticed for the past month or so that there have been visits to the blog from someone typing "allergy to freezie" in Google. I don't know if that means that they are looking on behalf of them or a loved one to understand how they can be allergic to a freezie, not realizing that it may be through cross-contamination with nuts or some other allergen. Whatever the reason, my heart goes out to them.

As parents of food-allergic children, we each have lists of "safe" foods that our kids can eat and longer lists of foods to avoid. All we can do is share our discoveries, prayers and experiences with each other. For that reason, I'm listing a few links here in the hope that they help you as they've helped us. I caution you that these lists are far from exhaustive, and as always, may change without warning. Always read the labels, and ask questions whenever possible. Also, note that legislation, labelling and products are different in each region.

Our family restaurant list
Peanut free snacks
Our "safe snacks" letter for schools
A list of "safe foods" from the Toronto Catholic District School Board

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Scary Statistics

According to an article in the Fall 2009 Allergic Living magazine, there are many, many, potentially dangerous misconceptions about food allergies. A study done last February surveyed 2000 Americans about their knowledge surrounding food allergies.

The numbers …

  • 46% thought there is a cure for food allergies
  • 66% thought daily medication can prevent allergic reactions
  • 50% thought a milk allergy is the same as lactose intolerance
  • 51% didn’t know allergies run in families
  • 41% were aware that egg allergies are common in children
  • 33% felt allergic children should have separate lunch tables

With the new school year fast approaching, it is imperative that we as parents of food-allergic children find a way to raise awareness on the seriousness of food allergies. The difficulty is in not becoming militant in our concern for our own child(ren)’s safety and in so doing, alienate and anger those with whom we need to cooperate.

The survey also showed that while most people believe that schools should have food-allergy policies, two-thirds thought it would be unfair if their own child could not bring a peanut-butter sandwich to school. Scary stuff.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mmmm, Zucchini Bread

We saved up our zucchini from last week’s and this week’s farm share from Cooper’s Farm and decided to make some zucchini bread.

8 cups of pre-shredded zucchini :-)

Here’s the recipe we ended up using (shortened here for 2 cups of zucchini instead of 8 cups, though – we bake a lot) …

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit ( 165 degrees C). Grease and flour two 8x4 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs until light and frothy. Mix in oil and sugar. Stir in zucchini and vanilla. Combine flour, cinnamon, soda, baking powder and salt; stir into the egg mixture. Divide batter into prepared pans.

We decided to make chocolate zucchini bread too. If you want to make some, add 1 cup of melted chocolate chips and another 1/2 cup of un-melted chocolate chips and mix them through just before you divide the batter into the loaf pans

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until done.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Better Selection

On the heels of yesterday’s exclusion of the Selection brand of foods, I am happy to report on finding a peanut-safe brand of flours for baking.


Oak Manor Farms, located in Tavistock, Ontario, sells a number of certified organic products, including spelt flour, which is milled onsite. I called them to ask about cross-contamination, and was pleased to hear that they do not produce any nut products onsite – although they can’t state that they are “peanut free”. The example I was given was that one of the harvesters may be eating peanuts while harvesting the grains … which is far enough out of the production cycle for us. :)

So if you’re looking for a good supplier for peanut-safe and organic flours to be used in baking, I’d give the folks at Oak Manor Farms a look-see.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Risky Selection

One of the endless tasks in living with food allergies is reading package labels and ingredient lists. From party snacks to groceries, we have to be diligent in looking for allergens – like peanuts – or possible trace amounts.

We’ve found our favourite brands – those that we know and love and use daily – and brands that we need to avoid. One of the in-store brands that we absolutely love is the Compliments brand from the Sobeys family of stores (see Camping with Allergies), because of their clarity in allergy labelling. Sadly, we’ve had to add the Selection brand from the Metro family of stores to our “do not touch” list.

In an attempt to find allergy information for baking supplies, Krystyne called the customer service number and was told that there are no allergy warnings on any of that brand’s packaging. The reason given was that the manufacturing facilities change often enough to (they feel) preclude them from changing the labelling.

The customer service rep on the other end of the phone was very understanding – she has friends with food allergies – and she recommended to us that we avoid the Selection line entirely to err on the side of caution.

So we will be avoiding the Selection brand whenever we come across it in our shopping, at least until the national legislation on food labelling for allergens comes through. However, to the Metro chain’s credit, they do carry a number of products that are CAC-certified to be free from specific allergens.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Three months ago today my wife and I started this blog … interestingly enough, on our wedding anniversary. We thought it would be a good way to help other parents of children with food allergies – peanuts specifically, but since we all have to read labels and work at helping family, friends, and caregivers understand the hidden dangers of food allergies, all are welcome.

As an anniversary post, I’d like to offer links to some of the most-visited pages since May …

How to inject epinephrine
Peanut Free Snacks
Harmful Cure
Allergies on TV
Sticks and Stones aside …
Restaurant List
A Kindred Spirit
Reaction Watch
“Allergy Moms” Newsletter
It’ll drive you nuts

Thanks for a great three months so far. Hopefully these posts have been – and will continue to be – informational and helpful for you in learning to live with food allergies – whether in yourself, or in your child.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Complacency in Food Alerts?

I read an interesting article last night regarding alerts sent out from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and how the increasing number of alerts may result in consumers being overloaded and desensitized to them.

Here are some of the statistics quoted in the article:

Since 2004, the CFIA has issued 696 alerts

  • 56% of those were food recalls
  • 41% were allergy alerts
  • 3% contained other food-related advice

Of the recall notices, 67%  were due to suspected bacterial contamination …

  • 22% from listeria
  • 19% from salmonella
  • 10% from E coli

So do you think we’re being overloaded on food notices?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Communication is the Key

The boys are at Vacation Bible School (VBS) this week. I know from other parents of children with allergies that this fills them with anxiety. Thankfully, the VBS is being hosted at my sister-in-law’s church, and she has been hard at work to ensure that the week is peanut-free – not just for her nephews, but for other allergic children as well. Also Krystyne is hosting a class on baking with the kids so she is right there in the kitchen, keeping an eye on all of the snacks for the week.

Our boys’ involvement in this week’s VBS stresses the importance of communication – communication with organizers, with school staff, with camp staff, anyone. If you’re longing to send your peanut- (or other allergen) allergic child to a camp, or are looking towards the coming school year with trepidation, let me encourage you to open a dialogue with those who will be responsible for your child in your absence.

Another method of helping your child have some of the “normal” experiences you remember as a kid is to offer to volunteer time, information, snacks, or anything else to help. The first time the boys went to VBS at their aunt’s church, Krystyne volunteered to provide the snacks to ensure they were peanut-free. The other volunteers were spoiled with homemade chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and other such goodies.

We just got back after spending some time at Grandma’s trailer (she bought it for the grandchildren to enjoy, and since none of them can drive yet we get to tag along), where the boys were able to attend a children’s program every weekday. The staff there were so supportive and a couple of times asked Krystyne to check the snacks up-front. Krystyne also attended a staff meeting to teach everyone how to use an EpiPen, just in case. During one of the days home to do laundry Krystyne baked a LOT of chocolate chip cookies to take back to the staff as a thank-you.

Open the door to communication, and keep it open.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Young Children with Peanut Allergies

Here’s a good article on helping your young child learn to live with their peanut allergy!

From the article …

With good management and practical solutions peanut allergy can be managed and risks can be minimised, however younger children may need some extra help! As independence is gained your child has to learn to deal with many new situations.

Other articles to help you and your child …

But How do They Feel?
10 Things Children with Food Allergies Want You to Know
What It’s Like (penned by 11-year old PA-son, Joseph)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Curing Peanut Allergies

Earlier this week I posted a commentary on the findings of recent peanut allergy studies involving feeding children increasing doses of peanut flour, which has now allowed many of them to eat full peanuts and enjoy a newfound freedom (see Harmful Cure).

There have also been reports of developments related to treating the underlying causes for food allergies. First, researchers in Scotland have found the protein responsible for triggering anaphylactic reactions …

Find 'could cut allergy deaths'
Discovery offers hope for nut allergy sufferers

And other news this week announced that researchers in New York have discovered the protein responsible for triggering allergies themselves …

Protein behind food allergies identified

It’s encouraging to see these developments into freeing people – especially children – from life-threatening food allergies.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Harmful Cure

Over the past few weeks I’ve seen a scary trend in news articles regarding food allergies.

Scientists find nut allergy children cure
Nut allergy children cured by new treatment

There are more and more articles touting the UK study that involves feeding children peanuts in increasing doses as a “cure” for peanut allergies. While I am happy for the children that this study has helped (and their parents), there are few news outlets that mention the children whose reactions were so severe that they were unable to continue the study.

With the prevailing attitude on food allergies being “why should my child change their eating habits to accommodate yours”, children like Liam – whose anaphylactic reaction is triggered by trace amounts (near 10ppm) of peanut protein – may be put more into danger. The more militant of the anti-allergy camp could take this news and say that the allergy can be “cured” so there is even less reason to make peanut-safe policies in schools, or label allergens.

I realize this is a drastic view of the argument, but there is also another problem with this kind of study. What if – for example – there are three siblings involved in the study and two are “cured” of their peanut allergy while one remains trace-amount allergic? In order to keep the allergy from redeveloping, the two siblings would be required to eat peanuts on a regular basis. How do you manage this in a house where the third child cannot be near peanuts – or people who have eaten peanuts – without reacting?

This is similar to the scenario we were faced with on our last visit to the allergist. Liam’s older brothers’ allergies are declining where they may be able to peanuts in the future, but at that point they would have to continue eating peanuts on a regular basis to keep the allergy from returning. Again, because Liam’s reactions are so severe and his allergy’s threshold is so low, there is no way we would be able to keep the house trace-amount peanut-free.

So while the news of treatments that raise the participants’ thresholds for reactions is good news, it still does not provide a “cure” that parents are praying for. However, there is uplifting news coming out of Glasgow University.

Find 'could cut allergy deaths'
Discovery offers hope for nut allergy sufferers

Researchers there have found the molecule responsible for triggering anaphylactic reactions, and preliminary lab tests have shown favourable results in blocking the molecule to reduce the severity of the reaction.

While we may not have a cure yet, thankfully there are signs that we are heading in the right direction.

Friday, July 17, 2009

More Peanut-Free Snacks

A trip to the local grocery store has yielded more labels of products free from nuts.

Granola1 Granola2

The President’s Choice brand from Loblaws includes a Dipped & Chewy line of granola bars that prominently display the peanut-free symbol on the front and there are a number of varieties, including chocolate chip and s’mores.

Mars1 Mars2

Of course, if you have more of a sweet tooth, you can pick up a Mars bar – either original, dark, or caramel – they are all peanut-free in Canada.

Mini Rolo chocolates are a good choice choice as well. The ingredient lists wheat under its may contain section, so by Canadian labelling standards that means no peanuts.

And if you’re baking, or looking for sugary candy snacks, the in-store No Name brand offers peanut-free choices such as …



… and jellybeans!

And unless you live in Central Ontario, you’ve been seeing beautiful summer temperatures and bright sunshine (it’s getting ready to rain again here for the next few days), and there’s few summer treats that our boys want more than freezies. The No Name brand offers jumbo freezies that are manufactured in peanut-free factories too!


Monday, July 13, 2009

Certified Allergen Control

Reading labels is a familiar practice when you live with food allergies. I’ve mentioned a few times before the many different ways that manufacturers list allergen information in Canada (under the Food label at the right).

However, I was not familiar with the method for labelling allergens on products manufactured within the province of Québec. We recently found the Leclerc brand of soft-baked cookies, which the boys love.


These little (25g) cookie packages have the familiar peanut with the “No” symbol on the bottom left corner, next to the branding CAC, which stands for Contrôle Allergène Certifié – or Certified Allergen Control. A quick search on the Internet brought me to the program’s official site, which was developed by the Québec Food Allergy Association to recognize products in which their manufacturing process was highly controlled (the CAC program does not use the term “peanut-free”).

The four allergens currently tested for by the program are:

  • almonds
  • peanuts
  • milk
  • eggs

Participation in the program is voluntary, so not all products labelled as “peanut-free” are automatically included. Again, this underscores the need for a common labelling standard, but this method of certifying products is certainly appreciated. Check out their list of certified foods here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Alergy Alert - Crown, Lotte, Surasang

There was another food allergy alert posted from Anaphylaxis Canada regarding undeclared allergens. To sign up for these alerts, visit their webpage and click on Anaphylaxis Registry.

*** *** *** *** *** ***

Dear Registrant,

The following alert from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) pertains to undeclared milk, eggs, or tree nuts (almond, hazelnut) in Crown, Lotte, and Surasang brands of snack foods described below. These products contain allergens which are not declared on the label.

This message is brought to you via the Canadian Anaphylaxis Registry, a public service of Anaphylaxis Canada. Anaphylaxis Canada's mission is to inform, support, educate, and advocate for the needs of individuals and families living with anaphylaxis and to conduct and support research related to anaphylaxis.

OTTAWA, July 10, 2009 The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is warning people with allergies to milk, eggs, or tree nuts (almond, hazelnut) not to consume various Crown, Lotte, and Surasang brands of snack foods described below. These products contain allergens which are not declared on the labels.

All codes of the following Crown, Lotte, and Surasang brands of snack foods, imported from Korea, are affected by this alert. Product information below can be found on the package and the sticker applied for the Canadian market.

Undeclared allergens

Couque Dasse Coffee Biscuits / Korean Cracker
128 g
8 801111 614252

Sando Choco biscuit
161 g
8 801111 614436

Couque Dasse Coffee Biscuit, Korean Cracker, Item #09803
64 g
8 801111 614214

Couque Dasse Coffee Biscuit / Korean Cracker Item #12721
128 g
8 801111 614252

Korean Cracker
Item #13885
372 g
8 801111 110624
Milk, Egg

Butter Waffles Korean Cracker Item #08488
237 g
8 801111 113212
Milk, Egg

Pepero Biscuit with Choco / Funzel Crispy Sticks
33 g
8 801062 272112

Pepero Biscuit with Choco / Pepero Choco Sticks 180 g
8 801062 272136

Pepero Almond and Chocolate / Almond Pepero Sticks
32 g
8 801062 272174

Surasang K
orean Cracker Item #13961
420 g
0 87703 01398 8

These products have been distributed nationally.

There have been no reported allergic reactions associated with the consumption of these products.

Consumption of these products may cause a serious or life-threatening reaction in persons with allergies to milk, eggs, or tree nuts (almond, hazelnut).

The importers are voluntarily recalling the affected products from the marketplace. The CFIA is monitoring the effectiveness of the recall.

For more information, consumers and industry can call the CFIA at 1-800-442-2342 / TTY 1-800-465-7735 (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday to Friday).

For information on milk, egg, and tree nuts, three of the nine most common food allergens, visit the Food Allergens web page at:



Tree nuts

For information on receiving recalls by e-mail, or for other food safety facts, visit our web site at


Media enquiries:

CFIA Media Relations



OTTAWA, le 10 juin 2009 LAgence canadienne dinspection des aliments (ACIA) avise les personnes allergiques au lait, aux ufs et aux noix (amandes, noisettes) de ne pas consommer les diverses grignotines de marque Crown, Lotte et Surasang d?crites ci-dessous. En effet, ces produits contiennent des allerg?nes alors que l?tiquette nen fait pas mention.

Tous les codes des grignotines suivantes de marque Crown, Lotte et Surasang, des produits de la Cor?e, sont touch?s par la pr?sente mise en garde. Les renseignements suivants figurent sur lemballage des produits et sur un autocollant qui y a ?t? appos? pour le march? canadien.

Allerg?nes non d?clar?s

? Couque Dasse Coffee Biscuits Korean Cracker / Biscut Cor?en ?
128 g
8 801111 614252

Biscuit ? Sando Choco ?
161 g
8 801111 614436

? Couque Dasse Coffee Biscuit, Korean Cracker / Gateau Item #09803 ?
64 g
8 801111 614214

? Couque Dasse Coffee Biscuit Korean Cracker / Gateau Item #12721 ?
128 g
8 801111 614252

? Korean Cracker Biscuit Cor?en Item #13885 ? Item #13885
372 g
8 801111 110624
Milk, Egg

? Butter Waffles ? Biscuit Cor?en ? Item #08488 ?
237 g
8 801111 113212
Milk, Egg

? Pepero Biscuit with Choco ? / Funzel B?tons Croustillants
33 g
8 801062 272112

? Pepero Biscuit with Choco ? / Pepero B?ton de Choco 180 g
8 801062 272136

? Pepero Almond and Chocolate ? B?tons de Pepero DAmande
32 g
8 801062 272174

Gateau Cor?en ? Item #13961 ?
420 g
0 87703 01398 8

Ces produits pourraient avoir ?t? distribu?s ? l'?chelle nationale.

Aucun cas de r?action allergique associ? ? la consommation de ces produits na ?t? signal?.

La consommation de ces produits peut d?clencher une r?action grave, parfois mortelle, chez les personnes allergiques au lait, aux ufs ou aux noix (amandes, noisettes).

Les importateurs retirent volontairement du march? les produits touch?s. LACIA surveille lefficacit? du rappel.

Pour de plus amples renseignements, les consommateurs et les gens de lindustrie peuvent appeler lACIA au 1-800-442-2342/ATS 1-800-465-7735, du lundi au vendredi de 8 h ? 20 h (heure de lEst).

Pour obtenir des renseignements sur le lait, les ufs et les noix, trois des neuf allerg?nes alimentaires les plus courants, consultez les pages Web consacr?es aux allerg?nes alimentaires suivantes :




Pour savoir comment recevoir les rappels par courrier ?lectronique ou pour obtenir dautres renseignements sur la salubrit? des aliments, visitez notre site Web ? ladresse


Questions des m?dias :

Relations avec les m?dias
Agence canadienne dinspection des aliments 613-773-6600


The FOODRECALLS_RAPPELSALIMENTS archives all list postings at:

You can join or leave a variety of e-mail lists managed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency using the on-line form found at:

La liste FOODRECALLS_RAPPELSALIMENTS archive tous les enregistrements de listes ? :

Vous pouvez vous inscrire ? une vari?t? de listes courriels administr?es par l'Agence canadienne d'inspection des aliments au moyen du formulaire en ligne affich? ? l'adresse suivante :
Le m?me formulaire vous permet de retrancher votre nom de ces listes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

No-Nonsense No-Nuts policy

A news article was posted today announcing that the Las Virgenes Unified School District board has adopted new policies surrounding peanut allergies that should bring a sigh of relief to many parents of peanut-allergic children in this area west of Los Angeles, California.

According to a local online paper, There were safety standards in place for some schools within the district, and these have now been extended to all of the schools in the area. From the article …

For starters, if a highly allergic student attends an LVUSD school, all parents will be asked not to bring items in a particular food group— say peanuts—to the school.

As well, substitutions will be made in school breakfasts, lunches and other food provided after school or during field trips.

If you don’t live within the area and are concerned about sending your peanut-allergic child to school in September, let me encourage you to start a dialogue with the school administration as early as possible and in a calm manner. Don’t expect to dictate your concerns to them, as this is definitely the wrong way to go about it. We found that offering assistance, as well as being available for questions from staff, is the best approach.

If you want a copy of a letter that Krystyne made that can be distributed to parents, you can download a copy (pdf file) here. It outlines anaphylactic symptoms and alternative choices for peanut-free snack ideas as well. The principal at our boys’ school has asked to include it in their official policies package for this September.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Kindred Spirit

It’s great when you connect with someone who truly understands.

When we enrolled our boys in day camp for the summer, we were ready for disappointment when it came to Liam’s class. We fully expected that we wouldn’t be able to sign him up at all – or at least have to keep him home from special events like cookouts or campfires.

What a beautiful surprise to learn that the person responsible for the children’s programs was herself extremely allergic to bee stings and carries an EpiPen with her. She grew up knowing what it was like to be excluded from things, so she was determined to include as many kids as possible.

We’ve been overjoyed to see Liam and Keeghan at their first class campfire, toasting marshmallows with their friends, with huge smiles on their faces for being a part of it all.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Allergies on Trial

I read an article this morning regarding immunotherapy for treating food allergies and found it interesting that out of all of the reports posted on trials involving ‘training’ the body to tolerate allergens by feeding a small amount to the participant, this was one of the few that even mentions that some participants are unable to continue due to severe reactions.

Many well-meaning friends mention these studies to us or pass along clippings that they’ve found in the paper. Each time we thank them, but knowing that Liam has anaphylactic reactions to 10ppm of peanut protein, there is no way that he could participate in any of them.

But we are looking into another option – some naturopaths are offering immunotherapy that does not involve ingesting any nut protein whatsoever. A friend of ours whose son tested allergic to milk has seen no symptoms at all since a few short treatments with her naturopath. We will be looking into this further, even if it can improve his trigger levels. If you want to investigate it as well, check out some of my earlier posts on this (here and here) or go to the website for the Institute for Natural Health Technologies for more information on BioEnergetic Intolerance Elimination.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Camping with Allergies

After a week of “winter camping” (seriously … 12°C in Central Ontario in July???) I think I’ve finally gotten used to the hot spots in the small BBQ at the trailer. Maybe when it warms up a bit more we can enjoy some time in the lake when we go up.

But major kudos go to the Sobeys family of supermarkets for their Compliments store brand and their clear allergy labelling! Here’s the label on the back of a package of hamburger buns bought recently.

all glare aside, it’s quite clear labelling

The white exclamation point within an orange circle is how allergens are highlighted across the Compliments brand, and they clearly list – in English and French – any allergens that are or may be present in the item. And on the front of the packaging, they draw your attention to allergens by placing the same symbol on the label ….

the exclamation mark is there to remind you
to read the label

We also had the counsellors from the boys’ day camp ask us to check the food they were using for their weekly campfire. The only thing without clear allergy labelling was a package of marshmallows by DOUMAK. A quick Google search brought up this page, which was a declaration from the company that their marshmallows are free from milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybeans.

I’ve never thought of marshmallows possibly containing nuts, but it was good of this company to have allergen information easily available. Companies like these certainly make shopping for camping much less stressful.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Play Ball!

If you’re in Chicagoland on July 8th, why not take in a peanut-free ballgame? The Kane County Cougars are hosting their 3rd annual Peanut-Free Night at 6:30pm against the Burlington Bees.

No peanut or peanut-related products will be available at the stadium, which will be be scrubbed in advance of the game. The players on both teams have also agreed to refrain from using food containing peanuts or peanut ingredients.

Call (630) 232-8811 or go online to order tickets.

Hope everyone had a great Canada Day and I wish my American friends a happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More Nightmares

There was a tragic story in the news this week that wrenches at the heart of every parent of a food-allergic child.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of Nathan Francis, a Scotch College student in Australia, who this week learned that the military has been fined $210,000 (AU) for negligence in the death of their son.

The story can be found here, but a synopsis is that while at an army cadet camp back in March of 2007, Nathan – who was allergic to peanuts – was given a rations pack containing beef satay. After one mouthful he was rushed by a friend back to the camp HQ, but Nathan died en route to the hospital.

According to another paper, parents were told by the school not to provide food for the students but were asked to alert the staff to any food allergies. Nathan’s mother warned the staff that Nathan should avoid all nuts, but apparently “a list of students with food allergies did not reach the staff member who issued the meals”.

This parent’s worst nightmare has prompted many people to call for an inquest into the school’s involvement in Nathan’s death. Again, our hearts and prayers go out to Nathan’s family as the events surrounding his tragic death are again brought to the fore.

Monday, June 29, 2009

In the Summer Time

This weekend we registered the boys in day camp for the summer. At the same time Krystyne offered to show the counsellors how to use an EpiPen and a Twinject injector, which I also outlined here.

Understandably they felt a little intimidated by the matter, but Krystyne passed out a couple of EpiPen trainers that we carry as well as the new Twinject ejector that we received recently. The counsellors were also shown how to use the pre-programmed cell phone to contact us (as if teenagers need to learn how to use a cell phone – although it is an older model). :)

In the end it went well, and the director for the children’s program was ready to meet with Krystyne before the general staff meeting. We are very thankful for the support that we get from people concerning Liam’s allergies, and it helps our summers be a little less stressful.

Speaking of which, here’s a quick shot from the weekend … summer has finally arrived.

The clouds are rolling in, but we spent 5 hours on the beach :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How to inject epinephrine

Last week I ordered a demo kit of the Twinject auto-injector from Paladin Labs (They’ve just been released in Canada). It arrived yesterday afternoon. After trying it out for a while I thought that I would include a demonstration of how to use this and the EpiPen epinephrine auto-injectors for the curious.

Liam carries two EpiPens in his pouch because each dose gives us 10 minutes to get to the nearest hospital. In all cases of anaphylaxis, ensure you seek medical assistance immediately after administering epinephrine (adrenaline).

How to use an EpiPen

Epi1Remove the EpiPen from its protective case.

Pop off the safety lock at the top

Jab the EpiPen hard into the outer thigh.
Hold it there for 10 seconds to ensure the dose is administered.

Once you have used the EpiPen, carefully place it back in its case and call 911. Massage the injection site to help disperse the epinephrine into the bloodstream. Be sure to give the used EpiPen to the attending paramedic or triage nurse at the nearest hospital for safe disposal.

How to use a Twinject auto-injector

The Twinject has just been released in Canada. It contains two doses of epinephrine in one container. There is a secondary syringe inside the main injector to be used if the anaphylactic symptoms don’t improve within 10 minutes of the initial dose.

Remove the Twinject from its protective case

Pop off the protective caps at both ends. Keep your hands away from the red tip – that’s where the needle is.

Jab the Twinject hard into the outer thigh.
Hold it there for 10 seconds.

Once the initial dose has been administered, call 911 and massage the injection site to help disperse the epinephrine into the bloodstream. At this point, you should prepare the second dose in case your
symptoms don’t improve after 10 minutes.

Unscrew the red cap from the Twinject and carefully remove the syringe – the cap is loosely spring-loaded, so be ready for it.

Pop the yellow collar off of the syringe plunger

If your symptoms do not improve or worsen after 10 minutes, administer the secondary dose.

Inject the syringe into the outer thigh and fully push the plunger.
Hold it there for 10 seconds to ensure a full dose. Massage the injection site to help disperse the epinephrine into the bloodstream.

Whether or not the secondary dose has been used, place the syringe in its protective case and give it to the attending paramedic or triage nurse at the nearest hospital for safe disposal.

If you would like to order your own EpiPen or Twinject demonstrator, you can do so online through these sites:

Twinject Patient Resource Center
EpiPen Resource Center

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Home Stretch

Last Friday was Liam’s graduation from Senior Kindergarten. That means another school year is nearing a close and – thanks to the cooperation of his classmates’ parents – has been incident-free (at least on school property)!

And thanks to a local allergy-aware baker, the cakes for the grad were peanut-free … and sooooo delicious.



And Mr. Liam was extremely proud too!



We want to extend a special “thank you” to the parents of Liam’s friends for helping to ensure that he was able to enjoy the school year as well.  But most especially to Ms. Jacobson, who volunteered to give up peanut butter (and Thai food) for the whole school year – that was one of the hardest things for Krystyne and I to give up as well. Have an extra sandwich for us!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mere Hysteria?

I read a blog post tonight that pulled from an article published in the British Medical Journal. The original article is by a Harvard professor who argues that the precautions that we – as parents of children with deadly allergies – and our children’s schools put into place are overreactions and only lead to more anxiety. The article was published back in December, but never fails to dredge up dark feelings. Read them for yourselves and ask if you think that this is all mere hysteria ….

Linking anorexia and autism, and peanut butter an overblown danger

This allergies hysteria is just nuts

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The More You Know ...

Early on in the life of this blog, I added a post highlighting some TV characters that were depicted as having peanut allergies. Tonight Krystyne and I were watching an episode of The Listener, which is a show that has a paramedic named Toby for the main character.

During this episode - "Some Kind of Love" - Toby and his partner were walking down the street when a lady sitting on a park bench started having an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts in the food she was eating. Toby's partner Oz ran over to help her, and proceeded to administer an Epi-pen into her thigh. The cool part was that they showed both the anaphylactic reaction and the proper administration of an Epi-pen. That's a question that we've been asked by a few people when we've been out as a family and they see Liam's pouch and its allergy warning badge.

And to borrow another phrase from TV, The More You Know....

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Allergy information in school

The other day, the principal at our boys’ school sent Krystyne an information package regarding the school’s peanut policy. She wanted to know if there was anything that needed to be added or changed.

First off, this was amazing that she came to us first. Second, it shows the importance of up-front communication with the teachers, school staff and administration. Liam’s years in Junior and Senior Kindergarten were stressful, yes, but they also ensured a safe environment thanks to very understanding and co-operative parents. His teacher went above and beyond as well, even so much as giving up eating peanuts altogether for the school year. Krystyne recently wrote a letter for all of Liam’s classmates’ parents praising and thanking them for helping to keep him safe this year.

And as for the school’s policy? Krystyne gave the principal a copy of the package that she put together when Liam started Junior Kindergarten, along with an updated copy of her “safe snack list”, which the principal will be using within the package going out to all parents for the start of the next school year. WOW!

If you want a copy of Krystyne’s package that she created for your child’s school, you can download a copy here.

There were two paragraphs from the school’s policy that were worded very well too, so I’ll include them here ….

Is there a cure?

No, the only treatment is avoidance of all products containing peanuts. Individuals that are allergic to peanuts and require an epi-pen must have one at school and/or carry it with them.

How can the school community help?

Peanuts tend to leave residue on utensils, containers and tabletops. It only takes a tiny amount of  peanuts particles or residue to cause some people to react. Therefore, it is critical that everyone helps to avoid a life-threatening reaction.