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.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Peanut Free Snacks

While grocery shopping today, we noticed a larger number of peanut-free products on the shelves. As we passed the familiar brands we started seeing new packages – some were newer labelling, others were new products – smiling back at us. There are many times Krystyne and I have each been on our phones while standing in the aisle; her on hold for a customer service agent, and me surfing to the company’s website (I love my iPhone).

However, this is becoming more and more rare, as more products are coming into line with the proposed legislation on food labelling. On food products manufactured in Canada (bakeries seem to be exempt), companies must declare – in both official languages – any trace amounts of food allergens down to 10ppm. It’s up to them where they place that warning – whether in bold inside the ingredient list, or after the ingredients, or elsewhere on the package – and to the exact wording, but normally we just have to flip a package over and look for the May Contain list. If it says something like “May Contain wheat, milk”, then we can be assured that there are no trace amounts of peanuts in the product.

But it gets even better! More and more packages are coming out with the familiar “NO” symbol covering a peanut, placed on the front of their boxes and bags. Check out some of these displays ….



Thanks to Chapman’s Ice Cream, we can also pick up some of our childhood favourites like fudgicles and revellos (yes, I know they’re brand names, but that’s what we called them). Look at Chapman’s Super Frosty vanilla ice cream treats … see the “nut-free” sign? :)


And Dare has dedicated facilities for nut-free products, not just nut-free lines in a shared facility. Their products proudly state “Baked in a nut free / peanut free facility

To my friends in the US, If you’re looking for a cheap (your dollar is still worth more than ours) and peanut-friendly getaway for your family, then by all means come to Canada. At least grocery shopping on vacation will be a bit less stressful. :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Everyday Awareness

This weekend we took off on a mini-vacation.

Krystyne’s mother booked a condo for the week but due to a conference in Toronto, she wouldn’t be able to arrive in time for check-in. So we drove about two hours northwest up to Georgian Manor Resort in Collingwood to condo-sit for a few days.

While we were there we got to swim … a lot (one time for 3 hours straight), and revisited one of the fossil sites we went to last summer. However this time, the tide was in and even though it was about a month later in the year than our last trip; let me just say that Lake Huron was a little cold.

LakeHuron tide’s in … no fossil-hunting today

Liam wears his Epi-Pens in a pouch wherever we go – unless we’re at home or there’s a possibility he might get them wet; then they’re close by. While we were stopped at the nearest Tim Horton’s so the boys could go to the washroom (hey, I said the water was cold), a woman started asking about the No Peanuts for Me sign on Liam’s pouch strap.



We explained that it contained a cell phone and two Epi-Pens, along with an Epi-Pen trainer. Krystyne then took out the trainer, explained its use to the woman and gave it to her so she could “use” it on her own leg.

We were thankful for this lighter side reaction to Liam’s peanut allergy. With what seems like a more militant aversion to food allergies rearing its head around us (such as the infamous school secretary’s blog), it’s always welcome to be able to discuss Liam’s allergy openly and honestly.

Oh yeah – we also got to help a snapping turtle off the road and back to the nearby pond when we got back to the condo.

turtle the turtle’s saying “bye” to Keeghan

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Summer Fun

With it being sunny and 22 degrees (Celsius) at about 7:00 tonight, we were having some fun at the pool – it also helps tire them out before bed too. :)

jump Liam and Joseph jumped, but Keeghan decided to wait
… and laugh

Friday, June 12, 2009

Allergy Cure Part II

So yesterday, Krystyne went to talk with a naturopath that claims she can cure Liam’s peanut allergy.

Obviously this piqued our curiosity when we heard it a few weeks ago. First off, the procedure does not involve feeding him any peanuts unlike the UK study. The naturopath (Donna) buys the allergens in sealed vials – and that’s how they stay. The treatment is called Bioenergetic Intolerance Elimination, which Donna describes on her website here.

A friend of ours recently had her son tested and found that he was allergic to milk. After taking treatments with Donna he shows no more symptoms. During her consultation with Krystyne, Donna explained that some of the people her teachers had treated brought peanuts with them on their last visit and didn’t even wait until they left the waiting room to start munching.

Although I don’t think we’ll be trying that, the treatment sessions with Donna are non-invasive and don’t present the risk to Liam’s life that other feed ‘em and watch ‘em treatments would. Since we already know his allergy levels from our visits to the allergist, Donna says that we can go right to the treatment (“clearing”) and save the testing for the end. It may take up to a year for the protein to fully leave Liam’s system, but we have regular appointments with our allergist each September.

We’ll definitely be updating you on the progress and results from this one!

To read Part One of this stream, click here. For more information on Bioelectric Intolerance Elimination, see the Institute of Natural Health Technologies website here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ice Cream!!!

Although it hasn’t been all that warm up here lately – some places along the 49th parallel had snow last week – there’s nothing that kids love more on a summer day than ice cream.

While we can’t go to either of the local parlours, we can still enjoy peanut-free ice cream at home, thanks to Chapman’s. They are well aware of the joy that could be missed by children not being able to eat a favourite summer treat, so they produce not only peanut-free ice cream, but also lactose-free treats, and all of their original flavours (2L and 4L containers) are gluten-free as well. Check out their nutrition page for more information. They even have individual-sized treats which make it cheaper to pick up on the go than going to an ice cream parlour anyways. :)

MMMmmm, Dutch Chocolate.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Farm Share

This year we decided to sign up for a farm share. For our first time at it, we’re splitting the share with Krystyne’s sister. Every week we pick up a basket full of fresh produce from Coopers Goat and Veggy Farm, which as a bonus is only 10 minutes up the road.

On Saturday we got to take a tour of the farm. We walked through the fields to see what we can expect in our baskets. There were rows and rows of peppers (5 different varieties), zucchini, lettuce, a full acre of garlic, and so much more.

strawberries – enough to last until October

As well as produce, they have a meat share! Coopers Farm provides all of the goat meat for Greek Town in Toronto, and they offer beef and broiler chickens to their shareholders as well.

big chickens – the butcher is a couple weeks late

The boys had a great time on the tour too! Steve had set out a couple of tractors (without the keys) for the kids to climb on, and that’s exactly what they did!

Keeghan and Liam “sharing” the tractor

And speaking of kids …. there were new baby goats which kept nibbling on the boys’ fingers!



Talk about knowing where your ingredients come from! :)

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Cure for Food Allergies?

A friend of ours recently took their child to a naturopath for allergy testing and found that among other things, he was allergic to milk. The naturopath then asked if our friend would like her to “fix that”. She then explained the method of treating the allergy with an electromagnetic device, which they did, and her son then tested as negative to the previous food allergens. When the treatment was over our friend told the naturopath about Liam’s allergy and its severity. She was then told that “I can help him too”. Needless to say we were a little curious.

Since then we started looking through the Internet for other similar stories and found this one, in which a sceptic was offered the same treatment and after a few sessions claims to be “cured” from food allergies, to the point that they can now eat food with any of their previous allergens in any combination.

Krystyne and I are familiar with the practice of a doctor or chiropractor pushing down on our outstretched arm to determine which parts of our spine are out of alignment. We had been adjusted this way by our chiropractor before we moved to Uxbridge. However, we had not heard of this process for allergy treatments. Apparently there is the added component of an electromagnetic resonance involved as well.

Either way, Krystyne has a consultation appointment with our friend’s naturopath later this month to look further into this. The naturopath has said that the testing/treatment does not involve actual peanuts so we don’t expect a danger to Liam, whether or not this works – which is a major difference from the “feed them a peanut” trials. If the electromagnetic treatment does work – even the lessening of the allergy so that Liam is no longer airborne allergic – this would be such a change to Liam’s – and our – life.

We’ll keep you updated on what we find out from the naturopath.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Ingredient Changes

We received a consumer alert from Anaphylaxis Canada stating that Kellogg Canada and Kashi Canada have changed the formula for three of their products.

The products affected are

  • Kashi Chewy Granola Bars Cherry Dark Chocolate
  • Kellogg* All-Bran Chewy Bar Dark Chocolate Chip
  • Kellogg All-Bran Chewy Bar Strawberry Flavour

Here is the information from the alert ….

Kashi Canada has reformulated Kashi Chewy Granola Bars Cherry Dark Chocolate. Starting in June 2009 Kashi Chewy Granola Bars Cherry Dark Chocolate will contain almond and peanut ingredients. The ingredient statement will include this change and will also list almond and peanut ingredients as well as May contain other tree nuts in the allergen contains statement.
All Kashi brand packages are labeled with the nine ingredients recognized by Health Canada as the most frequent cause of allergic reactions. These priority allergens when present will be listed in our ingredient listing directly below our Nutrition Facts panel. We encourage you to ALWAYS check the ingredient listing on EACH package you purchase for the most up-to-date information on the ingredients contained in that particular package.
Consumers with questions regarding this product announcement can contact Kashi Canada Inc. at 1-866-958-7884 Monday through Friday 8:30am  4:30pm ET.

Kellogg Canada has reformulated Kellogg* All-Bran Chewy Bar Dark Chocolate Chip and Kellogg All-Bran Chewy Bar Strawberry Flavour. Starting in June 2009 these Kellogg bars will contain almond and peanut ingredients. The ingredient statement will include this change and will also list almond and peanut ingredients as well as May contain other tree nuts in the allergen contains statement.
All Kellogg brand packages are labeled with the nine ingredients recognized by Health Canada as the most frequent cause of allergic reactions. These priority allergens when present will be listed in our ingredient listing directly below our Nutrition Facts panel. We encourage you to ALWAYS check the ingredient listing on EACH package you purchase for the most up-to-date information on the ingredients contained in that particular package.
Consumers with questions regarding this product announcement can contact Kellogg Canada Inc. at 1-888-876-3750 Monday through Friday 8:30am  4:30pm ET.

To sign up for these alerts from Anaphylaxis Canada, visit their registry site here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Summertime Cooking

Who wants to cook indoors on a hot summer day? I thought I’d share a recipe we love to make in our slow cooker overnight. It’s become a family (and co-worker) favourite!

BBQ Pulled Pork
Inspired by Ted Reader's Root beer Ribs

1. In a slow cooker, place a boneless pork loin - cut as necessary to fit (it’s going to get shredded anyways)
2. Rub pork loin with spices ... I've used Montreal Steak Spice, or Ted’s Bayou Bite Cajun seasoning, but my favourite is definitely his Bone Dust BBQ Spice).
3. Cover the meat (fat facing up) with pop (Coke/Pepsi) ... the best is root beer, but apple juice will do in a pinch.
4. Add BBQ sauce, brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, and lots of garlic. :-)
5. Place the cover on the slow cooker, and cook on low overnight, or high for 4-5 hours.
6. Once the meat has cooked (it will fall apart as you try and take it out), remove it from the slow cooker and get rid of most (save 1-2") of the cooking juice.
7. Using two forks, shred the pork by pulling the forks away from each other through the meat.
8. Once it's shredded, put it back in the slow cooker and add your favourite BBQ sauce and other spices to taste.
9. Mix the sauce well through the meat.
10. Heat on high for another hour before serving with buns or biscuits.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Airline Peanuts

With the summer comes thoughts of vacation travels. Whether you boat, drive or fly to your destination you’ll be taking your allergy with you.

Allergic Living has posted a handy chart on the allergy policies of some of the major carriers. Check it out here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Question (or four)

The other day while discussing Liam’s food allergy and the stresses it brings, the question came up “how do people with food allergies in the States handle things?”

I can honestly say I have no idea. Krystyne and I are thankful for the labelling that exists on food items here, but we have been terrified at taking Liam out of the country because we don’t know what labelling standards exist elsewhere.

So that’s the question I’d like to pose to my readers … how do you deal with food allergies? What are the food labels like in your part of the world? How do you learn which food items are “safe” for you and your family? What support methods have you found or built to help?

Krystyne and I have both enjoyed travelling outside of Canada (and not just to Buffalo for wings), and we’d love to include our family in that experience again.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Label Laws Lagging

Those of us who deal with food allergies up here in Canada have been waiting for the government to come through with promised legislation that would require manufacturers to clearly list the most common 10 allergens on food packages. At the moment, this is voluntary and comes in many differing iterations (see my Read That Label post for some examples).

We had been expecting it this year, but according to the latest issue of the Allergic Living News Report, the legislation has been delayed yet again until Spring of next year. And although that is when the new rules are due to start, we will probably be waiting much longer, since at that point companies will have at least 12 months of grace to update their packaging.

Health Canada received over 140 comments (suggestions) on just what the labels should contain, and how allergens should be stated. You can read the list from the Health Canada website here. While these delays are frustrating, I’m sure you can agree that the end product is well worth it and much needed.

Here’s looking forward to 2010!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Live it Out

This has been a rather busy few days!

This weekend, Krystyne and I volunteered with a youth-oriented challenge called Live It Out at our church. We were among 60 mentors working on almost 30 community-focused projects with teenagers from the Uxbridge area.

Our project was called “Hospitality”. We provided lunch for some of the volunteers working on two other projects – planting a community garden and running a sports camp for some younger kids in the area – and had a great time doing it!

LIO_Kitchen The garden and sports camp took place on Saturday at St. Paul’s Presbyterian church in Leaskdale. Krystyne and I, along with Craig and Lissa – two teenaged volunteers – hosted a BBQ out of the church kitchen. It was nice to see a “peanut-free” warning on both the front door of the church and on the cupboards.

NoNuts1 NoNuts2

The night before, Craig and Lissa helped bake 150 chocolate chip cookies to go along with the burgers and hot dogs. Everyone loved it!

LIO_Cookies Once we had cleaned up from the BBQ, it was back to our house to make freezer meals for a local mom and her family. Craig and Lissa flew through the recipes we had planned out and were hungry for more!

LIO_Onions By the end of it, we had boxed up:

  • 2 9-inch shepherds pies
  • 2 meals of chicken with white BBQ sauce
  • 18 mini-quiche
  • 2 meals of pulled pork with homemade buns
  • 3 8” spaghetti pies
  • 3 8” turkey pot pies
  • and 18 tea biscuits

What a great time! We’re both exhausted today, but it was more than worth it. :)