Archive for the ‘Inspiration & Food Allergies’ Category

Want to Travel and Dine Out with Food Allergies? Our Son Does!

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Back in the Spring of 1996, our youngest son was eight and the oldest was ten. They both had multiple serious food allergies and food labeling was sketchy at best. Dining out was extremely risky since most people didn’t know about food allergies. Heck, I found out the hard way.

I was itching to go somewhere, so I took a ride down to Cape Cod one day with my sister while the boys were in school. We had vacationed a couple of times on the Cape at a place called New Seabury, so I figured I would check in there to scout for a summer rental. As fate would have it, the entire village was already sold out for the season.

On the ride home, I realized I wasn’t very upset about missing out on the rental. It dawned on me that I honestly wasn’t in the mood for a quiet week on the beach. I was looking for an adventure. I hadn’t been to the west coast in ten years and I was yearning to show my boys the other side of the country.

My sister, who has the travel bug worse than anyone I know, egged me on to go west. But how could I? I was responsible for two kids with multiple food allergies, complete with Epi-pens. Airlines were handing out complimentary peanuts left and right. Small dogs and cats were allowed on most flights. Odds seemed pretty slim until she mentioned the magic words, motor home.

Yes, that was it. I would take the kitchen with me! And so we did. And it was terrific. We were gone for five weeks and saw many fabulous wonders along the southern and northern routes that cut across this awe inspiring country.

For the next decade, we were constantly firing up that RV for summer vacations, traveling the U.S. and eastern Canada. It was a lot of work because of the driving and upkeep, but we learned some shortcuts along the way. And there are definite benefits to staying in campgrounds vs. staying in hotels. I wouldn’t trade those memories in for anything.

One night in May of 2008, I got an 11:30 p.m. phone call from our then twenty-one year old who is allergic to milk, egg, and nuts. He was hankering to take his first trip to Europe and had finished his finals early. He wanted to let me know that he was making plans to leave for Barcelona in two days in order to be home in time to start his summer job. Yikes! This travel thing must be contagious!

At home, we were smack in the middle of a full blown, gut the kitchen remodel, and now this. Not to be the one to dampen anyone’s curiosity for travel, I asked if he would consider two things. “ Can you please consider an English speaking country, and can you wait until Friday (it was Tuesday) so you won’t have to travel alone? I can go with you. It‘s not fair that you‘re going to Europe when I‘ve never been there. Whine, whine, whine.” After some heavy resistance to the thought of traveling with Mom, I heard tap, tap, tap, in the background and knew he was on his computer. “Virgin Atlantic is showing some unusually cheap flights to London, so how about meeting me Friday at Logan around five p.m.? Silence. Do you want me to go ahead and book it?” “Ahhh, sure. Dad’s tied up with work and your brother still has finals that day, so it will just be the two of us.” “Ok, done.”

Fortunately, hubby and I had been anticipating this, so we did have a little bit of info on a few restaurants in London. Of course, I still had a whopping two and one half more days to do some more restaurant research, give instructions to the contractor, and pack my bags.

Somehow it all worked out and all four of us landed in London by Saturday night. It was a little scary , but we somehow managed to find a half dozen restaurants that could deal with the milk, egg, peanut and tree nut allergies. We packed extra Epi-pens and had the time of our lives.

Somewhere around our fifth day in London, I woke up at four in the morning and thought “Eureka! When we go home, all of our restaurant notes will be lost in some pile and what if we want to come back again? What if somebody else wants to come to London with their food allergies and they don’t know that we did all of this research and ate in all of these wonderful places? I can’t let that happen. I can’t be that short-sighted. I should share. It’s the right thing to do. I have a background in software, so I can put this on the internet and everyone who needs it will be able to see it.” Hence, was born. I un-crumpled my papers, started taking notes and tried to anticipate what others would need to know about our trip to get themselves safely to London and have a great time.

Our food allergy related travel experiences are on the internet for anyone to see. The restaurant and hotel data is arranged by country, state, and city to aid the planning for a vacation or business trip. Other people have graciously started to contribute their favorite restaurant experiences to share.

I have a vision. If we all pool our restaurant experiences together, then we make it easier for each other to get out of the kitchen and dine out in any city of our choosing. If we don’t share, then many of us might still be trapped at home.

I am writing this on a United flight from Lihue on Kauai to San Francisco. My son with the food allergies is currently in law school. I’m trying to anticipate his next phone call by vetting as many restaurants as I can before his spring break! It’s a big world, so please share it with us.


P.S. Please keep in mind that just because one person has a safe experience in a restaurant, it doesn’t guarantee that subsequent patrons will also have a safe dining experience. There is an inherent risk to dining out with food allergies.

Will I Ever Outgrow My Food Allergies?

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I received the following question from a reader this morning, and I think many of us would like to know the answer. I would like to know what others have experienced.

“I have several food allergies eliminated from my diet, there is no change in my digestive health, will I ever be able to reintroduce some foods I miss so much? what other tips could I use to improve my digestive health, thank you.”

Before I begin the discussion, please keep in mind that I am not a medical professional. I am just a mom who has been dealing with food allergies for 22 years.

Lets’ start with our oldest son who started with his food allergies at 5 months old back in 1987. Our introduction into the world of food allergies was milk. Just a minute spec in a tiny taste of mashed potatoes sent his body into alert mode, head to toe hives, red skin, screaming at the top of his lungs with a very raspy throat and compromised breathing. As a result, I decided to continue nursing him for thirteen months. Later, via his Rast tests, we also found out he was allergic to egg even though his only suspected exposure to egg was through breast milk.

Twenty two years later, that milk allergy, along with egg, peanut and tree nuts still persists according to his Rast tests.

As we hesitantly introduced solid foods into his diet, he developed a pattern of safely eating a food for a year or two, and then developing an allergy to it. This happened with chicken, turkey, soy, watermelon, and nitrites. He was no older than four when most of his allergies presented themselves. The first time he ate kiwi, he develped a rash on his face, so we plucked that from his diet right away.

He ate oranges for 13 years before an unexpected reaction, which happened to send him to the ER. No previous warnings at all! At age 16.5, the orange allergy magically disappeared. His rast showed negative, and he passed the food challenge with flying colors.

We never attempted to give him peanuts or tree nuts since his skin tests were positive and his Rast scores were ridiculously high as a toddler. I remember his peanut score was reported as “>100″ back in 2002. I always thought it odd that the report showed a “greater than” sign. I interpret it to mean that at some point the exact score doesn’t matter.

He strictly avoids anything that he is allergic to. No cheating allowed. I was and still am too scared.

The soy allergy lasted only a short while and the doc took him off Nutramegin and put him back onto soy formula. I let him use the soy formula for years in his cereal to keep the nutrients flowing his way. I didn’t know of any Silk-type fortified rice or soy drinks to switch him to back in the late 80’s.

The chicken, turkey and watermelon allergies lasted for more than ten years, into his early teens. I periodically would request new testing for him and once his scores showed up negative, we did a food challenge.

There is no allergy test for nitrites, so he was told to avoid them. Of course, when he went off to college and was no longer under my supervision, he somehow managed to do his own food challenge with the help of a friend who practiced her Epi shooting skills into a plump and juicy orange. Yeah, I bet you can’t wait for your children to be off on their own after reading that tidbit. At least, they had several Epi-pens out on the coffee table “just in case”. And he actually did know the proper way to perform the challenge since he had done them many times with supervision. The big risk was not having a negative Rast test or skin test to warrant the challenge.

To this day, he still has to avoid milk, egg, peanut and tree nuts. His Rast for Almond and Pecan have shown negative, but we can’t find either nut that’s not cross-contaminated. It seems to be common practice to use the same trucks to haul tree nuts from the field to the factory. For example, the first load might be walnuts and the following load might be almonds.

At this point we’re waiting and watching. Most of his Rast scores have dropped in the past seven years, but are still in the “very allergic” category. Some have even gone up a hair, but I attribute that to human error and lab technique. This stuff is not perfect. I’m a mother, so I speculate.

I don’t have any real answers. I pray every day for the researchers who are trying to come up with a cure, and I am cautiously optimistic about what I read. I keep thinking that in 5 years he’ll only be 28, and in 10 years he’ll only be 32. I can wait that long. Come to think of it, I have no choice.

Onto son number two who is now twenty years old. He wasn’t allowed to eat anything his brother was allergic to for the first year of his own life. At age one, on a brave day, I gave him less than one drop of milk and he had the same reaction that his brother had 2.5 years earlier. RATS!

His initial battery of Rast tests showed allergies to milk, egg, and peanut. We were good at avoiding them, so we did.

I periodically requested testing for him and at age thirteen I got the call that every mom is waiting for. They were all negative. Of course, I cried. When I finally pulled myself together, I requested skin tests to be sure the Rasts were accurate. Confirmed. Negative. At that point, we jumped into the food challenges, saving the dreaded peanut challenge for last. Milk, good. Egg, good. And believe it or not, peanut, good.

So, in reality, I have no answers on this topic, just stories. I hope you find most of them encouraging. And I hope that some of my experienced readers will log in and comment. As usual, it’s always a good idea to check with your allergist to see what she/he thinks, since each allergy is so unique.

Best of luck to all of you, and you’ll be amongst the first to know if Bud outgrows anything else.

Regards, Ann