July 27, 2014

Special delivery

We have been eyeing these special needs dolls from Karens Kottage for quite some time now and finally went ahead and put our order in. I was so excited for Anna to have a doll that looks like her to play with. I think things like this that children can relate to are important for their identity development. We are so happy with 'Sarah'!

July 15, 2014

Our Allergy Toolbox

I want to give an update on Anna's allergies and tips we've discovered for allergy management. I know this post may not be relevant to many people, but I am passionate about education and believe that everyone can benefit from this information, so please take the time to read! If you haven't read this blog before, check out this post first, where I outline some of the day-to-day struggles of living with food allergies.

We are going on three years since discovering Anna's life-threatening milk allergy, followed by several other serious allergies. It has taken a lot of time and effort to learn how to best manage them and we are continuing to learn along the way. A month or so ago we had a close call when Anna was accidentally given the wrong milk. Immediately she came to us, heaving. I thought she had gotten some sort of stomach bug until Ben realized what had happened. We immediately administered two Epi-pens (the first one was not administered correctly) and praise God, she was okay. It was a scary, scary incident and reminded us of how vigilant and prepared we have to be at all times. It also taught us some things since this was our first experience with Epi-pens (we have been able to avoid contact with milk until this incident). This is what we learned:

1. It is not always easy to recognize an allergic reaction. I had no idea what was going on until Ben put two and two together. Hacking, heaving, and coughing are signs of an anaphylactic reaction. It is scary because many people (even me) have a hard time recognizing these signs.

2. Giving an Epi pen is not fool proof. You have to hold the pen in for ten seconds in order for the medication to administer. Initially Ben popped it into her leg and then once it retracted he pulled it out. It was only when I questioned whether he held it long enough that we realized the medication had not gone in. If would have been difficult for the average person to know that this had happened. You ALWAYS have to hold the pen into the thigh for ten seconds.

3. Always, always take your child to the emergency room when they have received an Epi-pen. I did not know this and once Anna seemed to be ok, we went about our day as usual (even going to swim lessons that day, which was a big no-no). Rebound reactions can occur 30 minutes to hours later and a trip to the ER is a must, such is contacting your allergist.

Now, on to the tips to make management easier!

1. We created a medication 'kit' that we take everywhere. It is easy to throw in Anna's bag (we almost never forget it now). I purchased a zipper pouch and attached a luggage tag that reads "Anna's Medicine". It's important to make things easy to read for caregivers in case of an emergency. Inside the case are two Epi-pens, an inhaler, Benadryl, and succinct instructions for her care in the case of a reaction. If you get a cosmetic case with a key ring on it, you can hang it on a key rack with your car keys so you remember to take it with you.

(inhaler not pictured)

2. Instead of packing liquid Benadryl and separate dispensers, you can find individual child-size tablets at Walgreens. These are much easier to pack and use.

3. AllerMates make special stickers and jewelry that alert caregivers to a child's food allergy in a fun way. We have their stickers that we use when Anna is going to be in a large group setting, and we put one on her lunch box.

4. Good cookbooks are a must. We've found the most success with the What's to Eat? series because it hits all of Anna's allergies, the ingredient lists are not lengthy and obscure as in most cookbooks, and the recipes are short and easy. The reality is that vegan baked goods do not taste the same as their dairy counterparts, but it's nice to have some options.

5. In terms of food, we have found that Kroger is the best grocery chain when it comes to carrying alternative foods (other than pricier options like Whole Foods and Earth Fare). You must look in their Natural Foods section. They carry most of the things we need- vegan mayonnaise, dairy-free cheese, yogurt, ice cream, Almond milk, dairy-free crackers, cookies and chocolate, etc. The Enjoy Life brand are always free of the 8 common allergens. Annie's makes some good products, as well.

6. Allergy-free and alternative foods cost, on average, three times as much as their counterparts. This is a regular challenge for us. A meal plan is very helpful. Fooducate is also a great app to help with selecting food. A past post on these things here.

7. Homemade isn't always easier, but it's often safer.

8. In terms of lotions and creams for eczema caused by mild food allergies, it is very important to stay on top of the skin. We've had the most success with the following regime:

-Limiting baths and only using lukewarm water.
-Applying Eucerin lotion to the body directly after a bath when the skin is still moist.
-Applying Eucerin EVERY night to the entire body to keep the skin from getting dry.
-Using a steroid cream (Locoid lotion is very effective for us) as soon as problem spots pop up to avoid an all-out flare up.
-Avoiding all other lotions and creams and scented products like bubble bath.
-Using All Free and Clear detergent and no dryer sheets or fabric softener.
-Wearing 100% cotton clothing when possible, especially for bedtime and in hot weather.
-Giving Benadryl or another effective anti-histamine if itching becomes a problem.

9. These are more asthma related but eczema and asthma often come hand-in-hand: keep ceiling fans dusted, wash bedding frequently in hot water, avoid stuffed animals and other dust collectors in bedroom, and use an allergen mattress protector.

I hope this helps some people out there struggling with food allergies! If you want to read all of my posts on food allergies, click on "food allergies" under the "Topics" section on the right of this blog.