5 Ways to Empower Tweens and Teens to Manage Food Allergies

The tween and teen years are a time generally marked by greater independence and responsibility in each adolescent’s life. By the time your child has reached middle school, he or she should be accustomed to carrying their own epinephrine. They should know how to read labels independently, be able to recognize symptoms of an allergic reaction, and know how to administer their epinephrine.

While your child is becoming more independent and increasingly more responsible for managing their own food allergy, this time, just like many of the other stages of development, comes with its own set of challenges.

Severe and even fatal allergic reactions are more common among adolescents and young adults. Pressure to fit in and a sense of invincibility that teenagers commonly exhibit contribute to risk-taking behaviors in regards to managing their food allergies. It is not uncommon for adolescents and young adults to not always carry their epinephrine. They may even intentionally eat food that may not be safe.

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4 Ways to Limit Your Exposure to Environmental Toxicants and Pollutants

When looking at possible irritants that might play a role in contributing to the rise of food allergy, and modern chronic illness in general, we cannot overlook the role of environmental toxicants and pollutants. As you may know, cigarette smoke is associated with increased risk of asthma and a number of chronic illnesses. Inhaled pollutants, such as car exhaust, are also associated with asthma. Exposure to diesel exhaust in pregnancy has been shown to affect fetal gene expression, as does cigarette smoke. This shows that environmental pollutants can modify development through epigenetic changes. (1)

There are thousands of other pollutants that we don’t know much about. In the 2006 EPA Inventory Update Review Program, chemical manufacturers reported producing or importing 6,200 chemicals weighingin at 27 trillion pounds in 2005 and that’s not even including fuels, pesticides, medications, or food additives. (2)  Industrialization has led to many new environmental chemicals that did not exist in traditional societies. Common sources of pollution and toxicants are skin care ingredients, pesticides, food additives, preservatives, heavy metals, air pollution, etc. These persistent organic pollutants (POPs) contaminate our air, food, and water. Some common toxicants include polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, dioxins and phthalates.99 These pollutants accumulate in our body fat over time and can increase with each generation. Many POPs have been detected in breast milk. In regards to chemical management the American Academy of Pediatrics issued the following statement:

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7 Ways for Moms to Practice Self-Care

The need for consistent vigilance in order to prevent exposure to allergens coupled with the never-ending fear of anaphylaxis places a significant amount of stress on the parents of children with food allergies. Parents and mothers in particular, have the added stress of communicating the risks to others who are involved in caring for the child.¹

Communicating to others about your child’s food allergy can be very stressful and frustrating sometimes. Unfortunately, poor quality of life is significantly more likely among parents who have more knowledge about food allergies.² I guess the old saying that ignorance is bliss applies in this situation; however ignorance does not help you effectively manage your child’s food allergies. Parents whose children who had been to the emergency room for a food-allergy-related issue in the past year, had multiple food allergies, or where allergic to milk, eggs, or wheat also reported having a lower quality of life.³

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How to Make Nutrition a Top Priority with Food Allergies

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is the term used to refer to the pattern of foods that most people eat in the United States and other westernized countries. This diet is high in processed, pre-packaged foods that are often loaded with sugar, salt, fat, preservatives, emulsifiers and other additives, chemicals, pesticides, etc. It is also relatively low in fruit, vegetables, and fiber, and lacks a diversity of nutrients, while being high in unhealthy types of fat, meats, and refined carbohydrates. The SAD is associated with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and almost every other modern chronic illness.

One of the silver linings of food allergies is that it forces us to read ingredients and see what is actually in our food. This can really be eye-opening. We consume a lot of food in this country that is detrimental to our health. Most people choose convenience and taste over health and nutrition. We are now paying the price with higher rates of chronic disease and whole generations of children who are dealing with a multitude of chronic conditions. One day we are going to look back on the foods that we are eating today the same way that we look at cigarettes and we are going to wonder how anyone ever thought it was a good idea.

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3 Ways to Keep the Spark Alive in Your Marriage When Allergies Are Leaving You Feeling Burnt Out

 

Keeping the spark alive in a marriage is a challenge in itself; doing so with children is an even bigger challenge. When you add in special needs or a chronic illness like food allergies, it may seem nearly impossible to pull yourself out of the realm of overwhelm into the romantic world.

If you are like most moms I know who have children with food allergies, you are an extremely busy woman. Not only are you busy with everyday life, but you are probably a bit preoccupied with managing your child’s life-threatening condition. With cooking everything from scratch, making sure your child has her meds, becoming a private investigator just to track down foods your child can safely consume, managing co-occurring conditions, etc, it doesn’t always give you a lot of free time or mental space to relax, unwind, and snuggle up with your significant other.

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Tips for a Safe, Happy, and Inclusive Halloween

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It’s almost Halloween, which means trick -or-treating will be coming to your neighborhood soon. For kids with food allergies, celiac disease, diabetes or epilepsy, Halloween, can be a bit scary, and not just because of the witches, ghosts, and goblins.

My goal is to make trick-or-treating a little less “tricky” and a lot more “treaty.”

I’ve compiled my top tips for a safe, happy, and inclusive Halloween below.

Choose allergy-friendly items, if you hand out candy.

I was shopping at Target a few weeks ago when I came across their 2016 Halloween Allergen Guide. You can find it in the Halloween candy section at Target or click here. You can also find the full list by searching “Halloween Candy Allergen Info” at Target.com. This guide allows you to see which allergens are found in which candies so you have an idea of what might be safe and which ones to avoid. Target has confirmed this information with their manufacturers but you will still need to remember to read ingredient labels, as always.

If you’re looking for a slightly healthier alternative to conventional Halloween candy, Target also has a section of organic allergy-friendly candy, like YumEarth® Gummy Bears and Gummy Worms.

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Adopting a Fantastically Free Mindset

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If you follow my newsletter, you may know that October is “Positive Attitude” Month.  I think this is the perfect time to remember that you can live a safe, happy, and healthy life with food allergies! While living with food allergies does present some unique challenges, food allergies need not stop you from doing anything that you desire to do or keep you from living the life you want to live.

Research has shown that only 10% of our happiness is due to our circumstances, 50% is due to our genetic disposition, but 40% of our happiness is due to our mindset and the activities in which we wish to engage. Truly living a safe, healthy, and happy life hinges on adopting a positive attitude or what I call a “Fantastically Free Mindset!”

The Fantastically Free mindset is all about empowerment. Living Fantastically Free involves focusing on what you can do, not what you can’t do. Food allergies should not negatively impact your overall quality of life. When you adopt a Fantastically Free mindset you are able to minimize the negative impact food allergies may create.

Here are 7 principles for adopting a Fantastically Free mindset:

1) Focus on what you can eat, not on what you cannot eat.Even people with multiple food allergies can enjoy a wide variety of foods. View your child’s food allergies as your permission to explore and experiment with trying foods that you may not have tried otherwise.

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Tips for a Safe Hotel Stay with Food Allergies, Celiac, or Dietary Restrictions

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Traveling with food allergies, celiac disease, or other health-related dietary restrictions requires a bit of extra planning to make sure your accommodations and overall stay are both safe and enjoyable.

When you are thinking about booking a hotel, you want to consider how close it is to other places you might need such as a grocery store or emergency room. I always recommend staying at places that have kitchens or kitchenettes so that you can prepare your own safe meals. This is not always possible, but you can almost always request that a refrigerator and microwave be sent to your room. This way you do not have to eat out for every meal.

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Non-Food Ideas for Rewards at School

I am a strong proponent of rewarding children for good behavior, working hard, reaching their goals, etc. I am, however, a little concerned by the frequency in which we reward children with food.Reward Stickers
From a food allergy perspective, using food as a reward often alienates children who may not be able to consume it. I cannot tell you how many times schools reward children with pizza and ice-cream parties. What kind of message is this sending to all of our children? It certainly isn’t one of inclusion. Children with food allergies might think that they are not worthy of receiving a reward; after all, the school didn’t take the time to make sure everyone could enjoy the reward.

Secondly, this teaches all of our children that food (particularly junk food and sweets) is a reward. This link between reward and food is concerning because it can and does lead to emotional eating, which is not healthy.

So how do you reward children in way that ensures everyone can participate? Why not consider non-food rewards?

Here are some non-food ideas for rewards at school:

1) “Caught Being Good” coupon book.

A few years ago, my daughter’s teacher had the brilliant idea (without prompting from me) to reward each child with “classroom bucks” through out the year whenever they did something good in class. By the end of the year they had earned a full “Caught Being Good” coupon book which contained activities they liked to do, such as bring in a toy from home, read their favorite book, etc. They had a lot of fun and it truly taught the value of working towards and goal and seeing your effort pay off.

2) Let the kids vote on what they want.

Some of my daugthers’ teachers have allowed the children to decide what they want as a reward.  They have decided to have special days like “Stuffed Animal Day” and “Crazy Sock Day.” For “Stuffed Animal Day,” they were able to bring in their favorite stuffed animal. For “Crazy Sock Day,” they get to wear wacky or mismatched socks and no shoes during story time. They have also worked towards earning “Pajama Day” and other fun celebrations. 

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Tips to Get Your Husband Up to Speed on Food Allergies

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Many times mothers of children with food allergies are frustrated with their husbands because they don’t feel like their husband is on the same page when it comes to managing their child’s food allergies.

They often complain that their husband doesn’t seem to understand the serious nature of managing food allergies. Dads have been known to do things like buy foods at the grocery store without reading the label, order pizza at a restaurant without informing the staff of their kids’ allergies, or they may even forget what some of their kids’ allergies are.

It’s easy to see how this might be frustrating. Instead of blowing a gasket and losing your temper with your husband, try to look for ways to remedy the problem. Perhaps your husband is weak at auditory processing (or maybe he’s a selective listener) and would prefer to have things written down.

Whatever the case may be, it is very important that the two of you approach managing food allergies as a team. If you and your husband are not on the same page, it can feel like you are managing your child’s food allergies alone and that is a very heavy weight to carry by yourself.

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