Hospital Stay

For the first time in a while, our visit to the hospital is not due to Penny’s allergic reactions. We are in the hospital because a couple of days ago Paulo started to feel sick and after several visits to the ER, the pediatric clinic and 2 sets of IV fluid, last night he was admitted to the hospital. And although Paulo thinks he’s at a hotel, we’re helping him get better.

I wanted to let you guys know that he is getting better, but that I will be absent from the blog for a couple of days taking care of my lil’ guy. 

Have an awesome week and don’t forget to be safe! 

Ensaimadas (Sweet Bread)

Makes 12 Rolls

Ensaimadas

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup soy milk
  • 1 ½ cup of water
  • 2 sticks of Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks, melted (1/2 lb) + 1 stick for brushing (melted)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • ½ tbsp active dry yeast
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 ½ cups of all purpose flour + more for flouring work surface
  • Powdered sugar

Directions:

  • Combine the egg yolks, sugar and 2 melted vegan buttery sticks.
  • In another bowl, combine the soy milk and water. Add the active dry yeast and let it sit for approximately 5 minutes.
  • Combine both mixtures & add salt.
  • Start adding the flour, 1 cup at a time while mixing.
  • Cover with cloth and let it rise for 2 hours.
  • Refrigerate for 3 hours. I prefer to refrigerate overnight.
  • Flour a clean surface.
  • Turn out the dough and knead into a rectangle shape.
  • Cut the dough into 12 strips.
  • Roll the strips.
  • Pre-heat oven to 350°
  • Place rolls in pan.
  • Cover and let it rise for 45 mins.
  • Brush rolls with melted butter.
  • Bake for 20-25 mins. or until lightly browned.
  • Allow buns to cool & dust with powdered sugar.

Enjoy your delicious Ensaimadas!

Ugh… Cross-Contact

A few months ago I had to go to the supermarket and took Paulo with me. Penny stayed with Juan at home. Close to the cash register, Paulo saw a small fridge where they keep refreshments and asked me to buy him a small bottle of (cow’s) milk. He barely asks for stuff that we don’t keep at home because of allergies, but the look he gave me convinced me.

We paid and went home. I cooked and Paulo had the milk with his dinner. At one point, he was distracted and accidentally spilled the milk. Cautiously, I wiped the table, we washed our hands and we went back to eating. Moments later, Penny was breaking out in hives. What had happened? Either I didn’t wipe down the table correctly and contact with milk gave her an allergic reaction or maybe either one of us didn’t wash our hands correctly. I gave Penny her medication, and the reaction went away.
I should have known better… Needless to say, I am not bringing home any more allergens!

Allergens in Non-Food Items

When you think about Food Allergies you obviously think about allergens in food. However, there could be allergens in non-food items, in products that you use on a daily basis.

As soon as Penny was diagnosed with food allergies, I remember going through all of our food and getting rid of anything containing the allergens she would react to, but I forgot to check the non-food items. Then, one day, I kept asking myself why her eczema wouldn’t go away. I started to notice that the eczema would get worse after bath-time. It occurred to me to check the body wash she was using. There it was! One of the ingredients was macadamia nut oil. Needless to say, I discarded that body wash and her eczema started to improve. From that day on, I read the labels, not only of food products, but also of everything that I buy.

 

After doing some research online I found information on non-food items that can contain allergens, these include: soap/body wash, shampoo & conditioner, cosmetics, lotions, sunscreen, ointments, household cleaning products, play dough, bird feeders, pet food, medication and so on.

 

I’m sure that this list could go on, so always remember to read the labels of the items that a person with food allergy will be in contact with. I know that with my daughter, all it takes is skin contact with the allergen for a reaction to happen.

Be Safe!

 

For more information about allergens in non-food items, visit:

 

http://blog.foodallergy.org/2014/07/11/questions-from-fares-mailbag-allergens-in-non-food-items/

http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/resourcespre.php?id=1

http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/resourcespre.php?id=14

Spreading Awareness

My friend Karla, who writes a column about parenting every Sunday for a local newspaper in Puerto Rico (Índice), wanted to write about Food Allergies. Since it is something that she hasn’t experienced with her daughter, she came to me with some questions and shared my story in her column yesterday. I am happy to be able to help create more awareness through my story.

To read yesterday’s column, visit:

http://www.indicepr.com/noticias/2015/03/22/style/38867/cuando-tu-nin-es-alergic/

 

*It’s written in Spanish*

Walk a Mile in my Shoes

Imagine this: You have the power to see all the germs in the world. You’re with your children and you are going to take one of them to his karate class. All of a sudden you open the door to the waiting room and you see everything covered with germs, not only are they regular everyday germs, but potentially deadly ones. You scan up and down and side to side, and you see them everywhere: the seats, the tables, the floor and the corner where children play. You also see them on other people who are going about their day and waiting for their children to come out of their sports class, somehow, unaware of the dangerous germs all over the place. You think about leaving, but you are required to stay in the building while your child is in the class. So, you stay, and keep a close eye on your child so she doesn’t get infected. Now replace the germs with allergens and you’ll have an idea of what parents of children with food allergies have to deal with every time we step out of our home. However, unlike with germs, we cannot use hand sanitizer to remove allergens from our hands or even surfaces, so we go wipes in hand, and EpiPens ready for whatever life might throw at us: be it a child with allergen filled hands trying to share a toy with our child or our child sitting on an allergen-filled seat, basically a child just being a child. How would you feel in a situation like this?

 

Some people’s food allergies are not limited to the ingestion of the allergen; the simple action of having skin contact with a surface that has been contaminated by [insert allergen] can cause a chain of reactions. This is what happens in Penny’s case. So last Tuesday, when I went to drop Paulo off at his ballet class, that was exactly what happened to us.

 

I walked into one of the waiting areas and the first thing I saw was a child sitting in a chair with pizza-flavored chips. DAIRY!!! I kept scanning the room: there were crumbs of those chips spread all over the rug and who knows where else, and on the other corner a little girl eating goldfish crackers while playing with the toys that children share. More dairy! I took a deep breath, explained to Penny that we needed to move because there was too much dairy around us and it could make her itch (that’s her way of explaining that she’s starting to experience an allergic reaction) and decided to move away from that waiting area. I asked myself where to go; the other waiting area was not an option as it is designated for eating, that would have been more stressful. Also, it was a rainy day. Waiting outside meant waiting in the cold rain. So, I decided to move to the hallway, where we could sit and at the same time enjoy watching Paulo take his ballet class. Next thing I know, we had another child sitting by our side having chocolate milk. Anxiety started rising again. I tried to keep Penny by my side, but anybody who has a two-year-old knows what a challenge that can be. Then, the child with the chocolate milk decided to start walking back and forth in front of us, spilling her milk. At that point, not only was I frustrated and anxious, I was about to panic. Desperate, we put on our raincoats and waited outside for the rest of the class (about 30 minutes).

Why was I about to panic? Almost every time we visit this building we experience an allergic reaction, mostly hives that, in our case, luckily go away with antihistamine.  Do we take precautions? Of course we do. Every time we go out, I wipe down the area where Penny’s going to sit, I bring her own allergy-friendly snacks, I wash or wipe her hands before eating, and I carry her medication, but there’s so much you can do. Food Allergies overwhelm me because, on one side, I’m trying to protect my food-allergic child and on the other side, I don’t want to deprive my other child of everyday activities. In this scenario, things would have been easier if people would have followed the rules and eaten in the designated area. That way, I would’ve just kept Penny away from them.

 

By the time I got home, I was emotionally exhausted. A feeling of helplessness covered me. It is impossible to keep my child protected in a bubble. Instead, I have to find ways to make our lives easier. What would you do if you were in my shoes?

 

 

 

I am THAT mom

Before we knew that Penny had food allergies, I would say that I didn’t understand what the term meant. I used to wonder why some foods were being banned in schools, and quite frankly, I thought that some parents were overreacting when their children were close to an allergen. Of course, I had no awareness, and as a consequence, I couldn’t understand. Now, the story is very different.

Last month, while dropping Paulo at his ballet class, some mothers were talking with the teacher about Valentine’s Day. All of a sudden I overheard someone saying that they hate how now everything has to be store bought and how we can’t have a good old Valentine’s Day with homemade cupcakes and treats. I couldn’t help myself and had to say something. I told them that I completely understood where they were coming from, for I, once, thought the same way. But I also explained to them that I have a child with food allergies and I am THAT mom- the one that is restricting their children’s diet in school.

It was the first time I openly talked to strangers about my child’s food allergies out of the context of her immediate safety and more about the real-life consequences of ordinary things. It’s not that I want to restrict your child’s diet or make your life more difficult than it already is. It’s about caring for others, understanding that the simple act of eating something with an allergen can make my child have a reaction and potentially an anaphylactic shock. It’s about understanding that a craving or a minor inconvenience is not more important than a person’s life.

On a separate experience, two weeks ago, we took our children to a Wildlife Park. There, we got on a tram and took a tour. By my side was this young couple with a toddler. The toddler was tired and hungry, and as a consequence was having a tantrum. A nice lady sitting in front of them offered them a snack and Juan noticed that it contained a peanut butter cup. For the first time, I saw him freak out about Penny’s allergies. Scared, he looked at me and told me about the PB cup. I took a deep breath, it was time to be THAT mom again. I reached out to the lady explaining Penny’s allergies and asked her if it was possible not to open the treat. Another first- asking a total stranger not to eat something with an allergen close to us. Instead, they asked me if it would be OK if they moved away. Of course, it was OK! They understood that all I wanted was my daughter to be as far away from that PB cup as she could. I thanked them a million times, and with a smile on his face the young dad said, “Of course, food allergies are a serious thing!” Honestly, this wasn’t the reaction I was expecting. I was prepared to listen to someone tell me to move away, or to “suck it up”. Instead, I found kindhearted people. This made our day. 🙂

Help me advocate for people with food allergies so we can have more positive experiences like this one.

Our First Traveling Experience as an “Allergy-Family”

Way before Penny was diagnosed with food allergies, we had planned a trip to visit my husband’s grandfather, who lived in Florida. Two weeks before the trip we found out about her allergies. For us, this is a 10 hour trip, and anyone who has toddlers dreads the thought of all the opportunities for everything to go completely wrong: ear pain, hours of crying and wanting to run around when we are about to land are a few scenarios that come to mind. Now add to this Food Allergies and you clearly have an equation that tends towards chaos.

Food allergies was something relatively new to us, which meant that, to say the least, I was anxious about getting on a plane and leaving our “comfort, allergy-free zone” at home. I was anxious about dairy and peanut residue on the plane’s seat, about other passengers eating peanuts close to us and about what we were going to eat once we left our house. So, I read as much as I could about food allergies and prepared myself for the experience. While doing research online, I found out that policies regarding food allergies vary from airline to airline. Some airlines create buffer zones, others make announcements, others ask people to retain from eating peanut products, and the list goes on. After reviewing several of the major airline’s policies, we settle on Delta. It seemed to us that it had a more food allergy friendly policy than others.

When it was time to pack, aside from our clothes, shoes, and toiletries, I made sure that I had packed 1 bottle of Benadryl, 2 Epi-pens in the diaper bag, 2 Epi-pens in the luggage (in case we had to use the one’s we carry in the diaper bag), a carry-on full of allergy-free treats, and wipes for wiping the plane seats. We also bought allergy wristbands to alert others and allergy alert stickers (Penny wore one and our bags had them as well).

Although we had already spoken to an airline representative, once in the airport, we talked to the airline staff to let them know about Penny’s allergies and asked them to let us pre-board so we could wipe down her area. They were very accommodating and let us pre-board every time. Even though we took precautions, Penny ended up getting hives. Thankfully, we did not have to use an Epipen; with the antihistamine alone, the hives went away. Looking back, I wonder if there were enough allergen particles in the air to cause this reaction. Perhaps I should have taken extra precautions.

Once in Florida, our family knew about her allergies, so they were extremely careful and understanding, something I am grateful for. The only challenge was if we wanted to go to a restaurant. I felt that it was hard finding places to eat without risking a reaction. It was during this trip that we stumbled into a website called Allergy Eats. This website serves as a guide to finding allergy-friendly restaurants in the US. To visit the website click here.

Half way through our trip, we decided to take a drive to Disney World. I was still a bit anxious about the food and about particles of allergens on the rides, but my husband reassured me that everything was going to be alright. The day prior to our road trip, my husband went to their website to see if they had any special accommodations for people with Food Allergies. It turned out that they have designated kiosks that sell allergy-friendly treats. Also, you can eat at certain sit-down restaurants and enjoy an allergy-free meal. We just called to make a reservation in order to make sure we were going to eat at an allergy-friendly restaurant. Upon arriving at the restaurant, we told our server about our daughter’s allergies, who told the chef. The chef, then, came to our table and talked to us about the allergy-free items on the menu. For the first time in those two weeks since we learned about her allergies, I felt safe eating in a restaurant. What was even better was that we all felt included. 🙂 We also brought our own baby carrier, which saved us from the worry of finding allergens on a rented stroller, and as for the rides, I just wiped down Penny’s area- problem solved. The rest of the trip turned out to be amazing.

IMG_8186

The allergy-friendly meal

What started as a nerve-racking situation, ended as a happy and pleasant experience. We got home safe, we didn’t have to use an Epipen, and we spent priceless time with our family. What else can I ask for?

For more information and tips on Traveling with Food Allergies, visit:

http://www.foodallergy.org/managing-food-allergies/traveling
http://allergicliving.com/2013/10/17/flying-with-allergies/1/
http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/resourcespre.php?id=114

What happened after the Diagnosis?

All of a sudden, I had a child diagnosed with a mild milk allergy and a severe peanut allergy. It was a lot to take in. The allergist gave me articles and resources to help me understand what all of this meant.

After the diagnosis, the allergist wrote a prescription for Penny. Now we need to carry, at all times, Benadryl and 2 EpiPens. Before we left the Dr.’s office, she taught me, with a trainer device, how to use an EpiPen and explained when to use it. We got the medication at the pharmacy and headed home.

As soon as I got home, I remember putting Penny down for a nap and walking straight to the kitchen. I decided we were not going to risk anything, so I went through all of our food and gave away or discarded anything that contained dairy,  peanuts and tree nuts. I felt lost. There were a lot of things we were not going to be able to eat now.

After the kitchen “raid” it was time for me to head to the supermarket to find allergy-friendly products. It took me around three hours to do grocery shopping, a “task” that usually takes one hour to complete. I read every single label of every single product that I bought that day. Not only was I looking for the words milk, peanuts & tree nuts, I was also looking for those ingredients (with different names) that mean the same thing as containing milk, peanuts & tree nuts. Also, I had to make sure that the product didn’t have the words: processed in a facility that processes [insert allergen]. The end result, an allergy-free pantry & kitchen.

That afternoon, after Paulo came home from school, we sat down with him and explained Penny’s diagnosis. He took it as well as a 5-year-old would take it and told us that he was willing to give up the allergens in order to keep Penny safe. Up to this day, you can still see surprise in his face every time he, unknowingly, asks for something that contains the allergen and we explain to him that it’s a product we can’t have at home. However, as we have discovered delicious, allergy-friendly products, eating has become easier. We certainly are eating more fruits and veggies, and I would say that we have healthier eating habits thanks to food allergies (not everything has to be negative).

It has taken a lot of learning and patience to understand what we can and cannot eat. I still read the labels of the products that we eat on a regular basis because, sometimes, ingredients change. And when I have any doubt about any product ingredient, I just contact the manufacturer. Feel free to do the same!
The important thing here is to keep my child safe!

Food Allergy Research & Education (F.A.R.E.) has information on “Tips to Avoid your Allergen”. This list was extremely helpful for us. To find it, visit:
http://www.foodallergy.org/document.doc?id=133