Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How to manage your child's life-threatening food allergies Book Review

How to manage your child's life-threatening food allergies by Linda Mareinhoff Coss.

The first time I read this book, I was basically filled with fear and trepidation. We had been living with the knowledge of our son's life-threatening allergies for about a year and a half already and I thought I had it mostly worked out... but I didn't... actually I still don't! 

This book is a great resource and I wish that I had read it in the early days. We had worked out a lot of the tips about going out or going on vacation, so if I'd read this first, we probably wouldn't have had to learn things the slower or harder way. However, I do feel quite proud of myself for having worked out some of these tips ourselves too. 

This book made me very grateful for the country we live in. In Autralia, we don't have to worry about restaurants with peanut shells all over the floor; we don't have to worry about peanuts being thrown into the air at a sporting match, and we have definitely had a good experience with respect to our allergy specialist, the information he gave us and the general protocols concerning emergency medication and emergency protocols.

So what caused the fear and trepidation? All the suggestions about how to handle school. We've again been very blessed with a good experience at childcare but I now realise that primary school will be a completely new kettle of fish... filled with kids with milk, egg and nut products. And it's not just the kids, but teachers and other parents... all with lollies, chocolates, cakes and other treats that spells trouble with a capital T for us.

Thank you Linda for putting your insights into an easy to read, but harder to digest book. I've also got her cook book and am gradually working my way through some of those recipes... much easier to digest! Haha, stay tuned.

Verdict: a very handy book - get yourself a copy if your child suffers from food allergies. I've read my copy at least three times in three months and I'll be sure to keep flicking through the chapters again as we go through each new stage.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Steak and chips

Just had this tonight and loved it for oh so many reasons!

1. Our son cleaned up his plate and even had a second serve of chips... pretty big meal for a 2 year old. Dessert was a mandarin :-)

 2. The grown up meal looks remarkably similar right?! That's right folks, I only cooked one meal today. We had our steak with a smear of Dijon mustard... yum!

3. This is the clean up... seriously, just a pan, two trays, plus one bowl that I microwaved the vegies in. Even just using one utensil means less washing up.

For Australian readers, I used Birds Eye Golden Crunch Chips - supposed to be egg free, dairy free, nut free, but check the packaging each time, just in case. I also line the tray for our son just in case there are traces of other oils on there from previous cooking. But seriously, how simple is that?!

Big tick from my hubby too - what man can resist a good steak and chips?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tips for non-allergy friends

If you knew that after every outing your child would come home with diaorreah, would you go to these places? What would you do?

It's probably too easy for me and other allergy parents to become cynical in our approach to others. So I thought I'd try and put together some top tips for how others can help. Although our son has numerous known anaphylactic allergies, all his food is carefully selected to ensure it does not cause him harm. Lollies, crackers and jellies - although these may not cause a anaphylactic reaction, could cause our son to have digestive or skin irritations that lasts for days.
     1. If you have kids, please please please don't let them walk around with food. I try and teach our son to sit and eat. Then we clean his hands and he is free to play. Although our motivation is allergy-based, I'm sure that there are advantages of teaching children to appreciate their food and thus lessen likelihoods of obesity. There's advantages of a cleaner house, cleaner toys - definitely worth the training!
     2. Although our son is incredibly cute, and probably irresistible, please don't hold his hands, please don't touch his face unless you know that your hands are 100% clean. If you've handled any food, DON"T TOUCH OUR SON! I know physical touch is incredibly important, especially for little ones. May I suggest that a pat on the back or on the shoulders is a better option.
     3. If you see some food or drink spilled somewhere, please help to clean it up - we'll be eternally grateful, as will your host.
     4. If you see leftover food or wrappers lying around, please help to clean it up.
     5. Don't try and give us your theories on allergies - I've heard it all: "It's because our society is too clean" - actually our family was not that clean before; "You just need to give them a little bit more each time and their body will get used to it" - actually that's how our son would most certainly die since every taste or contact brings us closer to that ever life-threatening threshold; "if you do/don't eat it during pregnancy..." - actually I ate heaps of milk and eggs, and hardly any nuts... so where's the trend there?

Having said all this, I have to admit that we have a wonderful bunch of friends around us. Some are more allergy-aware than others, but all of them want to do the best by our family. Hey, we were definitely NOT allergy aware until our little boy demanded we be. So thank you to all of you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More snacks - dairy free, egg free, peanut free, tree nut free

Wow, I'm delighted to list our latest snack-time discoveries. It really does take some time to find products that are suitable for our son given he has such severe food allergies, but when I do, it's like finding treasure! I'm quite impressed at this list - just goes to show that life isn't all bad (tell that to my last post!)

Sorry, but if I was really keen I'd put proper links, but my in-laws are in town, so there's no time... hope you can manage to find these in your local supermarkets too. If you know of other allergy-free snacks, I'd love to know them! (I'll let you in on a secret... I'm currently contemplating giving our son cubes of sugar as a lolly/candy alternative... I haven't consulted my husband... I know what his answer will be. We haven't bought any normal sweets yet because I think our son is also anaphylactic to rockmelon/canteloupe. We haven't tried any foods with mixed fruit flavours in case this is a fruit they use. Do you think there's a difference between eating a cube of sugar compared to having any other lolly? It's Ok, I don't think my husband reads my blog, so it'll stay our secret!)

Here's the list that doesn't include cubes of sugar:

Red Rock Deli  Sea salt flavour- plain potato crisps fried in sunflower oil and of course salt. Oh so yummy for kiddies and adults alike.

Doritos Original - corn chips - a little harder for the little ones to digest, but yummy too. Just make sure you check the packaging each time because I can imagine that they might start manufacturing these on the same equipment as the cheese flavoured chips at some stage - making it prone to contamination.

Parker's Baked Wheat Twists - oven-baked pretzels - this is one for American and Aussie readers alike! I think the novelty is their shape and of course those rather large salt crytals sprinkled all over them.

Dried fruit - there are so many dried fruits available these days, apart from the usual sultanas. Dried fruit, snap dried fruit, freeze dried fruit - each of them have a different texture and taste, so if you're limited in fruit choices, try the same fruits, dried in a different manner. You will be pleasantly surprised! Grapes, strawberries, apples - just check the packaging to make sure all the ingredients are safe for you.

Cereal - packaged cereal makes a great snack when you're out and about. They keep well in small containers, so you can keep them in the bags for longer (if your kids don't find them first!) Examples include: Nutrigrain, Honey O's, Corn puffs, Fruit loops (from the health section), even corn flakes!

Tinned food -  tinned food is great for travelling. Small tins of corn, chick peas or kidney beans can keep a child amused and fed for some time.

When searching for more snack or food ideas, don't forget to try different aisles. Apart from the health food aisle, sometime there are treasure in the baby food aisle that can still be suitable for older children. The pureed fruits are a great option in the baby aisle, but contain fewer additives and sugar than the pureed fruit in the normal aisles.

Happy shopping and happy snacking!

If you have a favourite, please let us know.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Not quite so simple

This is another one of my favourites from Tiffany's blog at FoodAllergyFun.

Most people we come across are genuine in their concern for our son when they hear about his life-threatening allergies. Many presume to understand our situation, with comments like "Oh yes, there are so many kids these days who can't even touch a peanut." Yes, that's our son... except he can't touch milk, eggs, all sorts of nuts including peanuts, oats and shellfish. When he was younger, he couldn't touch wheat. "Oh well, as long as they are epi-pen trained." Well actually, that is the absolute minimum of what is required. Training needs to go so much further than what to do in an emergency situation.

I have to admit that I'm in a particularly bad mood today. Be warned.

Most days I deal with our son's allergies in a proactive, pragmatic fashion. Some days, like today, the frustration boils over, and as I drop my cooking utensil onto the floor... BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEEEP!

Why the hell do I have to cook two meals all the time? Why do I have to turn off the other pot, just so there's no splatter into our son's food? Why? Why? Why?

Oh well, before I get a chance to answer those questions, better quickly clean up the splattered mess on the floor before our son walks in.

So no, life is not that simple. The answers I seek are not that simple. Anyway, even if I knew these answers, would it change anything? Probably not.

Deal with it, you're a mum now... maybe it is that simple.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Very fancy fish and chips

This is our version of fish and chips. I'm not sure if our son can eat other types of fish or not - early on we were told not to try white fish since he was probably allergic. Salmon and tuna are apparently the least likely to cause allergies. Fresh tuna is hard to come by and our son isn't too keen on tinned plain tuna. So, we basically have pan fried salmon on a regular basis. I've also stopped buying salmon from the local fish shop since there's a high chance of contamination from other white fish or prawns (which we know are a no no). So, my solution is to buy pre-packaged salmon fillets that are hopefully cut on a mass scale and less likely to be contaminated. So far so good.

So here we have, very fancy fish and chips - basically pan fried salmon fillets served with home made potatoe chips fried in sunflower oil. A light sprinkling of salt or a little bit of soy sauce and voila! Talk about spoilt!