Day 3 in a Series on Cross-Contamination and Food Allergies: Purchasing Food Products

Grocery shopping for me is always an adventure in learning! I could literally spend hours checking out all the goods.

On my trip out to Vancouver in November, I hit a Whole Foods Market…I was like a kid in a candy store! Luckily my friend Michelle knew what she was getting in to when we set out. Can you imagine we had three to choose from! The closest Whole Foods Market to me is a drive in to Toronto!

Why do I spend so much of my time in grocery stores one might ask? Looking for allergy friendly products for my two boys with mulitple food allergies (dairy,egg,beef,sesame,peanut/tree nut,fish,shellfish,mustard and raspberry) and  READING INGREDIENT LISTS!

Yes, reading ingredient lists is a mandatory grocery shopping rule when there are multiple food allergies to consider. We’re not just talking checking new products, but checking ingredients on ALL products…even those we think we know and trust.

From my experience, I have learned to never take for granted that a product will always remain free of my boys’ allergens. My experience has taught me to ALWAYS READ THE INGREDIENTS LIST.

I have been caught a few times where a product has relabeled their product to include one of my boys’ food allergens on their may contain list. Luckily, we have not encountered any reactions to the trace amounts that the product may/may not now contain, however, I do not like to play Russian Roulette.

How am I to know whether or not the traces will cause a reaction? I would rather pass on the risk.

Some personal experience examples are as follows:

1) Rice Dream Non Dairy Frozen Desserts and Novelties are free of dairy. One day I happened to reread the ingredient list to discover a warning.  Rice Dream states: “they are produced on shared equipment with dairy ingredients and may contain trace amounts of dairy.”  My son was devastated…no more ‘ice cream’.

2) Dempster’s Stays Fresh White Bread used to be the only bread I could find in a store that did not have a disclaimer stating the bread may or may not contain any traces of dairy, egg or sesame seeds on the packaging. Unfortunately, they eventually added one. Again, I just happened to reread the ingredient list and came upon the new disclaimer on the bag. However, if you go to Dempster’s website, there is no may contain warning after the ingredient list. If you go to their website, Dempster’s states: “Every effort is taken to ensure that the ingredients and nutritional information listed here is accurate, however, data may change from time to time.  Please always check the package for the most current information.”

I actually called Dempster’s to discuss the discrepancy. They advised me to follow what is written on the packaging. Due to the package warning, I no longer purchase Dempster’s Stays Fresh White Bread.

Dempster’s Thin Bagels, as of today, do not have a may contain warning on their packaging nor is there one on Dempster’s website. There is the same statement as above after the ingredient list.

Dempster’s Original Bagels, on the other hand, does have a disclaimer on their website stating that the bagels “May contain soy bean,egg,sesame seeds,sulphites and milk ingredients.”

I occasionally buy Dempster’s Thin Bagels for Michael as he likes to have them once and awhile. However, I always check the ingredient list on the packaging each time for any changes in their claims.

3) Barilla pasta: Finding a pasta that has not been manufactured on equipment that processes egg products is limiting. I was purchasing Barilla but since they now have the egg warning I take a pass. Again, it was by chance that I happened to check the ingredient list to find the addition.

SMART pasta by Catelli is our pasta of choice.  I like that it looks and tastes like white pasta with the fibre of whole wheat. Not only that…my kids and hubbie love it! In fact, my husband was watching a SMART pasta commercial and commented that we should give it a try. I replied, “You just ate it for dinner!”

4) Fry’s Cocoa is the latest product I have found to add an allergy warning to their product. I have always noticed that Fry’s 500g container has had an allergy alert warning of possible dairy ingredients but not the 250 g container.That is, up until a few weeks ago. I happened to be in the grocery store and noticed a red band around the top of the 250 g Fry’s Cocoa. It reads, “See back of pack NEW Allergen Information.” In another red band under the ingredient list is the warning, “May Contain Milk”.

I have to admit, I am very impressed with Fry’s Cocoa’s attention grabbing red warning label. More companies should utilize this method of alerting their customers of changes in manufacturing policies.

I called Fry’s Cocoa to inquire about the change. Unfortunately, they were not able to discern why there is now an allergy warning. In fact, they were unaware of the changes.

I have noticed that some grocery stores still have some unrevised containers of Fry’s Cocoa…so I stocked up. I will be purchasing my Dairy Free Cocoa from Guardian Angel. What other brands of cocoa are dairy free?

Uncontrollable Cross-Contamination of Products

I try to be careful with the products I purchase for my boys. I make a mental note to ensure I am reading ingredient labels at each purchase. However, even when all one’s good intentions are in place, there is still one more glitch that can occur…an accidental cross-contamination at the facility.

Summer of 2010, such an occurance happened.

Much to our delight, Natura Rice and Soy milk products by Nutrisoya became available in our local grocery stores…they even had frozen desserts! (ice cream)  I have tried them all… Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate and Maple.They are heavenly! Michael and I both love the Maple! I also love their Chocolate Soy Milk!

Summer of 2010, I had baked my Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Crisp. I had just purchased a brand new Vanilla Natura Frozen Dessert to serve with it. Michael was served first as usual. One bite into a mixture of Apple Crisp and Natura’s Vanilla Frozen Dessert was all it took. Michael looked at me with big eyes and I knew. He had a slight tingling in the mouth…always seems to be his first symptom with his food allergens. I grabbed the epi pen, he took an antihistamine and I had him lie down on the couch.

Michael’s allergic reaction did not venture any farther than the tingling of the tongue. I monitored him for the rest of the evening and through the night.

I initially blamed myself for cross-contaminating the Apple Crisp…with what I was not sure…I thought I had been extremely careful. I never thought it could be the Natura Vanilla Frozen Dessert, as I had just opened it and used a clean spoon to scoop it out. I was very puzzled and confused.

It was not until I ran into a friend at the grocery store, her son also has a dairy allergy, that I learned of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)’s recall.

We were standing  by the frozen section where the Natura Frozen Desserts are kept. I made a comment on how there was no Natura Frozen Desserts and about our experience during the summer. Apparently, certain shipments of Natura Frozen Desserts may contain milk.

All of a sudden, it all made sense…it was not the Crisp I had made but rather the Natura Vanilla Frozen Dessert!

It was at this time, that my friend also informed me of the Anaphylaxis Canada’s Registry program. It is a free program that anyone can sign up and receive email updates on ‘product recalls, corporate sponsor updates and messages, food labelling, news on advocacy efforts related to airlines and other hot topics, research and trends in school policies.’ I signed up as soon as I got home.

I found the Natura Frozen Dessert CFIA recall and called mom to check the UPC/Code. Sure enough, they matched!

I am always surprised at the number of allergy alerts that fill up my mail box. I am indeed glad that I registered.

If you are purchasing products of any kind for someone with food allergies, I highly recommend signing up for the service. It could save a life.

Questions:

How do you feel about purchasing products that have a may contain warning? Do you stay clear of them or take the risk and purchase them?

Do you read the ingredient lists for allergy warnings every time you purchase a product or just now and again?

Has someone you know with a food allergy had a reaction to a product that has trace amounts of their food allergen in it? (I ask this, as that is how we discovered Matthew’s peanut/tree nut allergy. He had a delayed allergic reaction to a cake from a bakery.)

Were you aware of the new allergy warning on the 250g Fry’s Cocoa?

Were you aware of the Anaphylaxis Canada Registry? If yes, how has it helped you? If no, will you be signing up?

Day 2 in a Series on Cross-Contamination and Food Allergies: Grade 8 Graduation Trip to Camp Muskoka 2010 and 2012

This morning, I waved good bye to Matthew as he headed off with his fellow classmates for their Grade 8 Graduation Trip to Camp Muskoka in beautiful Bracebridge, Ontario.

matthew off to camp muskoka by bus

All aboard!

matthew boarding the bus to camp muskoka

The teachers look super excited!

teachers on the camp muskoka trip

Yes, a few tears were shed…I know I was not alone!

The Grade 8 Graduation Trip is an exciting new adventure for the students to embark on…a perfect way to celebrate finishing their grade school years!

An experience of a lifetime!

I know it is Matthew’s first trip away from home without family…made a little more nerve racking when food allergies and asthma are involved. (peanut/tree nut)

I can assure you, I am feeling quite confident that all the safety measures have been put in place to ensure a successful Camp Muskoka adventure.

My eldest son, Michael (dairy,egg,beef,sesame,fish,shellfish,peanut/tree nuts,mustard and raspberry, asthma and eczema) enjoyed his Camp Muskoka adventure 2 years ago with his Grade 8 Graduation Class.

Many safety measures were established to prevent any cross-contamination with Michael’s food…our experience with Michael at Camp Muskoka gives me the confidence for Matthew’s trip.

Recap of Michael’s Camp Muskoka Graduation Trip of 2010

Camp Muskoka focuses on ‘good nutrition’ following Health Canada’s Food Guide and is a ‘Nut Safe’ environment following Anaphylaxis Canada’s Prevention Policy. (all staff are trained in the knowledge of food allergies, the prevention of cross-contamination, and the administration of an epi pen)

Camp Muskoka’s brochure states: “If your child has any special dietary needs (.i.e. vegetarian, diabetic, allergy specific) please detail these needs on your Camp Muskoka registration application and contact the Camp Muskoka Registrar to discuss arrangements.”

Planning Stages:

Stage 1: The year before the trip

Planning for Michael’s Graduation Trip started while he was in Grade 7. Anticipating his participation the following year, I discussed his food allergies, asthma and eczema with the Grade 8 teacher, Mr. G. (Mr. G. is currently Matthew’s Grade 8 teacher and was Michael’s. Matthew also had Mr. G. for Grade 7.)

Mr. G. is well versed in my boys’ food allergy emergency plans!

Mr. G. suggested that he would discuss Michael’s food allergies with the staff at Camp Muskoka on the 2009 Graduation Trip. Upon his return, I was assured that Camp Muskoka would be able to accomodate Michael’s mulitple food allergies. Sigh of relief!

Stage 2:  Parent Information Night

At the start of the Grade 8 school year, a representative from Camp Muskoka held a Parent Information Night. It was at this time, I bombarded the representative with questions and presented him with an outline of Michael’s multiple food allergies and the products that were considered allergen ‘safe’. I even attached a photo of Michael.

I was, as you can imagine, very concerned, worried, nervous…

Once again, I was reassured that Camp Muskoka would be able to meet Michael’s allergen needs. I was advised to contact the head chef, Michael to discuss the details.

Stage 2: Working with Camp Muskoka’s Head Chef Michael

My first contact with Chef Michael was by phone. I felt an initial personal first contact by phone necessary to establish good rapport. Very important when one wants to convey the seriousness of multiple food allergies, cross-contamination and the prevention of an anaphylactic reaction.

By phone, Chef Michael and I ironed out all the specifics:

-Michael would not eat buffet style
-Michael would have separate cutting boards, kitchen tools, pots, pans, plate and utensils kept separately. They would be washed and disinfected daily.
-Michael’s food would be prepared separately from the other food being prepared in the kitchen.
– Michael’s meal would be presented to him already plated.
-Chef Michael and I reviewed his menu plan discussing ingredient lists, food options and substitutions.
-It was agreed that due to Michael’s multiple food allergies, there were certain food items that Camp Muskoka would not be able to accomodate. Mainly all breads and baked goods. (Baked good contain some of Michael’s food allergens)

Chef Michael emailed me his menu plan for review. Between the two of us, we created a menu plan free of all Michael’s food allergens. A copy was made complete with emergency contact information, all Michael’s food allergens, all the food and drink products he was not to consume, and all the food I would be sending from home along with the food that Camp Muskoka would provide. Copies were given to all teachers’ and Camp Muskoka staff for quick reference.

Food Sent From Home

Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Banana Bundt Cake baked in a 6 mold mini bundt pan for a substitute for muffins at breakfast and as a snack.
-Pure Maple Syrup for the Organic Pancakes (an allergen safe organic pancake mix with rice milk and an egg substitute was made for all the students on the trip for breakfast)
-allergen safe sliced ham for sandwiches
Dairy,Egg,Soy,Sesame and Peanut/Tree Free Sub Buns for sandwiches and garlic bread
Dairy,Egg and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Wacky Cake
-allergen safe pasta and meat sauce
Dairy,Egg,and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Apple Crisp

Michael’s 2010 Camp Muskoka Grade 8 Graduation Trip Experience

The beginning of June 2010, I waived good bye to Michael, two coolers full of food, 3 epi pens, puffers and his asthma/eczema medications as he headed for his once in a lifetime adventure to Camp Muskoka.

Yes, tears were definitely shed. Yes, a part of me was nervous.

Parents, as a rule, are not to have contact with their children on the trip…Mr. G. bent them, just a little, and called me both nights to let me know everything was going smoothly. Thanks Mr. G.!

Michael came home with many stories and experiences that will last a lifetime!

Michael’s Camp Muskoka’s Grade 8 Graduation Trip was a success due to a team effort…teachers’ and Camp Muskoka staff working together with compassion, common sense, communication and an emergency plan. Priceless! I can’t thank you all enough!

Overview

I remind my kids all the time…read ingredient lists, never assume.

Accidents are called accidents because they are not planned. Thank goodness we can at least be prepared for accidents…because cross-contamination and injestion of food allergens is a reality.

That is why, as a parent with children with food allergies I teach my boys the Two Golden Rules: Always wash your hands and have your epi pen on hand before eating.

That is why, as parents with children with food allergies, we have emergency plans in place…that is why teachers’ and Camp Muskoka staff are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and how to administer epi pens…that is why students with life threatening food allergies need to carry epi pens and have back up epi pens available.

Being prepared means that when an accidental cross-contamination or injestion of a food allergy occurs…an anaphylactic reaction can be prevented.

Matthew 2012 Camp Muskoka Grade 8 Graduation Trip

Last week, I emailed Chef Michael and alerted him to Matthew’s peanut/tree nut allergy and his arrival today. He assured me that Camp Muskoka is still ‘Nut Safe’ and following Anaphylaxis Canada’s Policies. There is no need for me to send any food this time. Matthew will be travelling with his 3 epi pens, his puffers and all the gear needed for a winter adventure.

Not sure if I will be hearing from Mr. G. tonight for a recap on the day. I will try to be content in the knowledge that I have sent Matthew in capable hands.

In the meantime, I am eagerly awaiting Matthew’s arrival home on Friday to hear all his exciting stories and experiences at Camp Muskoka.

Question: Has anyone else sent their child/children to Camp Muskoka with food allergies? What experiences have you had sending your child/children on overight trips with food allergies? Please share.

My Boys’ Favourite ‘Flat’ Chicken

This weekend, I embarked on writing on the topic of cross-contamination. As a parent with children with food allergies…it is one of my greatest fears.

The more I wrote, the more I realized how much a factor it plays in my daily life. Cross-contamination touches so many parts of my life the story seemed to take on a life of its own.

I am going to take my time with it and present it as a series. In the meantime, this weeks posts will be a series of simple allergen free dinners that our family enjoys.

To start off the week, I am offering one of my boys’ favourite dinners…‘Flat’ Chicken.
Below is Michael’s finished masterpiece.

Michael's flat chicken dinner with rice and peasNamed appropriately as my boys enjoy flattening the chicken themselves!

This is a great hands on recipe for children to experience a start to finish meal. This recipe also offers children an opportunity to try new flavours by choosing their own spices. I am sure you all have an array of them, like I do, tucked away in your cupboards.

Bring them all out to the counter and let your children familiarize themselves with their smells. I often remind my kids that many of the spices before them they have already enjoyed in other dishes without perhaps even knowing.

Chili Powder in the Barbeque Sauce for the Ribs, Sage in our Dairy Free Stuffing, Thyme on our Roast Pork, Oregano on Pizza.

My boys are not always involved in the preparation of dinner so this recipe gives us the opportunity to share some quality time…I need to incorporate their skills more often!

I hope you will find this a fun introduction to the joys of cooking in your kitchen with your children.

Boys’ ‘Flat’ Chicken

2 chicken breasts, butterflied
enough canola oil for coating chicken
variety of spices
salt and pepper

I use my Cuisinart Griddler for this recipe. Turn the grill to high.
Meanwhile, prep the chicken:
Place a sheet of wax paper on the counter and place butterflied chicken breasts on top and cover with another sheet of wax paper.
As we do not have a mallet, we use an old rolling-pin to flatten the chicken. Kids enjoyed this part!

Matthew using the rolling pin to flatten his butterflied chicken breast

Peel off the top wax paper
Drizzle a bit of canola oil over the chicken and rub it in all over.
Now the fun part! Kids can choose their spices to sprinkle over their chicken.
Rub the spices into the chicken.

Matthew’s chicken breast is on the left and Michael’s is on the right.

boys flattened chicken breasts with spices

Tip 1: I sometimes advise the boys to tap a bit of spice into the palm of their hands and then using their fingers, sprinkle the spices over the chicken. It eliminates the problem of dumping a whole pile of spices in one dose.

Matthew’s spices included: Chili Powder, Ground Cumin, Cayenne Pepper, salt and pepper.

Michael’s spices included: Thyme, Oregano, Chili Powder, Italian Seasonings, salt and pepper.

Place the chicken spice side down and cook on high for approximately 3 minutes. Turn and cook a further 3 minutes.

flattened spiced chicken breasts on cuisinart griddler

Tip 2: The boys help with the turning of the chicken with supervision.

The boys enjoyed their ‘Flat’ Chicken with a side of Basmati Rice and Peas. Below is Matthew’s masterpiece. Yummy!

Matthew's spiced flattened chicken breast with basmati rice and peas

Enjoy!

P.S. Is there a favourite recipe your children enjoy assisting with in the kitchen?
How often do your children help out with meals?

Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free DOUGHNUTS

This weekend was all about Dairy, Egg,Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut DOUGHNUTS!

dairy,egg,peanut/tree nut free maple, chocolate and strawberry glazed, cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar doughnuts

Every since I purchased my Wilton DOUGHNUT Pan, Matthew has been asking, “When are you going to make DOUGHNUTS!” This last week, he picked up his ‘game’. Every day, after school, he walked in the door, sniffed the air and said, “Did you make the DOUGHNUTS?”.

It’s all he can talk about. Of course, then there are all the various toppings to discuss…Cinnamon Sugar, Chocolate, Strawberry and Maple Glazed and Powdered Sugar…oh my!

On Saturday, I adapted the recipe that Wilton provided on the packaging, to meet our allergen needs. The DOUGHNUTS were moist and cakey…easy to whip up!

My boys and their neighbourhood friend easily surrendered their hockey sticks to sample my freshly baked Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut DOUGHNUTS.

Cinnamon Sugar and Strawberry Glaze tied as the overall favourites.

On Sunday morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find more DOUGHNUT ideas over at The Edible Perspective.  Ashley’s blog gave me the idea of Triple Chocolate DOUGHNUTS.

dairy,egg,soy,peanut/tree nut free triple chocolate doughnuts

I just replaced 1/2 cup of cake flour (from my recipe below) for dairy-free unsweetened cocoa, used 2 tsp of pure vanilla and added 1/2 cup of Enjoy Life chocolate chips. I made her Cocoa Buttercream Frosting to top them off…chocolate heaven!
Due to my boys’ nut allergies, I replaced the almond milk with water and used Earth Balance, (to keep the doughnuts soy free, use their soy free brand)

I wish there was more time in the day…so many DOUGHNUT ideas to adapt!

Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free DOUGHNUTS

strawberry, chocolate,maple glazed and cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar dairy,egg,soy,peanut/tree nut free doughnuts

2 cups cake and pastry flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup rice milk
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup applesauce
2 tsp canola oil
1 tsp pure vanilla

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a liquid measure, combine the rice milk and vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes.

wet and dry ingredients for dairy,egg,soy,peanut/tree nut free doughnutsAdd to the milk mixture the applesauce, oil, water and vanilla.
Add the wet to the dry and stir until just combined.
Spray the DOUGHNUTS pan with canola spray and fill each donut cup with 2/3 of the batter.

dairy,egg,soy,peanut/tree nut free doughnut batter in Wilton doughnut panBake 425 F for 7-9 minutes. (mine took 8) until DOUGHNUTS spring back when touched.

baked dairy,egg,soy,peanut/tree nut doughnuts in Wilton doughnut panCool on cooling rack for 4-5 minutes before removing them to cool further on the rack.

dairy,egg,soy,peanut/tree nut doughnuts cooling on rackThis recipe makes 12 DOUGHNUTS.

dairy,egg,soy,peanut/tree nut free chocolate glazed doughnut

Enjoy!

Cinnamon Sugar DOUGHNUT (recipe provided on Wilton packaging)

2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp Earth Balance, melted (for soy allergy, use their soy free brand)

Combine sugar and cinnamon.
Dip doughnut in melted Earth Balance and then in cinnamon sugar mixture.

Chocolate Glaze (recipe provided on Wilton packaging)

1/4 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips
1 tbsp Earth Balance (for soy allergy, use their soy free brand)
1 tbsp light corn syrup

In a microwavable bowl, melt the above ingredients on medium for approximately 1 minute stirring until melted and combined. (They suggested adding hot water to thin which I found unnecessary)

Dip DOUGHNUT in chocolate glaze.

Strawberry Glaze

I didn’t really measure for this one…just mixed some homemade strawberry jam with icing sugar, water and a bit of Earth Balance (for soy allergy, use their soy free brand) until it was a nice consistency for spreading over the DOUGHNUT.

Maple Glaze

Again, I just eyeballed pure maple syrup, a bit of Earth Balance (for soy allergy, use their soy free brand), icing sugar and water until it was a nice consistency and maple flavouring.

I am very excited to try other varieties of DOUGHNUTS: Matthew really wants to try Lemon with a Lemon Sugar Glaze…me too…yummy!

P.S. As much as the boys’ loved the DOUGHNUTS…they kept reminding me that the DOUGHNUTS really tasted more like ‘a cake in the shape of a DOUGHNUT.

Do you have a favourite adapted  DOUGHNUT recipe that you love? Please share in the comments!

P.P.S. As always, any products I mention in these posts are my own personal recommendations. No one’s paying me to recommend them. They’re just what has worked for our family. Your own needs and preferences may be different!

Questions and Answers: A Teenager’s Perspective: Living with Multiple Food Allergies, Atopic Dermatitis and Asthma

My 15-year-old son, Michael, has lived with multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma since he was a baby.

Multiple Food Allergies: Dairy, eggs, beef, sesame, fish, shellfish, peanuts/tree nuts, raspberries and mustard.

Atopic Dermatitis: his triggers include: heat, stress, grass, citrus, cantaloupes, and non-hypo- allergenic detergents (Tide in particular)

Asthma: his triggers include: dust, exercise (over doing it), hockey arenas (over doing it on the ice), colds, really cold air and really hot air (high humidity), and lots of pollen in the air.

I thought it would be interesting to post a question/answer period with my son to get a teenagers perspective on what it was like growing up and living with the tri-factor of the allergy world: multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma.

Michael  is entering that stage in his life where studies have proven that teens with food allergies take more risks. Two good sites for teenagers with food allergies are FAAN, The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and Why Risk It?, at Anaphylaxis Canada. Both provide information for teens with food allergies.

In order to help our teenagers through this period of adjustment, I believe we need to: ask questions, truly listen, keep the lines of communication open, and show compassion, love and understanding. Our children’s’ journey with food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma will soon be their’s alone…they need all the support they can get.

So…what is a teenager’s perspective on growing up and living with the tri-factors of the allergy world?

In typical teenager fashion, Michael tended to want to rush through the questions with yes and no answers. A little ‘pulling of teeth’ garnered a few more ‘tid bits’. As you can see from the picture below, we were still on speaking terms at the end.

michael and me after our interviewIn all honesty, I can’t express enough how proud I am of Michael. He has truly been through so much…he deserves a happy ending.

What is your earliest memory of living with atopic dermatitis?

I remember staying home from school because my skin was so bad. It was probably in kindergarten or Grade 1.

Food allergies?

I remember getting my first allergy testing done on my arm. It was very itchy and it hurt a bit. Not like it is now. I like to get it done on my back now because I don’t like to see it. It doesn’t hurt… I think it hurt because I was young and was scared.

Asthma?

Playing road hockey. I remember having coughing fits.

How would you describe what it feels like having atopic dermatitis?

It sucks!

I mean what does it FEEL like?

I try to block it out. I don’t feel it anymore.

What gave you the greatest comfort when you were uncomfortable?

When you sang ‘Ally Bally Be’ to me.

What did you like about my singing that song?

I liked it when you would sing and rub my back. I would forget about the itching and was able to fall asleep.

Did you ever notice a correlation between food and your skin?

Yes. Oranges for sure. I would eat too many and then my skin would go all red. When it was red it was dry and when it was dry it was terrible.
One time I had a whole bag of Swedish Berries and went all red in the face.
Coke would make my skin break out the next day after I drank it.
Yes, we discovered that Coke had caramel in it which can be derived from dairy. After you stopped drinking Coke, the break outs on your hands went away.

Was it hard to focus at school? What helped?

Yes. Nothing helped.

How would you describe the on-coming of an allergic reaction?

I would get a tingling on the tongue. After that I would feel like I was going to throw up and I would.

Were you ever bullied or teased for your skin issues or food allergies? Did you feel different? Were you treated differently?

No, I was never bullied. Yes, I felt different but I can’t explain it. Yes, I think people felt and still feel bad for me.

What has having multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma taught you?

To be thankful for what you got: my loving family, everything I have and  am able to do.

If you could give any advice to children and parents of children living with multiple food allergies, atopic dermatitis and asthma, what would you say to them?

It will get better eventually…I think. It wasn’t set in stone that I would get better so…I don’t know. I feel I got lucky getting over the eczema part.

What do you do to maintain your skin now?

I moisturize. I like the Vaseline intensive rescue, extra strength, unfragranced formula. I put it on after I shower in the morning and sometimes at night.

Do you feel safe at highschool?

Kind of because I have friends that look out for me. When someone pulls out something with nuts, they tell them to be careful because I’m allergic.

Do you think it helped that your Grade 8 class was educated along with you on the signs and symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction and how to use an epi pen?

I think they feel more comfortable around me.

You eat in the cafeteria surrounded by your food allergens. What steps do you take to ensure you do not encounter any cross-contamination?

I don’t eat anything that isn’t from home. I use hand sanitizer and don’t put my food on the caf table.

You had an allergic reaction this past weekend from cross-contamination. What did that teach you? (Michael ate plain chips from a bag that were contaminated with a dairy dip that his dad had been eating with the chips.)

I need to still be careful eating foods that I can eat.

Eating out in restaurants is on our to do list. Where would you want to go? What would you want to order that you can eat?

Swiss Chalet. A salad with their Chalet dressing, plain baked potato and a 1/4 chicken plate with their special sauce.

Do you ever get frustrated with your food allergies, atopic dermatitis or asthma?

Yes. I can’t eat stuff, I get itchy and I can’t go as hard as I want to playing sports.

What do you look forward to in the future?

Hopefully being able to eat foods that I can’t right now, getting my asthma under control and hopefully I can improve my skin.

So, what do you think about our interview?

Awful…just torture…it was okay…I don’t know…I don’t know what else to say…are we done?michael in our interview

As he walked away munching a Krispie Square, he said, “I hope I get a happy ending…”

“I do too sweetie, I do too!

Remembrance Day: Today I remember all those who dedicated their lives so we may live a better life…especially Thomas Beaton, my grandfather’s brother. He was part of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets (Part 1) and died August 24th 1944. His name, along with many others, is in the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland. I have had the priveledge to visit and surprisingly found his name to the shock of my grandfather…priceless!

P.S. As always, any products I mention in these posts are my own personal recommendations. No one’s paying me to recommend them. They’re just what has worked for our family. Your own needs and preferences may be different!