Anaphylaxis Canada’s 7th Annual Community Conference, May 10, 2014

May is Food Allergy Awareness Month…what better way to spend it than at a day dedicated to food allergies.

On Saturday, May 10, 2014,  that is just where you would have found me…attending Anaphylaxis Canada’s 7th Annual Community Conference in Markham, Ontario, Canada.

What a day! I hardly know where the time went…so fast, I even forgot to run out and grab my lunch from the car!

At the morning parent session…I think I may have been one of the oldest mom’s in the group with a son with multiple food allergies ready to graduate from high school.

My table of 6 parents, including myself, consisted of a couple of mom’s with a child with food allergies entering JK, a mom of a girl in Grade 3 and parents of another child who I think was also in Grade 3.

The morning was all about “Partnering And Planning With Your School”.

The registering of one’s child with anaphylaxis in the school system was a big topic. Understanding the law and responsibilities of the school, providing resources on your child with anaphylaxis’ allergy management, creating an Action Plan and effective communication tools for parents were all covered.

Complete with a very ‘Oscar worthy’ role-play example performance!

All the information regarding the morning session can be found at The Toronto Anaphylaxis Education Group (TAEG).  Click here.

I really liked the ‘electronic binder information’ they have all ready for one to download…  I wish I had that resource way back when!

The afternoon session, “Managing food allergies:  Working together for a safer future” also flew by.

Great speakers from Anaphylaxis CanadaKyle Dine and three members of the Youth Advisory Panel from Why Risk It? discussed and answered questions on bullying and Laurie Harada, Executive Director of Anaphylaxis Canada moderated a great discussion on food labelling.

Dr. Adelle Atkinson’s , MD, FRCPC talk on “A Buffet of truths and myths about food allergy” easily kept the attention of all with her wit and humour.

Many exhibitors waited in the hallway for us all to descend upon them during our morning and afternoon breaks and lunch.

Exhibitors…such as Allerject (I picked up some posters and an Allerject trainer for my boys’ high school), EpiPen (I picked up some posters and an EpiPen trainer for my boys’ high school), Allergic Living Magazine (I happily subscribed for another 2 years), Medic Alert, and SunButter (my favourite being the Organic SunButter I asked if they could please make a crunchy version!)...just to name a few.

So what did I learn at this event?

1)  I was inspired to pick up as much information as I could from the exhibitors to bring back to my boys’ high school to present at the School Council Meeting on May 14, 2014.

2)  It made me realize, my boys’ high school website needs to contain information about registering a student with anaphylaxis.  Adding such information would be a welcoming sight for parents registering a student with anaphylaxis…the Principal agreed.

My experience at the high school level has taught me that not all parents feel the need to inform their child’s high school of their anaphylaxis.  Shocking I know!

By including anaphylaxis information on my boys’ high school website, I hope to bring awareness and encourage all parents of high school children with anaphylaxis to notify the Principal of their child’s anaphylaxis.  Set up a meeting with the Principal, review and fill out an Action Plan and provide the high school with an auto-injector for the office.

Continuing to be advocates at the high school level sets a good example for our children with anaphylaxis…for in only 4 years, you will be passing the torch!

 

 

 

Anaphylaxis Canada’s 7th Annual Community Conference: Are You Going?

Did you know that today is the start of World Allergy Week…April 7-13 2014?

The World Allergy Organization’s focus this week is for people to join them in their mission to ” increase awareness of Anaphylaxis – When Allergies Can Be Severe And Fatal.”

Did you also know that May is Food Allergy Awareness Month?

Perfect timing…there is a School Council Meeting tomorrow night.

At the School Council Meeting, I am planning to speak about Anaphylaxis Canada’s 7th Community Conference at the Delta Hotel in Markham, Ontario on May 10th, 2014.  Click here for more information on this fantastic event.

I am so excited to be attending this year…my first time! Hard to believe, but for some reason or other, I have had previous engagements that have prevented me from attending…this year I am free!

Anaphylaxis Canada’s 7th Community Conference is a full day conference divided into half-day sessions. “Patients, families, educators, healthcare professionals and other members of the community interested in learning about food allergy and anaphylaxis management” are all welcome.

What a great opportunity!

The morning session will consist of workshops for parents (Partnering and Planning With Your School-An Interactive Workshop For Parents) and youth, ages 13-21 (Teens Talk Allergies).

The afternoon session is open to all members of the community.

Afternoon program will include:

– Anaphylaxis Canada Update, Beatrice Povolo, Anaphylaxis Canada
Food For Thought: A buffet of truths and myths about food allergy, Dr. Adelle Adkinson, MD, FRCP
– Anxiety Alert! Understanding Anxiety in Kids With Allergies, Dr. Suneeta Monga, MD, FRCPC
– When Food Is A Weapon-Food Allergy Bullying, Kyle Dine & Youth Advisory Panel Members
– Panel Discussion: When things go wrong with food labelling, Speakers TBD -Evaluation & Wrap Up, Laura Harada, Anaphylaxis Canada

Click here for more information regarding the afternoon session.

In the morning session, I am hoping to ask some questions about students with food allergies planning on a post-secondary education.

As my eldest son, Michael with food allergies to dairy, egg, beef, lamb, fish, shellfish, peanut/tree nut, sesame, mustard and raspberries is in the process of choosing one out of three universities to attend in the fall of 2014…I am looking for some guidance.

Questions:

1)  Tips on choosing a food allergy aware university.
2)   What type of residence is recommended for a student with multiple food allergies where cross-contamination in the cafeteria limits food options? (All students in residence must obtain a meal plan)
3)  Do universities pair students with food allergies together?
4)  Will a letter from an allergist influence the type of residence a student with food allergies is assigned?

Where else can you go to talk food allergies without those around you cringing, second guessing you and/or turning a deaf ear?

As they say, ‘raising a child takes a village’.  Attending a conference such as Anaphylaxis Canada’s 7th Annual Community Conference provides parents and youth with the tools to navigate and educate the ‘village’ in which we are raising our child/children with food allergies to be the best that they can be.

How awesome is that!

Are you going?

What questions will/would you ask?

 

Anaphylaxis Canada Launches Free Allergy App For Teens

Oh happy day! Anaphylaxis Canada has just launched a free ‘Allergy App For Teens’. Click here to read all about the new app.

Having just upgraded to an iPhone, I was super excited to upload this free app from ‘Apple’s App Store’. Just search for the term “Why Risk It?”. The app is available for both the iPhone and iPad, as well as, phones and tablets that run on the Android and Blackberry operating systems. Just check their respective app stores.

Not only does Anaphylaxis Canada’s ‘Allergy App For Teens’ contain all the pertinent information all allergenic youth need regarding anaphylaxis but it also contains a direct link to the “Why Risk It? Teen Allergy Blog”. A great source for allergenic youth to read about the lives of other youth with allergies.

I will certainly be bringing it to the attention of my boys’ high school principal and at the next Parent Council (I finally joined this year).  Anaphylaxis Canada’s ‘Allergy App For Teens’ is the perfect educational tool for all teachers. It gives teachers quick, easy access to refresh their memories with information on “What is Anaphylaxis?, Symptoms, Treatment and FAQ’s”, as well as, information on “Why Risk It?” and a link to their blog.

Have you downloaded Anaphylaxis Canada’s ‘ Allergy App For Teens’ yet?

P.S.  Just to let you know…I have not dropped off the face of the earth. lol  Living, breathing, shopping, cooking and talking about food allergies 24/7 can become quite overwhelming.  I think I just needed a break from writing about it.

With my eldest son, Michael, heading off to university next year, there is much to think about…a new stage in all of our lives.  Michael’s journey towards ‘independent living’ and my journey of learning to ‘let go’.

Coming soon, I will be writing about this new chapter in our lives.

Matthew’s Allerject Demonstration At His Grade School’s End Of The Year Staff Meeting

Tip # 1 from Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Panel at Why Risk It? Click here for the entire list.

“Don’t simply DO things for us when we are kids, TEACH US.  How to read a food label, speak up, ask questions in restaurants, and teach our friends to use an auto-injector . We need to know how to do these things and become vigilant ourselves.”

My youngest son, Matthew is allergic to peanut/tree nuts. He has just successfully completed his first year of high school. By the time he graduates…he needs to have completed 40 hours of volunteer work. Matthew chose to go back to his grade school to volunteer for 3 days at the end of his final exams.

On his first day, Matthew was kept busy taking down all the graduation decorations. He did, however, take the time to demonstrate for his Grade 8 teacher, Mr. G, his new auto-injector…the Allerject.

Mr. G was notably impressed and advised Matthew to demonstrate the Allerject to the school’s new principal, Mr. O.

Mr. O was also very impressed with Matthew’s demonstration of the Allerject…he wondered if Matthew and I could attend the end of the year staff meeting on the Friday morning to give a quick presentation.

Matthew accepted on our behalf…but was quite hesitant that he should actually do the demonstration.

I thought this was a great opportunity for Matthew to take advantage of the above Tip #1 from Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Panel. So I encouraged Matthew by explaining to him that I would give the background story…he would do the demonstration…and we would deal with any questions at the end.

Mr. O gave us a wonderful introduction…my background story ended with Matthew’s big intro…”What if the auto-injector talked?”

Matthew demonstrating the administration of the Allerject at his grade school's end of the year staff meeting

Matthew did a great job.

There were many questions from the staff. One of which stood out to me…”How do we know if a student has the Allerject or not?”

It was a great opportunity for me to reiterate the importance that all students with anaphylaxis should be known to all staff. 

All anaphylactic students’ pictures should be up in the staff room with all their anaphylactic allergies, type of auto-injectors, signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, as well as the protocol for an anaphylactic reaction.

All in all I thought it went well…”You did a great job mom…just maybe you went on a little too long but I think it was okay.”...thanks Matthew.

P.S.  Matthew has been volunteering at his grade school, church and selling tickets for his friends’ swim team…he has completed 39 of the 40 hours required for him to graduate high school…way to go Matthew…I think you will make it!

As Parents With Allergic Youth…How Do We Relate To Life Experiences We Have Never Experienced?

Tip # 30’s Tips For Parents from Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Panel  at Why Risk It?
Click here for the entire list.

“Ideally we would love to learn more about food allergies by meeting/speaking with older kids with food allergies and not always from our parents.”

I totally agree!

No matter what age you are…nothing feels better than to hear from someone, in or around the same age, tell you something about their life experiences that makes you feel less alone.

In fact, it is one of the main reasons for which I started writing this blog…I wanted to reach out to parents with children living with food allergies because I was living that life…feeling very alone.

As my boys with food allergies move into their teens, the above statement from allergic youth made me stop and think…my life experiences do not involve food allergies or eczema, therefore, how, in my boys’ eyes, can I relate?

I thought back to a few instances where my husband’s friends have discussed their life experiences with eczema and food allergies to my boys…

Growing up…a couple of my husband’s friends experienced severe eczema on parts of their bodies.  Michael had always looked up to them, however, after hearing them discuss their eczema related stories…they achieved a ‘pedestal status’.

I am forever grateful to them for sharing their life experiences with eczema from that time in their lives…it gave hope to Michael that he would someday ‘outgrow’ his eczema like them.

As Michael entered his early teens…that is just what happened.

When Michael was young, another one of my husband’s friends alerted me to his eczema-like reaction when he ate McIntosh apples…I put two and two together and realized that the same thing might be happening to Michael.

After explaining this friend’s experience with Michael, he switched to picking apples with gloves on. Over the years, he has also learned to limit his intake of apples…he, himself, has discovered a link between eating too many apples, oranges and cantelope…his skin becomes inflamed.

This same friend has a fish allergy…yet he loves to fish. In fact, my husband and he just came back from a 4 day fishing trip this past weekend. The fishing was phenomenal! His friend just makes sure he brings his own food to eat and is careful about handling the fish when he has reeled one in.

Learning from the life experiences of my husband’s friends with eczema and food allergies gave my boys role models…best of all, they gave them hope.

I like to think that working towards controlling my asthma through running, continues to encourage the boys to stay active in their lives. Both boys play hockey in the winter, Michael has just joined a gym and Matthew will be joining a swim team for the summer.

Asthma need not be an excuse for an inactive life.

Do your children with food allergies/eczema/asthma have role models to learn from their life experiences?

Are you a role model yourself?

P.S.  Chelsea Vineyard won Miss Teen Ottawa Worldshe is allergic to peanuts. She has chosen anaphylaxis as her platform in the hopes to raise allergy awareness.

“I also want to be a role model for children and show them that they can follow their dreams no matter no matter what life challenge they have.”

Chelsea was interviewed by Why Risk It? Click here for the full interview.

Empowering Our Youth With Food Allergies

Powerful words…

Tip # 4:  “Sometimes we make mistakes but please don’t lose trust in us.  Encourage us and have faith in that we will learn from our mistakes.”

Tip # 12:   “Give us knowledge to empower us for tomorrow.”

I have really been taking Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Council’s 31 Tips for parents with allergic youth to heart…I have two boys in their teens with multiple food allergies.

I can’t stop thinking that my eldest son, Michael, in Grade 11, with multiple food allergies…dairy, egg, beef, lamb, sesame, peanut/tree nuts, fish, shellfish, mustard and raspberries…will be leaving home soon to start his own journey in life with food allergies.

Every day I read a new tip…each day I wonder…have I prepared him to be independent…have I taught him to be his own advocate…does he feel empowered?

Questions all parents ask of themselves when their children reach that certain age…however, having multiple food allergies adds another element of responsibility on the part of the parents and their children.

How does a parent with a child/children with multiple food allergies successfully pass the torch…teach their children to be advocates for themselves…empower them?

Life is all about choices…as parents, we make all the choices for our children but as they grow and mature, there are always opportunities to give our children the chance to take some risks and make some choices.

Isn’t that what growing up is all about…taking risks and learning from them?

Living with multiple food allergies adds another dimension to the risk taking that tends to immobilize us as parents…we understand full well the stakes are much higher when confronted with multiple food allergies.

How, as parents, do we rationalize this reality…while at the same time give our children the opportunity to learn from their mistakes?

I am not an expert…just a parent of two teenagers with multiple food allergies…looking for answers just as much as the next parent with children with food allergies.

I know as a parent with children with multiple food allergies, eczema and asthma issues…my husband and I have made our fair share of mistakes. I have a very large back-pack of guilt that topples me over from time to time.  I have to constantly remind myself…there is no use going back…only forward.

My husband and my mistakes are the templates from which we learn and teach our children with food allergies from…I am forever telling my boys…

“I may not always like the choices that you make but I will always love you.”

I am currently trying to put together all my thoughts, tips, words of wisdom, adapted recipes and experiences as a parent of children with food allergies together. I am hoping to create something that my boys and youth with food allergies can take away with them on the day they head off into the big wide world.

What types of questions cross your mind?

What do the allergic youth of today need in order for them to feel empowered as they leave home for the first time?

I would greatly appreciate your input as parents of children with food allergies, youth with food allergies and parents and youth with food allergies that have already been through these experiences.

Youth with food allergies are uniting…let’s join them!

Please leave a comment or email me at my new address: susan@thefoodallergychronicles.com

Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free ‘Scream/Dream Bars’

May is Food Allergy Awareness Month in Canada and Sunday is Mother’s Day…this post aims to honour them both.

As a mother with two teenaged boys with multiple food allergies…Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Panel’s (YAP) 31 Tips for Parents – From Teens (click here) has encouraged me to learn more about what allergic youth of today need. To do so,  I have been visiting their site…Why Risk It?Where Real Life And Allergies Collide.

Why Risk It? is a great site for allergic youth to learn more about how their peers with food allergies are living/coping/dealing with their food allergies through real life stories of their own.

With two teenaged boys with multiple food allergies in the house…forever on the look-out for something tasty to eat…I was curious to check out the recipes on the Why Risk It? Blog.

I must say…I was a bit disappointed to find only 3 recipes. Out of the 3 recipes, only one stood out…I love a recipe with a good story.

The post was written by Arianne. Due to Arianne’s peanut/tree nut allergies and her brother’s egg allergies…Halloween treats were off limits at her house. Lucky for Arianne and her brother, her mother learned to make special allergen friendly Halloween treats, such as Scream Bars, for her and her brother to enjoy so they would not feel left out.

Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free 'Scream Bars'

Arianne states, “To this day, I still use her recipes and praise her every second that I get for helping me and my brother to truly feel the Halloween spirit.”

Click here for the original story and recipe.

I have adapted Arianne’s, already egg and peanut/tree nut free recipe, to be dairy free to accommodate my eldest son’s dairy allergy.

Adaptions and Recommendations:

1) Replace the 1/2 cup butter with Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks or Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Spread for a soy free version.
2) Cream the room temperature Earth Balance before adding the brown sugar…cream them together before adding the flour.
3)  Measure all the dry ingredients, excluding the coconut and rice krispies, in a large bowl.
4)  I used Adrianne’s 2 egg replacement: I measured 4 tbsp. of warm water in a little dish…just before I was to add it to the mixed dry ingredients, I added the 1 tbsp. of baking powder. I stirred it all together while it fizzed then quickly added it to the dry ingredients to combine. I then added the coconut and rice krispies.

Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Dream Bars

Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free 'Dream Bars'

A sweet, crunchy, decadent treat!

Matthew found them…“Nice and crunchy with a powerful chocolatey taste.”

As Mother’s Day is this Sunday…I would like to take the time to thank my mother for encouraging me to help in the kitchen…she gave me the skills I needed to be creative in the kitchen, instilled in me a love for good ‘real’ food, and sent me off into the world with a pleather of great recipes…many of which I have adapted to share with my family today.

As a mother myself…I hope I can do the same for my boys.

On that note, I would like to wish all the mother’s out there with children, family members and/or friends with food allergies…here’s to you and all that you do…

HAPPY MOTHER”S DAY!

May Is Food Allergy Awareness Month In Canada

May is Food Allergy Awareness Month in Canada.

Anaphylaxis Canada is encouraging us all to “get involved and make a difference in your community.” Click here for a link to their website for a list of this month’s events.

I recently received an email from Anaphylaxis Canada with a link to a very important public service announcement for anyone with children…especially teenagers.

Anaphylaxis Canada encourages us all to ‘spread the word’ through email or social media…without further ado, click here to view “The First Kiss”.

As a mother of two boys in their teens…I very much appreciated this video as an ice-breaker.

Another email from Anaphylaxis Canada brought to my attention Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP)…a group of youths with food allergies. Throughout Food Allergy Awareness Month, the youth members will share their tips for parents of allergic youth.

The list of 31 tips encourages parents with children with food allergies to…“prepare them to become responsible for their own allergies.”

What I love the most about this list of 31 tips is all 31 tips were written by youths with food allergies. Photos of youths holding up their tips will be posted daily on Anaphylaxis Canada’s Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts or click here to view the list at Why Risk It?

Real tips from real youth…love it!

Here is my favourite youth tip so far from Day 5: 

     “We can only be empowered…IF you give us the power
to manage our allergies on our own.”

Great advice…I am a work in progress.

I plan to sit down with my boys every day of Food Allergy Awareness Month to discuss the ‘Youth Tip of the Day’…I am hoping that by exposing my boys to tips from other youths with food allergies…my boys will come up with a few of their own.

I am extremely impressed with Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Panel’s venture…giving allergic youth a voice. I hope it helps parents of allergic youth open their eyes and ears…take notice and listen.

It worked for me.

Click here for a link to Why Risk Ita site for Canadian youth at risk for Anaphylaxis for more information.

How will you contribute to Food Allergy Awareness Month in Canada?

Multiple Food Allergies and Teenagers: Trying Not To Step Over The Fine Line

My eldest son, Michael, turned 16 this summer. 

Living the life of a teenager…he looks forward to playing house league hockey each week, shares a paper route with his younger brother, Matthew, spends his extra time playing road hockey or basketball with his brother and friends, or disappears to the ‘man cave’ to play videos.

Along with the ‘fun teenage stuff’… first and foremost, comes school.

Michael worked hard at school last year to achieve an Honours average in Grade 10…my husband and I are so very proud…it has been quite the journey.

Michael lives everyday with multiple food allergies, asthma and eczema. A fact he would love to forget…love to see disappear…love for me to stop talking about.

This is worrisome for me. According to an article written by Gwen Smith, editor of Allergic Living Magazine, Dr. Antony Ham Pong states, ” For the life-threatening allergens the highest risk of dying is as a teenager.”  The article goes on to state that teenagers “act impulsively and sometimes take risks.” Dr. Ham Pong states, “There is a feeling of invulnerability that teenagers tend to have…if you ask them what the risks are, they know. But are they concerned? Not so much. It does not register with them.” Click here to view the entire article.

I understand that, as a teenager, Michael just wants to fit in. However, the reality is he is living his life with a life threatening condition…one that should not be taken lightly.

I am currently walking a fine line…establishing a safe environment within his school setting without centering Michael out within his peers.

This year, I find myself treading in the ‘unchartered waters’ of the teenage years.

MIchael’s Vice-Principal came up with the idea that I prepare an allergy friendly treat for Michael to enjoy after The Honours Night ceremony. The Vice-Principal presented the idea to the teacher who was organizing the event and advised me to contact them.  The teacher was more than pleased to prepare an allergy friendly treat, however, after discussing cross-contamination issues, it was agreed that I would prepare the treat.

Unfortunately, Michael did not feel the same way…he would prefer that I forget the whole idea…he did not want anything made.

Honours Night was all about celebrating those students who have made the effort to achieve a high standing average at school. It was a night to celebrate Michael’s academic achievements.

Keeping that in mind…I wanted Michael to feel comfortable. I wanted him to enjoy the night. I wanted him to feel proud of his achievement…to know how proud my husband and I are that he reached his goal. I wanted to honour Michael’s feelings…I did not feel I should compromise his night.  I wanted him to experience ‘feeling like everyone else’…I chose not to bake anything allergy friendly.

The teenage years is a hard time to embrace one’s uniqueness.

Stepping back, I know this was the right decision. How do I prepare my children to be independent, cognizant, productive members of society? How to I prepare my children for the insensitivities of those around them?

I believe, building my boys’ sense of pride, self-worth and self-esteem is fundamental in a world where compassion may be lacking. At the same time, I also believe educating the general public with the basics of anaphylaxis and the proper administration of an epi pen to be vital first aid knowledge. Click here for Anaphylaxis Canada’s post on ‘Understanding Anaphylaxis’.

Anaphylaxis Canada maintains and operates, Why Risk It? Where Real Life and Allergies Collide. A site dedicated for teenagers with food allergies at risk for anaphylaxis. Click here for a link to the site.

With stories of bullying, carrying an auto-injector (epi pen), cross-contamination, dating, dining out, partying, public places, reading labels, school, and travel…teenagers are presented with other teenagers experiences leaving them feeling less alone. Click here for a link.

Why Risk It? even has a blog…‘written and maintained by members of Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Panel, a group of allergic youth from across Canada.’ Click here to view.

I will continue to tread lightly during these teenage years , being careful of that fine line…spreading the word on anaphylaxis and listening to my boys’ needs without losing sight of the potential danger of apathy on their part.

P.S. Needless to say, it was a great night! Inspirational Keynote Address by a former student who is now an English/Dance teacher at the school (Michael’s current English teacher), beautiful soloist by one of the students and an amazing motivational video that we all felt was outstanding!

Honours Night 2012 for Michael, Grade 10

P.P.S. Slices of chocolate slab cake and coffee was offered at the reception…I didn’t try a piece, but I am sure my Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Chocolate Cake would have given that cake a run for its money! lol  🙂

How are you handling the teenage years with your teenaged child/children with food allergies?

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!