Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Trip To Urgent Care

Yesterday Josh's headache returned with a vengeance. He said it started during school at about 1:00 and it got so bad last night that he was crying and asking me over and over why God hates him so much to give him these headaches all the time and also said that it hurt so much he wished he could kill himself. Brody was freaked out by the way Josh was acting and kept telling me he didn't want Josh to die. I finally got the boys in the SUV and took Josh to Urgent Care because nothing I could do was helping him. They hooked him up to an IV and gave him Toradol, Benedryl, and Reglan which finally gave him relief after 8 straight hours of migraine pain. I was hoping the doctor could give us a prescription for something stronger than Tylenol or Ibuprofen, but he said none of the migraine medications are approved for children and we will need to probably go back and start seeing the pediatric neurologist again. Thank goodness he's feeling much better today!
On another note, the homemade orange sorbet was a bust. I personally think it's yummy, but Brody says it's "too orangey"! =P

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Some days just suck!

Yesterday was one of those days. I suppose part of it could be due to the fact that Shane is still in Africa and the boys and I are missing him terribly. Josh told me yesterday that "dad will be home in exactly 92 hours". I guess that means we're down to about 77 hours now...not that I'm keeping track or anything!

What really made yesterday sour though was a domino effect of events that ended in lots of tears between Brody and myself. Brody had an appointment with his allergist to have his annual allergy testing done which requires a blood draw. Of course Brody was not looking forward to this at all. When I stopped at school to pick Brody up for his appointment, my older son, Josh, was lying in the nurse's office with a migraine. Another fun thing we deal with on a regular basis. Since I was heading to Madison with Brody, I decided I needed to sign Josh out of school and drop him at his Grandma's house because there was no way his headache was going to go away by lying in the nurse's office all day. Okay, great, got that all taken care of and dropped a completely miserable Josh off at Grandma's so he could sleep off his migraine.

Then of course on the way to the UW Hospital there was road construction and detours. Lovely. But we somehow managed to make it to Brody's appointment with 2 minutes to spare! Since the UW Hospital is a teaching hospital, our appointments always last at least 1 1/2-2 hours because the students assisting the doctor are extremely ssslllooowww. Once we finally were done with the actual appointment, we were sent down to the lab to have blood drawn. Now Brody has been doing this every year for his entire life. He is very aware of the fact that some of the lab technicians are awesome at drawing blood and some are, shall we say, torturous? Can you guess which category our lab tech fell into yesterday? Brody was a trooper though and he and I looked into each other's eyes and started slowly counting to try to keep his mind off of the needle. With a good lab tech, we only manage to count to about 10-15. Yesterday, with tears in Brody's eyes, we almost counted to 100. Why, you may ask? Well, according to lab tech guy, Brody's vein kept "moving" so he had to keep jabbing the needle in even deeper and then he would take it out and start all over again. Torture.

After the hospital incident was over, I had promised Brody we could run into Whole Foods Market to see if they had any of his favorite Orange Sorbet so we could stock up our freezer with it. The store was out of it last time we were there, so I was hoping they had restocked. As we stood there in the freezer section, I realized that they weren't just out of that flavor, they had discontinued it completely. And that, my friend, was just simply more than little Brody could handle for the day. As we walked out of the store empty-handed, Brody broke down and started crying. I picked him up and we held onto each other and cried into each other's shoulders...partly because it had been a long, hard day, partly because we miss daddy being here to help make things better, and in large part because there are so few store-bought "treats" that Brody can eat, that when something he absolutely loves is discontinued, it really sets off a tidalwave of emotions ranging from sad to hurt to downright ticked off!

So right now I'm in the process of making homemade orange sorbet to surprise Brody with after school. While I'm sure it will be very tasty and he'll enjoy it, it's certainly not the same as all the other kids who get to just go out and buy an ice cream cone, or a sundae, or a shake, get the picture. But we'll make due and hopefully today will be a better day.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

10 Things You Should Know About Food Allergies

  1. What is a food allergy? Food allergies occur when the body thinks a food is harmful. The immune system tries to fight it off by releasing massive amounts of chemicals and histamine. These chemicals trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
  2. What are the common symptoms of a reaction? Symptoms range from a tingling sensation in the mouth, swelling of the tongue and throat, hives, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea to difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and death.
  3. How does a food allergy differ from a food intolerance? A food intolerance occurs when the body reacts negatively to food, but the immune system is not involved. A good example of a food intolerance is lactose intolerance--an inability to properly digest the sugar (lactose) in milk. People with an intolerance can often eat the problematic food in small amounts. People with food allergies must avoid exposure to their food allergens.
  4. How serious are food allergies? Food allergies are very serious. In the USA alone, around 200 people die every year from their food allergies.
  5. What are some common foods (allergens) that can trigger allergic reactions? While any food can cause allergies, 90% of all allergic reactions to food are caused by: Egg, Milk, Soy, Wheat, Fish, Shellfish, Peanuts, and Tree Nuts (e.g., walnuts, pecans, cashews)
  6. What is anaphylaxis? Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that can be fatal within minutes, either through swelling that shuts off airways or through a dramatic drop in blood pressure. Anaphylaxis can occur when a food-allergic individual is exposed to a food allergen. Contact with, or ingestion of, this allergen sets off a chain reaction in the immune system which may lead to anaphylaxis: swelling of the airways, drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and death.
  7. What is the best treatment for food allergy? Epinephrine, also called adrenaline, is the medication of choice for controlling a severe reaction. It is available by prescription as a self-injectable device (EpiPen or Twinject). It is important to administer the Epinephrine as soon as one detects the symptoms of anaphylaxis and then call 911. Individuals who have been prescribed Epinephrine must carry it with them at all times because accidents are never planned.
  8. Is there a cure for food allergies? Currently, there is no cure for food allergies.
  9. How can you prevent a reaction from occurring? Strict avoidance of foods that trigger an allergic reaction is the only way to prevent a reaction. A person with food allergies must read ingredient labels for every food each and every time they eat it. Food labels are now required to carry allergy warnings, but there are older packages on shelves that did not fall under this requirement. Also, changes in ingredients and manufacturing practices occur, requiring food-allergic individuals to carefully read labels each time they eat a food, even if they have safely eaten that particular brand of food thirty times in the past. And if a food does not have a label, don't eat it!
  10. Where can I learn more about food allergies?

Friday, May 23, 2008

I despise eczema!

Hate isn’t even a strong enough word for how I feel about eczema. I deeply despise what eczema does to my boys. Eczema is a skin condition in which the skin becomes red, irritated, and itches with an intensity that you just cannot imagine if you haven’t experienced this type of rash before. People who have allergies are also very prone to develop eczema and asthma. Of course my boys have all three conditions and both have suffered from eczema pretty much since birth. Josh’s eczema has finally gone into remission with only occasional flare-ups. Brody’s eczema, on the other hand, is showing no desire to ever leave the poor boy alone. Some days his hands and feet are so raw from all the uncontrollable scratching and rubbing, and even though it hurts so much that he can’t stop crying, it’s also impossible for him to stop literally ripping his skin open. I’ve had the “pleasure” of developing occasional small patches of eczema myself over the past couple of years, so I know all too well just how intense that urge to itch really is. I hate the days when all I can do is sit and rock with Brody while he cries into my shoulder because it hurts so much. It’s just so frustrating that even though we have tried every medicated lotion, cream, and ointment there is out there for eczema, nothing helps. I truly despise eczema. =(

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Shane left Saturday morning for a 2 week Safari in Africa. This picture is at the airport when we were saying goodbye. I can't seem to wrap my brain around the fact that he is on another continent for 2 whole weeks! He was able to call home today on a satellite phone for a couple of minutes just to let us know that he landed in Johannesburg safely. Tomorrow he will take another plane to Windhoek, Namibia and then travel by car another 5 hours to where he will be hunting. The boys and I are already missing him. It's going to be a long 2 weeks! I'll be sure to post some of the beautiful pictures he brings back.

Gymnastics Galore!

The Food Allergy Association of Wisconsin held a Kids Event at Madtown Twisters yesterday for food allergic children and their siblings. The kids all had a blast walking on beams, jumping on trampolines, climbing ropes, and just basically running around burning off energy while having tons of fun!

Friday, May 16, 2008

My Little Chef

Brody and I have been working on a children's cookbook for kids with food allergies. Here's a picture of the little chef hard at work!

What does a reaction look like?

There is no cure for food allergies; only strict avoidance of the allergy-causing food can prevent a reaction. Anaphylaxis is a very serious allergic reaction that can result in death. So what does a reaction look like? Symptoms can include:
  • Hives, itchy rash, swelling of the face or extremities
  • Itching, tingling, or swelling of the lips, tongue, or mouth
  • Nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Tightening of the throat, hoarseness, hacking cough
  • Shortness of breath, repetitive coughing, wheezing
  • Weak or thready pulse, low blood pressure, fainting, pale, blueness
  • Coma or death

I remember very vividly one night about 3-4 years ago when Brody had his last anaphylactic reaction. He had accidentally picked up his cousin's cup instead of his own and took a teeny-tiny sip. Instantly he looked at me and said something was wrong. The cup had milk in it! His tongue felt like it was burning so he was clawing at it with his fingernails. He felt like he was going to vomit. He started wheezing and had a barky cough. His face was flushed and he was covered with hives. This all happened within 30 seconds of taking that itsy-bitsy sip. I was terrified and so was Brody. I'll never forget that look of fear in his eyes. Unfortunately at that time I was not nearly as well versed in food allergies as I am now. I did not use the EpiPen, but instead just gave Brody Benedryl and his inhaler. Luckily this was enough to stop the reaction this time around. When I later spoke with the allergist he informed me that I was "lucky that Brody was still alive". Those words will forever ring in my ears.

I have made it my mission to educate as many people as I possibly can about the severity of food allergies so they will never make the same mistake I did and hesitate to use the EpiPen, which can and will save their child's life from an anaphylactic reaction. I truly believe knowledge is power. Learn everything you possibly can about anaphylaxis now to help keep our food allergic children safe. Please don't wait until it's too late.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Food Allergy Awareness Week!

Food Allergy Awareness Week is May 11-17, 2008.
Teach your child to be a PALProtect A Life from food allergies!

No one knows exactly why, but more and more kids are becoming allergic to certain foods. Especially peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Sometimes, if they eat even a tiny amount of the food they’re allergic to, they can become very ill ... even die! That’s why kids who have food allergies need all of us to help keep them safe. Here are some of the ways YOU can be a PAL to friends who have food allergies:

· Never take food allergies lightly.
· Don’t share food with friends who have food allergies.
· Wash hands after eating.
· Ask what your friends are allergic to and help them avoid it.
· If a friend who has food allergies becomes ill, get help immediately!

For more information about food allergies, please visit The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network website at

FAAN's 15th Annual Food Allergy Conference

The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) held it’s 15th Annual Food Allergy Conference in Rosemont, Illinois on May 10, 2008. My friend Sheree’ and I attended the conference together and had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Scott Sicherer (a celebrity in our eyes!), who as one of the speakers talked about Food Allergy Fundamentals and Beyond, Anaphylaxis: What to Do!, and Recent Advances in Research. His quirky sense of humor kept everyone chuckling throughout his lectures. Other speakers included Sally Noone, R.N., M.S.N. (Participating in Research Studies), Debbie Scherrer (Who’s Afraid of Epinephrine?), Chris Weiss (Advocating for Change), as well as a couple of parents and teens talking about their perspectives.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being in a large roomful of people who completely understand your fears, hopes, and dreams in regards to your child’s food allergies. Whether your family has been dealing with allergies for years or has just recently received a new diagnosis, I highly recommend attending this conference!

A day in the life of food allergies

Do you have any idea what it's like to live in a constant state of fear every single day, hoping and praying that your child will come home from school not only happy and safe, but more importantly alive? No? Or how about having an instant panic attack the moment the phone rings for fear of hearing the voice of the principal or a teacher on the other end saying those words you so dread to hear…"your child is on his/her way to the hospital in an ambulance". Still no? Okay, let's try this one on for size…Have you ever had to witness your child covered in hives, wheezing, coughing, struggling to breathe with fear in his eyes and knowing that something is terribly wrong? Again your answer is no? Then I'm guessing your child doesn't have food allergies. I'm not talking about lactose intolerance or just a so called "food sensitivity". I'm talking Life Threatening Food Allergies…as in a miniscule bite of the wrong food could result in death within minutes. That's the fear I live with every day. My youngest son, Brody age 8, has life threatening food allergies to Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, and Shellfish. For Brody, these seemingly harmless foods are literally poison to his body.

Food allergies are on the rise with the total number of people having food allergies doubling over the past 10 years. According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (, it is estimated that more than 12 million Americans have food allergies. This results in more than 30,000 emergency room visits and between 150-200 deaths annually.

Unfortunately there is no known cure for food allergies. All you can do is strictly avoid the foods you are allergic to and always, always, always (did I mention always?) have an EpiPen (a self-injectable shot of Adrenaline) with you. Sounds simple enough? Well think again. Do you have any idea how many processed foods contain milk, egg, and nuts? With food allergies you have to read ingredient labels on everything you buy/eat…every single time. No mater how many hundreds of times you may have purchased the exact same product, you still need to check the label because ingredients and manufacturing procedures can change at any given time without notice. This has happened to us. I had purchased one product many, many times and then all of a sudden it contained milk. If I had not read the label each and every time, who knows what may have happened to my little boy. And even if a product doesn't contain the food allergen, if it was produced in the same factory as another product containing that ingredient, you can still have a serious allergic reaction to even just trace amounts of the allergen through cross contamination. It is an exhausting and never-ending battle we fight.

I think the hardest part of dealing with food allergies though would have to be when friends and family (especially family) just don't "get it". You would think (and hope) that family would want to do everything in their power to help keep your child safe. Unfortunately this isn't always the case and unless they witness an allergic reaction with their own eyes, they just don't seem to understand just how serious food allergies truly are. On the upside, we do have several amazing friends and family members who are willing to do absolutely anything to keep Brody safe when we are in their homes. You guys rock!

Bottom line is that food allergies are life-changing. Life is very different for us compared to families without food allergic kiddos. Sure, I wish that we could just spontaneously go out to eat wherever we please or even just go grocery shopping and throw whatever our heart desires into the cart without even a second thought instead of spending hours reading ingredient labels, but that's just not the way life is for us. There is only one restaurant we feel comfortable letting Brody eat at…and even then I sometimes wonder if we are playing Russian Roulette. It breaks my heart when my little boy comes home from school upset because another child brought in cupcakes for their birthday without the parents giving me a "heads-up" so I can make sure Brody has something similar and doesn't feel left out. Or the days when none of his friends want to sit with him at the "peanut free lunch table". How about the fact that Brody doesn't get invited to birthday parties…I'm guessing because the parents just don't know what to do about his allergies and are too ignorant to call and ask! All of these situations can really take an emotional toll on our family, but I can tell you one thing…managing food allergies may be a huge part of Brody's life, but he'll always be an incredible, fun-loving, awesome little boy in my book and I foresee extraordinary things in his future!