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First day of school—with food allergies

by Tripp Underwood on August 21, 2013

The first day of school isn’t just nerve-racking for kids—it can be tough on moms and dads too. After spending so many years looking after a child, packing their lunch and sending them off to be taught and supervised by adults you’ve never met before can be a lot to deal with.

That first day of school anxiety is often even stronger for the parents of children with food allergies, who worry if their children will be protected from reactions in the classroom.

“The idea of classrooms filled with children, foods and other potential allergy triggers can be scary for children with food allergies, and their parents,” says John Lee, MD, director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Food Allergy Program. “But thankfully, food allergy awareness has come a long way in the past few years. With a little extra planning from mom, dad, an allergist and the school, there’s no reason for school to cause extra anxiety for any child with allergies.”

To do so, Lee recommends the following: Full story »

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Researchers in Sweden recently published a small study showing that children whose moms and dads placed the children’s pacifiers in their own mouths before giving it to the child—sharing some of their oral bacteria—were less likely to develop allergies like eczema and asthma later in life.

The study’s smaller size suggests that more research is needed before a link between pacifier “sharing” and reduced allergy risk can be proven, but the findings do add to a growing body of research that suggests bringing up children in a hyper-clean environment may not be the healthiest way to raise them.

“Western culture is becoming an increasingly sterile environment, but that might not be ideal for young children as their immune systems develop,” says John Lee, MD, director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Food Allergy Clinic. “Their bodies need to learn what to attack and what to ignore. But if they’re exposed to too few, or the wrong kinds of germs, it can hinder development, sometimes confusing the immune system into attacking nonthreatening entities like pollen or food, which is what causes allergies.” Full story »

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For children with food allergies Halloween can be very frightening. Not only could there be allergens lurking in their trick-or-treat bags, but they may also dread feeling left out of some of the season’s food-related festivities. Here are some things you can do to make sure your child with food allergies has a fun and safe Halloween:

  • Teach your child which candy is safe. These days, most people give out pre-wrapped, name-brand candy, which means kids with food allergies can quickly recognize safe foods. Teach your child to recognize and avoid problem treats so he or she can pass on them without drawing attention to the issue. This is particularly important if they are going out on their own and may sneak a treat or two before coming home.
  • Encourage trading for allergy-safe candy. If your child receives allergy-triggering candy, set up a trading circle with his friends, siblings or yourself so he can swap the treats for safer ones. It’s a good way to keep him safe and prevent him from feeling like his allergy is causing him to miss out.
  • Engage the neighbors. If your child has severe food allergies, you may feel safer going to a few neighboring houses beforehand with allergy-safe treats the homeowner can give to your child when she trick-or-treats at their door. Let the neighbors know in advance what your child will be dressed as to avoid confusion, and allow them to distribute the allergy-safe treats discreetly.
  • Help plan school functions. Being left out of a public activity because of a food allergy can be very hard on children. By volunteering to help with a school Halloween party you can ensure that there are allergen-free treats available and that it’s a safe environment for your child.
  • Celebrate the spirit of the season. Candy is great, but there are lots of Halloween activities that are fun and have nothing to do with food. Carving pumpkins, decorating the house or creating the perfect costume are all great ways to celebrate Halloween. Emphasize the spirit of the season over the sweets to make sure your child with food allergies can enjoy the holiday as much as everyone else.

With the right planning, you can avert both allergic reactions and hurt feelings this Halloween—making sure the night is frightfully fun for everybody.

For more on this topic, watch this interview with Andrew MacGinnitie, MD, PhD, associate clinical director of the Division of Immunology at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

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Did you see WCBV’s 11 O’clock news last night? If so you met Cameron Ledin, a patient at Boston Children’s Hospital.

We were so impressed with the Ledins we had Cameron’s mother, Kim, write a blog post about what it’s like raising a child with severe food allergy.

By Kim Ledin

Cameron at Boston Children's

Cameron is a smart, energetic 8-year-old boy. These are the words I use to describe him, even though some people might define him by the medical condition that has shaped his young life. Cam was recently diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an allergic condition that causes his throat to seize up when he eats. When a person with EoE eats, his body mistakes food as an invader. With every bite white blood cells attack the throat, causing it to tighten up while often creating terrible stomach, head and joint pain. Full story »


Seasonal allergies: More than itchy eyes and sneezing

by Tripp Underwood on March 21, 2012

Spring has sprung early this year, which means allergy season will likely happen early as well. But for some kids allergies don’t cause itchy eyes and sneezing, they cause something not typically thought of as an allergic reaction: Eczema.

Just like seasonal allergies, also known as “hay fever,” eczema (or atopic dermatitis), occurs when a person with allergies comes in contact with triggers like pollen, dust mites or pet dander. But instead of the nose, lungs and eyes being affected, some people get dry, itchy, scaly skin and rashes on their cheeks, arms and legs. In the early spring, when pollen counts are high, it can be particularly bad for some people. The itching tends to get worse at night leading to many sleepless nights for some families.

“Depending on the severity of the case, eczema can be a real problem for some children and their parents, ” says Karol Timmons, RN, MS, CPNP, an eczema expert and pediatric nurse practitioner at the Division of Immunology at Children’s Hospital Boston. “In many cases the condition gets better as the child gets older, but for some kids it takes years of prevention and treatment to keep it from negatively affecting a child and family.”   Full story »

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Managing your child’s springtime allergies

by Boston Children's Hospital staff on March 5, 2012

By Andrew MacGinnitie, MD, PhD, associate clinical director of the Division of Immunology at Children’s Hospital Boston

As the days get longer and warmer, most people’s thoughts turn to baseball, barbecues and breaking out their summer clothes. It’s a carefree time for many, but as an allergist spring is my busy season. In the northeast trees pollinate first, which means many allergy sufferers notice symptoms as early as April. (After an unseasonably warm winter like this one, it can happen even earlier.) Grass pollen season arrives in the late spring and continues through June. Ragweed is the dominant fall allergen and is typically present from August until the first hard freeze.

Because allergies and colds share symptoms many parents have a hard time telling the two apart. Both allergies and colds (also known as viral infections) can lead to runny noses, nasal congestion and sneezing. But the main difference between the two is that colds tend to last only for a few days, where allergy symptoms last for much longer. Allergies also tend to cause an itchiness or irritation in the eyes and nose, and colds typically don’t. So if your child’s sneezing and sniffling lasts for more than a week and his eyes and nose are itching he most likely has seasonal allergies and not a cold.

When they’re not being mistaken for colds, seasonal allergies are often called “hay fever” but that’s a misleading term— allergies won’t cause a fever and hay is not a cause. But despite those inaccuracies, hay fever is a pretty telling description considering how miserable allergies can make you feel. Depending on how severe a person’s allergies are, their symptoms can be as bad (or worse) than the flu. Studies show that during pollen season school attendance and performance for children with allergies suffers significantly. Full story »

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Love can drive you nuts: Teens, dating and food allergies

by Boston Children's Hospital staff on August 4, 2011

Written by Joshua Feblowitz, a Thriving contributor who has lived with severe food allergies his whole life.

image: flikr/Amarand Agasi

As food-allergic children reach their teens, they face many new challenges in allergy management, including a first date and even a first kiss, both of which hold hidden dangers. For parents, these romantic milestones can be especially stressful because they happen outside of their watchful, protective view.

Unfortunately for food-allergic teens, dating frequently involves dining out and all the potential allergens that come with it. In addition, research and personal anecdote has shown that kissing can sometimes cause a cross-contact reaction. On top of these dangers, teens are generally known to take more risks when it comes to their allergies or feel self-conscious about them. As a result they may resist previously established rules around exposure, or be shy explaining their dietary needs, which can lead to trouble.

So, what’s a worried parent to do? The simple truth is, as teens start dating (and being more socially independent in general), they must also start learning how to manage food allergies on their own. Here are a few things you can do as a parent to help navigate this transition safely, smoothly and with minimal conflict: Full story »

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Eating out can be very stressful for families of children with food allergies

Sampling local restaurants is a great way for families to spend time together while getting out of the house. But if you’re the parent of a child with a food allergy, trusting the cooking to a total stranger is anything but relaxing.

“Dining out has always been a major source of stress and challenge for our family,” says Robyn Nasuti, the mother of two children born with significant food allergies. “It has isolated us from nights out with friends, and on several occasions we’ve had to walk out of restaurants after getting a blank stare from a manager or server when I mentioned all our food allergies.” Full story »