Teaching Other Kids About Your Child’s Condition

Take the time to talk about Allergies to kids, and be sure to do so at an age appropriate level. Kids enjoy learning new things and they may already be familiar with Allergies from talks at school. You might even learn something from the kids. Most kids know what it’s like being sick and they don’t like it. Most kids also don’t like seeing other people sick. Kids know they shouldn’t take medicine out of the medicine cabinet and eat it because it will make them sick and sometimes send them to the hospital. The same can be said about an Allergy child. They shouldn’t grab an Allergen and eat it. Most children understand this concept. If they eat an Allergen, they might get a nasty headache, stomach ache, go to the hospital, get a shot, iv prep, and they might die. However, a Allergy-free kid might need to be told this, and receive a full explanation how an Allergen is a poison to Food Allergy sufferers.

In addition to communicating knowledge to siblings and their friends, you should consider teaching Allergy symptoms, provided they have reached an age that can understand this concept. You might even consider teaching them how to use an epinephrine shot. My oldest daughter learned to use an epinephrine pen when she was five years old. Of course every child is different and each parent should consider whether or not this is the right approach. We sat her down and had a very long talk with her with lots of reminders throughout the years. She was in the Emergency Room with us so some ideas were already formed inside her head. We taught her the symptoms of an Allergic reaction and if her brother feels sick to immediately call an adult. If no adult is available, then she is to administer the epinephrine shot and call 911. She is to stay on the phone and do as the operator tells her to do. We showed her how to use the trainer, and she practiced. She even slammed an orange with an expired epinephrine shot. She loved learning this material and is more informed than many adults I know. They say you don’t want to waste an education, but this case is an exception. We don’t expect her to have to use her knowledge, but there is always that possibility that she will one day save her brother’s (or someone else’s) life.

This makes me feel better that at the very least she keeps an eye on her little brother. She feels like an adult because she is informed and has an adult responsibility. She watches what her brother eats, reminds him of his trip to the Emergency Room should he want to stray from his prescribed diet, and reads Ingredient Labels for him. She’s caught some incidences of Sunflower Oil-containing products before my son ate them and for that we are grateful. She puts her Allergy education to good use.

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Teaching Non-Understanding Adults About Your Child’s Food Allergy

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in th...

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in the film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Food Sensitivities are modern society’s sleeping giant. Everyone has a Food Sensitivity towards something. It’s the nature of our relationship with food. Nature isn’t perfect, and something will always be “off”, somewhere. The degree to which we are sensitive determines the label we get from the doctor. Food Sensitivity is a slight discomfort and, in the lighter forms, determines which foods we like and which foods we don’t like. In the stronger forms, it is called a Food Allergy and has very specific reactions.

Society frowns upon Food Sensitivities because we often think the person is just being rude. Without a stronger condition and a doctor’s diagnosis, the person has little recourse but to agree and “eat everything on his plate”. This bullying attitude translates down the spectrum of sensitivity. For example, when an Food Allergy person asks that a meal be prepared without a certain Allergen, people look at this person as if there is something wrong with them. No one wants to feel “abnormal”. For that matter, if one digs deep enough, one can find an “abnormality” in everyone. It is this perception that forces Food Sensitivities to become a sleeping giant. It is a cultural stigma that results in oppression. People need to find support on how to handle sticky social situations and non-understanding adults.

The following example is derived from my experiences with my son’s Sunflower Allergy. One Sunflower Seed can easily kill him in a matter of minutes. One Sunflower Seed has the same effect on my son as a fast acting and deadly poison has on everyone else.

Sunflower seed. Whoe seed (right) and just the...

Sunflower seed. Whoe seed (right) and just the kernel with the shell removed (left) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One descriptive method to teach non-understanding people the complications of eating the wrong food is the Cyanide example. Most people are familiar with Cyanide and its effects. A Cyanide pill is similar in size and shape to a Sunflower Seed. Eating a Cyanide pill will kill a person in a matter of minutes. Eating a Sunflower Seed (Allergen) can kill my son in a matter of minutes. A light dusting of Cyanide powder will greatly sicken a person. A food that is made with Sunflower Oil will cause my son to suffer a Migraine-level headache and serious stomach ache. Now, imagine that someone sprinkled Cyanide powder in the food and placed Cyanide pills throughout the grocery store, restaurant, school, and other regular hangout places. Sound ridiculous? This is the type of minefield a Food Allergy sufferer has to navigate every day of their lives. This person learns where most of the bombs are located either thru strict diligence, or thru hard lessons. It’s a very hard life that often keeps a person homebound, eating food that has been made from scratch. 

Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now let’s look at the Cyanide pill concept from another angle. What if a child brought a bag of Cyanide pills to a neighborhood park? The adults would tell the child to drop the bag, the police would be called, the park would be shut down till all Cyanide pills were found, and the story would be extensively covered by the media. This is the same situation a Food Allergy Mom faces every day. However, a Food Allergy Mom does not have the luxury to call the police, yet the physical consequences of an Allergen are the same as Cyanide. We get to grin and bear it and hope our teeth are not ground down too much. However, one Sunflower Seed creates the same effect on my son as a Cyanide pill has on everyone else.

2 * 500g Sodium cyanide

2 * 500g Sodium cyanide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This explanation usually conveys the severity of the situation to a non-Food Allergy adult. Yes, the Cyanide story is shocking, and, yes, the real life Allergic reaction is shocking as well. Most adults don’t realize there are serious consequences to eating an Allergen. The Cyanide example can clarify the minefields a Food Allergy person has to navigate every day. A full understanding can help communicate and widen a person’s perspective. It also creates empathy for an extremely serious situation that can be easily neutralized thru informed and knowledgeable food choices.

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Teaching Adults About Your Child’s Food Allergy

Most adults try to conform to the special needs of an Allergy child.  They ask the name of the Allergy and degree that your child suffers from it.  Tell them this information and make sure that you are clear.  These opportunities don’t come very often, so be sure to take advantage of a friendly ear when it is available.  They also need to know how they can help.  For example, if they see your child is not feeling well, they can immediately alert an authority such as a teacher or yourself, the parent. They can send their child to school with a lunch that does not contain the named Allergen or its products.  They can send pre-packaged Allergen-free snacks to school when they are asked and not home-baked goods.  Let these adults know that their positive actions will help your child avoid a ghastly trip to the hospital, and no one wants to know the repercussions of that event.

English: An example of the list of potential a...

An example of the list of potential allergens contained in a food item. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They can talk to their kids about why they won’t be bringing this Allergen to school and not to taunt the Allergy kid about his/her condition.  This is a wonderful opportunity for the parents to teach their children how to respect others and their special situations.  There is no such designation as “normal”.  Everyone is different in many different ways.  When one digs deep enough, one will be surprised as to the many “abnormal” situations people are trying to work thru.  This is a good life lesson to learn and will serve the kids well throughout life.

This discussion might seem to be common sense, but these points need to be stated.  It’s similar to Kirkhoff’s Law, how will you do it without these statements?  People need to know exactly what is expected of them.  They do not have an extensive background in Allergens and might not even know to call 911 after an epinephrine shot is given. Be clear and be specific and if all goes right, these people will understand the instructions correctly and remember them when the time comes.

Common food allergies in children

Common food allergies in children (Photo credit: Adams999)

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Teaching Your Child About Their Food Allergy Condition

     Teaching Your Child About Their Food Allergy Condition

You need to teach your child about his/her specific condition as soon as your learn about their condition.  Start talking to them about it at an age appropriate level.  I will use Sunflower Seeds as an example simply because my experiences are with this Allergen.   The concepts are easily transferable to other Allergens.

Although a preschool child may not be able to comprehend the severity of his/her condition, they should be familiar with the consequences of eating the wrong food. This is probably how the Allergy was detected.  Your child needs to learn this information and so do you.  You are the one to teach him/her.

  1. Discuss the physical reactions your child will experience during an Allergic reaction. My son experienced a fizziness in his mouth when he ate Sunflower Seeds.  He described it as similar to eating cotton candy.  When he is not feeling well, this might be a question I will ask him.  Talk about who your child will contact immediately when your child starts to feel bad.  This might be a parent, a teacher, or a designated adult.   

    i haven't eaten candy floss since a little chi...

    i haven’t eaten candy floss since a little child (20 years ago maybe), but looking at the joy of this girl, oh boy, i wanted to take it from her hands 🙂 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  2. Show your child the epinephrine shot.  Teach them how to use it and let them practice with the trainer.  Show them where to place the shot and how to jab it right thru the clothes.  If and when the real situation does come, your child will have some familiarity with the procedure.  Your child should be able to recognize his/her own emergency and to dial 911. 
  3. If your child has a habit of sucking their finger, then this habit needs to be broken asap.  Small bits and pieces of everything your child touches stick to their fingers and make them even stickier.  This includes germs, unknowns, and Allergens.  They have an easy path into your child’s mouth and this has to be stopped. 
  4. Have your child develop the healthy habit of washing their hands frequently.  Hand sanitizers are said to get rid of Allergens, but I don’t see anything leaving the hands after hand sanitizers are used.  Allergens are not germs that need to be killed.  They are proteins that need to be washed away. 
  5. Shopping trips. Find the snack aisle.  If it is ok, point out a bag of Sunflower Seeds.  You don’t need to touch the bag nor handle it.  Just look at it.  Show, look, and talk about bags of Sunflower Seeds and shelled Sunflower Seeds.  They look different, but have the same effect on your child.  Shells by themselves look even different, but probably have traces of the Sunflower Allergen on them, so take this opportunity to study them.  Now your child knows what Sunflower Seeds and their shells look like and to avoid these at all times.   
    English: Sunflower seeds, hulled and dehulled....

    English: Sunflower seeds, hulled and dehulled. Focus stacked from 7 images. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


  6. Show and discuss foods that may contain Sunflower Seeds or Oil.  i.e. breads, cheesecakes. The pictures are often right on the package so the child knows exactly what food to avoid.  This practice builds your and the child’s knowledge and vocabulary about good foods and bad foods.  If your child really likes potato chips but most are made with Sunflower Oil, grab a bag that isn’t made with Sunflower Oil. Constantly remind your child they can only have that brand and that flavor. You will learn that different flavors of the same brand might contain different ingredients and oils.  Different batches contain different ingredients so please do not become instantly and forever loyal to any one food item.  Some surprise foods that contain Sunflower Products are goldfish crackers, margarine, and chocolate sauce.  The more thorough the search, the better your knowledge of potential Allergens.
  7. Read thru the various ingredient labels in order to learn the safe and unsafe products.  You will be surprised to learn that many everyday food items contain Sunflower Products.  Even if your child cannot read, they see you reading the package and looking for information.  You are their role model.  It is important to note that your child not only learn the safe foods but also the unsafe foods. 
  8. Encourage your child to ask loudly if the food on their plate contains Sunflower Products “because I am allergic to Sunflower Products”.  This phrase is a good attention getter and this habit will keep your child safe when you are either not around or happen to be looking the other way at just the wrong time.  For me, it was that I often had to go change a diaper.  A few minutes usually never hurts anyone unless someone is feeding your child an Allergen-laced snack.  

    Nut-free Butterfingers

    Nut-free Butterfingers (Photo credit: jazzijava)

  9. Explain that other animals eat Sunflower Seeds too. i.e. monkeys, cardinals, etc. Wild bird seed mix usually has a large dose of Sunflower Seeds.  This means the child should avoid bird feeders and people who have birds.  Birders might not wash their hands and this can present a dangerous situation of cross-contamination. 
  10. Show Sunflower Seed shells that have been dropped on the sidewalk, playground, train.  Take a walk around the block and you might find some shells on the sidewalk.  This usually alerts you to either a nearby Sunflower or a bird feeder.  Either way, this is useful information and should put you and your child on high alert.  Ask your child to double check that you have the epinephrine shot and your phone, because you are now in a heightened level of potential Allergic symptoms. 
  11.  Ask at restaurants. We asked one restaurant if they use Sunflower Seeds or Oil in the plate my son wanted to order. Without checking, the waiter told us not to eat there anymore.  Surprisingly, this happened to us twice at the same place with different waiters.  I was asking myself why did we go there again after the first episode, and did not have a good answer.  This must be their practice, and we will not be going back there anymore. I placed this useful tip on Foursquare and Yelp. One waiter from a prestigious restaurant humorously asked, “Who uses Sunflower Oil anyway?”  In fact, he’s right.  Sunflower Oil is considered a junk oil by many chefs.  When you ask for Allergens in front of your child, you are modeling appropriate behavior.  They will follow your example and slip into a healthy routine of asking questions at the appropriate times.
  12. Sunflowers are a popular summer specialty in people’s gardens and tables.  Teach your child what they look like and to stay away from them.  Show your child pictures of the various Sunflowers with the variety of yellows and golds.  Depending on your perspective, you might show them the huge Sunflower leaf and talk about its size, color, and discuss any other special features they might be able to recognize and remember.  Sunflower Allergy children are to stay away from all Daisy-looking flowers.  Show your child pictures of these types of flowers and ask your child to describe them in their own words.  This will help them remember.  When driving in the car, you might see such flowers on the side of the road.  Pull over if you are able to, point out the plants, and discuss them.  You don’t need to leave the car.  My son thinks Sunflowers are gorgeous.  I can’t help but think that they give him some sort of physical tingling reaction that he associates with beauty.  It’s best to talk about these issues and address them.  This way everyone is clear.  I wouldn’t let your child touch the actual plant, and in some cases maybe just looking at pictures will be adequate.  

    Sunflower and seeds

    Sunflower and seeds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pound this information into their heads.  Take every single opportunity to remind them about the Sunflower and its characteristics.  Keep reminding your child till you are sure they know the Sunflower plant very well.  Someday, their life may depend on it.

When you are done talking, ask the other parent to talk to your child till they are sick of talking about it too.  Then ask aunts, uncles, grandparents, anyone who has an interest in keeping your child safe from an Allergic reaction.  The child needs to know this information very very well.

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How to Write a Good Accident or Incident Report

How to Write a Good Accident or Incident Report.

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Responsibility For A Food Allergy Child

Responsibility For A Food Allergy Child

Throughout childhood, the main burden of responsibility for the safety of an Allergy child falls on the parents.  The parents are a child’s main focus. Children rely on their parents to guide them thru the deep waters of childhood and into adulthood. A severe Allergic reaction can sink a person in minutes with dire physical, emotional, and financial consequences. The parents have to teach the child about their condition as soon as possible.  Have frequent and in-depth talks about foods.  Some foods are nutritious such as fruit and vegetables.  Some foods are not nutritious such as junk foods.  Some foods will harm some people, such as your child, and the same foods will be fine for other people. 


The medical assessment comes from the Allergist, who provides a prescription and a set of instructions to follow in case of emergency.  The parents need to teach everyone involved in the child’s life about the complications that can arise from eating the wrong food.  This includes the other parents, teachers, caregivers, school moms, soccer coaches, principals, lunchroom supervisors, etc.  Parents might seek and get better understanding from non-Allergy people with a special awareness of Food Sensitivities.  These types of people may be Diabetics, Vegetarians, Lactose Intolerant, sufferers of Celiac Disease and Gluten sensitivities, among a wide variety of other food-induced ailments. 


Here is a very short list of parental responsibilities. We will cover these subjects in greater depth throughout the later posts in this blog.  Be sure to keep checking back for lots of useful information.

  1. Learn everything you can about your child’s Allergy.
  2. Teach your child about the Allergy.
  3. Find able, responsible, and attentive adults to care for your child when you are not there.
  4. Teach other adults about the Allergy.
  5. Teach other kids about the Allergy.
  6. Read Ingredient Labels over and over and ….
  7. Trust Issues.
  8. Be a BIG part of your child’s life.


You need to learn everything you can about your child’s Allergy.  Ask your pediatrician or Allergist, talk to other parents, find support groups, write a blog and let me know about it.  Learn the symptoms of an Allergic reaction.  Learn how to use an epinephrine shot.  Is there a nurse at your child’s school?  Does the school need a prescription for the epinephrine shot?  Does the school need multiple pens for different locations?  Look for answers on the internet, like you are doing now.  (Great work, by the way!)  The internet is a huge wealth of knowledge.  You can contact almost anyone thru the internet and find an answer to a specific question.  I would recommend asking different people the same question.  You might get a variety of answers.


Unless you have seen a severe Allergic reaction or had one yourself, it is difficult to grasp the extent of the damage that a small Allergen can inflict on a human body. And yes, it’s very bad.


You are your child’s primary resource of information on how to handle the Allergy.  You need to keep yourself up to date on any developments.  Your child’s life is in our hands.


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I had a “close” call today at work.  Living with allergies is always a challenge, especially this time of year when special treats and snacks start making their way to the office.  I have lived with my allergies long before it was a well known or super common thing.  I was even told once when I was 15 at an extracurricular function and started having anaphylactic-like symptoms after accidentally ingesting coconut that they would not call an ambulance for me and I would need to call my mother (who was a 25 minute drive away) to come pick me up (she made it in less than 15!).  Over the years, I have learned, the hard and stupid way I might add, what types of things to avoid to ensure I am safe.  Baked…

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Here is a blog that describes the feelings and anxieties that occur while enduring an anaphylactic reaction. This person lived to tell his story.


Here’s the latest Daily Prompt: Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding, belly-twisting nervousness. What caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?

I had to laugh when I read today’s prompt, as my story has a bit to do with fight and with flight, though not in a way you might expect.

A few background facts to preface my story:

– About three years ago I discovered [the hard way] that I have a life-threatening allergy to Brazil nuts. I hope none of you ever have to experience anaphylaxis and look in the mirror to find this looking back at you:

– I [used to] have an undying love for peanut butter. There were days my morning/afternoon/evening snack consisted of nothing but a bottle of Kraft Smooth and a spoon.

– I love travelling, but I hate flying.


Two years ago this October, I was living…

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Origins of Food Allergies

How allergies form is an unknown phenomenon and many theories have been made.  It’s extremely sad to say, but the Medical Field has not been able to definitively explain the origins of Food Allergies.  They treat them, but they do not know how to prevent them.  Maybe they should listen to non-medical people who are in the trenches in the Battle of Staying Safe From Allergens.  I believe the ideas in this blog post will help prevent the onset of a very dangerous Sunflower Seed Allergy.  They might sting some people, but that usually is the basis for a lively discussion. 

With regards to my experiences and research with the Sunflower Allergy, I realize there may be several approaches to a variety of ways that one may develop a Food Allergy.  One approach, and in very specific cases, that Allergies form is thru a constant and repeated exposure to an Allergen.  The body’s immune system becomes overloaded, freaks out, and all of a sudden attacks a very normal Allergen.  By attacking this Allergen, the body, in essence, fights with itself, and, depending on the severity of the Allergic reaction, beats itself up.  Not a pretty picture here in writing, or in the hospital.

When my son was diagnosed with the Sunflower Allergy, I thought to myself, “How did my son have constant and repeated exposure to Sunflower products?”  The answer was amazingly simple – he ate Sunflower products, and he ate them often.  He ate them many times each and every day.  That was the constant and repeated exposure.  This blew my mind when I finally realized this.

Feeding a person an Allergen can happen in a number of sneaky and unnoticeable ways.  For example, several years ago, most processed foods were made with Peanut Oil.  Everyone was shocked when the number of Peanut Allergies exploded.  Food companies responded by replacing Peanut Oil with Sunflower Oil, an even cheaper substitute.  There are entire grocery store chains where I can’t shop because most everything they sell is made with Sunflower Oil.  Most types of goldfish crackers are made with Sunflower Oil.  It seems that young children eat a bag of goldfish crackers per week.  This is just one extremely popular product.  Many chocolate sauces include Sunflower Oil.  Kids eat chocolate sauce all the time in their milk or on ice cream.  Most margarines are made with sunflower oil.  These are very clear cases of constant and repeated exposure to the Sunflower Allergen on a very large scale.  Look at the major labels.  You will be surprised when you look at products and they mention Sunflower Oil.

Now what do you think will happen to the number of Sunflower Allergy cases?  Yes, it’s already happening.  Sunflower Allergies are popping up in many places in a variety of degrees.    My son was diagnosed with the Sunflower Allergy in 2010.  I soon Googled “Sunflower Allergy”, and, unbelievably, at the time, I found only 5, yes five, hits for it.  Now when I Google the same term, I get a million hits.  Clearly more people are talking about it.

Furthermore, Food Allergy sufferers have inherently demonstrated a sensitivity towards developing an Allergy.  If constant and repeated exposure to a known Allergen already exists, this might just overload their already sensitive immune system and cause their delicate bodies to develop yet another Allergy.  It’s better to follow age old advice and to eat a wide variety of foods. Trust me, you do not want the Sunflower Allergy!  Once you develop the Sunflower Allergy, and provided it’s not a life threatening version, you can go to your Allergist for a very long regimen of desensitization treatments.

Just my non-medical two cents worth. These opinions are my own. Each case of Allergy is different.  Please refer to your Doctor’s professional advice. If you don’t like your doctor’s advice, then get another doctor.  There are plenty of them out there, and there are good doctors, and not so good doctors.  A million dollar education doesn’t always teach common sense.

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