Archive for May, 2007
by Robyn O’Brien, founder of AllergyKids.com
I was thrust into the world of food allergies when scrambled eggs almost killed my fourth child.
As the mother of four, I thought I was pretty savvy when it came to feeding my kids. But that morning, when my littlest one’s face inflated like a red balloon, I realized how little I knew…and how much I had to learn.
I was totally oblivious to food allergies when my baby started to fuss that morning. I thought that she was tired and put her down for a nap. When I checked on her, her eyes were swollen shut.
Still in complete oblivion, I turned to my older three and asked if they had put something in her face. With their blank stares, I turned back to my baby and noticed that she was having difficulty breathing. Then I got scared. Really scared. The kind of scared that only a mom knows when she sees her child in danger. And I raced to the pediatrician’s office.
They told me “food allergies.” My daughter was having an allergic reaction to eggs. What in the world did that mean?
Today, 1 out of every 15 kids under the age of three has a food allergy. That means that one out of every 8 moms has engaged in the vertical learning curve that I went through last spring. I quickly learned that any food can cause an allergic reaction, but 90% of food allergies are caused by wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, shellfish and fish. What that means is that your child sees certain foods as threats to her system. Food becomes the enemy causing her body’s immune system to attack and act out on itself. Symptoms of food allergies can be mild and may include hives and itching (sometimes known as eczema). Not too bad, you think. That’s manageable.
Symptoms can also include wheezing and difficulty breathing (asthma). A little bit scarier.
Some symptoms include gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting. Nasty, but as moms, we’ve seen it all.
More severe symptoms include swelling of the face, lips, throat and tongue which is when things start to get scary. And the scariest, most heart-stopping moment when you have a child with food allergies is the threat of a severe allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock which can lead to a drop in blood pressure, a closing of the airways, shock and unconsciousness. Anaphylaxis can be fatal.
It’s a lemon of a diagnosis. But I’m a lemonade kind of girl. So when my fourth child was diagnosed with food allergies, I got to work. I launched AllergyKids to create awareness of the millions of children with food allergies. AllergyKids designed the universal symbol for food allergies- a bright green octagon, our very own “pink ribbon” – to make it easy to identify these children at school, in the daycare or at a birthday party. AllergyKids also engaged some of the brightest minds in pediatric care and developed a free newsletter to help educate moms and caregivers.
To save you precious time, we’ll briefly highlight what we’ve learned and invite you to follow our AllergyKids column to learn more.
Diet can play an important role in the health of children with immune challenges like food allergies (did you know that processed foods contain hidden allergens?).
There are steps that every mom can take in an effort to prevent the development of food allergies (have you heard about soy formula as a factor in the development of peanut allergy?)
There are foods besides peanuts that you may want to avoid during pregnancy (Two words: GO ORGANIC)
When you are armed with knowledge, you suddenly realize that this whole thing is manageable.
With food allergies, it’s still a crazy world. Peanut butter battles are brewing in schools across the country. But if you stick with AllergyKids, we’ll keep you savvy and help you protect your little ones with food allergies. What a precious gift! Lemonade anyone?! About AllergyKids: AllergyKids launched on Mothers’ Day 2006 and was founded by Robyn O’Brien after her fourth child was diagnosed with food allergies. Visit www.allergykids.com for additional resources including free newsletters about food allergies and simple steps that you can take to help keep your family safe!
About Robyn: Prior to motherhood, Robyn worked as an analyst on one of the nation’s largest mid-cap portfolio management teams. Her team was responsible for $20 billion in assets, covering everything from Enron, to Ebay to Martha Stewart. Robyn received an MBA in finance on a full scholarship and was a Fulbright Fellow.
Robyn is married and has four children between the ages of 2 and 7 and has been interviewed on CNN, ABC National News, and local television, radio and print media across the country.
In her efforts to create awareness of children with food allergies, she has received encouragement from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Erin Brockovich and parents around the world.
In honor of every mother, grandmother, stepmother, (fairy godmother!) and all of the amazing caregivers of children with food allergies, AllergyKids would like to thank you for making our first year such a special one.
The 5 Most Important Things that We Have Learned in Our First Year:
• An “AllergyKid” can be 2, 42 or 72!
• Food allergies now affect at least 1 out of every 17 children under the age of three. Global research indicates that they are far more prevalent than industry statistics suggest (did you know that the most recent US survey was completed in 2002…that was five years ago!)
• Our food now contains hidden allergens and chemicals (yikes!) that may present a risk to children with food allergies (See our Newsletter Archives and Fish DNA in Ice Cream to learn more!)
• Soy may play a role in the development of peanut allergies (please read Soy’s Cross Reactivity in our Newsletter Archives to learn more about this cutting edge research out of England!).
• Funding ties can play a role in the integrity of research (we know this seems pretty obvious, but we’re grateful for the work that Harvard University, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and others have done to highlight this as it relates to our children!).
At AllergyKids, we are so grateful for your support, insight, expertise, courage and enthusiasm. You inspire us every day!
Our Special Thank You – 20% Off!To thank all of you for the role that you are playing in protecting the health of these children, we are offering a ONE-TIME special discount on every purchase made at www.allergykids.com.
Enter coupon code “KIDS” at checkout to receive 20% off of your order! Every purchase made at AllergyKids.com enables us to give you the tools to help you protect your children! Encourage Others to Sign Up for Our FREE Newsletters!
We would like to encourage you to invite your friends and family to join the FAM (our “Food Allergy Mission”) and to sign up for our FREE newsletters! Simply click here to learn how to protect “AllergyKids” of all ages!
Harry Truman once said, “A nation is only as healthy as its children.”
At AllergyKids, we couldn’t agree more. It’s so important to us that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. recently interviewed us about it (but more on that later!).
If we can ever answer any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at www.allergykids.com or 1.800.671.1525.
With hope for the cure,
At AllergyKids, we designed the universal symbol for food allergies! To learn more about how this symbol is being used around the world, check out our News Page at www.allergykids.com.
We’ve also got a FREE newsletter that you can sign up for. It provides previously undisclosed research (did you know that soy formula can play a role in the development of peanut allergies? and that pesticide exposure has been linked to gestational diabetes? We thought that you might want to know!).
At AllergyKids, we think that you should have unlimited access to all of the research that is available so that you can make an informed choice when it comes to protecting the health of your family! And it’s FREE!
At www.allergykids.com, simply Join the FAM (our Food Allergy Mission!), to receive important information and cutting edge research on ways that you can protect your children.
To learn more, visit our newsletter archives at www.allergykids.com
With hope for the cure!