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Food Allergies & Food Sensitivities: What You Need to Know

January 2, 2014 •  48 comments.

 •  Blog, News, Uncategorized

Written by Robyn O’Brien, founder of the AllergyKids Foundation, author of The Unhealthy Truth

Today, one in eleven children struggle with asthma, and one in four are affected by allergies. The incidence of allergy has increased significantly over the past two decades, and allergy to peanuts has more than doubled from 1997 to 2002. Approximately 30 million children – more than 1/3 of our kids – are affected by one of these four new childhood epidemics. This is not something we can just accept.

The official statistic holds that allergies affect some 7 million Americans, including about 6 percent of children below the age of three. That information comes courtesy of U.S. Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner Lester M. Crawford, J., D.V.M., Ph.D., speaking before the Consumer Federation of America on April 22, 2002. But that data is now almost ten years old.

Since then, the only update we’ve had is from the Centers for Disease Control and a report issued in 2008 that said that there has been a 265% increase in the rate of hospitalizations related to food allergic reactions.

This begs explanation.

An allergy is basically an overreaction by your immune system to a protein that it perceives as a threat—for example, the proteins in particular types of food, the dust mite protein, or pollen. For people without allergies, these proteins are harmless. But if you’ve got an allergy, your immune system sees these proteins as dangerous invaders.

To drive the invader out, your immune system mobilizes all its resources: mucous, to flush out the intruder; vomiting, to force it out; diarrhea, to expel it quickly. Such conditions may make you feel sick, but they’re actually evidence of your body’s attempts to get well.

A key aspect of the immune response is known as inflammation, characterized by one or more of four classic symptoms: redness, heat, swelling, and pain. Inflammation doesn’t occur only in allergic reactions; it flares up whenever your body feels threatened, in response to a bruise, cut, bacteria, or virus as well as to otherwise harmless pollen, dust, or food. Scientists now believe that much of our immune system is found in our digestive tracts, where many of these inflammatory reactions occur in the form of stomachaches, cramping, nausea, bloating, and vomiting.

Ironically, the immune system’s inflammatory reaction—meant to heal and protect the body—often causes more problems than the initial “invader” in the cases when allergic reactions become life-threatening.

Common Symptoms of Food Allergy: Immediate Reactions

* rash or hives

* nausea

* stomach pain

* diarrhea

* itchy skin

* eczema

* shortness of breath

* chest pain

* swelling of the airways to the lungs

* anaphylaxis

Food Allergies and Food Sensitivity: Our Immune System Overreacts Again

At first glance, the distinction between “allergies” and “sensitivity” may seem like a meaningless word game. But understanding the relationship between these two conditions is crucial to grasping the true nature of the allergy epidemic—and to seeing how even the supposedly healthy foods in our kitchens may be harmful to our health.

As we’ve seen, allergies are an overreaction of our immune system, a kind of exaggerated response to a perceived danger. When a child comes in contact with these proteins (peanut, egg, wheat, etc.) her immune system “recognizes” the protein as dangerous, just as it would have seen the danger in the bacterium that causes pneumonia or the virus that causes mumps. In response, her immune system creates special “fighter” proteins called antibodies designed to identify and neutralize the “invader.”

These fighter proteins are known as immunoglobulin E, or IgE for short. When they’re released into the bloodstream, their purpose is to “seek and destroy” the invader, which they do by creating one or more of the classic food allergy symptoms, such as the hives, or the diarrhea with which other children respond, or, in more extreme cases, the anaphylactic shock that can kill a child within minutes.

The classic IgE response occurs within minutes or even seconds, because IgE proteins are some of the most aggressive antibodies we know. That immediate IgE response is the defining characteristic of an allergic reaction.

Food sensitivities start out in a similar way. If a “sensitive” child is exposed to a protein that his system perceives as a threat, he’ll manufacture another type of fighter protein, known as Immunglobulin G, or IgG. Although IgE and IgG antibodies play similar roles, they produce somewhat different—though often overlapping—symptoms.

A crucial difference between the two, though, is their reaction time. The less aggressive IgG antibodies typically produce a delayed response that might not appear for hours or even days after the child has consumed the offending food.

So even though food sensitivities and food allergies both produce painful, inflammatory, and potentially dangerous responses, this delayed reaction time has led many doctors to give food sensitivities second-class status. Partly that’s because they don’t present an immediate and obvious threat to children’s lives: only the IgE proteins trigger anaphylactic shock, for example, and in that sense, only the IgE proteins can kill (though the IgG reaction can have serious long-term consequences). I also think that traditional doctors tend to downplay the importance of nutrition, frequently dismissing the idea that such symptoms as earache, eczema, crankiness, brain fog, and sleep problems might be related to a child’s diet.

However, an article in The Lancet, Britain’s most respected medical journal, casts another light on the subject. The article referred to doctors who use elimination diets—diets that begin with a very limited, “safe” array of food choices and then add potentially problematic foods back into the diet, one by one.

The reason to do an elimination diet is to identify which foods in your diet might be triggering symptoms like skin rashes, fatigue, or stomach ache. Often, some foods affect us without our realizing it and we live with the symptoms, taking medicine to alleviate the suffering. But if you eliminate these foods from your diet, you may find that your symptoms disappear. What becomes even more interesting is that when you reintroduce the offending food, you may suddenly suffer drastic symptoms which make it clear that the food was indeed triggering one or more problems. An elimination diet can sometimes reveal with dramatic speed that a particular food you’ve always believed was harmless is actually causing such chronic symptoms as headache, digestive problems, and even more serious complaints. Masked by your daily diet and by the slowness of the food-sensitivity reaction, the offending food does its dirty work without ever realizing that it is the culprit behind your—or your child’s—disorders.

When you take a break from eating that problem food, however, and then add it back into your diet, you see how powerful its effects are and how responsible it may be for a seemingly unrelated problem. Foods that you thought were safe for you turn out to be highly problematic, indicating the presence of a previous undiagnosed food sensitivity. As a result, the authors of the Lancet article conclude that the prevalence of food sensitivity (referred to in the article as “food intolerance”) has been seriously underestimated.

Certainly, food allergies are far more dramatic. Whenever you read about a kid who died within minutes of eating at a fast-food joint or after breathing in the peanut dust from a friend’s candy wrapper, that’s an “IgE-mediated” food allergy. They’re fast, they can be deadly, and I’m glad doctors want to give them the attention they deserve.

But I also think doctors should be looking at delayed reactions, too, the “IgG-mediated” responses to food sensitivities. And some doctors do look seriously at both. Most conventional doctors, though, tend to focus on IgE immediate reactions. I think there are lots of reasons why they should view the two types of reactions as part of a larger, single problem.

First, both reactions have the same ultimate cause: the immune system’s overreaction to apparently harmless food. According to internationally acclaimed author and physician Kenneth Bock, M.D., there’s also quite a bit of overlap between IgE and IgG symptoms. Both can contribute to inflammatory responses in multiple body systems.

True, the delayed IgG reactions are less likely to cause hives and are more likely to produce a host of apparently vague symptoms, such as headache, brain fog, sleep problems, joint pain, fatigue, and muscle aches. But both the immediate and the delayed responses are immune system problems triggered by a supposedly “harmless” food.

Conventional doctors’ tendency to separate “IgE-mediated” food allergies and “IgG-mediated” food sensitivities into two separate problems has the effect of minimizing the allergy epidemic. Remember, IgE allergies, IgG sensitivities, and asthma—three similar ways that our immune systems can overreact—are all on the rise. It makes sense to find a doctor who is willing to address all three as symptoms of a greater underlying issue.

Common Symptoms of Food Sensitivity: Delayed Reactions

* fatigue

* gastrointestinal problems, including bloating and gas

* itchy skin and skin rashes like eczema

* brain fog

* muscle or joint aches

* headache

* sleeplessness and sleep disorders

* chronic rhinitis (runny nose), congestion, and post-nasal drip

Four Take-Aways:

1. Even if your kids can’t talk, their skin speaks volumes! Did you know that the skin is a person’s largest organ? Even when your kid is too young to tell you how he feels or too used to her symptoms to identify them (when kids hurt all the time, they don’t know they hurt!), you can often read your child’s condition in his or her skin.

Does your kid have eczema? Does he get rashes around the mouth, especially after he eats a certain food or swallows a certain beverage? Rashes around the knees, elbows, or armpits? Does he have “allergic shiners”—that is, dark circles under the eyes?

These are all inflammatory reactions, signs that the body is trying to rid itself of what it perceives as “toxic invader.” In your child’s case, that “toxic invader” might be an apparently harmless food, to which your kid is either allergic or “sensitive.” Keeping that invader away from your kid may bring relief from symptoms—and it may clear up other problems, such as brain fog, crankiness, sleep problems, inattention, acne, and mood swings.

2. The toilet bowl has a lot to tell you. Your kids’ bowel movements, not to be too delicate here, also speak volumes. Runny poops are a sign that a person isn’t properly digesting his food. And indeed, as we got the allergens out of some children’s diets, poops tend to firm up.

3. Chronic ear infections are often a sign of dairy allergies. In some cases, milk may have ill effects like eczema, upset stomachs or chronic ear infections for children who are allergic or sensitive to it.

4. Find a doctor who is willing to work with you, test for both IgE and IgG allergies and sensitivities and to address the important role that elimination diets can play in managing allergic symptoms like eczema, ear infections and chronic mucous.

Disclaimer: Always discuss individual health inquiries and medical issues with a qualified personal physician and/or specialist. Robyn O’Brien/AllergyKids is not responsible for medical decisions made by any one person. The professionals who share their knowledge, discussions, minutes, handouts, agendas, and other products do not constitute medical and/or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always discuss individual health inquiries and medical issues with a qualified personal physician and/or specialist.

How Real Families on Real Budgets Can Afford Organic

December 27, 2013 •  25 comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Robyn O’Brien , AllergyKids Foundation

In a world in which we are constantly worried about the health of our families, the stability of our jobs, paying the mortgage, and all of life’s responsibilities, the simple act of trying to eat healthy often becomes a challenge.

Not to mention that if your family is anything like mine, then you’ve most likely got some picky eaters, limited time and a limited budget with which to pull all of this off in a world of soaring food prices.

So here are a few tips for those who want to start buying organic food but don’t want to pay the high price:

  • Go Orgo-Generic: Major grocery store chains like Safeway and Kroger, and big box food retailers like Costco and even Wal-Mart, now carry their own organic foods. And all foods labeled “USDA organic” are created equal, no matter where you find them. No need to upscale your grocery store when Wal-Mart gets it done.
  • Buy Frozen: Frozen foods (like strawberries and fish) are cheaper than those that are delivered fresh. So if the prices on fresh produce are eye-popping, cruise on over to the frozen food aisle for a discount.
  • Eat with the Season: Retrain your taste buds to think like your grandmother did. She didn’t eat strawberries in the middle of winter. Locally grown foods are usually cheaper than those flown in from another hemisphere so if you eat with the season, you’ll be eating more affordably.
  • Skip the Box, Embrace the Bulk: Food that comes in boxes costs more because of the packaging costs associated with designing those pretty pictures! When you buy in bulk, you’re not paying for all of the packaging, you’re paying for the food which is what you want anyway. So slide on over to that bulk food aisle in Safeway and look for noodles, cereals, rice and beans in your local grocery store.
  • Support the US economy and Buy Local: You can save money by becoming a member of a local farm (just like you became a member at Safeway or Costco!). How do you find a local farm, you ask? Well, thankfully, the USDA now has a list of online sites to help you find the closest farm near you, so click here to log onto the USDA site.
  • Comparison Shop: You wouldn’t buy a car without comparison shopping, so before you even head out the door, you can compare the prices of organic foods at different retailers from the safety of your own computer at www.eatwellguide.org
  • Coupons, coupons, coupons: Organic bargains are everywhere so click on About.com’s Frugal Living page where you will find All Organic Links.
  • Grow One Thing: If you’re as busy as we are, there’s not a chance in creation that you are going to be able to feed your family off of your home-grown harvest, but you will find that growing a tomato plant can be incredibly inspiring. And it’s not as intimidating as it seems. So pick one thing to grow – you can do it (we all grew lima beans in cups as kids, right?).
  • Find a Friend: It is way more fun when you share this adventure with someone else, so be sure to find a friend, share this link and get back to us with your success stories (and if you have a tip that you want to add, please post it in the comment section below!).

Good luck!

Swimming Upstream: Goldfish Makers Ditch Artificial Dyes. Next Up, GMOs?

December 7, 2013 •  3 comments.

 •  Blog, News, Uncategorized

Food dyes have gotten a bad rap in the United States and have been linked to health concerns as far reaching as cancer.  A “Rainbow of Risks” cites one report, putting parents on alert.

But the food industry has been slow to respond. As CBS Market Watch reported, “any clampdown would be fiercely opposed by the major food manufacturers who use a boatload — 15 million pounds — of food dyes in the U.S. every year. ”

Fifteen million pounds of artificial food dyes per year.

It’s hard to hear for parents trying to feed kids on a budget, especially when you consider that our very own American companies have pulled these artificial dyes, derived from petroleum based products, from the kids’ foods that they are serving in other countries.  That double standard just doesn’t sit right for most American parents, and people have been making some noise.

I am one of them.  I first took on the issue back in 2008 on Good Morning America when I was writing my book.  Studies linking these artificial ingredients to hyperactivity led American companies to reformulate their products in the United Kingdom.  Despite this response to consumer demand and parental concern overseas, our own companies did nothing here while the FDA said that more studies are needed.

But since then, despite the fact that the FDA sat still, companies began to take notice.  They are listening and responding to consumer demand, even while the FDA says nothing.  In no way is this more obvious than in an email I received last week from the makers of Goldfish.  I had hammered on their product in my book, The Unhealthy Truth, for being a kid-favorite and absolutely jacked up on these artificial ingredients that can send some kids sky high.  As a mom of four, it had been my go-to snack for years, but upon learning that, I ditched the colors and opted for something else.

So when I emailed them, following up on some research being done on artificial colors, to ask about their recent announcement to ditch these  artificial dyes, I got the following response.

Ms Robyn, we received your message and appreciate the time you took to contact Pepperidge Farm regarding the coloring used in our Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Colors.

Our Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Colors use the following natural ingredients for coloring:

  • Red Beet
  • Paprika
  • Watermelon
  • Huito
  • Tumeric
  • Annatto

Huito fruit is a native Latin American exotic fruit much like Acai, Passionfruit or Guava.  Its flavor is reminiscent of an apricot or raisin.

We appreciate your interest in our Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Colors.  Please contact our Consumer Response Center at 1.888.737.7374 if you need further assistance.

If you don’t think these companies are listening, you have not yet tried talking to them.  They are making these changes, but they need us.  They need consumers to share their concerns, to write, call and email so that they can show their shareholders and show their boards of directors that this food awakening is happening.

Together, we can get this junk out of our food the way parents have overseas.  We can clean up our food system and restore the health of our families.

Pepperidge Farm closed their email saying, “Thank you for visiting the Pepperidge Farm website.”

Thanks for listening, Pepperidge Farm.  Next up, let’s figure out a way to help your farmers grow their corn and soy with fewer chemicals, without those genetically engineered ingredients and chemically-intensive operating system that the biotech industry says we need.

Our combined talent, intellect and creativity are so powerful.  And it is our collective talents that will create the changes we want to see in the health of our food system and the health of our country.

Sometimes the first step just might be as tiny as a goldfish.

To ask Pepperidge Farm to remove the chemical industry’s genetically engineered ingredients from our children’s goldfish or to thank them for ditching the artificial dyes, please contact Consumer Response Center at 1.888.737.7374 or send them an email here: http://www.pepperidgefarm.com/ContactUs.aspx 

Follow Robyn on Twitter @unhealthytruth and on Facebook.  She is a former financial analyst and author.

Navigating Halloween With Food Allergies

October 29, 2013 •  3 comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Emily Matthews

 

Food allergies don’t have to put a damper on a child’s enjoyment of traditional holidays. Research from science think tanks and mastersdegreesonline come to the same conclusions: with a little planning, a child with severe food allergies can have just as much fun on Halloween as any child who is not suffering from this problem. By focusing on a great costume and other aspects of the holiday that don’t affect your child’s food allergies, your child will not worry about missing out at all.

One of the best ways to celebrate Halloween when your child has food allergies is to host a party at your house and serve only treats that are safe for them to eat. You can even have trick or treating in your home by having candy that is safe for your child to eat passed out in different rooms. The children who attend as guests will very likely not even notice anything different about the treats being served. If you take the initiative to provide activities and candytreats for your child to do during Halloween that are fun and exciting, your child may even feel that they got to do something extra special during the holiday and not worry about not being able to do what any other children are doing that day.

For school parties, helping plan the party, offering to bring safe treats, and explaining to your child’s teacher can help keep your child safe from getting any candy that could trigger their allergies. Using fun games as an alternative to candy is a great option to ensure that everyone has a good time on Halloween. If you are not able to attend your child’s school Halloween party, make sure that you inform the teachers and personnel ahead of time, just in case something happens and your child accidentally ingests candy that could provoke a reaction. Teachers should be informed of any signs of a reaction and any ingredients that could trigger your child’s food allergies.

It’s an unfair reality that most of the food passed out on Halloween won’t be safe for your child to eat. However, making sure that you know whattheycaneat will make things much easier. Do your research, but know that many sugar candies are free of the top eight allergens. At the end of the night, have your kids do a swap with their friends – they get all the Nerds, Smarties, and Dots, and don’t have to deal with the M&Ms and Snickers bars.

If some of the candy may be safe to eat, you can sort through it after your child brings it home and before they are allowed to eat anything, to make sure that all of it is safe to eat. Some children’s dentists offer children money in exchange for candy to promote healthy teeth, and cashing in on this type of promotion can help your child feel better about losing part of their stash.

It may take a little bit of advance planning, but your children’s Halloween can be just as great as yours were as a kid!


Emily Matthews is currently applying to masters degree programs across the U.S., and loves to read about new research into health care, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington.

Emily’s Story: A Teenager’s Death & The Power of Love

October 6, 2013 •  29 comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Paul and Catrina Vonder Meulen and introduced by Robyn O’Brien

Seven years ago, we were contacted by a father who had quite literally just lost his 13 year old daughter, Emily, to an allergic reaction.

AllergyKids site could not have been up for more than a handful of days when his email came in.  ”I wish I had known about you earlier….” he wrote, and then shared one of the most heart-aching stories we have ever received.

Emily’s story took hold of our hearts and inspired our mission.

In the weeks, months and years that have followed since he first reached out, she has been part of our work and courage here at AllergyKids.

But, her story is not the only one.  In the years since, there have been others, and I have looked into the eyes of too many parents who have lost their children, as lives were cut short.

Their memories and the unconditional love of their families power the work that we do at AllergyKids beyond anything imaginable.

It has been seven years since Emily died.  She would be turning 21 this year.  And her story is a testimony of love and courage that has inspired countless others.  Her favorite saying was “Live, Laugh, Love.”

And so we wanted to take this opportunity to once again share her story, as it originally first appeared on the AllergyKids site seven years ago, in the hopes that families everywhere can learn how to protect the health of children with asthma and allergies from cross-reactivity and cross-contamination.

As shared by Emily’s parents:

Emily’s Story and Our Message

When Emily was about two years old, Paul gave her a peanut butter cracker, almost immediately she started to fuss and rub at her eyes and start to develop hives. He gave her Benadryl and the allergic reaction calmed down. It was only after Emily’s death and subsequent research that Paul realized that this was when Emily’s immune system started building antibodies to fight off nuts.

After this initial exposure to nuts, Emily’s body developed its own protective warning system. If she came in contact with a food that had been exposed to nuts, she would have a tingling sensation on the back of her tongue, she would immediately spit the food out and then to protect itself, her body would vomit trying to expel whatever the offending allergen was. It was that reaction that made us comfortable with this allergy. She knew what she could and couldn’t eat. If kids brought snacks into school and they couldn’t tell her if it had nuts in it or not, she wouldn’t eat it. If they said it was free of nuts, she would still test it by putting it to her lips and touching it with her tongue. If she didn’t have a reaction, she knew it was safe.

I think you really want to know more of what happened that day, but I needed to let you know why I was so unprepared for what happened on April 13th. Elena (10), Emily and I had gone shopping that day for a graduation dress at a mall here in Cincinnati. After buying her dress (which she wore out of the store) we stopped to have lunch at about 2:50 at the mall’s food court. We decided to have a sandwich at a place that we had eaten before (we considered it a “safe food” restaurant) because Emily, in fact, had eaten this very same sandwich many times before with no problems. Their website even shows that it is peanut-free except for two of their cookies. After having lunch, we walked through a new t-shirt shop where Emily fell, tripping over her shoes, and landing on her bottom. She laughed and got right back up. We continued shopping, going to a store where we were going to get Emily’s ears pierced. While we were in this shop, Emily mentioned that she was afraid she might have messed her underwear when she fell and wanted to check it out. She came back about 5 minutes later, did two puffs of her inhaler, telling me that she felt hot and did her face look red. I told her no, but maybe we should leave. She said that her new dress felt tight and that she wanted to change her clothes. I said fine. She took her clothes and went to the bathroom. Elena and I stayed at the shop looking at “girly” stuff.

A few minutes later, I got a phone call from a girl in the bathroom asking if I have a daughter Emily and that she was having trouble breathing. Elena and I rushed to the bathroom where we found Emily gasping for air. She tried to do her inhaler again, but I could tell from looking at her that this was not good. The whites of her eyes were completely red and her normally pink cheeks were white. I immediately called 911. Emily had enough air to ask two questions. Emily became disoriented and wandered into the hallway. I had her lay down and she passed out. A woman passing by and I started performing CPR while Elena was on the phone with 911. The woman that was helping me said that Emily was O.K., and another woman said she felt air coming out of her nose. To me, Emily was not O.K., she was blue. Then I heard the strangest sound come out her mouth. People later tell me it was her death-breath. 911 had not shown up yet. Emily was taken to the hospital where they continued CPR. I arrived maybe 10 minutes later where the doctors told me they could not get her heart to start. They had finally got the breathing tube in the right spot, but they had given her all the medicine they are allowed to jumpstart her heart plus more, with no success. They were telling me my daughter was dead. It was 4:20. I believe Emily passed away in the bathroom hallway at the mall, which would have been around 3:45.

To answer your questions:

Did she have an Epi Pen with her? If so… Was it administered immediately?

NO, I did not have an Epi-pen with me. Unfortunately, if I did have an Epi-pen with me, I don’t know if I would have known to use it. I thought Emily was having an asthma attack because of her fall. I didn’t know that what was happening to her was associated with food. She didn’t have the tingling on her tongue, she didn’t vomit, it was a safe food (so we thought).

What did she have to eat at the Deli?

Emily had the Sweet Onion Chicken-Teriyaki Wrap. We knew it contained soy sauce. This particular deli did not make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We still don’t know where the trace amount of peanut came from. Unfortunately, the coroner and the investigator can’t prove anything at this moment, but because her reaction was so rapid and violent, the coroner has no other option but to point to the last meal Emily ate. Somehow a trace amount of peanut cross contaminated the sandwich she had eaten. We are still waiting for lab results – until then the findings are inconclusive.

How quick was her reaction?

We ordered around 2:50 and were done eating about 3:10. My best guess is that around 3:20 is when she started feeling hot and went to change her clothes. I called 911 at 3:26 and I believe she was gone around 3:40. The doctor’s pronounced her dead at 4:20.

Did she have any close calls before her death from reactions to something she had eaten?

NO, she did not have any close calls before this incident. Paul and I were in a comfort zone counting on Emily’s internal alarm system and the fact that she knew what she could and couldn’t eat, while we were blind to the fact that she was still very much in danger. Please understand, Emily was terrified of the Epi-pen and was diligent about asking questions about food preparation and ingredients. She did not want to be stuck with the Epi-pen. That’s what makes this all the harder to understand, Emily was her own advocate.

Your child is at a wonderful age, you can still control what they eat, you are watchful to make sure they don’t put the wrong thing in their mouth, you are their advocate. During this age, you can learn what the symptoms of anaphylactic shock are, you can develop a plan in case of an emergency, and go over and over what the plan is with friends and family so, God forbid, that emergency comes, you don’t think, you react.

As your child gets older, and they become more independent and responsible, don’t relax! According to FAAN, children between the ages of 10 and 19 are at a much higher risk of fatality. It defies logic, because you think now your child is at an age where they know and understand the dangers of their allergies and they will not take a chance. But what you don’t know or think you know is what can take their life so quickly. It is almost as if every time you eat prepared food, your child has a gun pointed at their heart. We don’t want to scare parents, but we want you to be scared, so that you stay vigilant in protecting your child.

I know this may sound irresponsible but please read it for what it is, learning lessons. As a learning lesson, my family would eat shelled peanuts on the couch. When they were done, Emily and I would go into the living room and vacuum the couch and the carpets. I wanted her to understand that she has to protect herself and that she can’t count on others to be as diligent as she had to be. Another time, we were taking a flight to San Diego. At the time, they still served peanuts on the plane. I had Emily wipe down the fold-down tray and arm rests in case the person who sat there before her ate peanuts and the residue remained on the surface.

The most bizarre part of this past 14 years is that I don’t think I understood that Emily could die. I thought she would get hives, swelling, asthma attacks, or really sick, but never in all of my thoughts did I ever think of death. Why didn’t that ever cross my mind? Did I not want to think that was a possibility? I now look at a lifetime of guilt, wondering how I could have done more. Please don’t ever feel you are being too protective when it comes to the health of your child and if someone tells you to relax, tell them Emily’s Story.

Learn more about Emily as the Vonder Meulens share “What We Wish We Knew“, including the potential risk that soy may pose for those with peanut allergy and how anaphylaxis can look like asthma by clicking on What We Wish We Knew as seen on www.foodallergyangel.com