Vigilance is woven into each day for people navigating life with both asthma and food allergies. Research has shown that children like Morgan who have food allergies are more than twice as likely to have asthma than children without food allergies.
North Carolina resident Elizabeth Powell stood at the pharmacy counter, ready to buy the EpiPens her son needed for his multiple food allergies. She’d done this many times since the boy had his first anaphylactic reaction to peanuts ten years ago. Each time she would buy two EpiPen 2-Paks, ensuring he had one set at home and another when he was out and about.
People who suffer from hay fever (allergic rhinitis caused by pollen) can experience OAS when their immune system mistakes proteins in certain fruits or vegetables for the proteins found in their problem pollen. For example, when someone like Combs with a birch pollen allergy bites into an apple, the same IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibody that recognizes the birch pollen protein also recognizes a similar protein in the apple, prompting an allergic immune response, explains allergist Philip C. Halverson, MD, FAAAAI, of Allergy & Asthma Specialists in Minneapolis.
A classmate smeared peanut butter on his locker in middle school. A fifth-grade teacher threatened to give him a zero if he didn’t participate in a science experiment featuring peanut butter. A school parent ambushed him with an ultimatum: either sign a liability waiver in case he experienced anaphylaxis during a high school graduation party or don’t participate.
It is not clear why some adults suddenly react to foods that they’ve been eating without incident their entire lives, says Sayantani (Tina) Sindher, MD, clinical assistant professor of allergy and immunology in the Department of Medicine, division of Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine at the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research at Stanford University. About 15 percent of adults with food allergies developed their condition after age 18, according to a 2014 study from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
Dana Wallace, MD, allergist and past president of the ACAAI, compares taking antihistamine during anaphylaxis to taking pain medication during appendicitis. The pill might relieve the pain but it won’t stop the appendix from rupturing. Antihistamine helps reduce itching and hives but it won’t stop anaphylaxis.
Medications are supposed to heal, not hurt—but they have the potential to be dangerous when they contain hidden food allergens. While the top eight allergens must be clearly labeled on food products, they don’t have to be specified on prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications if they’re in an inactive ingredient. And it’s often a frustrating exercise to track down the specific content of inactive ingredients.
The lack of a full-time nurse rattled Teri Saurer’s nerves while her youngest daughter, Hannah, attended elementary school in Charlotte, North Carolina. Now in second grade, Hannah has multiple life-threatening food allergies and a history of epileptic seizures, which she has outgrown. Emergency medication for her seizures and epinephrine auto-injectors for her anaphylaxis are kept at school—but the nurse wasn’t there two and a half days a week.
It’s time to trade beach bags for book bags. What steps can you take to ensure your child’s food sensitivity or allergy is properly handled in school? According to Amelia Smith Murphree, general counsel and vice president of civil rights advocacy for the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT), the key to classroom accommodation is a spirit of collaboration between parents and the school. “It’s essential,” she says.
My childhood was filled with amazing birthday parties, thanks to my mom. I envisioned that I'd create the same type of fun celebrations for my children. But when my son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies as a baby, those dreams faded. My task was to keep him safe and alive. Pulling off a birthday party was secondary and, frankly, seemed impossible.