FeaturesDec/Jan 2013 Issue

Gluten and Allergy Apps

Smart tools make life safer and easier for those with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and food allergies.

© iStockPhoto/Thinkstock

One Saturday night several years ago, Paul Antico was on a mission to find an allergy-friendly restaurant to take his two sons out for dinner. The trio had started at one of the family’s go-to restaurants that served egg-free pasta but a packed weekend crowd meant more than an hour wait. So Antico decided they’d just go someplace else.

He quickly discovered it wasn’t such an easy task. Antico and his sons spent hours driving around town, stopping at various eateries. They left every restaurant because Antico wasn’t comfortable with their approach to allergies, nor was he quite sure how to ensure that his food-allergic boys could have a safe meal.

“The whole time I was driving, I said to myself, ‘I wish there was a guide,’” Antico said.

So a couple of years later, he created one called AllergyEats, based in Scituate, Massachusetts. Launched in February 2010, the online directory allows people to rate their experiences related to celiac disease and food allergies at restaurants across the United States. The site includes restaurants’ gluten-free and allergy-friendly menus, allergen lists and links to nutritional information and websites. The AllergyEats app debuted in August 2011 and won the About.com 2012 Readers’ Choice Award for best food-allergy app.

Now when Antico takes 15-year-old Tucker (allergic to peanuts and tree nuts) and 10-year-old Keegan (allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs and sesame) out to eat, along with his other three children, whether on a road trip or close to home, he checks the AllergyEats app on his smartphone to find safe options for his family.

Many people are now turning to apps to help navigate life with celiac disease, food allergies and asthma. There are apps to help people cook, track groceries, view pollen levels, record asthma health, find support and more. Smartphones are being used to gather information and support at any time and any place. People are also joining social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to find brands, groups and information to enhance their lives.

“My smartphone is one of the best tools I have for managing my son’s allergies,” says Brooke Adams of Orlando, Florida. She stores medical information in her phone’s notepad section about her 5-year-old son Drake, who is allergic to peanuts, dairy and beef. By touching her keypad, she can call up the medication her son takes, the tests he’s undergone, descriptions of reactions and important phone numbers. She can quickly refer to the information during doctor visits and even e-mail it to a physician. And if unexpected food shows up in the classroom, her son’s teacher can text her with a picture of the label to see whether it’s safe.

Next: Dining Out

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