FeaturesDec/Jan 2013 Issue

Gluten and Allergy Apps

Finding Support

One tool that patients, especially those newly diagnosed, often need is support. Ever since she was diagnosed with food allergies in August 2007, Hahne has turned to the Kids with Food Allergies (KFA) website. She’s consulted the KFA app every day since it launched in March 2012. The app provides access to support forums, photo galleries and blogs. Hahne can hold onto her smartphone while gaining encouragement from one of KFA's forums, a place where she feels that people “get it.”

“Something about receiving on-the-spot support is extremely helpful,” she says.

Many of KFA’s 24,000 members take advantage of the online support organization’s mobile accessibility. Just two months after launching the app, mobile access to KFA’s website increased from 19 to 25 percent, says KFA president and CEO Lynda Mitchell.

KFA developed the app to complement its website after noticing more people were using mobile devices to try to access the site. Many members who use the new app are busy moms with smartphones. The app is also aimed at those who might not have Internet at home but have mobile devices, Mitchell says.

“This is a way to expand our reach,” she says. “The whole idea of going mobile is to connect people wherever they are with whatever they’re trying to do.”

Hahne wishes there had been apps when she was initially diagnosed. She had asthma and environmental allergies throughout her childhood and started developing hives and rashes when she was about 15. The constant itching made her miserable, she recalls. At 17, just as she was about to embark on college life, she was tested and diagnosed with multiple food allergies.

Since 2009 when she got a smartphone, apps have helped Hahne safely avoid allergens. They’ve also helped her family and friends grasp the seriousness of her condition. Indeed, it was difficult for some people in her life to understand that, after years of eating an unrestricted diet, certain foods could now prompt anaphylaxis. (Some family members got wise, she says, after they witnessed her suffer a severe reaction from eating rice that had been unwittingly contaminated with fish.)

Hahne uses the MyEpiPen app to show people how to use an EpiPen, in addition to storing her current allergy information on the app. She also uses Pollen.com's Allergy Alert, which provides indexes for allergy, cold and cough, ultraviolet sensitivity and asthma, about five times a week to determine whether symptoms she’s experiencing are related to her environmental allergies. When people don’t understand what she’s going through, she’s happy to be linked to groups like KFA.

“They don’t second-guess me,” Hahne says. “They understand the impact of a reaction—the worry, fear and anxiety it causes.”

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