Article in 5/21 Times Union

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Here's a link to an article that appeared in Albany, New York Times Union newspaper today.

[url="http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyKey=83196&BCCode=L&newsdate=5/21/2002"]http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyKey=83196&BCCode=L&newsdate=5/21/2002[/url]

I hope the link works...

On May 21, 2002

Thanks for the article!

Wanted to post because most newspaper links only work for a very short time - I hate that.

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Coping with allergic reactions It takes constant vigilance to protect kids with severe allergies to common foods

By LYRYSA SMITH, Staff writer First published: Tuesday, May 21, 2002

For all the associations that come to mind with peanuts -- cracking the shells at baseball games, those little packets on airplanes, salty fistfuls at cocktail parties -- suffocating isn't usually one of them.

Unless you are one of the 3 million Americans who is allergic to peanuts. Then you know one bite can kill. "I made a peanut- butter sandwich for Colleen and one for me,'' says Catherine Tretheway, recalling lunch with her 1-year-old daughter nearly six years ago. "I turned around to pick mine up and by the time I looked back, Colleen's face and neck were covered in hives. I grabbed the sandwich away from her. Only the tiniest corner was bitten off. She was wheezing for air. It was terrifying.''

After a trip to the doctor, Colleen soon recovered. Tests with an allergist confirmed her peanut allergy and the Tretheway household became a peanut-free zone. Tretheway figured that was enough.

That is, until the "peanut kiss incident.''

Half a year had passed. Tretheway ate a peanut butter sandwich at her parents' house and went shopping. Three hours later, she returned to her home in Valatie and planted a big kiss on her daughter.

"This huge welt formed on Colleen's cheek. That was it. I never touched peanuts again. The whole family stopped eating anything with peanuts,'' says Tretheway, 42, an attorney and the coordinator for special services at Columbia-Greene Community College.

DANGEROUS FOODS

Close to 7 million Americans, including more than 2 million school-age children, suffer from food allergies. Severe food-allergy reactions account for an estimated 30,000 emergency room visits, 2,000 hospitalizations and 200 deaths each year, according to Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, or FAAN.

Eight foods account for 90 percent of allergic reactions: peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios, etc.), shellfish, fish, eggs, milk, soy and wheat. For young children, the main culprit is peanuts, and physicians report that the prevalence of peanut allergy in the United States is on the rise.

Peanuts are the leading cause of fatal and near-fatal allergic reactions, making the legumes the most dangerous of all food allergies. For some, even a small amount of peanut protein can cause anaphylactic shock -- the blood pressure drops, the throat swells up and breathing stops -- and it's fatal if not treated immediately.

Lori Ira knows this fear all too well. When her 2-year-old, Katlyn, grabbed a handful of Chex snack mix, Ira was concerned her daughter might choke on the chunky pieces. Instead, Katlyn vomited, turned blotchy and red, and started gasping for breath.

"We called the doctor and ended up in the emergency room,'' recalls Ira, of that day nine years ago. "The allergist discovered her peanut allergy and her allergy to tree nuts, too. She's extremely sensitive to even the smallest amounts. Peanut dust in the air or peanut residue left behind on an object can cause an intense reaction. We have to be so careful.''

DETECTIVE WORK

Avoiding problematic foods requires careful detective work. Parents of children with food allergies read every label on every food they buy. Peanut products, for example, permeate an array of foods, including sauces, crackers, processed snacks, brown gravy and soups.

"It's very difficult because there are many unexpected sources of peanut products, and ingredients change and the labels can be hard to decipher,'' says Dr. Jocelyn Celestin, chief of the allergy and immunology unit for Albany Medical Center. "People with food allergies need consistent and reliable food labels.''

The cry is being heard. Two weeks ago, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., introduced legislation to improve ingredient labeling on foods. The Food Allergen Consumer Protection Act would require clear, complete labels naming ingredients in common language, and manufacturers would have to take steps to reduce the chance of cross-contamination during food processing.

Tretheway vigilantly monitors the foods around Colleen, now 6, especially when they're at social functions.

"At a birthday party recently, 20 little girls dug into their treats and suddenly, all around Colleen, they were eating peanut butter cups,'' says Tretheway. "I slapped my hand over Colleen's mouth and nose and ran her out of there.''

FORMING A GROUP

In the first four years of life, 6 to 8 percent of kids have food allergies, because their immune systems are not yet mature and they are more sensitive to allergens than adults, according to Dr. Hugh Sampson, chief of pediatric allergy at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Many kids outgrow food allergies, but allergies to shellfish and peanuts tend to be lifelong.

Such difficulties led Ira, who lives in Schenectady, to form the New York Nut Allergy Awareness Group, or NYNAAG. "When Katlyn was 4 or 5 years old, it was hard to find anyone she could play with. So I decided to find other parents of kids with peanut allergies and I ended up forming NYNAAG. We started a play group for the kids and a support group for the parents,'' says Ira.

Today, NYNAAG (pronounced Nye-nag because it does "a lot of nagging to food companies,'' says Ira) meets monthly and has four dozen families participating. The parents share updates on food products and coping strategies.

"We are constantly calling manufacturers and checking on what's safe. It's a lot of homework. It's not a project. It's a career,'' says Ira, who has full-time work as a staffing coordinator for a home health care agency and also works in the nut-free school cafeteria she helped to establish at the middle school Katlyn attends.

Working with the state attorney general's office, Tretheway was the lead author on a petition for improved food labeling. She presented the petition and testified before a panel of federal Food and Drug Administration officials last summer in Washington, D.C.

In case a serious reaction occurs, Celestin and other physicians recommend that people with food allergies carry a shot of self-injectable epinephrine known as EpiPen, which slows a reaction until medical attention can be given. Colleen Tretheway and Katlyn Ira both carry EpiPen everywhere they go, as do their parents. Thankfully, Colleen's younger sister, Meaghan, and Katlyn's younger sister, Alyson, do not have food allergies. But the uneasiness goes on.

"I'm concerned about the psychological impact,'' says Tretheway. "Colleen is afraid to eat anything away from home. She's very fearful and that's very sad.''

PREVENTING ATTACKSAt the present time, there is no cure for food allergies. Avoiding the problem food is the only way to prevent an allergic reaction. Food allergy specialists recommend these protective measures:

* Women should stay away from peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish while they're pregnant and when breast-feeding, but should not avoid milk and eggs since both contain vital nutrients. Breast milk is still the best food for newborns because it has a protective effect on a baby's immune system.

* Don't give a baby cow's milk or other dairy products until he's a year old, and don't introduce eggs until 18 to 24 months.

* If there are no allergies in the family, wait until a child is 2 before feeding him peanut butter. If one of the parents, especially the mother, has any sort of food allergy, then avoid peanut butter until age 3.

* Children younger than 5 who are allergic to peanuts should avoid all nuts because of the risk of developing new nut sensitivities.

* Epinephrine is the medication used to control a severe allergic reaction. It is available by prescription as an EpiPen auto injector.

* Baby sitters, friends' parents, and school and day-care personnel should be trained to deal with a serious allergic reaction -- how to recognize symptoms, how to use EpiPen and to go to the emergency room for further treatment and observation.

For information, contact the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, (800) 929-4040; go to [url="http://www.foodallergy.org,"]http://www.foodallergy.org,[/url] [url="http://www.peanutallergy.com,"]http://www.peanutallergy.com,[/url] [url="http://www.allergicchild.com"]http://www.allergicchild.com[/url] or the New York Nut Allergy Awareness Group Web site at [url="http://www.timesunion.com/communities."]http://www.timesunion.com/communities.[/url]

Sources: The Journal of the American Medical Association; Parents magazine; Food Allergy and Alaphylaxis Network

FOODS TO WATCH Peanuts: The source of most fatal and nearly-fatal food allergy reactions. Peanuts can be found in an unexpected array of food products, from chili and hot chocolate to potato chips and egg rolls.

Tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, cashews, etc.): About one-third of people with peanut allergies are also allergic to at least one tree nut. In addition to foods, some cosmetics and body care products may contain almond, walnut, macadamia or other tree nut oils.

Milk: Most individuals with a milk allergy must stay clear of all milk-based dairy products. Watch for cross-contamination in restaurants and delis from cheese, butter, sour cream and yogurt. Also, casein, a milk protein, is found in some canned tuna fish and meats.

Eggs: About one-third of young children who are allergic to eggs or milk products also will develop other food allergies. Some egg substitutes contain egg whites and egg white may also be added to the foam in fancy coffees. Read labels carefully on breads, baked desserts, ice cream and yogurt.

Shellfish: One of the two food allergies (the other is peanuts) that children are unlikely to outgrow. Although it is wise for someone with a shellfish allergy to avoid all fish, an allergist can run tests for specific types of fish.

Fish: This allergy is commonly reported in both adults and children. People who have had an allergic reaction to one species of fish should avoid all fish. Also, steer clear of seafood restaurants and fish markets even for nonfish meals because of the high risk of cross-contamination.

Soy: Avoiding processed foods that contain soybeans can be difficult. Soy products may be found in baked goods, canned tuna, cereals, crackers, infant formula, sauces, soups and even some peanut butters. Many soy-allergic people can tolerate soy lecithin and soybean oil.

Wheat: Most children outgrow allergies to wheat. Wheat is an ingredient in some types of imitation crab meat, and at least one brand of hot dogs and one brand of ice cream. Be aware that many country-style wreaths and other home decorations contain wheat products.

Sources: Food Allergy and Alaphylaxis Network (FAAN).

[This message has been edited by Lam (edited May 21, 2002).]

On May 21, 2002

KatiesMom, thanks for posting the link. It does work and the article is excellent. I'm planning to group e-mail it out.

Many thanks and best wishes! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

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On May 21, 2002

Katie's Mom,

I loved the Times Union when I went to college in Albany, and now I love it even more. Great article! And NYNAAG is a great organization - I heard about them through someone I met at a FAAN conference.

Amy

On May 21, 2002

Katiesmom: thanks for posting! I keep a file with copies of articles to use when educating others about PA! Thanks! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

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