Taking Charge of Your Allergies

When I started this blog a few months ago, there was an upcoming food allergy conference that I really wanted to attend. I thought that with my household being allergic to five of the top eight allergens, I would have a lot to say about this topic, but I missed the conference due to other obligations.

It turned out that the allergies in my household are generally under control even though I am one for living a little dangerously. I let my child take candy from strangers on Halloween.

Most people spend all year teach their children to never take candy from strangers then throw that rule out on Halloween. The parents of allergic children generally do not throw that rule out on Halloween. I teach my child to avoid all of the chocolate candy and anything with nuts. I think that teaching my child to be able to distinguish the allergens from the non-allergens is a life-management skill.

In the image below, I was completely convinced that I knew what the allergen was, and I was wrong.

Many people are allergic to nuts, so the allergen is the nuts, right?

After listening to my child sniffle for a few days after Halloween, my spouse pointed out that Nerds have a label that say the candy “May contain eggs.” A lot of products have one of the following labels: “Made in a facility,” “Made on shared equipment,” or “May contain.” Legally, these words mean nothing; but through experience, I generally avoid products that may contain things that members of my household are allergic to. This one had slipped past me. After I removed the Nerds, my child’s sniffling went away.

To learn more details about the food handling processes of a given company, I could call the company and ask. Or I can cheat and go to SnackSafely because they have called the company and asked. Do they clean the equipment between runs of a product that may contain allergens? Are the products in a shared facility really on shared equipment?

For most people, there is some low, low amount of allergen that is effectively negligible. If the government set very low limits for when allergens had to be disclosed for each of the warning labels, then we could avoid allergic reactions in most people. However, there are the outliers, people who are still allergic when exposed to negligible amounts of allergen, and it could potentially be bad for those people if legal limits were set so we live in a world of ambiguous labeling.

Going back to the image, both Nerds and macadamia nuts may be allergens in my household. After our last visit to the allergist, we were told that it was possible that my child has outgrown his almond and macadamia nut allergies. Instead of sitting for a four hour food challenge, we tried to feed my son small slivers of almond. After he ate a few, he said his throat itched so we stopped. We were going to try macadamia nuts because we are going to Hawaii soon, but there was no particular time where we could answer the question “Would a trip to urgent care be convenient right now?” with a “Yes,” and there was no desire to sit through a four hour food challenge.

Over the summer, a mother of an allergic child mentioned being allowed on an airplane early to clean the seats in her row for fear of an allergic reaction while airborne over an ocean, and I am still considering whether that precaution is reasonable or overly cautious.

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