Friday, July 30, 2010

Conquering Starbucks

I don't know about you, but for me, one of the saddest parts of being a food-allergy parent is going into a particular food-related establishment and thinking, "My kid will probably never be able to eat/drink anything here." All bakeries and ice cream shops fall within this category. Until recently, so did Starbucks.

Of course, we have always stayed away from the fresh-baked items behind the counter there because all of them contain things (egg, milk) Ainsley can't eat and there are also cross-contamination issues with the nut-containing products. And I would never think of giving her the coffee, not only because she's 5 but also because sometimes the coffee beans have been roasted with nuts. Usually, my friends get their kids little drink boxes of Horizon chocolate milk there, but that's out for us because of Ainsley's dairy allergy. Needless to say, I was always at a loss in terms of what I could order for Ainsley so we usually stayed away from the place (in a pinch I would get her a bottle of fruit juice, but she was never excited by that).

Recently, however, my babysitter took the girls into our local Starbucks to get something for herself and found that it was now stocking packages of Lucy's cookies, which are free of egg, milk, and peanuts/tree nuts (they are also gluten-free). The manager also assured her that it would be safe for Ainsley to have a cup of soy milk (poured straight from the container into a clean cup) with a shot of vanilla flavoring for extra pizzazz.

Ainsley has loved ordering the cookies and the soy milk and now says that Starbucks is "one of her favorite restaurants." It would quickly jump to the top if it gave out toys with its food like McDonalds.

If you have a child with the same allergies as Ainsley, you might want to give Starbucks another look - it seems that it is making an effort to reach out to food-allergic individuals.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bathing in almonds

So Ainsley loves almond milk, and she has also started eating honey-nut cheerios (made with just almonds) without a problem! What a new world for us - now I can say my daughter is allergic to "most tree nuts" instead of "all tree nuts." The problem, of course, is acquiring almond products that haven't been processed with other nuts. All of the almonds I've seen in stores have a warning that they were processed with other nuts. Thankfully, however, I found an online almond supplier that ships directly from the farm and guarantees that its almonds have not mixed with any other nuts. I just ordered a 5-lb bag of almonds and a 5-lb bag of almond meal - I am so excited to start cooking with these things!

I also ordered a 3-jar supply of Barney Butter (almond butter made in a nut-free facility) from Amazon. I found that Amazon deeply discounts this product if you sign up to have it shipped to you on a regular basis. I signed up for an every-two-month supply of 3 jars and it reduced the price from $23.08 + shipping to $19 with no shipping cost.

Unfortunately, we received the results of Ainsley's allergy tests and they showed that her numbers to all of the other allergens are about the same. The allergist did give me the green light to incorporate very tiny amounts of milk and/or egg into baked goods, however, to see if Ainsley can tolerate it (a long time ago she used to eat things with egg and milk baked in so I'm not worried about a severe allergic reaction with this sort of thing). He feels that now that she is 5 and can tell me quickly if her mouth is feeling itchy or she otherwise feels funny that it is an appropriate time to see if we can incorporate some of this food into her diet in a way that is unlikely to cause a serious allergic reaction. It is going to be so weird to start cooking with those things again!

Friday, July 16, 2010

New recommendation on whether to get a flu shot if you're egg-allergic

Food Allergy Initiative just issued this statement recommending that egg-allergic individuals talk to their allergists about getting the regular and H1N1 flu vaccines this Fall. Apparently the current versions of the flu vaccines contain little to no egg protein and are safe for many egg-allergic individuals.

For the last two years, Ainsley has gotten the flu shot (this year she got the regular & H1N1). we go to her allergist's office and he does a skin test with the vaccine to make sure she doesn't react, then injects her with it. Given that both of my kids are highly susceptible to respiratory viruses (we've had a nebulizer in the house since Ainsley was itty bitty), I make sure they're vaccinated every year.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

She can eat almonds! And (some) Chick-Fil-A!

My dad is doing well and is almost out of the hospital, so my attention has turned to other things - including Ainsley's annual allergist appt., which was yesterday. She had blood drawn, of course, and we won't get the results on that until next week. But we have already been able to introduce a couple of new things into her diet. During her appt., the doctor suggested that I take her to Chick-Fil-A for the first time and give her some waffle fries. He emphasized that almost all of his peanut-allergic patients have no problem at all with the kind of peanut oil Chick-Fil-A uses so she should be fine, and it would open up another restaurant to us. I took her there and ordered a kids' meal with waffle fries and the "grilled chicken nuggets" - an off-menu item I had heard that they make for kids allergic to the egg, milk, and/or wheat in the batter used on their regular nuggets.

She had no reaction either to the nuggets (which tasted great!) or the waffle fries, so we can now add Chick-Fil-A into our rotation of Ainsley-approved restaurants (already on the list are McD's, Burger King, and Wendy's).

The doctor also emphasized that I should try Ainsley on almonds. He said that her number to almonds was so low last year that he was sure she wouldn't have a reaction. He offered that if I was really concerned about an allergic reaction, I could give her some almond milk in the lobby of his office.

You might recall that I chickened out on giving her almond milk to drink last year after I put some on her arm and it caused her skin to itch and look a little irritated. I told him about this and he reminded me that some things can cause a very mild skin reaction even if the child actually isn't allergic to them.

So I took the plunge and bought some Silk almond milk at the store and gave her a drop right before we drove home, thinking that if she showed the slightest reaction I could head to the doctor's office instead of my house since the office is very close to where I live (and, of course, I carry her medicine pack with us everywhere so also had an Epi-Pen on hand in case of emergency).

Thankfully, she had no reaction and loved the taste of the almond milk, so I gave her more when we got home.

I am quite excited about this and am all ready to order Barney Butter for us to use at the house. I have also had fun thinking of all the yummy baked goods I can make with it.

I am undecided as to whether I'll give her whole almonds yet. My concern is that I can't imagine I'll be able to find any that are processed in an otherwise nut-free facility. I thought about washing them first to remove residue that might have gotten on them during processing. Opinions? I will ask the allergist about this when I talk to him next week.