Monday, December 9, 2013

Allergy-Free Gingerbread Houses and Cookies

By Kelley Lindberg

My niece's creation from a Christmas past.
It’s that time of year when gingerbread houses and gingerbread men (and their assorted wives, children, neighbors, dogs, and lawn furnishings) make their appearance. Traditional gingerbread recipes are full of common allergens, so I updated my list from last year of allergy-safe recipes for those days when you have entirely way too much creative energy and time on your hands. (Yeah, right. We can all hope.)
If you’re in the mood to bake up some festive architecture or the ginger-folk that live there, here are a few places to jumpstart your allergy-free baking frenzy:

If you don’t have time for baking, but still feel compelled to glue candy to a house (and who doesn’t?), here are a couple of fantastic no-bake options:
  • The Candy Cottage snap-together plastic gingerbread house lets you add your favorite icing and candy without the time-consuming baking. Nice! You can even wash off the decorations and use it again next year. Many thanks to Michelle Fogg (UFAN’s fearless president) for finding this one last year.
  • Sensitive Sweets' Allergy-free Gingerbread House Kit uses pre-baked gingerbread pieces, and you can order it with or without allergy-free candy from Surf Sweets. The kit is free from nuts, gluten, soy, egg, and dairy. Cool, hunh? 

Looking for safe candy to use for decorations? Depending on your allergens (check all labels for ingredients), try Necco wafers, Chex cereal or Frosted mini-wheats for roofing, Smarties (I like to stack them, wrappers and all, to look like firewood or logs on a gingerbread train car), Dum-Dums, Spangler’s candy canes, Bob’s Sweet Stripes Soft Mint Candies (red & white peppermints), Bakers & Chefs Starlight Mints, Skittles, Starburst, your favorite safe fruit snacks and fruit roll-ups, Haribo gummy bears, Jolly Ranchers, Hot Tamales, Mike & Ikes, Dots, Life Savers, rock candy, candy sticks (those swirly candy sticks that they used to sell in general stores – maybe the ones at Cracker Barrel are safe?), or sticks of safe chewing gum.

Enjoy your new Home Sweet Gingerbread Home!

Monday, November 25, 2013

It’s a Law! The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act Is Official

By Kelley Lindberg

This Thanksgiving, we have another reason to be grateful: on November 13, 2013, President Obama signed into law the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. This law is important because it recommends that states pass their own laws requiring schools to stock epinephrine auto-injectors. Read FARE’s announcement and watch a video of the President signing the bill here: “School Access to Epinephrine.” 

Why is it important to ask schools to stock their own epinephrine? A big reason is because studies show that 20 – 25% of all of the epinephrine injections administered in schools are given to students or adult staff WHO DIDN’T KNOW THEY HAD AN ALLERGY, and who therefore didn’t have their own medication. All too frequently we read about another child who died from a food allergy reaction because they didn’t have immediate access to epinephrine. This law will encourage schools to make sure that scenario never happens to one of their students.

Anyone can develop a food allergy at any time in their lives, often to foods they’ve been eating uneventfully for years. I developed allergies to avocado and brewer’s yeast in my 20s and to barley in my 30s. Then I developed a contact allergy to aluminum and other metals in my 40s. Just because a student hasn’t even shown signs of a food allergy doesn’t mean they won’t develop one. And if it happens at school, the consequences can be tragic.

This new law doesn’t, in and of itself, require schools to stock epinephrine. Instead, it encourages states to pass their own laws requiring stock epinephrine auto-injectors, and it provides incentives for states to do that. It raises the priority level of dealing with food allergies across the nation, pointing a spotlight at this very serious problem and illuminating a very simple way to deal with it – consistent and effective school policies that require epinephrine autoinjectors be added to each school’s medical first aid kits.

Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that makes EpiPen auto-injectors, is supporting this effort with a program called EpiPen4Schools, which allows eligible schools to receive up to 4 EpiPen or EpiPen Jr. auto-injectors at no cost. With this program, any school, no matter how tight their budget, can make sure they have the medication on hand to save lives.

So as you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, remember to offer a word of thanks for the tireless advocates and legislators who worked hard over the last couple of years to make this Act into a Law. And many thanks to President Obama and his peanut-allergic daughter Malia, who recognized the importance of this law and its potential to save lives.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Allergy-Free Thanksgiving Recipes 2013

By Kelley Lindberg

The food-oriented holidays just keep coming, don’t they? Thanksgiving, more than any other, is ALL about the food. There’s simply no way around it. The crazy thing is, the food is also wrapped up in traditions. Some folks get downright militant about those food traditions. Even if they don’t particularly like sweet potato casserole, for example, they’ll serve that dish or die trying, because it’s tradition, darn it!

Yeah, I don’t really get it, either. But most of us do it anyway.

So if you’re aiming for traditional this year, but you’re dealing with food allergies, I’ve put together another round-up of traditional Thanksgiving recipes that can be made allergy-safe. To see last year’s Thanksgiving recipes, see “Allergy-Free Thanksgiving Recipes 2012.” This year, I tried to go for different recipes to give you more choices. So check out last year’s post, too, to double your options!
  • The turkey: Turkeys, especially the self-basing kinds, are injected with solutions that make them tender. However, those solutions can harbor allergens like milk, wheat, soy, or corn. So check labels before you buy. Read the very helpful article at called “Before You Buy a Thanksgiving Turkey” for some great advice.
  • Stuffing: The type of stuffing you like probably depends on where you’re from. Southerners might go for cornbread stuffing, while East Coasters might indulge in oyster stuffing, for example. So here are some variations. (Be sure you substitute safe ingredients, such as your family’s favorite safe bread, for whatever the recipe calls for):
    • Traditional-Style (bread, celery, onion, spices): Try these: Traditional-Style Vegan Stuffing, Traditional-Style Vegetarian Stuffing (YouTube video), or this nifty recipe for making your own Instant Stuffing Mix that you can store in the pantry and cook up any time.
    • Herbed Oyster Stuffing: Try this recipe, but use a safe cornbread recipe for the cornbread (see below), use safe margarine instead of the butter, and make sure to use a turkey, chicken, or vegetable stock that is safe for your allergies.
    • Sausage, Apple, and Cranberry Stuffing: Again, be sure you check the labels on your bread and stock, and substitute safe margarine for the butter. 
    • Quinoa stuffing: Skip the bread completely and try this gluten-free quinoa stuffing with zucchini, butternut squash, dried apricots, and cranberries. Yum! 
    • Wild Rice Stuffing: Skip the pecans in this recipe and make sure your chicken broth is safe for your family. 
    • Cornbread Stuffing: This recipe from The Pioneer Woman is very similar to my grandmothers (except my grandmother’s recipe calls for biscuits instead of French bread). So use whichever white bread is safe for you, use safe chicken stock or broth, and safe butter. Lots of photos!
  • Cornbread: If you need a good cornbread recipe to use in your cornbread stuffing, try this one for Albers® Corn Bread, which I’ve been using for years. However, skip the sugar (unless you like sweet stuffing – but I prefer savory, and I’m originally from Texas, so you’ll never find me putting sugar in my cornbread!). Also, you have to make two substitutions: replace the egg with Ener-G egg replacer or other egg substitute, and replace the milk with soy milk or rice milk. I use rice milk, and it works great.
  • Mashed Potatoes: To make mashed potatoes allergy-safe, use any basic mashed potato recipe and replace the butter with a safe margarine and replace the milk or cream with rice milk or soy milk. Or, ditch the whole butter-and-cream idea completely and use chicken broth instead to flavor them. Here is the super-simple recipe from Campbell’s Kitchen for Skinny Mashed Potatoes. Or for something a little fancier, try this dairy-free recipe for Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Gravy: This is the same recipe I wrote about last year, but it’s a great, simple Allergy Free Turkey Gravy from that explains the steps well. You can use either regular wheat or wheat-free all-purpose flour in this yummy Thanksgiving staple. YouTube has lots of videos showing how to make turkey gravy if you’re not sure of the process.
  • Cranberry Relish: How about a no-cook Cranberry-Raspberry Relish? Throw everything in a food processor, and voila! Or this Cranberry-Raspberry Relish is even easier, using only 2 ingredients (a can of whole berry cranberry sauce and raspberry Jell-O).
  • Sweet Potatoes: Tired of the traditional mashed sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows? Try Cinnamon Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Apples (just use safe margarine or olive oil). And here’s a delicious version of Candied Yams that uses orange juice and brown sugar. Heaven! Just use safe margarine instead of the butter. 
  • Green Bean Casserole: Whoever does the marketing for those French-fried onion rings is a genius, because they’ve managed to convince us all that green bean casserole is a traditional food. I’m so over that. Personally, I’d much rather indulge in this traditional Greek recipe for Fasolakia, which is green beans, tomatoes, and onions all sautéed together with a little garlic and olive oil. Super easy, healthy, and delish! And personally, I replace the water with a can of safe chicken broth. This recipe calls for fresh green beans and tomatoes. Here’s a secret: this works equally well with 2 drained cans of green beans (look for Whole Green Beans instead of cut) and 1 can of diced tomatoes. Shhh…don’t tell. You can always sprinkle some safe breadcrumbs or crushed Chex cereal on top after it's done cooking if you want it to look more "casserole-ish."
  • Pumpkin Pie: This recipe is a repeat from last year, but really… allergy-free pumpkin pies are hard, and this recipe works: “Mom’s Pumpkin Pie” from the Kids with Food Allergies website.  This recipe is in the “free recipe” section of the website, so you don’t have to be a member to access it!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Egg-Free, Milk-Free, Nut-Free Root Beer Cupcakes

By Kelley Lindberg

I’ve posted this super-easy allergy-friendly recipe for cupcakes before, but since I just made them in a different flavor for my son’s birthday, I thought I’d post it again. The cupcakes have only 2 ingredients: a box of safe cake mix, and a can of soda. I promise, it works, and it is ridiculously easy! Forget the instructions on the box, which call for oil, water, and eggs. Just use a can of club soda (my usual recipe) or regular soda. In this case, since I was making Root Beer cupcakes, I used a can of root beer. For the frosting, use your own recipe (or Pillsbury Creamy Supreme vanilla frosting, which contains soy), and add in some root beer concentrate.

(OK, I lied. If you live at high altitude, you'll want to add 2 Tbsp of flour to the cake mix. So there are 3 ingredients for high-altitude cooks.)

Duncan Hines makes several flavors of cake mix that are free from eggs, milk, and nuts. For my Root Beer cupcakes, I used the Duncan Hines Classic Yellow cake mix, which contains soy and wheat.

I haven’t tried it with a gluten-free cake mix yet, so if you try it, let me know if it works!

Root Beer Cupcakes

  • 1 box safe cake mix (such as Duncan Hines Classic Yellow cake mix)
  • high altitude only: 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 can root beer
  • 2 tubs Pillsbury Creamy Supreme vanilla frosting (or other safe frosting)
  • 1 - 2 Tbsp root beer concentrate (sold in the baking aisle, next to the vanilla extract)
Put the dry cake mix in a mixing bowl. (If you’re at high altitude, add 2 Tbsp flour to the cake mix.) Pour in the can of root beer. Beat on low for 30 seconds until mixed, then beat at a higher speed for 2 minutes. Pour into cupcake papers in a muffin tin. Bake according to the directions for cupcakes on the box (usually 350 degrees for 18 – 21 minutes). Cool on a rack.

When ready to frost, dump both tubs of frosting into a bowl, then add 1 Tbsp of the root beer concentrate and mix well. Add more root beer concentrate if you want a stronger flavor.

Frost. Serve. Enjoy. Smile gracefully at the compliments. Hand out seconds.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Allergy-Free Soup Recipes

By Kelley Lindberg

Snowflakes were falling this morning outside my window. There’s a fresh layer of snow on the mountains, making the few remaining yellow and orange leaves look especially lovely. Fall is giving way to winter everywhere I look.

It’s turning into soup weather.

So let’s try some new allergy-free soup and stew recipes together, shall we?  
  • Minestrone. Those Italians are wizards with veggies, and a good minestrone is a thing of veggie beauty. Try this recipe from the Food Network magazine. Just skip the parmesan cheese, which is just a garnish, and make sure your chicken broth and pasta are safe for your allergies.
  • Creamy Vegan Baked Potato Soup. For me, potato soup is the ultimate comfort soup. This recipe from Marni Fogelson-Teel on is dairy-free but still has a creamy texture, and it is as straightforward as it gets, plus it has step-by-step photos! For toppings, you can try dairy-free cheese, like Daiya brand, crumbled bacon, diced green onions, sautéed kale or spinach, or anything else you like on a baked potato (even salsa or chili!).
  • Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. Steph Davis, at, serves up this great-looking bisque-type squash soup. She describes the recipe as “ridiculously easy,” because “it requires almost no actual cooking, uses 5 ingredients, and tastes like it’s from a gourmet restaurant.” Works for me!
  • Southwestern Corn Chowder. This recipe by Knorr, on the Yummly website, only takes a half-hour to make. Just use a safe margarine and safe chicken stock (or another type of broth/stock if you’re avoiding chicken). Believe it or not, a can of “cream style corn” doesn’t contain any cream, so it’s safe (at least the Del Monte can I checked was dairy-free – be sure you read the ingredients before you buy it!).
  • Beef Stew. If you're looking for something filling and warm, this recipe from Martha Stewart couldn’t be simpler, and you can cook it in either a crockpot (my favorite cooking buddy!) or in the oven. Yep, that’s right. The oven. My carnivorous husband will love this one! (It calls for 2 Tbsp of all-purpose flour, mainly for thickening, so if you can’t have regular flour, try it with gluten-free flour, or skip the flour altogether. It will probably work out just fine without it – just perhaps not quite as thick.) Also, note that the crock-pot variation neglects to mention that you should add water, so be sure you add water or beef broth/stock (like the oven version says).
  • Chili. Craving some chili? I posted a Chili Recipe Round-Up last January, so check it out for ideas.
Got a favorite soup or stew recipe? Post the recipe or a link to it in the Comments. In the meantime, get out those fuzzy slippers and toasty throws and stay warm!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Allergy-Free Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

By Kelley Lindberg

This week, I’m guest blogging over at Living Without magazine’s blog. Click on over, and you’ll find my recipe for Allergy-Free Roasted Pumpkin Seeds. They are a tasty, healthy snack, and they’re free from the Big 8 allergens. Enjoy!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Allergy-Safe Trick-or-Treating Tips

By Kelley Lindberg

Trick-or-treating can be one of the scariest aspects of Halloween for parents of food-allergic children. But for the kids, it’s one of the most fun parts. So what should the parent of a food-allergic child do? For most of us, our first instinct is to keep them home, period. But our second instinct is often to find safe ways to help our child experience life the way “normal” kids do, rather than letting food allergies define or limit them.

So is it possible to make trick-or-treating a safer activity? You bet.

First, remember that for kids, while they get excited about all the candy, it’s really the adventure of dressing up and going door-to-door that’s important. So help them focus on the “adventure” part of the night, not the candy, and realize that you CAN make trick-or-treating safe.

Here are some tips for safe trick-or-treating:

Tip #1: No nibbling until you're home!
Before going out, remind everyone that no one eats anything until everyone gets home and the parent reads the label on every piece of candy. That way, no one is eating unidentified foods and having a reaction while you’re out in the dark a block away from home. Make sure the kids agree, understand, and agree again. No one sneaks anything (not even Dad).

Tip #2: Wear gloves.
If your child is super-sensitive to an ingredient, have them wear gloves with their costume, so that any allergenic candy that touches their hand on the way into the bag doesn’t cause a skin reaction. Toss the glove in the wash or in the trash when you get home.

Tip #3: Only eat candy with labels!
Unlabeled candy is assumed to be unsafe. Period. The only exceptions are brand-name candies that you are already very familiar with and know are safe. (For example, I know Starbursts and Skittles are okay for my son, so I’ll let him keep those.) If there is a type of candy that he’s particularly interested in, I might promise to look for it at the store the next day, and read the ingredients there. But it goes into a separate container until we’ve seen it at the store and verified its safety. See my post from Oct 14, “Allergy-Free Halloween Candy Round-Up 2013, Part 2 (Local Stores),” for a list of many Halloween candies and their ingredients – it might help you sort through what isn’t safe.

Tip #4: Plan a few "safe houses."
A day or two before Halloween, try setting up a network of “safe houses” – families in your neighborhood who will agree to have some “safe” candy to give to your child. (You can even give them the candy to give to your child!) Most neighbors would be more than happy to accommodate your child if they know ahead of time. No one wants to think they’re ruining a child’s big night. You’d be surprised how willing most people are to help.

Tip #5: Go to the Utah Food Allergy Network’s Trunk or Treat!
At UFAN's annual Trunk or Treat, you bring non-food “treats,” such as novelty toys or temporary tattoos, to hand out to all the food-allergic kids who go trick-or-treating from car to car in the parking lot. You can even decorate your car if you want! This year, it’s being held Saturday, Oct 26, 2013, at 4:00 pm, at the Intermountain Medical Center Parking Lot (Southwest corner on 5121 Cottonwood St., Murray). It’s always a riot seeing all the adorable kids in their costumes, and it’s a relief not to have to worry about any candy at all! Not in in the Salt Lake City area? Check for food allergy support groups in your area who may be doing similar Halloween food-free celebrations.

Tip #7: Take epinephrine autoinjectors with you.
Not only do you need to make sure you’ve got your EpiPens or Auvi-Qs immediately available for obvious reasons, but making sure your child realizes he has to have them with him while trick-or-treating may remind him of how important it is not to cheat and sneak a bite of candy before you get home and read the label.

Tip #7: Make a plan for unsafe candy ahead of time.
Before you head out on your adventure (preferably several days before, so that the kids aren’t overly excited and can actually hear you), talk about what you’re going to do with any unsafe candy when the night is over. Here are some ideas:
  1. Go trick-or-treating with a friend or sibling, and at the end of the night, dump both kids’ candy together, then make two piles – a “safe” pile for the allergic kid, and the other pile for the non-allergic kid. If they both know about this plan beforehand, they are usually more than willing to do this. (My son used to trick-or-treat with a friend who had braces – there were plenty of candies the friend couldn’t eat because of the braces, and plenty that my son couldn’t eat because of allergies, and it’s amazing how generous they both have been about handing over “safe for you” loot.)
  2. Buy a bag of safe candy ahead of time, and at the end of the night, let your child “trade” you for all the unsafe candy he brought home. (Then take the unsafe candy to work the next day to share with co-workers.)
  3. “Buy” the unsafe candy from your child – but establish a price ahead of time, such as a nickel a piece, a dollar a pound, or the whole kit and caboodle for a new DVD, a new toy, a trip to the movies, a night out with Dad, a visit to the dollar store, or other such treat.
  4. Look for a dentist or other business in your area that buys candy from kids on the day after Halloween. (Search the internet to find one in your area.) The kids get money, and dentists often donate the candy to places like children’s hospitals or soldiers serving overseas.
  5. Let the child “donate” the unsafe candy to Mom or Dad, so they can take it to work and share it with their coworkers.
  6. Let the child donate the unsafe candy to a local women’s shelter, food bank, homeless shelter, or family of a soldier – the soldiers always seem to appreciate candy that they can share with friends or give to children in war zones.
Got any more trick-or-treating tips? Post a comment and share!

Whatever your family chooses to do for Halloween this year, I hope it’s spooktacular!




Monday, October 14, 2013

Allergy-Free Halloween Candy Round-Up 2013, Part 2 (Local Stores)

By Kelley Lindberg

Last week, I shared some online sources for ordering allergen-free Halloween candy. This week, I’ll tell you about the candy I found in stores locally. Believe it or not, there are plenty of choices, no matter what your allergies are. You can use this list to shop for candy, and you can use it on Halloween night to help your little trick-or-treaters sort through their candy loot.
Most of the common brands can be found just about anywhere, like grocery stores, Sam’s Club, Costco, Walmart, and Target. (If I only saw a product in one store, I’ll list the store where I found it.) Dollar Tree has a surprising amount of safe “icky” choices, like gummy skeletons and body parts, lollipops shaped like tombstones, and zombie finger-shaped candy, so if you’re looking for something fun and gross to put on top of cupcakes, for example, try Dollar Tree!
Large companies use multiple factories. That means the same candy may be produced in different places, with different allergens present. So CHECK LABELS on every single piece of candy. Wonka is one of the worst companies for producing the same candy in different packages containing different allergen warnings, but they are one of the best at individually labeling their candies so you can verify its safety before every bite. A few candies have changed their ingredients and moved to other places in my list from last year -- a good reminder to even check old favorites.
I’ve done my best to give you a representative list of what I found, to help make your candy shopping trip a little easier. But please double-check every label before you purchase, and if in doubt, call the manufacturer for clarification (most list a phone number right on their package).
I may have missed something or made mistakes as I scribbled my notes while standing in the aisles. If you find a mistake, let me know. Also, if you find a great source for safe candy, let me know that, too.
First I’ll list candies that don’t list corn as an ingredient (because there aren’t very many of them). Then I’ll list the candies and treats that do contain corn, but are free from some or all of the Top 8 allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish).
By the way, EVERYTHING on this entire list is nut-free and peanut-free. That's where I started, then I broke them down by the other allergens. I hope it helps simplify your Halloween season!
Corn-free as well as free from Top 8 (These candies don’t list corn syrup in their ingredients, so they may be safe for corn-allergic kids – please double-check ingredients. Some list dextrose, and that can come from corn, so contact the manufacturer directly if you are allergic to corn):
  • Bob’s Sweet Stripes Soft Mint Candies (red & white peppermints) (Sam’s Club, 290 for $6.98)
  • Candy Jewelry (Dollar Tree, 16 pcs for $1)
  • Cotton Candy (in candy corn and rotten apple flavors) (Dollar Tree, $1/tub)
  • Giant Pixy Stix (Sam’s Club, 50 giant stix for $11.78)
  • Marshmallow Pop (contains gelatin) (Dollar Tree, $1 ea.)
  • Pixie Stix
  • Skulls & Bones Hard Candy (Dollar Tree, 11 for $1)
  • Smarties
Everything from here on down contains corn ingredients:

Free from Top 8 (Wheat, Peanut, Tree Nut, Milk, Egg, Soy, Fish, Shellfish):
  • Betty Crocker Halloween Fruit Snacks
  • Bloody Bites (plastic fangs with blood bags of blood-colored liquid candy) (Dollar Tree – 8 for $1)
  • Comix Mix Candy Stix (contains beef gelatin) (Dollar Tree – 22 for $1)
  • Dots
  • Dum-Dums
  • Grave Gummies (contains coconut) (Dollar Tree - 12 for $1)
  • Gummy Body Parts (contains coconut oil) (Dollar Tree – coffins and bags of 12 for $1) [Note: Last year, Walmart sold Frankford Candy Body Parts that contained peanuts, nuts, milk, soy, beef, and corn, so read company name and ingredients carefully]
  • Haribo Gummy Bears (contains coconut)
  • Hot Tamales
  • Jolly Rancher
  • Kellogg’s Fruity Snacks (no longer lists coconut oil as an ingredient!) (Sam’s Club - 24 per box, $7.10)
  • Life Savers Big Ring Gummies
  • Market Pantry Sour Gummi Worms (Target - single hang-bag)
  • Marvel Heroes Candy Sticks (contains beef gelatin) (Dollar Tree - 22 for $1)
  • Mike & Ike
  • Push Pops
  • Ring Pops
  • RIP Candy bones inside tombstones (Dollar Tree – 3 for $1)
  • Skittles
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Spongebob Gummy Krabby Patties (beef gelatin) (Dollar Tree, 8 for $1)
  • Spooky Lip Pop (Dollar Tree – $1 each)
  • Spooky Lollipop Rings (Dollar Tree – 5 for $1)
  • Starbursts
  • Swedish Fish
  • Zombie Fingers (Dollar Tree – 4 for $1)
Contains Soy or Soy Warning (but free from other 7 top allergens):
  • Bubble Gum Tape in plastic pumpkins and ghosts (Dollar Tree - 6 for $1)
  • Cry Baby Extra Sour Bubble Gum (Dollar Tree – 21 for $1)
  • Jolly Rancher Crunch ‘n’ Chew
  • Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews
  • Jolly Rancher Lollipops
  • Laffy Taffy
  • Laffy Taffy Ropes (Sam’s Club – 48 ropes, $9.52)
  • Wrigley’s Gum (Doublemint, Winterfresh, Big Red, Juicy Fruit, Spearmint)
Contains Wheat or Wheat warning (but free from other 7 top allergens):
  • Scooby-Doo Sour Straws (beef) (Dollar Tree – 10 for $1)
  • Sour Punch Straws (Sam’s Club, 24 for $10.98)
Contains Milk or Milk warning (but free from other 7 top allergens):
  • Pop Rocks
  • Popping Candy (Dollar Tree - 25 pouches for $1)
  • Ring Pops (Sam’s Club - 40 for $9.98)
Contains Egg or Egg warning (but free from other 7 top allergens):
  • Bottlecaps (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment – some have wheat warning)
  • Gobstoppers (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment)
  • Nerds (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment – some have wheat warning)
  • SweeTarts (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment – some have wheat warning)
Contains Soy and Wheat or warnings (but free from other 6 top allergens):
  • Airheads
  • Twizzlers
Contains Milk and Soy or warnings (but free from other 6 top allergens):
  • Charms Blow Pops
  • Double Bubble gum (check every individual Double Bubble candy label because ingredients vary by assortment and store)
  • Hershey’s Chocolate bars, the 1.55 ounce size ONLY (the S’mores size) (all other sizes contain nut warnings)
  • Kraft Caramels
  • Sugar Daddies (Dollar Tree – 10 for $1)
  • Tootsie Pops
  • Tootsie Rolls
Contains Wheat and Egg or warnings (but free from other 6 top allergens):
  • Bottlecaps (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment – some don’t have wheat warning)
  • Nerds (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment – some don’t have wheat warning)
  • Nerds Ropes (Sam’s Club - 24 for $13.18)
  • Shockers (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary) (Sam’s Club – 24 for $13.18)
  • SweeTarts (check every individual Wonka candy label because ingredients vary by assortment – some don’t have wheat warning)
Non-Candy Ideas:
  • Chex Mix, contains wheat, soy, and corn (Sam’s Club, 36 bags for $9.78)
  • Corn Nuts Ranch Flavor, contains corn but free from Big 8 (Sam’s Club – 18 for $8.12)
  • David’s Sunflower seeds (Sam’s Club, 60 bags in a bucket, $14.01)
  • Funyuns Onion Flavored Rings, contains milk, soy, and corn (Sam’s Club – 50 pouches for $11.98)
  • Keebler Crème-Filled Sugar Wafer Cookies, 24 packs of 10 cookies each, contains soy, wheat, and cornstarch (Sam’s Club - $8.48)
  • Lay’s Potato Chips, free from Top 8 (Sam’s Club, 50 pouches for $11.98)
  • Oberto Beef Jerky (Sam’s Club, 30 individually wrapped sticks for $9.64)
  • Oreos, regular size, 30 packs of 6 cookies each, contains soy, wheat, and corn (Sam’s Club – $9.56)
  • Slim Jim Meat Sticks, contains beef, chicken, soy, wheat, and corn (Sam’s Club – 100 individually wrapped for $16.64)
  • Zoo Animals crackers, contains wheat, corn, soy, milk (Sam’s Club, 36 bags for $7.48)
  • Drinks, like Kool-Aid Jammers or Capri Suns, or sodas in mini-cans – check ingredients
Non-Food Ideas:

Don’t forget, you don’t have to hand out candy to your trick-or-treaters. Walmart, Target, Dollar Tree, and party stores like Zurchers, as well as Oriental Trading Company’s website have plenty of Halloween-themed novelties you can hand out, such as:
  • Bat or Spider Rings
  • Plastic bugs and creepy crawlies
  • Halloween bouncy balls
  • Vampire teeth
  • Halloween-colored bracelets
  • Halloween pencils or erasers
  • Glow Sticks or bracelets
  • Drinking Straws with Halloween figures on them
Watch Out for These:

The following candies may land in your child’s trick-or-treat bags, and they may not have ingredients labels, so watch out for them:
  • Bazooka Gum-Filled Pops – lists only corn, but comes in an assortment listing all allergens in a factory warning
  • Columbina candies – all have a factory warning for peanuts, egg, tree nuts, soy, milk, and wheat
  • Hershey’s: All mini and fun-sized Hershey’s chocolates contain nut warnings and should be avoided. Plain milk-chocolate and dark-chocolate Hershey’s kisses are nut-free, but contain milk. Most flavored Hershey’s kisses (caramel, cherry-filled, etc.) list nut contamination. The only nut-free size of Hershey bars is the 1.55 ounce size (the type commonly sold alongside graham crackers and marshmallows for S’Mores.)
  • Jawbreakers contain only sucrose (doesn’t list corn), but packaged in an assortment that lists all the allergens in a factory warning
  • Lemonheads contain only corn, but are usually found in assortment bags that include warnings for all the allergens on the overall packaging
  • Taffy: I have not found any taffy that is nut-free, so assume all taffy contains nut contamination.Tiger Pops – packaging lists all allergens
  • Warheads – various packaging lists some or all Top 8 allergens in factory warnings


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Allergy-Free Halloween Candy Round-Up 2013, Part 1 (Online Sources)

Find tons of allergy-free
Halloween candy at online stores
like the Natural Candy Store
by Kelley Lindberg

Pumpkins are peeking out from every porch, store display, and window, so that must mean Halloween is coming… And that means it’s time for my annual Allergy-Free Halloween Candy Round-Up!

Nothing stresses parents of food-allergic kids like holidays. And Halloween, with its focus on candy, is one of the scariest! But believe it or not, there are plenty of ways to satisfy almost every sweet tooth, no matter what allergies your little ones have.

I’ve been shopping locally for candy to see what types of allergen-free candy we can find in stores and online. But since most candies I’ve been finding locally contain corn syrup and food colorings, if those are your issues, your best bet may be to order your candy online. If that’s the case, you’ll want to order candy this week so that it arrives in plenty of time for Halloween parties and trick-or-treating. Online sources are also great for finding allergy-free chocolate, as well as unusual treats, like allergy-free brain-shaped lollipops! That’s why this week I’ll write about some online sources that offer great allergy-free Halloween candy.

  • Indie Candy: This site is the place to go for all-natural candy with no dyes or any of the Big 8 allergens at all! Most of their candy also appears to be corn-free, too. They have a large selection of confections including gorgeous crystal lollipops, chocolate, and gummis, all in fun Halloween shapes, and you can search by your specific allergy needs.
  • YumEarth. Formerly called Yummy Earth, but now called YumEarth, this company makes candies (lollipops, drops, gummy bears, and gummy worms) that are free from the big 8, and they use natural colorings and flavorings. Some of their candies are also corn-free, kosher parve, and vegan (but not all, so check the list carefully). You can buy them online at {} and on They may also be available at a store near you—check the list of YumEarth retailers to see.
  • Peanut Free Planet: This allergy-friendly grocery site sells a ton of different candy from lots of different manufacturers, including Vermont Nut Free, Enjoy Life Foods, and Amanda’s Own. You’ll find chocolate, jelly beans, and all sorts of allergen-friendly groceries. They also sell KitKats, Mars bars, and Nestle Aero Milk chocolate bars that are made in a Canadian factory, and therefore nut-free (unlike their American versions). They also carry nut-free candy corn from A and J Bakery (but it contains egg whites and soy), as well as Surf Sweets jelly beans and spooky spider gummies, which are organic, natural, gluten-free, and free from the Top 8 allergens.
  • Amanda’s Own Confections: They offer chocolate in some fun Halloween shapes, as well as jelly beans and other candies, all dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, and gluten-free! (They also have turkey and scarecrow chocolate lollipops, if you’re thinking ahead to Thanksgiving.)
  • Divvies: Nut-free, dairy-free, and egg-free chocolate ghosts, chocolate bats, jelly beans, gummy stars, and chocolate chips! (Chocolate contains soya lecithin.) Check out their chocolate dinosaur, too. It might not be Halloweenish, but it would be great for a birthday party or stocking stuffer.
  • Natural Candy Store: Looking for lollipops shaped like brains, bats, or jack-o-lanterns? Found them! This site focuses on natural ingredients, but they also let you search for candy that’s free from all Top 8 allergens. Even better, you can search for candy free from single allergens, like milk or soy. They carry hard candy, Glee gum, Enjoy Life chocolate, organic chocolate syrup, breath mints, and licorice, among others! You can also search by Feingold-safe candy and other special diets. Click here for their Allergen-Free Candy page.
  • Vermont Nut Free: Their chocolates are peanut-free and nut-free, but they do have milk and egg warnings on them. Their huge selection of nut-free chocolates includes caramel- and marshmallow-filled pumpkins, chocolate-covered marshmallows on a stick, pretzel caramel bark, and foil-wrapped chocolate shapes (like bats, witches, and ghosts). They also sell skippers, which are similar to M&Ms, but nut-free, of course.
  • Chocolate Emporium: Read the ingredients carefully on this website, but they do offer a lot of allergen-friendly goodies. All Halloween items are dairy-free, nut-free, gluten-free, and certified parve by the Star-K. Call before you order to ensure you get what you need.
  • Gimbal’s Fine Candies: I’ve just discovered this company. They offer jelly beans in 41 flavors, as well as fiery LavaBalls and licorice Scottie Dogs, all free from the Top 8 allergens. 
  • Oriental Trading Co.: Remember, trick-or-treats bags don’t have to be filled with candy. Oriental Trading Company offers a bazillion (I counted them) super-cheap novelty toys, many that you can buy in quantities of 50, 144, or more.
If you know of a great online source for allergy-free candies, post it in the Comments. And remember, next week I’ll post a list of what I found in local stores and where I found it, so check back next Monday.



Monday, September 30, 2013

Food Allergies Cost U.S. Families $25 Billion Every Year

By Kelley Lindberg

We know kids are expensive. They start out expensive, they transition into being more expensive, and they end up being super-ridiculously, eye-wateringly expensive by the time we get them into college. According to a report by the USDA called “Expenditures on Children by Families, 2012,” the annual cost for raising a child ranges from $12,600 to $14,700.

But guess what? Kids are even MORE expensive if they have food allergies. Like 30% more expensive. That’s $4,184 more per year for each child you have that suffers from food allergies. So bump that total cost of raising your kid up to $16,784 - $18,884 per kid, per year. (That settles it. The next time I have to argue with my son over doing his homework, I’m trading him in for a new car.)

With food allergies affecting about 8% of children (about 1 in 13), the mind-blowing total for what food allergies cost U.S. families each year is just shy of $25 billion per year. That’s the estimate from a national study published this month (“The Economic Impact of Childhood Food Allergy in the United States,” JAMA Pediatrics, Sept. 16, 2013). Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, a luminary in the field of food allergy for many years, headed up the study that quantified the economic impact associated with food allergies in children. Costs measured in the study included direct medical costs (like doctor visits, ER visits, and hospitalizations), as well as out-of-pocket expenses like the costs of special foods, and the loss of jobs or work hours and other lost income opportunities because of having to care for a child with food allergies.

The point of the study wasn’t just to depress us, I know. (We’re good at that all by ourselves.) The point was to make another argument in favor of increasing the funding for and priority of research, education, awareness, and advocacy for families with food allergies. Food allergies continue to grow at an alarming rate every year, and until we establish a reliable cure, their economic impact will continue to grow right along with them.

For more details about the study, see “New Study Finds Food Allergies Cost Billions of Dollars Each Year” on FARE’s website.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Egg-Free, Milk-Free, Nut-Free Jell-O Cookies

By Kelley Lindberg

Looking for something new to put into your kid’s lunchbox? I tried making Jell-O cookies to take to a multi-family camping trip this weekend, and they seemed to be a big hit with the kids! (And the adults.)

The original recipe can be found on here: Jello-O Pastel Cookies. However, I had to replace the egg with an egg substitute (I used Ener-G egg replacemer), and the butter with safe margarine. The official Kraft recipe calls for mixing a 3-ounce box of Jell-O into the batter, then sprinkling another 3-ounce box of Jell-O powder on top of the cookies before baking. But the recipe I was following (from a friend) said to add an entire 6-ounce box of Jell-O to the flour mixture, and it said nothing about sprinkling any on top. Adding the whole box to the batter instead of sprinkling half on top made the cookies a much brighter color (and it was less fussy). So do it either way!

I’m assuming that you could use your favorite gluten-free flour mix instead of the wheat flour. If you try it that way, let us know how it works.

Jell-O Cookies (Egg-Free, Milk-Free, Nut-Free)

(Original recipe from Kraft Foods. Allergy-friendly version by Kelley J. P. Lindberg)

3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups softened safe margarine
1 cup sugar
1 6-oz box of Jell-O gelatin, any flavor
1 egg or equivalent egg substitute*
1 tsp safe vanilla

*To replace one egg, I used 1 1/2 tsp Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 2 Tbs warm water. Or you can use 1 tsp baking powder mixed with 1 Tbs water and 1 Tbs white vinegar. Or you could try using 1/4 cup applesauce.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. (The original recipe says 400 degrees, but mine worked great at 350.) Mix flour and baking powder. Beat butter in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Add sugar and Jell-O. Beat until light and fluffy. Gradually blend in egg substitute and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place them 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. (I like to line my cookie sheets with parchment paper so that the cookies slide right off.) You can flatten the cookies with the bottom of a glass if you want, or leave them as balls and they will retain a slightly rounded shape.

Bake 8-10 minutes (slightly longer in high altitudes), until edges are just barely beginning to turn light brown. Cool on wire racks. Makes about 4 dozen.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Food Allergy Close Call

By Kelley Lindberg

“My son is allergic to peanuts and all tree nuts. Can you check with the cook to make sure there are no nuts in this pasta?” I asked the waitress.

“I don’t think there are, but I’ll be sure and tell the cook,” she replied.

We’d eaten at this restaurant before. Many times. And my son had ordered this particular dish before, too, which is part of why he ordered it. But we try to make it a habit to ask every single time we go somewhere. You can never be too safe, you know.

Our food came, and my son speared a shrimp and ate it. Then he spied something different in the sauce on his plate. Something he didn’t recognize. He fished it out with his fork and held it in front of me. “What is this?” he asked.

It looked like a sliced almond. Maybe it was a sliced water chestnut, I told myself. I took it and ate it. Damn. “It’s an almond, honey.”

He immediately spit the remainder of his first bite out, and began rubbing his tongue with his napkin. I tore open four anti-histamine fast-melts and he popped them in as fast as humanly possible. My mom, who was eating with us, flagged down the waitress. “There are almonds in his food!” she told the waitress, who blanched and took away the dish.

Another waitress came out and asked if she could get something else for my son to eat. No, we said, we need to just see what happens now. She brought him some water.

The manager came out, and we explained that we’d asked about allergies, the waitress had told us she’d check, and still she brought him food with almonds in it. He apologized and offered to bring something different for him to eat.

My son didn’t want anything different to eat.

He was panicking.

I’d never seen him like that before. He’s only been accidentally exposed to nuts a couple of times in his life. The last time was maybe 4 or 5 years ago, in Mexico. He had been very calm then, and calmly took his antihistamine when I gave it to him, and calmly ate the rest of his food while I watched him like a hawk, EpiPen in hand.

This time was different. This time, he was 14 and aware. He was 14 and remembering the teen girl in California who died last month after accidentally tasting a treat with peanut butter in it. He was 14 and suddenly afraid of dying from something he had previously worried about more as a mental exercise than as an actual threat, because we’ve been so careful for so many years that it became easy to take things for granted, to assume that because we were careful, he’d be fine.

So he was experiencing this accidental exposure in a whole different way for him. Suddenly it was real, and scary, and new. Even though he’s known he was allergic his whole life. This was new.

I watched him for the tiniest sign of a reaction. For a hint of hives. For a slight hoarseness to his voice. For his coloring, his breathing, his mental alertness. Fortunately, no symptoms came.

But what I wasn’t expecting was his fear. His legs were shaking up and down like pistons. He couldn’t sit still, rubbing his hands on his legs, taking sip after sip of water. I wrapped my arm around his shoulders and talked to him, tried to calm him down, talked him through the first twenty minutes. He showed no symptoms. I told him that was a good sign, but he was still shaking. I talked him through another ten minutes. Still no symptoms. Still shaking. Another ten. Still no symptoms. I reassured him that after 40 minutes, the chances of an anaphylactic reaction were probably minimal, and that we would surely have seen some reaction by then. We sat in the booth at the restaurant the whole time, because I didn’t want to move. I wanted to sit there and talk to him, keep him calm, watch his face for the slightest hint of a reaction.

Finally, after nearly an hour without a single symptom, I told him we could go. When we got home, he sat on the couch beside me for the rest of the evening. His fear had diminished, finally, but nervousness still pulsed at his edges.

As we left, the manager apologized profusely and said he would be doing new training the following weekend for his entire staff about food allergies. He told me he was also an EMT, and that he knew how serious food allergies were, and how dismayed he was that his staff had let this happen. Then he waived our entire bill.

My son and I have talked about this experience, and here are the things we learned:
  1. We were very glad that his first exposure as a teenager was with me. We talked about how lucky we both were that it didn’t happen when he was out with his friends, where maybe no one else would know what to do or how to keep him calm. We talked about what he should do next time if I’m not there. Being prepared is half the battle. Even though we thought he was prepared before, he wasn’t. Not really.
  2. We can never stop being vigilant, even for a second. We asked the waitress about nuts when we placed our order, but we didn’t follow up with her when she brought the food, assuming it had been prepared the same way as the last time he'd ordered it. We made an assumption that she’d talked to the cook, but that was a wrong assumption. We have to remember to ask, and ask again, every single time.
  3. Because of our experience, the entire staff of that restaurant may take food allergies more seriously from now own, making that restaurant a safer place for others with food allergies who may go there. So something good can come from something bad. Nice to remember. 
  4. He relearned how absolutely critical it is that he keep his EpiPens and antihistamine with him at all times. As a teen, it’s easy to get forgetful, or careless, or overconfident. This was a stark reminder of how important that little case of meds was to him right then, and how glad he was that we had it with us. I think he’ll do a better job of keeping it with him now.
  5. Because we’ve been so careful to avoid nuts his entire life, he doesn’t really know what nuts can look like when they’re mixed into food. Sure, he can identify a big ol’ bin of them at the grocery store, and he knows what a peanut shell looks like, but when they’re sliced or chopped or blended into a sauce, he has no idea what they look like. We need to spend some time looking at how nuts are prepared, so that he will recognize them when he sees them. It never occurred to me that he wouldn’t recognize one in his own food.
  6. Fear can undermine everything. If you’re afraid, you forget to think calmly and clearly. You may not make good decisions. You may not remember what to do. We need to work together, he and I, on taking away the fear that made him panic, leaving just enough of the fear that will make him careful. A little is good, a lot is not necessarily so. But we’re a team, and we can work through this together.
We got lucky this time. It was a close call, but fortunately, he must not have come into contact with the almonds in his dish, so he didn’t have a reaction. Or maybe the antihistamine stopped it before it could get started. Whatever it was, we are very grateful. And now we have a renewed determination to be even more careful than before.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Flying Safely with Food Allergies

By Kelley Lindberg

This week, I’m a guest blogger for Living Without magazine, a magazine about gluten-free and allergy-free living that’s been a great resource for several years. So click on over to their blog to read my new article called “10 Tips for Flying Safely with Food Allergies,” where I share survival tips for airline travel.

While you’re clicking, you might want to read an excellent opinion piece that was published on the New York Time’s website this week, called “EpiPens for All.” Curtis Sittenfeld writes about the need for the national School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which will allow schools to stock ephiphrine autoinjectors that can be used for anyone in an emergency, whether or not they have a prescription. Not sure why that's so important? Sittenfeld explains it well.

See you back here next Monday!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

FARE Walk for Food Allergy 2013

by Kelley Lindberg

Looking for a fun family activity that will make you feel good inside and out? Join the Utah Food Allergy Network (UFAN) as we hold our annual Walk for Food Allergy, which benefits the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) organization.
Whether you want to walk, sponsor a walker, or volunteer to help out at the walk, we need you! The Walk is a family-friendly event that takes place in communities nationwide to fund food allergy research, education, advocacy and awareness. We’re happy that Salt Lake City is once again participating in this important event, and we hope you’ll join us!

There are always some fun activities and booths from food-allergy-related companies and vendors, so you won’t want to miss out on this fun day.
Here are the details:
  • Date:   Saturday, Oct 5, 2013
  • Walk Schedule:
    •      Registration/Check-in: 1:00pm
    •      Walk Ceremony: 2:00pm
    •      Walk Begins: Immediately Following Ceremony
  • Walk Length:   2 miles
  • Location:   Sugar House Park, Sugar Beet Pavilion, 1400 E. 2100 S., Salt Lake City, UT, 84115
For more information and a registration form, see
This is a great way to get some fresh air on a beautiful autumn day with family and friends, while helping make a difference for all of those living with food allergies. Thank you for being part of it, and see you there!



Monday, August 26, 2013

Food Allergy Classroom Presentation

By Kelley Lindberg

As each new school year starts, I often recommend to parents of children with food allergies that a good way to enlist support (rather than misunderstandings or even bullying) from both classmates and teachers is to offer to come in and give a presentation to the class about food allergies.

I have found that kids can be the best champions. When they feel like they’re part of something important, they rise to the occasion. They also have better memories than we adults do, so often kids will remind teachers when something in class isn’t safe for their food-allergic friend.

So, with the new school year upon us again, I thought I’d offer my presentation outline and notes, in case you’d like to give a food allergy presentation to your child’s class and aren’t sure where to start. My presentations usually last about 20 minutes.

There are also videos available that explain food allergies to school-age children, so if you’re more comfortable showing a video, by all means try that! If you have a favorite video, tell us about it in the Comments section. Thanks, and good luck!

All About Food Allergies Class Presentation

Who knows what a food allergy is?
I let kids raise hands and see if any know. Often they do. I then point out how a true food allergy is different from lactose intolerance and from hay fever or pet allergies.

Who knows someone with a food allergy?
Let a few of them tell you who they know who’s allergic. Usually, about a third of the class knows someone with a food allergy. This helps the teacher realize how widespread it is, and makes the food-allergic child feel less “alone.” Then I remind them that they ALL know someone with a food allergy, and I introduce my kid and tell what he’s allergic to.

This is what a food allergy can do to you if you touch or eat the food:
  1. Tingling sensation, itching, or metallic taste in the mouth
  2. Hives
  3. Sensation of warmth
  4. Itching
  5. Difficulty breathing or wheezing (like asthma)
  6. Swelling of the mouth or throat
  7. Vomiting
  8. Diarrhea
  9. Cramping
  10. Drop in blood pressure
  11. Loss of consciousness
Can you catch a food allergy?
     No! It’s not contagious.

Here’s what to do if someone is having a reaction:
  1. It’s an emergency!
  2. RUN to a grownup, teacher, or recess monitor and tell them it’s an allergic reaction.
  3. Call 911.
Here’s how to keep your friend safe:
  1. Wash hands and face after eating.
  2. Don’t bring food to the classroom or the playground. Keep all food in the cafeteria.
  3. Keep your lunch area neat. Don’t spill or throw food!
  4. Tell a teacher if you see food where it shouldn’t be.
  5. Tell a teacher if you think your friend is getting sick.
  6. Respect the food allergy table.
  7. If you’re bringing treats for a party or your birthday, ask your parents to bring safe treats or non-food party favors (pencils, notepads, tattoos, erasers, balls, etc.).
Note: I always take enough trinkets – fun erasers, PAL pencils or bracelets from FARE, etc. – for the whole class. Then at the end I ask a few questions (“Who remembers one way to keep your allergic friend safe?,” or "Who remembers what Junior is allergic to?") and give a prize to anyone with the right answer. Then the last question is “Who’s going to keep your allergic friends safe?” They all yell “Me!” and I give EVERYONE a prize who hasn’t already gotten one.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Food Allergy ID Card and Back-To-School Info Sheet

By Kelley Lindberg

I dropped my baby off at his first day of school today.

He’s in ninth grade.

He didn’t want the traditional picture in front of the school. He didn’t want the kiss goodbye. He didn’t want me anywhere near the school, him, his friends, or the planet.

The first day of school isn’t quite the big deal it was for him on his first day of kindergarten, somehow.

But he’s still my baby, and I got him to sit still for a photo in the front seat of the car, at least.

I also had to go into the school (although I used a different entrance, so he didn’t have to be seen with me, so that was marginally acceptable), because I had to drop off his medicine kit and medical action plan at the front office.

In his medicine kit, I include two epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens or Auvi-Qs), some antihistamine tablets, and a laminated card I made that has his photo, emergency instructions, and emergency contact information.

If you’d like to add a similar card to your child’s epinephrine kit, I’ve uploaded a template here: FoodAllergyFeast’s Food Allergy ID Card. You should be able to click on the photo, and it will load as a Word document. Then you can insert your own information. It’s two pages – if you print them back-to-back, the generic info about anaphylaxis should line up to print on the reverse side of the card. If not, just print both pages, use double-stick tape to line them up back-to-back, then have them laminated together at your local copy shop. If it doesn’t all line up right, feel free to use my template as an example, and create your own. (Many thanks to Michelle Fogg of UFAN for designing the original ID card.)

And here’s a sheet I create every year and give to my son’s teachers, the lunchroom manager to hang in the kitchen, and the front office (and if we had a school nurse, I’d give one to him/her, too): FoodAllergyFeast’sFood Allergy School Emergency Sheet.

If these links don't work, email me and I'll send them directly to you: kjplindberg (at)

I hope your child’s back-to-school experience is full of hugs and laughter. (I plan to get my hugs later this evening, when no one is watching. He might not need them anymore, but I sure do!)


Monday, August 12, 2013

Back to School with Food Allergies

by Kelley Lindberg

Now that school is only a week or two away (at least here in Utah), many parents are getting ready to send their little ones off to a scary place – not that school itself is scary, but the food in the classroom and cafeteria can make it seem that way.

About this time every year I post my back-to-school tips. So I’ll repeat them here, in the hopes that they help smooth the way for other parents over the next few weeks. Good luck, and enjoy these remaining few days of summer!

(Remember, there are links to several school-related resources on the Utah Food Allergy Network's website, so be sure to check those out. And last week I posted my Back-To-School Food Allergy Shopping List, so you might want to look at that, as well.)
  1. Ask the principal if there are other food-allergic kids in the same grade, and if they can be assigned to the same teacher. That makes it easier for the parents of the allergic kids to trade off field-trip and party chaperone duties, reminds the teacher to keep the classroom allergen-free for multiple kids, and gives you some backup in food issues. (It's nice to NOT be the only one.) Statistically, about one in twenty kids has a food allergy, so chances are good there will be several food-allergic kids in your school.
  2. Make several copies of your Food Allergy Action Plan (available on FARE’s website) and ask to hang one in the office, the cafeteria kitchen, and the classroom, so that your child's photo and "What to do in case of a reaction" instructions are handy no matter where he is.
  3. Practice with your child what he should do if he "feels funny." Role-play and pretend you're the teacher, and have him come up and tell you what's wrong. Often our kids are too shy about asking for help, so have him practice with you, and with the teacher if possible. Not only does that give your child words to use if something happens, but it helps impress upon the teacher how important it is.
  4. I get on my principal's staff meeting agenda at the first of the year and give a 15-minute talk about allergies and demonstrate the EpiPen or Auvi-Q. When my son was in elementary school, I also gave a presentation to my son's class and all the teachers and aides he comes into contact with. If you're not comfortable doing this, ask if there are other allergic parents that you can contact. Talk to them about ways to teach the teachers -- maybe another mom would be willing to give the presentation if you make the photocopies. It's easier when there are two of you involved!
  5. Remember, In Utah, your child can legally carry his EpiPen or Auvi-Q. But he probably is not capable of administering it to himself in an emergency, so make sure the teachers and everyone else know where it is and how to use it. Because both EpiPen and Auvi-Q are available right now for $0 copay, get a pair for the school office, and a second pair to keep with the child (in his backpack or lunch bag, usually). You might also attach a luggage tag with his photo on it to his backpack, so the teacher can tell which backpack is his quickly.
  6. If he's going to be having lunch at school, talk to the Lunch Lady and cafeteria monitor. Introduce your child, tell her what your child is allergic to, and let your child know that the Lunch Lady is a friend that will help keep him safe. Then remember the Lunch Lady and the cafeteria monitor on holidays with little thank you cards or gifts to show you appreciate them. Few people do that. But it will help keep your child's food issues fresh in their mind, and they'll get to know him well.
  7. Ask about setting up a food table just for allergic kids. All that’s required is a table with a sign that says allergies only, and the cafeteria monitors clean it with a separate marked bucket and cloth. Don’t let them make your child eat in a separate room or the principal’s office. He shouldn’t be punished just because he’s allergic to some foods! Ask the principal to mention the allergy table in a newsletter or other information that goes home with kids at the beginning of the year. You may find other kids with allergies expressing an interest in sitting at the table if they know it’s available.
  8. Ask the parents of your child’s friends to send safe lunches with them every once in a while, so they can eat with your child. Make it a fun place to be!
  9. Most peanut-allergic kids don’t react to the smell of peanut butter in the air, but a few do. If you are worried if your child will react to the air in the cafeteria, ask to take him in for a “practice run.” Sit in the cafeteria for half an hour and see if he reacts. If he doesn’t, cross that worry off your list.
  10. Eat lunch with him for the first few days. That will reassure both of you that you can both handle this!
  11. Talk to the teacher about which cafeteria door your child should use to avoid peanut butter contact (usually the one furthest from the playground), where to put his lunch bag after lunch, and where his EpiPens will be.
  12. Remind your child NOT to throw away his lunch trash. Tell him to bring it home in his lunch bag, so that he can avoid using the trash can. If another kid slam-dunks a half-full milk carton in the trash can, you don’t want your milk-allergic child to get splashed.
  13. Medical alert jewelry can help remind teachers and other staff about your child’s allergy. Lots of companies now provide medical alert jewelry in styles ranging from classic metal bracelets to fashionable plastic jewelry or even cool fabric sports bands (like at American Medical ID). Use your favorite search engine to find a style your child will enjoy wearing.
  14. If your schedule allows, volunteer a lot, so the staff knows you and counts on you (not just for allergy issues). If the only time they see you is when there's a food allergy issue, then you may start feeling like they're whispering "Oh no, here she comes again." But if they see you as a "Gosh, what would we do without her" kind of volunteer, then the occasional food issue will be coming from a great mom who's making a reasonable request.
  15. If someone else is already the class mom, or you can't volunteer for that position, tell the teacher you really need to attend all parties and field trips because of the food allergy. The teacher may want to let the other parents know that you'll be selected for all the special events because of the food allergy, so that they don't think the teacher is playing favorites.
  16. Volunteer to shop for all the snacks or food materials for classroom parties or food educational units (like making noodle necklaces or gingerbread houses, etc.). Tell the teacher if she'll collect money donations, you'll go buy all the ingredients. They're usually delighted to get out of having to shop, and it lets you ensure the ingredients are safe.
  17. Be aware and be prepared, but don't panic! School is going to be a lot of fun, and your child will do just fine. And believe it or not, so will you!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Back to School Shopping List for Allergies

By Kelley Lindberg

The new school year is fast approaching. I can tell by all the Back To School sales in every store I visit. And by the look of despair on my son’s summer-tanned face.

Like it or not, it’s a great time to stock up on all those school supplies our kids will be needing in a few weeks.

Of course, those of us with food-allergic kids have to add a few extra items to our back-to-school shopping lists. So if you, too, are preparing a back-to-school shopping list for the food-allergic student in your life, don’t forget these essentials:
  • Epinephrine Injectors – Have yours expired? It may be time to get new ones. I get a pair to leave at the school’s office, and a pair for him to carry in his lunch box (along with instructions). Be sure you check the expiration dates on the new ones to make sure they’ll last through the school year. Remember, this year there is a new auto-injector, called Auvi-Q, that might be worth a look. (See my recent blog post on Choosing an Epinephrine Auto-Injector for Your Food Allergies.)
  • Antihistamine (Benadryl, Zyrtec, Claritin, Allegra, etc.) – Like with the EpiPens, I put some in the office, and some in his lunch box. Again, check the expiration dates.
  • Lunch Box – He always takes a home lunch and sits with his food-allergic buddy.
  • Thermos for hot foods – He lives on noodles, but these are great for safe soups, chili, and casseroles, too.
  • Food Containers – Invest in a few plastic containers that will fit inside the lunch box for things like salads, dressings, sandwiches, fruit, etc. They’re more economical, more ecological, and far less “squishable” than plastic baggies.
  • Beverage Thermos or water bottle
  • Handi-Wipes – I always put a couple of individually wrapped Handi-Wipes in his lunch box so he can clean off the table if he needs to.
  • Food Allergy Action Plan – Make an appointment with your child’s allergist or pediatrician now, and have them fill out a Food Allergy Action Plan to give to your school. I attach a current photo of my son, and then I make a few color copies of it. I give one to the school office, one to each of his teachers for them to hang in their classroom, and one to the school cafeteria manager for her to hang in the kitchen, so that the lunch workers will know him and recognize him if he has a reaction. If your doctor doesn’t have their own form, use this Food Allergy Action Plan from FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education). It’s probably the most widely used form in the U.S., and most doctors recognize and use it.
  • Medical ID Bracelet or Necklace – If your child will wear one of these, it’s a great idea. It is a visual reminder for teachers of your child’s allergies, and it’s an instant help for EMTs who might be summoned if your child has a reaction.
  • Clean-up Wipes – I like to take a couple of tubs of wipes to his teacher, for cleaning desks. (I usually take tubs to the teacher throughout the year, too, since they often go through them quickly.)
  • Do you have any other great suggestions for allergy-aware back-to-school supplies? Be sure to share them with us!
Happy shopping!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Teen Dies at California Camp

By Kelley Lindberg

Tragedy occurred this week at a family camp in Sacramento, and it’s especially sad because the family did everything right, and 13-year-old Natalie Giorgi still passed away from her reaction.

Her parents were extremely cautious, well-informed, and prepared. When she accidentally bit into a camp-provided Rice Krispy Treat and tasted peanut, she spit it out, and her parents administered Benadryl. She seemed fine for 20 minutes, then began to vomit. Her parents then administered an EpiPen, and when that didn’t seem to help, they gave her another, then another.

Three EpiPens and Benadryl, and she still died. It’s our worst nightmare.

Her devastated parents are reminding all of us to be vigilant and are hoping their story will help raise awareness of the seriousness of food allergies.

For more information about Natalie and this tragedy, see “Years of Caution about Peanut Allergy Fails to Save Teen Who Died at Camp Sacramento,” from the Sacramento Bee.

All of us in the food allergy community are heart-sick at this news, and we send our most tender condolences to the family who lost such a lovely daughter.