Monday, June 24, 2013

UFAN Food Allergy Conference a Success!

Last Saturday, I attended the third annual Food Allergy Conference in Salt Lake City, put on by the Utah Food Allergy Network. The half-day conference was jam-packed full of information and ideas – after a dozen years of dealing with food allergies, I still found myself taking lots of notes and learning new things.

Dr. Robert Silge, from Salt Lake City and Taylorsville, gave a presentation that just about blew my socks off with the amount of information he crammed into a single hour. He started off by discussing skin and blood tests, how they work, and what they mean. He reminded us that those tests can tell you the chance that you’ll have a reaction, but not how severe the reaction will be. So just because your score is “low” doesn’t mean you won’t have a severe reaction to that food someday.

I lead a discussion on eating out and traveling with food allergies
Dr. Silge also talked about the role platelet activating factor (PAF) plays in reactions, and how epinephrine works. He summarized EGID and how those diseases differ from a regular food allergy. Then he moved on to talk about the various treatments that are currently being studied, and how many of them are promising, but there is no long-term evidence to show how effective any of them are long-term yet, and that the results so far show widely varying results that are highly individual for each patient. And that’s just a sample of the topics he covered. (And I was left wondering if any research is being done into how to boost the enzymes needed to break down PAFs in our bodies, so that we don’t experience anaphylaxis. I’ll have to look into that soon.)

In addition, there were other presentations on eosinophilic disorders (EGIDs), how to handle food allergy plans for school, feeding and swallowing therapy, creative cooking with food substitutions, tips for handling social situations, how to live well with a chronic health condition, and tips for adults living with food allergies and EGIDs.

I was even invited to lead a discussion called “Eating Out & Traveling with Dietary Restrictions,” which turned out to be a lot of fun, and I hope helpful for everyone who participated.

Teens like my son and his friend had their own sessions.
For the first time, the conference this year included a teen track, where teens spent their half-day entirely in their own rooms discussing topics related to their unique needs. My son and his friend were able to attend, and my son even gave a short PowerPoint introduction of himself and his allergies as an icebreaker. Although neither my son nor his friend were sure they needed to attend (“I know how to handle my allergies, Mom!”), they both seemed to have a good time and even thought of friends they should have invited afterwards. So I think the teen track was a success and will be an important part of next year’s conference.

Many thanks to UFAN board members and volunteers for putting together this amazing half-day conference. I’m already looking forward to next year!

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