Monday, September 22, 2014

Presenting Food Allergy Information to Teachers

By Kelley Lindberg

My son just entered high school this year. Talk about big changes for him – new responsibilities, new friends, new social events, new teachers, new principal… the list goes on and on.

There’s been a big change for me, too. My safety net of familiar teachers and administration has vanished. I have to start my “educating the educators” efforts all over again, with teachers who don’t already have an attachment to my son and who may not have had allergic kids in their classroom before (since he’s old enough that we always seem to be paving the way).

Fortunately, when I asked the vice principal if he thought I could present food allergy information to all the teachers at a staff meeting, he said it sounded like a good idea. He asked the principal, who also said it was a good idea. So last week, I found myself in front of about 25 teachers, trying to accomplish three things:
  1. Educate them about food allergies and how to keep all allergic kids (not just my son) safe.
  2. Keep from embarrassing my son.
  3. Keep them from thinking I am going to be one of those “trouble-making mothers.”

I think it worked. Even though I’ve given this presentation nearly every year to my son’s school, other schools, and even other organizations, I was still incredibly nervous. It’s nerve-wracking knowing that you could, with a single slip-up, sour your son’s teachers on him. Or worse, upset his burgeoning social life. But I was able to keep a sense of humor, answer a lot of questions, hopefully reassure them that they can handle a reaction if it happens, and get them thinking about ways to prevent contamination in their classrooms. Not only will this help my son, but it will lay groundwork for the growing number of allergy kids that will be coming along in the next few years.

As scary as it is, I highly recommend asking your school’s principal if you can “educate the educators” about food allergies, too. To help you out, here is a link to the handout I give to all the teachers and staff: School Staff Presentation. I just go over what’s on this handout, then answer any questions (there are always a lot!). Good luck. Just channel your mama bear (or papa bear), know that you’re helping your child as well as many other children, and feel the love from all the rest of us mama/papa bears out here in allergy-land!

Monday, September 8, 2014

New Food Allergy Treatment on the Horizon?

By Kelley Lindberg

Dr. Fred Finkelman
(photo courtesy of FARE)
FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) is reporting today that they’re awarding a $734,986 research grant to leading immunologist Fred Finkelman, M.D., at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine/Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, in his efforts to suppress anaphylaxis. Dr. Finkelman is developing a therapy that may be able to desensitize a patient to ALL of their food allergies at the same time, and potentially in as short a time period as 24 hours.

With this therapy, a patient would probably be injected with a unique antibody that Finkelman and his team have developed in their lab. The antibody would then target mast cells and remove the IgE and IgE receptors on those mast cells, which are responsible for releasing the chemicals that cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction. In a previous study, Dr. Finkelman injected mice with this antibody, and the treatment prevented anaphylaxis.

In plain English, this means that after being injected with this new antibody, the patient’s body will stop reacting to food allergens!

Right now, Dr. Finkelman and his team are still working with mice, so human trials are still years away. And their therapy in mice has taken weeks to build up a resistance, so they are hoping to shorten that timeframe significantly with their future study. Dr. Finkelman emphasizes that his process would not cure allergies, but would suppress allergies. He believes it has the potential to suppress food allergies, skin allergies, and even asthma and environmental allergies (hay fever). But this is the type of therapy that so many of us are desperately hoping for, so I am thrilled and grateful to FARE for supporting Dr. Finkelman’s research with this significant grant.

To read more about this grant and Dr. Finkelman’s work, check out these links: