Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Refill Those Epinephrine Auto-Injectors!

By Kelley Lindberg

I heard a surprising and disturbing statistic 2 weeks ago when I was at the Mylan Specialty Allergy Bloggers Summit:
Only 5% of allergy patients are still refilling their prescriptions for EpiPens three years after their last reaction.
That’s scary. The speculation is that the farther you get from your last reaction, the less likely you are to think about it, so the less likely you are to take it seriously.

Really? To me, that’s kind of like someone who drives for three years without a traffic accident, so they stop wearing a seatbelt. Then maybe they stop using their turn signals. Then they stop braking at stoplights. I mean, hey – they’ve been just fine for three years, so obviously all those traffic rules and safety precautions were unnecessary, right?

If you’re vigilant for three years and nothing bad happens, does that mean the danger no longer exists? Or that your vigilance kept you safe?

That’s a no-brainer, right? It usually means that your vigilance kept you safe.

Unfortunately, it’s when you stop being vigilante that you discover just how important your vigilance was. And then it’s too late to get it back.

If you haven’t had an allergic reaction in three years, fantastic! That’s great, and it means you’ve been careful – and probably lucky, too. It doesn’t necessarily mean your allergy has vanished, or that anaphylaxis has suddenly disappeared from the planet. (Wouldn’t that be great, though?) It just means that you’ve managed to navigate your way through the minefield of a food-filled world safely for three years. It doesn’t mean that you won’t step on that landmine tomorrow. Or next month. Or three more years from now.

Even if you’re crazy-careful, accidents still happen. You sit down at a table with a peanut-butter smear you didn’t notice. Your favorite brand of cookie suddenly contains egg for the first time EVER, and it was the one time you didn’t think to read the ingredients. The kid at the next table drops his lunch tray and splatters your milk-allergic child with milk. The pasta dish you’ve ordered at your favorite restaurant for years suddenly contains sliced almonds because the chef got an adventurous urge to jazz things up a bit.

And those accidents are why we need to carry our epinephrine auto-injectors every day, everywhere. Yes, be careful. Yes, read labels. Yes, avoid eating risky foods. But don’t assume that will be enough. You can control your own actions, but you can’t control the people around you, and they cause accidents, too. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that at least half of all food allergy reactions are probably caused by the actions of other people (on airplanes, in restaurants, in school cafeterias, at soccer games, etc.).

So refill and carry those epinephrine auto-injectors. Not because you’re careless. But because you’re careful.

To help make it easier to remember to refill that prescription, Mylan has a nifty app for smartphones that helps you track your EpiPens and get reminders when they’re expiring. Called “My EpiPlan,” the app can also show a how-to training video, display tips and articles about managing allergies, and store your allergy profile to show medical professionals. The My EpiPlan app is available on iTunes and Google Play.

Don’t have time to refill your prescription? Remember, it takes less time to get a refill than it does to go to the ER when you’re in anaphylactic shock. I’m just sayin’.

And right now, you can still get your EpiPens for $0 co-pay (up to $100) by going to the EpiPen website, printing the coupon, and taking it to your pharmacy with a valid prescription. Click here for more info: EpiPen® $0 Co-Pay Offer
[I disclose in any communication made by me about EpiPen® (epinephrine) Auto-Injector and/or the Mylan Spcialty Blogger Summit that such communication is at my own discretion and based on my own opinion. I also disclose that my travel expenses were compensated by Mylan Specialty in exchange for evaluation and feedback on information presented during the meeting.]

Monday, April 14, 2014

Talking Food Allergies at Mylan Specialty’s Blogger Summit

By Kelley Lindberg

It’s not every day I get to feel like I’m making a difference in the world. But last week, I was privileged to join over a dozen other food allergy bloggers at the home of Mylan Specialty L.P., the makers of EpiPen® epinephrine auto-injectors, where we put our heads together to do just that.

Food allergy bloggers convene at the
Mylan Specialty Blogger Summit
Mylan generously brought us to their beautiful new Canonsburg, PA, facility to be updated on the current state of food allergy research, learn about new developments with EpiPen® education, and hear about the progress on legislation allowing individuals and entities to stock epinephrine (among other topics). But even more importantly, they provided us with a forum to share our stories and ideas with them and with each other.

As I sat in the room (a little in awe of the other bloggers, many of whom I’ve been reading for a long time and think the world of), I was a bit dazzled to think of how many people we reach between us every month. People who are newly diagnosed and frantic with worry, people who are settling into their new food allergy routines and looking for kindred spirits, people who are entering new stages of their (or their children’s) lives and need a trail marker or two to find their new path. Because of the tireless efforts over the years of those 15 food allergy bloggers in that conference room, thousands—probably tens of thousands—of food allergic adults and children have found candles in the darkness. They’ve found new recipes, new products, and sometimes new doctors. They’ve found encouragement, advice, and support. They’ve found ways to talk to teachers, methods for handling in-laws, and survival tips for holiday parties. And they’ve told us what matters to them.

So we were all able to take those conversations to Mylan and represent those tens of thousands of worried people in our meeting. We were able to talk about what matters to us, what scares us, what thrills us, and what frustrates us.

So if you’ve ever read one of our blogs, commented on it, or shared your food allergy story with any of us, you were right there in that conference room with us. And we were able to make suggestions for improving education and raising awareness, offer ideas for future research, and share ideas with each other for strengthening food allergy support in our own communities. (As a huge bonus, I was able to connect in a very real, very personal way with people I admire, forming friendships that I already treasure!)

What I learned at the Mylan Food Allergy Blogger Summit filled pages and pages (and pages and pages) of my notebook – too much for one blog post! Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing that information, so be sure to check back each week. (And I'll be posting a blog roll of all the bloggers who attended as soon as I get it, so you can add them to your reading list!)

[I disclose in any communication made by me about EpiPen® (epinephrine) Auto-Injector and/or the Mylan Spcialty Blogger Summit that such communication is at my own discretion and based on my own opinion. I also disclose that my travel expenses were compensated by Mylan Specialty in exchange for evaluation and feedback on information presented during the meeting.]

Monday, April 7, 2014

Allergy-Free Easter Candy Round-Up 2014 (Local Stores)

By Kelley Lindberg

Last week, I listed some good sources for ordering allergy-safe Easter and Passover candy online. There may still be time to order that candy if you’re quick. But if you’re like me and find yourself procrastinating, never fear… there are some allergy-free options close to home, too.

If you’re looking for nut-free chocolate bunnies, but you can tolerate milk, your best bet locally is, as always, Hershey’s. I found a good supply of safe Hershey’s bunnies at Target. I also found a Hershey’s chocolate cross at Walmart. The safe bunnies are all 6-inch style (Snapsy, Speedy Bunny, Princess Bunny, and Hollow Bunny), and they all contain milk and soy lecithin, but they appear corn-free. I also found a package of 6 Hershey’s solid chocolate bunnies that are nut-free and contain only milk and soy lecithin (but avoid the package of 6 “cookies and cream” bunnies – they have additional allergens). Some flavors of Hershey’s kisses are also nut-free, as well as Hershey’s mini foil-wrapped chocolate eggs. But double-check labels – many Hershey’s products have nut warnings, so don’t assume they’re safe until you check. And remember, all Hershey’s chocolate includes milk and soy. Those Cadbury mini eggs are also nut-free, although they contain milk, soy, and corn. But only the mini eggs are nut-free – the larger sizes tend to have nut warnings (although Target has a Cadbury Hollow Milk Chocolate Egg Filled With Mini Eggs that is nut free, but contains milk, soy lectithin, and corn).

Walmart did have bags of Sixlets, which are small nut-free candy-coated chocolates (similar to M&Ms), that contain milk and soy lecithin. And Target has cones of Hershey’s chocolate drops coated in white candy, sold in a cellophane cone (contains milk, corn, and soy lecithin).

As far as other Easter candy, I was pleasantly surprised to find that more and more allergy-free candy options are appearing every year. Many of our “tried and true” candy manufacturers are jumping on the jelly-bean band wagon, which means more safe jelly beans for our kids. I was especially happy with the amount of new and interesting safe candy items at Target, although you can find at least a few safe candy options at all the big grocery stores, like Walmart, Smith’s/Kroger’s, and Fresh Market.

If you’re avoiding corn as well as the Big 8, your best bet is to order online (see last week’s blog), but you can also try these:
  • Pixy Stix
  • Fluffy Stuff Cotton Tails (I found them at Smith’s and Target)
  • Cotton Candy (Walmart)

If you can tolerate corn, then more options open up. The following are free from the Big 8 allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish) unless otherwise noted. But please remember, READ EVERY LABEL EVERY TIME! Because the same company may use many different factories across the country to make their products, never assume that if one package is safe, all of their packages will be. Peeps are a great example. Some flavors and pacakges and styles of Peeps will be milk-free, while others in the same store – sometimes on the same shelf – will contain a milk warning. Anyway, here are some allergy-free Easter candies you may want to take a look at:
  • Jelly Beans:
    • Jolly Rancher (contains soy lecithin)
    • Jelly Belly (contains soy lecithin)
    • SweeTart
    • Starburst
    • Life Savers
    • Nerds Bumpy Beans
    • Swedish Fish Eggs
    • Mike and Ike
  • Giant Gummy Bunny (Target) – Looking for a 6-inch bunny for the basket, but don’t want chocolate? Try a Pink Lemonade or Blue Raspberry gummy bunny! (Contains soy and gelatin)
  • Dum-Dums
  • Easter Egg Surprise Lollipops (Walmart)
  • Wonka Springtime Fun Dips
  • Life Savers Gummies Bunnies and Eggs (contains gelatin)
  • Smarties
  • Gummy Butterflies in a large egg-shaped tin (Target) (contains gelatin and coconut)
  • Haribo Happy Hoppers (Target) – traditional gummi bears in individual packets (contains coconut and gelatin)
  • Rain-blo Bubble Gum Eggs
  • Pez Dispensers (contains soy lecithin)

Looking for pre-filled Easter Eggs? Walmart has a package of 28 eggs filled with candy that might work for you. The Noah’s Ark version says “Soy may be present,” but the “Bunnies and Chicks” version doesn’t carry that warning. And Sam’s Club has pails of 36 pre-filled plastic eggs that might work for you. Check the labels for your allergens.

Of course there are other safe candy options, like regular Starbursts or chewing gum, but I focused on Easter-specific candy for this round-up. Hope it helps! And if you run across a great allergy-free find, be sure to share it with us in the Comments!