Responsibility With Age: Have Your Child Teach About Food Allergies

Responsibility With Age: Have Your Child Teach About Food Allergies

As a parent of a food allergic child, most of my time is spent attending to the physical and mental necessities of caring for a child with food allergies. Sometimes we can forget that the psychosocial health of a child is just as important.

Toward the end of fourth grade year, we began to prepare our son for the increased independence of middle school (6th grade). In doing so, we started with lunch – it was time to relinquish the ‘Tony Soprano’ lunch table set up that he benefitted from since second grade.

The ‘Tony Soprano’ lunch set up is a tip of the hat to my Italian heritage where a food allergy safe desk surface is placed at the head of a lunch table allowing him to sit with his friends of choice, rather than at the food allergy table. For our son, this removed the worry and pressure of lobbying daily for a friend to agree to sit at the food allergy table with him. He very much disliked having to ask someone every day to sit with him; made him feel like he had to beg people to sit with him.

Transitioning to the regular lunch table would undoubtedly cause some chatter amongst his classmates who had grown accustomed to his seating arrangement. To avoid our son from being inundated with questions, his teacher made an announcement to the class, portraying it as exciting news that he taking on more responsibility. As part of the announcement, his teacher also laid out some ground rules for appropriate lunch table behavior for those choosing to sit around Vincent.

  1. Respect (insert child’s name) lunch space.
  2. Do not touch (insert child’s name) food.
  3. Keep your hands to yourself.
  4. Be careful to not spill anything on the table.

One aspect that needs special attention as a child grows older and more independent is the child’s ability to talk about his/her food allergies with confidence, and with absolutely no shame or embarrassment. This is why it’s so important for a child to be able to talk and teach about food allergies.

Noticing that our son was hesitant to speak openly about his food allergies, we decided it was important to help boost his self-assurance and self-confidence by providing opportunities to speak about his food allergies.

After practicing with us, a few days later our son gave the following talk to his class and teach about food allergies.

Responsibility With Age: Have Your Child Teach About Food Allergies

Hi Everyone.

I’d like to tell you about my food allergies. Food allergies are when your body sees certain foods as an enemy and has an allergic reaction, which is called anaphylaxis.

I was diagnosed with my food allergies when I was 11-months old. I’m allergic to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame.

Starting in fourth grade, I started to take more ownership in caring for my food allergies. As I grow each year, I take on new responsibilities in preparation for middle school. For example this year, I started to carry my own medicine pack, or what I call my medpack. 

I carry a medicine pack in case I have an allergic reaction that can happen if I touch, eat or inhale one of my allergens.

I’d like to ask for your help in four ways:

  1. If you make a mess while eating your snack, please clean up your area with the available wipes in the classroom. Also, wash your hands after snack.
  2. Please respect my space at the lunch table and be sure to not touch my food.
  3. Please respect my food allergies and me by not teasing or bullying me about my food allergies. When I’m teased or bullied about my food allergies it makes me feel sad, very frustrated and not liked because I can’t do anything about having food allergies.
  4. If you see me with a rash, swelling, difficulty breathing, please know that I am not fooling around. Tell a teacher or adult near me immediately. My food allergies are very severe and when I’m having an allergic reaction it mean s a trip to the hospital and even worse, and I hate to say it, but I could die from them. It’s just the way it is.

I want to thank each of you for your attention and for being a good friend to me. Know that you can always have a friend in me as well. 

Does anyone have any questions?

Since there are different students in his class each year, this presentation is given on an annual basis. Our son’s classmates have responded positively; asking questions and even watching out for him.

Not every child is going to relish presenting to a class initially. Start with family, friends and neighbors, so that the audience feels safe and encouraging. By the time a child presents to a class, he/she will feel like a food allergy expert.

We are happy to report that this year, our son entered middle school and thus far it has been a very successful year with receptive and respectful students and school staff. We attribute much of this to our son’s willingness to educate others about his food allergies as well as a thorough food allergy 504 Plan.

Parents, please feel free to use this tool with your child.

If you’re a childcare provider, please pass this along to your food allergy families who can put this tidbit in their tool kit for future use.

School representatives…feel free to utilize this with your food allergy families. This is definitely something that a principal, social worker, school nurse or teacher can discuss implementing in partnership and agreement from parents who have a child with food allergies. Perhaps adding it to your Anaphylaxis Questionnaire* can help expedite this process.

*An Anaphylaxis Questionnaire is a letter sent to all to parents of students with life-threatening food allergies at the beginning of each school year, to assist schools in planning for any necessary adjustments in a student’s school day.

Have a tip to share with me? I’d love to hear it! Please post a comment.

EpiPen Hearing Yields High Drama No Substance

Mylan’s CEO Heather Bresch and a Food and Drug Administration deputy director Doug Throckmorton testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday, September 22, 2016, regarding the high price of the EpiPen®. The questions posed and answers provided were nothing short of high drama with no substance.

Since Mylan acquired the EpiPen® in 2007, the product’s price has increased more than 500%. Personally, I can recall the product being as high as $730 and currently it is riding at approximately $608.

It is apparent that Bresch believes the company has taken reasonable steps to relieve the financial burden from consumers by replacing the $100 coupon with a $300 coupon and announcing the upcoming launch of a generic which will retail for approximately $300. However, refusal to simply lower the price of the EpiPen® has consumers feeling betrayed and fuels the government’s perception that Mylan is playing the ultimate shell game. Plus, let’s not forget the only reason that the coupon was upped to $300 and the unprecedented (Bresch’s word) launch of the generic was due to consumer and finally government outcry with Mylan’s hand caught in the proverbial cookie jar.

Throckmorton was raked over the coals because the FDA approval process is oppressively burdensome. In addition, he was unable to report how many FDA applications were filed for competitors to the EpiPen® because it would go against the FDA’s rules.

While listening to the EpiPen® hearing, I started to think about the corporate value lessons learned during the Hobby Lobby case a couple of years ago. Here’s a sentence from Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion in the case that can easily apply to the EpiPen soap opera:

EpiPen Hearing Yields High Drama No Substance

As the bad and the ugly continued to unfold during the hearing, or not unfold for answers not provided, I couldn’t help but also think about the good that Mylan has done with regard to disease awareness, stock epinephrine in schools as well as other places such as zoos, museums, amusement parks, etc. However, any of the good that resulted from Mylan’s efforts is now overshadowed by the ugly. New questions arise such as, Was there even a glimmer of sincerity in those actions? Did Mylan really want to create more investor value and line executive pockets on the backs of food allergic children? Outraged congressional representatives used phrases like a rope-a-dope strategy, an unfair monopoly, a shell game, a sham, something smells fishy, numbers don’t add up, charts that seem dumbed down, and a simple but corrupt business model to describe their understanding of Mylan’s actions.

Just because the government is looking into Mylan’s practices, doesn’t mean our work is over. Continue to communicate with your legislators via calls, emails and letters and share your prescription drug pricing woes until change actually happens!

To truly understand the lack of answers provided, along with some great one liners delivered by government officials, view the full event below in its entirety.

Stay tuned…Heather Bresch and Doug Throckmorton are due to disclose more information in 10 days.

This drama is far from over.

88 Acres are a must for food allergy families

88 Acres are a must for food allergy families! Amanda Massello, Director of Digital Marketing and Ecommerce for 88 Acres, and I caught up on Twitter one morning and that tweety relationship turned into a sampling of 88 Acres at my front door. They are very delicious, and nutritious, so I thought you might like to learn more about this fairly new item that may be safe for your household. Keep reading to take advantage of the 15% OFF COUPON CODE at the end of the interview. How timely is this interview since so many of us are trying to find safe and tasty school snacks?!

Like so many food allergy businesses, Nicole and Rob Ledoux’s started with a dream…ok, maybe not a dream, but in this case an anaphylactic reaction on Nicole and Rob’s FOURTH DATE.

Kristin: Nicole (cofounder of 88 Acres) can you share your experience with Rob’s anaphylactic reaction on your fourth date? I can’t believe you were newly dating…what went through your mind?

88 Acres are a must for food allergy families

Nicole, Rob and Emmett Ledoux
Image courtesy of 88 Acres Instagram

Nicole: I met Rob during the fall of 2010 in the old fashion way, on While our first date was amazing — Saturday brunch in Boston followed by taking a long walk around the city with my chocolate lab, Bear — it was our fourth date that stands out. We were grabbing dinner from my local pub, when Rob looked across the table and told me to get him to the Emergency Room as fast as possible. His meal was contaminated with nuts (thankfully it wasn’t my cooking!). For most of us, no biggie…but for Rob, his throat was beginning to close due to his severe allergy to nuts! So our romantic fourth date resulted in me speeding through the streets of Boston looking like a deer in headlights with Rob in the passenger seat, calling his parents with one hand and holding his Epi-Pen in the other.

We got to the hospital where he was whisked through triage and into the ER. His parents arrived about an hour later, which was an awesome way to meet them for the first time…”Hey nice to meet you future in-laws, your son is in anaphylactic shock.” I stayed by his bedside all night, watched him the entire next day, and rid my house of nuts as soon as I got home.

This experience not only cemented my love for this guy, but spawned a pretty awesome food startup as well. And now we are married, started 88 Acres together, and have a 6-month old baby boy named Emmett!

Continue reading

Save on EpiPens and Other Household Prescriptions

Save on EpiPens and Other Household Prescriptions

Save on EpiPens and other household prescriptions? It’s a question that most of us ask ourselves. As you know, healthcare in the United States can be very expensive. While our premiums continue to rise each year, our benefits seem to dwindle. We’re paying more for less coverage, alternative foods are more expensive and the lifesaving medication cost of EpiPen® feels more expensive than ever for many families.

Many are quick to point the finger at Mylan, the maker of the EpiPen®. However, just as health insurance plans are complicated, so is the the pharmaceutical supply system. The pharmaceutical supply chain not only involves pharmaceutical manufacturers, but also multiple parties such as wholesalers, pharmacy retailers, pharmacy benefit managers and payors. These parties all play a role in determining access to, and the ultimate retail price of prescription drugs.

Dan Hammer of 790 AM Fargo Moorhead interviewed me on the high cost of EpiPen®. I prepared a variety of information to share with Dan on the topic of food allergies and epinephrine, but there’s only so much time in an interview, to be exact 13 minutes and 52 seconds. ; ) Click here to listen to the full interview.

Here’s a list of suggestions on how to save money on the EpiPen® as well as other prescription drugs in your household.

Continue reading

Teaching your child to care for his food allergies

Teaching your child to care for his food allergies is like creating a stepping stone path. Parents and caregivers take a highly complex topic (food allergy care and independence); break it down into incremental steps to meet the child where he/she is – physically, mentally, emotionally and developmentally.

My life with food allergies began almost 11 years ago with the birth of my son. He was vomiting before we ever left the hospital from delivery and I was told that was due to a poorly developed digestive tract. Fast forward 11-months later, after struggling with reflux, transitioning to baby and table food, unexplained hives and eczema and labeled as borderline failure to thrive; we finally had a diagnosis of food allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame. I’ve learned a lot along the way, so I thought I would share some tips on how to steadily grow your child’s independence in an age appropriate way.

THE BEGINNINGS: Teaching Your Child to Care for His Food Allergies

Teach your child what he/she is allergic to using different methods.

Teaching Your Child to Care for His Food Allergies

Image courtesy of photobucket / How to Ask Me

Teaching your child to care for his food allergies means bringing it down to your child’s level. Place pictures, along with the words, of your child’s allergens onto a piece of paper and tape it to the back of the headrest in the car. This teaches a child in two ways (1) visually seeing the pictures and words and (2) verbally, by periodically asking, “What are you allergic to?” My son rattled off his list of allergens in no time. This is also a great tool for learning a home address and phone numbers. Google Images and Photobucket are great places to gather images.

A second way is to casually, and by casually I mean in a non-alarming way, introduce your child to his allergens while you’re at the grocery store. It’s important for him to see the allergen in the bag, e.g., these are peanuts. The jug on this shelf is cow’s milk. The cartons in this display case are eggs, etc.

Explain to your child why his food is sometimes different than what other people are eating.

It’s natural for your child to see certain foods and want to try them, even if they are unsafe. At a very young age, explain that certain foods are not good for him because it will make him sick, and then divert him to the large variety of foods that he can partake of. It’s important to focus on what one can have rather than what one cannot have, concentrating on the positive versus the negative. For example, instead of saying, “You cannot have that ice cream because you’re allergic to milk.” Say, “That ice cream does look delicious, but this soy ice cream is just as yummy and safe for you.” 

At a young age, teach your child how to read labels because it’s confusing and takes some time to learn.

Teaching Your Child to Care for His Food Allergies

Teaching your child to care for his food allergies means discussing how to read ingredient and manufacturing labels at a very young age. When the time comes for him to take the reins…HE’LL BE READY! : )

Reading labels is confusing for parents, let alone children. Show labels to a child early not only to instill the habit of looking, but learning the variety of names for an allergen, i.e., milk isn’t just milk, it’s casein, whey, etc. Your child will be able to help make educated decisions, along with your help, so that one day he will make well-informed decisions on his own.

In addition, it’s just as important to understand how to read manufacturing labels. Your child needs to know that anything “manufactured on shared equipment,” “in a facility that manufactures” their allergen or “may contain” labels are not safe food options. Moreover, just because a label does not disclose their manufacturing practices, doesn’t mean it’s safe, rather it requires a telephone call to the manufacturer to inquire about their manufacturing processes. Continue reading

EpiPen® hold time is now 3 seconds

The EpiPen® hold time is now 3 seconds and there are other administration guidelines that the FDA has changed due to lacerations and injuries related to usage. There are three points of change listed below; however, you can read the FDAs document in its entirety:

  1. Restrict Patient’s Leg, limit movement during epinephrine administration

    EpiPen® hold time is now 3 seconds

    Image courtesy of Mylan

    Lacerations, bent needles and embedded needles have been reported when epinephrine has been injected into the thigh of a young child that is moving, kicking or uncooperative during administration. To minimize the risk of an injection-related injury it is advised that caregivers hold the child’s leg firmly in place and limit movement prior to and during the injection.

  2. EpiPen® hold time is now 3 seconds

    The EpiPen auto-injector should be held firmly in place for 3 seconds prior to removal.

  3. Serious Infections at the Injection Site

    Rare cases of serious skin and soft tissue infections, including necrotizing fasciitis and myonecrosis caused by Clostridia (gas gangrene), have been reported at the injection site following epinephrine injection for anaphylaxis. Advise patients to seek medical care if they develop signs or symptoms of infection, such as persistent redness, warmth, swelling, or tenderness, at the epinephrine injection site

This information came on the heals of the Minnesota Children’s Health Network finishing a revamp of their Anaphylaxis Action Plan, it was an honor to serve on the committee that examined and enhanced this Plan. The FDAs new administration guidelines will be included in the revamped Anaphylaxis Action Plan that is set to release just in time for the 2016-2017 school year.

If you’re looking for more information, be sure to: check out Mylan’s EpiPen® website, read the box insert of a newly filled EpiPen® prescription, contact a Mylan Customer Relations Representative at 800.395.3376 or speak with your physician.


Food Allergy and Inclusion

Kristin Beltaos interviewed by Katja Rowell, M.D. for Extreme Picky Eating Help

Food Allergy and Inclusion: Introduction by Katja Rowell M.D.: Children may face eating challenges for various reasons. Children with extreme picky eating tend to experience higher levels of anxiety, around food and in general. Perhaps the most anxiety-provoking feeding challenge that parents face is life-threatening food allergies. Some children with extreme picky eating also struggle with food allergies, which can complicate the picture even further. Kristin Beltaos has made it her mission to help parents and children not just be safer and healthier, but thrive. We were intrigued and impressed with Kristin Beltaos’ work with parents, children, and schools (A Gift of Miles). She has graciously agreed to share some wisdom in our first guest blog post.

1. Food Allergy and Inclusion – Spotlight of Difference intrigues us. Can you tell us more?

First off Katja and Jenny, thank you for the opportunity to communicate with you and your followers.

food allergy and inclusionUsually when you think of placing a spotlight on a child you think of something positive, i.e., accomplishing an awesome grade, playing a great sport game, writing a wonderful paper or doing well in a recital. These are all great ways to shine a positive spotlight on a child.

It’s fascinating how when we are confronted with a challenging situation, such as creating a safe environment for a food allergic child, our initial instinct is to determine how a child will adapt to our environment, rather than how the situation can be modified so that it’s safe for everyone. When we only address the individual child it will almost always create a Spotlight of DifferenceTM.

In our efforts to create safe environments for children with food allergies, parents and schools alike often shine an unnecessary Spotlight of Difference TM on these children that I believe is a catalyst for anxiety in food allergic children as well as food allergy teasing and bullying. We need to understand that safety does not always equal separateness and vice versa. I believe it’s our inability to view the picture creatively and holistically that causes us to go the easy route and shine an unnecessary Spotlight of Difference TM.

When I use this in my training, I have attendees actually work through real life examples on how to create more inclusiveness and diminish the Spotlight of Difference TM. It’s really stirring to see people get creative and excited about how to make life for a food allergic child better. I think so often we don’t like what is happening, like an allergy table, but we don’t take the time to think about how we can do it differently.

2. Food Allergy and Inclusion – How does this relate not just to food allergies, but also children with extreme picky eating, and even beyond food, to other differences?

I think we shine a spotlight more often than we think. Let’s examine when treats are used for incentives, rewards and celebrations.

Food Allergy and InclusionI always like to share about the first year when my youngest son was old enough to eat Halloween candy. My youngest son sat down to Twix®, Milky Way® and Hershey® candy bars while my child that has food allergies had in front of him Starburst®, DOTS® and Smarties®. You cannot look at these treats and equate them as being in the same category. You can’t “sex up” the non-chocolate treats, there’s just no comparison, unless of course you aren’t a chocolate fan.

My point is, you wouldn’t have your child’s three friends over and provide three of the children with delicious chocolate and one child with the other variety. How do we solve this dilemma? If you’re having a school-wide celebration, then that means finding a treat that is safe for all based upon all the dietary restrictions whether that be food allergy, food intolerance, diabetes, Celiac disease, autism, extreme picky eating, ADD, ADHD, etc. If you’re having a classroom celebration then that means finding a safe treat based upon the dietary restrictions within each classroom.

Spotlights don’t always have to be related to food. Each child may learn to read or understand math at a different pace. Stickers, colors, or Popsicle sticks may be used to track progress. Peers will know what level you are at in reading based upon the tracking system utilized. Children may be called out in the hall, to at a separate table or moved to a different classroom for assistance. If a child is learning at a slower pace, he/she may feel embarrassed. I don’t have the answer to this type of spotlight, but as you can see, often times we probably don’t even know that we’re shining a spotlight on a child.

While it may require additional planning, many schools have successfully found ways to socialize, celebrate, incentivize, reward, learn and craft without food or within restrictions surrounding food. It simply takes a little extra effort, and more importantly; just imagine the difference you make in a child’s life that is dealing with a challenge.

To read the rest of the interview about Food Allergy and Inclusion, click to enter the Extreme Picky Eating Help website.

Food Allergies Are More Than An Awkward Moment

Food Allergies Are More Than An Awkward Moment or Two

Food allergies are more than an awkward moment, yet when you are a parent to a child with a food allergy, or you are the person who has the food allergy…most of the time you feel like you’re asking for special treatment rather than a safety requirement. We’ve all seen the eye rolls, the teasing, the telling glances and even some “friends and family” that are embarrassed of our constant questions. I have always said, “Who would ever choose to live this way?”

John Espinosa messaged me over LinkedIn and shared with me his recent food allergy experience that opened his eyes and caused him to find his voice! I’d like to share his post with you because as I advocate for my son and for other children that have food allergies I realized John’s message needs to be heard LOUD AND CLEAR. He exemplifies everything that we want our kiddos to be…to be confident enough to know who they are and what they need! We want our children to believe and communicate his same messages: “My life should be worth more to you than an awkward moment or two.” and “I’m empowering those who are peer pressured towards death to fight for their lives.”

Join me in READING his story and be sure to SHARE HIS BRAVENESS with others:

“Friday Feburary 26th was a wake up call. A white chocolate chip macadamia nut (… really cashew) cookie landed me square in the hospital. That Friday, I learned to be adamant when it comes to food allergies. Show me an ingredient list. Call out friends that snicker or roll their eyes when I ask the waiter to clarify whether kitchen equipment is scrubbed well between meals. Shut down people who bother me about how my epipens make my pants look clunky.

I AM DONE feeling like an “inconvenience. Continue reading


Allergy Petition — Your signature is needed!

PLEASE sign this allergy petition! Whether you take allergy shots or not, I AM ASKING FOR YOUR HELP! Patients are in jeopardy of not being able to start or continue in their current therapy! Allergists must be able to offer this therapy to their patients. Please read further and sign the petition, IT ONLY TAKES A MINUTE! You will be doing a service to many patients who depend on this treatment, including my son, husband and myself!
Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, are an important treatment that has improved the quality of life for many allergy patients: reducing symptoms, decreasing medication costs, and reducing hospitalizations and trips to the emergency room.
However, new regulations threaten to make allergy shots unavailable to many patients in the United States.
The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) is introducing new regulations that would change the procedures for mixing the allergen extracts used in immunotherapy treatments. The new requirements would make it highly unlikely that allergists would be able to continue to mix allergen extracts for their patients in the office setting. Having to use outside facilities to obtain the allergen extracts will make it very difficult or impossible for most allergists to continue offering this treatment for their patients.
How can we help?
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) is circulating a petition to tell the USP that allergy patients are considered about the proposed changes impacting access to immunotherapy, and that the current regulations should remain in place. You can also submit a public comment to the USP to voice your concerns. To submit a comment, visit the USP website, scroll to the second to last paragraph, and click on the link to the submission template you must use. Download the template, write your comments under the general comments section, and email it to by January 31st.
I appreciate your involvement both personally and professionally!
Kristin Beltaos, M.A.
Consultant and MNCPD Licensed Trainer

Self Carry Epinephrine: When Can My Child Carry?

Lots of questions arise when a child should self carry epinephrine.

As a child grows in independence when should a child start to self carry epinephrine? Image courtesy of Photobucket

“When should a child self carry epinephrine?” I’m asked this question a lot. First of all, it’s a decision between you and your spouse, your child and your allergist or pediatrician. It’s important to remember that we need to meet our child where he/she is developmentally and from a maturity standpoint. School staff often say to me, “We have a kindergartener that is able to self carry epinephrine, why not this child?” Ok, that’s fine if that is what the parents, physician and child have decided. However, just as 504 accommodations are not cookie cutter, meaning what works for one child may not work for another child, either is self carrying epinephrine.

When your child is ready to take on a more active role in his/her food allergy management, consider reading these posts. From the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology: age appropriateness for self-administering epinephrine and when a child assumes responsibility for self-treatment of anaphylaxis.

I haven’t come across anything written on when to transition your child to self carry epinephrine and so I decided to share with you how I have started to navigate this path. Hopefully it will give you some ideas on how to handle your child’s growing independence.

When is my child ready to self carry epinephrine?

As with many food allergic children our son is an old soul who is mature beyond his years. We were able to explain complex information, at a very young age, and knew it was understood. As a result, he became well-organized in his daily routines and knows how to take care of himself and manage his food allergies. Continue reading