Category: food allergy


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If you were to share one thing about your condition – what would it be?

Inspired by Amy’s awesome Women’s Health discussion “One Thing” – we have a challenge for you to bring back to your communities and to your Twitter feeds.

Amy asked: “If you could share one thing, one morsel of women’s health wisdom, with the young women of our world what would it be?” The question inspired some pretty powerful responses and sparked an idea with a few of our Health Activists. What if everyone did this for their own health condition?

By starting with just one thing – you open the door to discussion. Often we write long posts delving into a whole list of “things” that we want to share about the condition, awareness, our goals, our thoughts, our pasts. It can be a lot to digest both to write and to read.

Take a step back. Meditate on this question. Like the mantra “aum” (or “om“) – start with one thing, pause, and really sit with it  and let it resonate for a minute.

Then go to Twitter (or Facebook) and type your one thing and add the hashtag #My1Thing and another hashtag that your health community uses to tweet about your condition. (Ex: #cancer or #womenshealth)

How did writing just one thing feel? Was it difficult? Was it a good exercise? Do you want to tweet another thing ? (Go for it! Tweet as many “1 thing(s)” as you want.)

The idea is to say one thing about your specific condition – but, because we will all be using the same hashtag, everyone’s contributions will collect across conditions. I think it will be a good way to bridge gaps between communities and raise awareness. Be sure to encourage your twitter friends to get involved and tweet their “one thing.” Even if you’re not yet a Health Activist but have been touched by a health condition – this is something you can participate in.

In a few weeks we’ll check back on this and see what people have tweeted. I encourage you to check out Janeen’s discussion for another take on the #My1Thing for the Food Allergy community.

photo credit: wacky_tom on flickr

Last month, we asked Health Activists to share their experiences and tips for traveling.

Here are a few of the excellent entries we received:

Kelly (you may know her better as RA Warrior) shared her experiences driving to and from Mississippi last summer in her post, “Traveling with Chronic Illness/RA“. She talks about how traveling has changed since she was diagnosed, and wonders whether part of the reason we don’t see more people living with severe rheumatoid arthritis, “because people who are limited by RA don’t spend a lot of time traveling around in public places.” Be sure to check out Part 2 of her post, where she shares 20 fantastic travel tips for those living with chronic illnesses!
In “Buckle Up, We’re Going on Vacation with Food Allergies“, Janeen describes how she prepares for family vacations – including everything from grocery lists to kitchen utensils necessary to prevent cross contamination. In addition to some tips about helpful online resources for finding food allergy friendly restaurants near your destination, there’s also a photograph of the final packing results that you won’t want to miss.
Amy K‘s entry, “Health Activist, Will Travel” presents a different perspective on the challenges of being a Health Activist on the road: sometimes one’s health conditions can prevent travel altogether. Amy notes that, “a lot of people with health conditions and a lot of health activists just don’t have access to the funds or support they need to travel.” Be sure to check out the full post – there are some great travel suggestions in the comments section too!
Just getting back from a trip of your own? It’s not too late to share your tips for traveling as a Health Activist with the WEGO Health Community! Take a minute to leave a comment on the discussion in our Health Bloggers Group.

Many thanks to everyone who submitted entries for last month! We hope you’ll come back tomorrow to find out the topic for August’s Health Activist Blog Carnival.

“I wanted to hear about real life scenarios instead of sterile advice from medical sites…I wanted the next mom who got the peanut allergy diagnosis to find me and know that it is going to be ok, really, truly it is.”

Where to find her: Peanut Free Mama
I’ve been blogging since 2002. I started a personal blog in 2002 at Gab’s House o’ Sass, then I started a blog for my daughter in 2004 which evolved into my current blog (where I devote most of my writing).
Occupation: I manage the marketing department of a scientific publisher in Northern California.
Why “Peanut Fee Mama”?
When my daughter was diagnosed with a peanut allergy, I really felt that I absolutely had to live peanut and nut free as well. Partly as a sign of solidarity, but also I didn’t want to run the risk of causing a reaction by something I ate. So when I created a blog to document the journey we were on, “Peanut Free Mama” seemed like a natural choice.
What made you start your blog?
When my daughter was about 18 months old, she ate a tiny bit of toast (about the size of a pea) with peanut butter on it. Within minutes, her eyes were swollen, her face was covered in hives, and her nose was running. It was awful! Once we had an official diagnosis (and not much else, except for an epi pen prescription), I started on a journey to find as much information as I could via my own research online. I came up empty handed alot! I wanted to hear about real life scenarios instead of sterile advice from medical sites. I started my blog to show how a regular mom was dealing with a peanut allergy and trying to give their child a normal life. I wanted the next mom who got the peanut allergy diagnosis to find me and know that it is going to be ok, really, truly it is.
Are there other places that we can find you on the web?
You can find me on Facebook and on Twitter.
What has been the hardest part about dealing with your child’s peanut allergy for you?
Two things:
First: Trust. Trusting that whoever is watching your child (be it at daycare or school or babysitting) REALLY understands the ramifications of her allergy. It doesn’t matter if it’s family or not, it’s hard to trust another person with your child’s care when they have a special need like this. I’m not worried about my daughter eating peanuts or peanut butter directly. I AM worried about her trusting an adult who doesn’t know how to read a label (or wont bother to).
Second: Mortality. There’s nothing more sobering than facing your child’s mortality at an early age. Sure most parents deal with general fears about their kids getting hit by a car or talking to strangers. But having a child with a food allergy that involves anaphylaxis makes you think about your child dying. A lot. It isn’t fun.
What do you think is the hardest part about dealing with the peanut allergy for her?
She’s just starting to get that she can’t have many of the things her friends have. She doesn’t cry about it, but I can sense the frustration of it. She also isn’t enjoying sitting at the “allergy table” at school. I think she’d be happier if we came up with another solution once she’s in Kindergarten this fall.
What do you wish non allergic parents understood about food allergies and allergy parents?
We’re not doing this to them. We’re not asking them to refrain from sending in nutty treats to school or checking a food label to make their lives difficult. They have the luxury of sending their child off to school or a playdate without wondering if they’ll come home (literally) or not due to something they may have inadvertently ingested. If we could make this allergy business go away, we would!
What do you think is the most important thing a parent of a newly diagnosed food allergic child should know?
You aren’t alone. It gets easier. Day by day you’ll get used to this and after a while this will all be second nature and (dare I say it?) a non-issue for you.
To connect with Gabrielle, visit her WEGO Health page.
This Spotlight Interview was conducted by Janeen, one of WEGO Health’s Community Leaders and author of Our Story: The Good, The Bad, and the Food Allergies, a blog about raising children with food allergies.

In our ongoing work to empower Health Activists, we are holding Community Insight Groups – online focus groups – for people who are active contributors to the online seasonal allergy community.

We are holding Insight Groups on Tuesday, June 23rd for people who suffer from seasonal allergies AND are active contributors or frequent visitors to health care communities. Insight groups will be held at noon and 6pm Eastern Time. All participants will receive a $25 gift certificate.

Please note: These groups will take one hour and are held remotely. Participants can join from anywhere in the country, but will required to be online and on the phone at the same time.

Not sure if you’re an active contributor? We’re looking for people who participate in online discussion forums, question & answer sites, blogs, Twitter, etc.

If you are interested, please complete a short survey to be eligible for participation.

You will be contacted, if you are a good match for this study. For additional information please contact us. All participants will receive a $25 gift certificate.

Check out a few great WEGO Health links on Seasonal Allergies:

Allergies are everywhere and WEGO Health is no exception! Since Spring sprung a few weeks ago – we’ve had a lot of great discussions and blog posts about itchy eyes, sneezing fits, and prevalent tissue piles.

Have you noticed that this year your seasonal allergies are worse than ever? You’re not alone. In fact, some say that this year seasonal allergies are at an all time high! Some say allergy attacks started a month earlier in 2009 than 2008!

Photo courtesy of code poet

As plants and trees bloom and flower earlier each year due to climate changes, the pollen gets more unbearable. In places where the weather shifts from cold to warm really fast – the plants get confused and often release their pollen all at once, causing an allergy overload! Did your city make The Worst Cities for Spring Allergies 2009 list?

Here are a few tips to try:

  • Use an air conditioner to filter the air (even using the fan on your AC unit can help keep pollen out of the house)
  • Try to avoid outdoor activities at peak pollen times (early morning and late afternoon). If you want to exercise or be outside – midday is the best (between noon & 2pm).
  • Switch up your shower routine: washing your hair or bathing before bed gets pollen off you so you won’t be sleeping with it.
  • Wash your sheets and pillowcases weekly. This is a good way to get rid an environment of pollen and dust mites (which can trigger allergies all year round!)
  • Check out webmd’s comprehensive How To Survive Spring Allergy Season

Check out these WEGO Health links to great content on Seasonal Allergies:

Spotlight on: Jennifer B

Blogging Since: I have been blogging for more than a year. My blogs include and On Twitter, I’m FoodAllergyBuzz.

Occupation: Owner of FAB Snacks, Inc (, a snack store specializing on food allergy friendly snacks.

Volunteer & Advocacy work: Local food allergy awareness activities and the PTO for my children’s schools.

How were you introduced to the world of allergies?
My first introduction to food allergies was through my 5 year old son’s peanut allergy. He had always experienced mysterious hives, had a bit of reflux, and also had eczema. It was not until he was more than 3 year that we bought him a hot fudge sundae, decorated with a face made out of Reese’s Pieces that we discovered his allergy to peanuts through a startling combination of gastrointestinal, skin, and respiratory reactions.

What made you decide to start blogging?
I wanted to start writing about something in which I am very interested, and food allergies are the thing I feel most passionately about. Once I began writing, I discovered I had more to say than I ever realized.

Besides your own, what is your favorite health related website?
I have so many favorite websites, it is hard to choose. I do have a few places I visit almost every day. Among my daily stops are,,, but this is by no means my whole list!

What is the one thing you wish someone would have told you when your child was first diagnosed with allergies?
I wish people would have said it is okay and normal to be afraid, to be worried. I felt pressured to “get up to speed” and relax. It took months to get comfortable with the idea that I knew enough about peanut allergies, food allergies, and cross-contamination, to adequately protect my son.

What has been the hardest part about dealing with allergies?
To me, the hardest part is finding food that I feel confident about. There aren’t a lot of foods that I can pick up in the supermarket and feel 100% sure that it is not just free of peanuts, but that it is also from a facility that does not handle peanuts.

What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of how my five year old handles himself in situations involving food outside our home. He asks all the right questions to determine if a food is safe, and he understands when he cannot have a food due to his allergy. He remembers his reaction and is very careful, even at his young age.

What is the main goal that you have as a food allergy health activist?
My main goal is to help make the world a little more food allergy friendly by focusing on food allergic individuals and families as consumers. I want to discover and share food allergy friendly “food finds” and support food allergy conscious businesses. The more options that are available, the easier life will be for food allergic people like my son.

When you think of the future and the work you are doing, what gives you a sense of hope?
The increasing numbers of options at the supermarket and online, and the accomodations at schools and ballparks, give me hope because I can see even in the short time we have been dealing with a food allergy, that people are becoming more aware of the danger of food allergies and we as a society are adapting to meet those challenges.

To learn more about Jennifer and Food Allergy Buzz/FAB Snacks visit her WEGO Health profile page.

About Ruth:  I spend most of my time on, but contribute when I can to my blog on sustainable living, crafting, and organic gardening at In a past life I was a Graphic Designer, now I’m a writer, artist, life learner, and most of all mother of two-which we all know is more than a full time job in and of itself. I’m also a bit of a serial volunteer. It’s important to me to be a part of and give back to my community. Aside for working in my children’s classrooms, I also work on annual PTO events, I’m on the board of our town garden club and am chairing the plant sale this year, I am a volunteer team leader for a local Asthma Allergy Foundation of America support group, and I’m coaching t-ball for the first time.

I’m a firm “pay it forward” believer. If I can make a difference for just one person or family then it is completely worth it for me.

How were you introduced to the world of allergies?
From birth my oldest son had eczema and occasional cases of mysterious hives. Just before age 2 he touched a cutting board I had chopped walnuts on and rubbed his eyes. He immediately started sneezing and coughing up mucus. In a matter of moments his eyes and face turned red with hives and began to swell. He was later diagnosed with life threatening allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, egg, sesame, and soy.
What made you decide to start Best Allergy Sites?
When my son received his allergy diagnosis, my husband and I were given an EpiPen prescription and then sent on our way. We didn’t know who to turn to or where to look for support and advice. Fast forward several years and this same situation is still happening every day.
There are so many wonderful allergy sites and blogs and not a single free and easy to use directory to find them. It seemed to me that the allergy world needed a central resource where people could go and find allergy information, education, support, recipes, advice, product information-anything and everything one might need to manage living with allergies. Best Allergy Sites is the resource I wish I had when my son was diagnosed. It would have saved us a lot of effort, time, and frustration.
Does Best Allergy Sites focus exclusively on food allergies, or can site about seasonal or nasal allergies submit information too? 
The mission of Best Allergy Sites is to bring all of the best allergy information into a one central resource or directory. Any allergy related business, blog, or site can submit for consideration; however we personally review and enter by hand each and every submission. If a site or blog appears to offer dangerous advice or information or doesn’t seem genuine-it doesn’t get listed. That very rarely happens though. Most submitters to Best Allergy Sites are living with allergies in some way, are allergy advocates, and really care about the allergy community.
What’s the hardest part about dealing with allergies?
Entering school. I mistakenly thought that all schools were aware and on top of allergy concerns. We moved to a specific town because of the school’s overall reputation but neglected to ask what their policy was regarding food allergies. We quickly found out that the district had no allergy policy even though the Massachusetts Department of Education had published a brochure titled “Managing Life Threatening Food Allergies in Schools” in 2002. While the state currently has no law requiring allergy policies or protocols, the brochure strongly suggests all Massachusetts schools draft and implement them. I’m pleased to say that after a lot of personal work and advocating, our district implemented its first set of allergy policies and protocols this year.
What has surprised you the most?
My son’s maturity and his resilience. He had to learn about death and dying long before any child should have to. There was a time (and there still are times) when he is consistently excluded from activities, play dates, and birthday parties. We live in a very pro-food country. It’s not uncommon for the school cafeteria to serve a treat on holidays to all students that my son cannot have. It’s pretty hard on a young child to watch 100 kids eat a special Halloween or Christmas cookie. It’s even harder when a friend brings cupcakes to school to celebrate a birthday and leaves him out.
Many parents dealing with food allergies (or not) think that this is just the way life is; that food allergic kids need to get used to it or “suck it up” so to speak. I can’t tell you how many parents let their children be excluded in school, convinced that it didn’t bother them, only to realize the compounding results of exclusion over time. There have been studies done on the quality of life for the food allergic and the results are grim.
There are other ways to celebrate events in school that include ALL children. You wouldn’t exclude a child based on race, religion, sex, or any disability; so it baffles me that it’s still acceptable (to some) to exclude children with food allergies. Thankfully life threatening food allergies are covered under disability laws. You need to know your rights and exercise them.
Where have you found the most support?
I started out getting the most help online. Now that I volunteer with Asthma Allergy Foundation of America, I am meeting more and more local individuals within the allergy community.
When you think of the future and the work you are doing, what gives you a sense of hope?
Seeing families overcome the shock of a life threatening diagnosis and seeing children thrive-despite how different their lives can be from other children-is pretty amazing. We’ve all heard about the recent treatment studies. While I’m hopeful for a cure some day, we still have a long way to go. In the mean time families still need information and support.
I’m a firm “pay it forward” believer. If I can make a difference for just one person or family then it is completely worth it for me. I’ll keep doing this and advocating for allergy awareness as long as it continues to help others.
To learn more about Ruth and Best Allergy Sites, visit her page here at WEGO Health.

Spotlight On: Amy Leger
Visit her at: The Savvy Celiac
Blogging Since: October 2008
Other Blogs: I blog about running on RunningMoms website, for moms (or any women) who are trying to fit running into their busy lives.
Occupation: Freelance writer/communications professional
Volunteer & Advocacy work: Volunteer for Raising our Celiac Kids, Volunteer singer at Grace Lutheran Church. I bothered (annoyed, pestered, worked with) my child’s school district enough during the 2007-2008 school year that they started a gluten-free menu for all children in the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota last October.

Once diagnosed, it’s okay to grieve, whether it’s you who was diagnosed, or your child. Take time to feel bad, but then pull up your bootstraps and get going with the gluten-free lifestyle change.

How long ago where you diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease? 

It actually is my daughter who has celiac disease. She was diagnosed in June of 2000 at the age of 15 months. She had the typical symptoms you see with kids: distended belly, vomiting every 9 days, frothy diarrhea. She was so crabby all the time that my husband and I wondered – is this what we will have to endure for the rest of our lives?

Does she suffer from other allergies or intolerances? She does not.

What made you start The Savvy Celiac? 

Two reasons…celiac started to impact my family beyond my daughter: last summer my brother was diagnosed with celiac and then in August we also took in an exchange student from Norway who has celiac disease. I felt like I had enough reason – just to help the three celiacs in my life.

The other reason also happened over the summer. I wrote an article about how the Rochester, Minnesota School district is feeding nearly two dozen kids daily with their gluten-free menu. I showed how it all started with one question from a mom and it boomed from there. It was picked up by Food Service Director magazine and published in September 2008. I got a great response from it, as did the Rochester School District. (Food Service Director Magazine: A Gluten Free Solution) That’s when I knew I could have a positive impact on this cause. About a month later I started The Savvy Celiac, with the goal of really bringing out some issues, research, and maybe things people hadn’t thought of before.

What are the first 3 tips you tell people who come to you who are in the initial stage of diagnosis? 

I come at it from a parent’s perspective:

  1. If you haven’t had your biopsy yet, don’t go gluten-free. You could end up with a test result that implies you don’t have celiac.
  2. Once diagnosed, it’s okay to grieve, whether it’s you who was diagnosed, or your child. Take time to feel bad, but then pull up your bootstraps and get going with the gluten-free lifestyle change.
  3. Start slow with your diet change introducing only the most basic foods (eggs, vegetables, meat, fruit) at first. More complex foods (processed, gluten free but not prepared in a gluten-free facility (like mainstream things: Cheetos, Doritos, etc)) should be introduced one at a time. This way if you have trouble with a particular food, you’ll know which one it is right away. Emma was 15 months old. She lived on eggs and formula until I learned how to make bread. And we slowly worked our way up to a full complement of food. Of course that’s easy to do with a 15 month old, and not as easy with a 30 year old.

What was the most surprising thing about going “gluten free”? 

Two things: Once you get the hang of the gluten-free lifestyle, it really is not that tough to do

And you find that nothing is immune to the potential for gluten involvement: ie Rice Krispies, lipstick, even my daughter’s bubble bath.

What are you most proud of? 

My celiac daughter who even questions me to make sure the food I’m giving her is gluten free.

What are you passionate about? 

Equality. I don’t like it when my celiac daughter feels left out at snack time during an activity (sports or school). I know life won’t be that easy for her, but if I can help educate the masses along the way (like my daughter’s school and the gluten free lunch options) maybe I can help make the gluten-free lifestyle more acceptable among a majority of people.

What’s your favorite food? 

Glutino Pretzel Sticks. Perfect for snacks: plain or with cheese. But also serve as a great substitute for crunchy Chinese noodles that go in Chow Mein. I use these for all of the above all the time as do my daughter and our exchange student.

To learn more about Amy, visit her WEGO Health page.

I recently spoke with Leslea Harmon, founder of Allergy Ware and all around allergy guru about how it all started. In this clip, Leslea shares tips for new food allergy parents, talks about the benefits of using the web and how she balances it all.

This is the first installment of the WEGO Health podcast, so give it a listen and let us know what you think!  Details about subscribing to our podcast through iTunes are coming soon.

Learn more about Leslea.
Is there someone you’d like us to interview, or someone you’d like to interview for WEGO Health’s new podcast? Email us at to get started!

Many thanks to Vanessa Rhinesmith and Colin Rhinesmith for podcast production. Music by DJ Cary and available at Magnatune.

This podcast is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States.