Are you afraid of Back to School?!

I just read the article from Today's Parent:  Are Schools Doing Enough?

My comments below the article:As an allergy mom I request the following accommodations from my child’s school that I think are reasonable and fair…

1. Supervision while eating.

Did you know that many schools in Peel region have one adult supervising 4-6 classrooms over the lunch hour. This means children are left unsupervised for the majority of the lunch hour. As a teacher with the board, I personally witnessed children vomiting, standing on tables and running around when teachers were not present. It is not safe for any young child not just those with life threatening food allergies to be unsupervised while eating.

2. Proper cleaning.

I requested that the desks and chairs be properly wiped and floors swept after the children eat -they eat 3 times per day in the classroom -lunch and 2 snack times. I was told that it is NOT the teacher’s job nor the custodians to clean up after the children eat and that if I want this done i would have to come in myself and do it. Which I did for the beginning of the school year. I quickly realized this was not reasonable or reliable as I had to work or could fall ill and that someone in the school needed to be responsible for this. The decision made was to have the children clean up after themselves with wipes. I am not happy with this decision but it is better than nothing. I have seen cheese spread into the carpets following a food fight in the class room (back to the lack of supervision) and my daughter has to sit on that carpet during circle time with her life-threatening dairy allergy.

3. Safe arts and craft materials

-allergens can be hidden in arts and craft materials and sometimes recycled food containers are used. I asked to be notified so that i can read the ingredients and ensure craft materials are safe.

4. Handwashing

-I requested that children wash their hands after eating to help prevent the risk of cross-contamination. This is very difficult for the school to do however as there are just so many children and some classrooms do not have sinks. This year the children are going to use wipes to wipe their hands. I hope this will be effective.

5. Non-food treats or Safe treats.

– I advocate for non-food treats -pencilgrams (where children can purchase a pencil and write a note to be sent to a friend -good fundraiser), books donated in honour of birthdays etc. This promotes literacy too! On the special occasions and holidays where the school would like a food treat given to children I request:
a) An opportunity to recommend a safe treat for all children in the school that is a food item that comes packaged with ingredient label
b) If a) is not possible, the opportunity to be notified in advance so that I can send a comparable safe treat for my allergic child and other allergic children possibly
I do not understand why schools want to give children homemade treats anyway? There is no quality control, no ingredients listed and you have no idea what the safety or contents are of that treat! I also feel that children have access to a lot of treats and most families are trying to encourage healthy choices. Let’s have celebrations with fruit! When I was teaching, I would read the story “Stone Soup” to the children and we would have vegetable soup to celebrate.

Everyone loves treats and I’m not saying there isn’t a time and a place for them. I also ask parents of non-allergic children to try and imagine one of 2 scenarios:

1. Your child being the only one who doesn’t get the treat. The whole point of treats is to bring happiness and smiles to the children. A 6 year old child being the only one not getting a cupcake is just sad :(

2. Your snack causing the death of another child. We saw the recent allergy death of a 13 year old girl (Natalie Giorgio) this summer from eating a bite of a rice krispie square. My heart breaks for her family and for the family that made the treats. It is heartbreaking that food that is perfectly safe and enjoyable for some can kill others. The rate of allergies has risen from 1-2 % of our population in the early part of this decade to 7.5%!!! These allergies are becoming more and more prevalant! I ask you to imagine if it was your child who all of a sudden was deathly allergic to milk. It is terrifying to send your child to school with yogurt, milk, pizza with cheese and their life-threatening allergen everywhere. Try to put yourself in that mom’s shoes. Thank you!!!!!

What do you think?

What do you request from your child's school as far as accommodations to keep your child safe?  In the United States there are 504 plans for these kids which recognizes their allergies as disabilities.  I have been trying to advocate for these here in Canada but without success.  The schools and Ministry are not recognizing Anaphylaxis as a disability.  What could be more disabling than the risk of death caused by food that is all around you every day?!    For my child with a life-threatening dairy allergy, the milk, pizza, cheese, and yogurt that her classmates bring to school is a poison.  It is terrifying for her and us to imagine what would happen if she accidentally ingested milk or had a reaction from touching contaminated supplies or furniture.


You can snag a deal on the first air filter that has been certified asthma & allergy friendlyTM by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)

Click here to buy and enter the discount code “Melissa” (that’s me!) for 25% off and free shipping on the site. 

This code expires at the end of August so don't miss out!

In our society we are often reactive rather than proactive -this means we wait for things to get bad before we do something about them.  This is why we are more likely to buy medicine than vitamins for example.  While air filters aren't exciting or fun they certainly do have a huge impact on your health!

August 26th:  Severe Allergy & Anaphylaxis Support Group Meeting in Oakville, ON.

The meetings are intended to provide emotional support to individuals and families.  Upcoming topics include:
Aug. 26th:  Back to School & Handling the Emotional Trauma of Allergy Deaths (Natalie Giorgio)
Sept. 30th:  Back to School (How has the first month gone?!) & Marriage -The impact of food allergies on a marriage
Oct. 28th:  Hallowe'en Safety for Food Allergies & Community Relationships (Advocating and educating for empathy in your local community)
Nov. 25:  Holiday Season -Handling the holiday stress, parties, and social events with food allergies & Extended Family Relationships (Emotional Support for the stress on extended family relationships when dealing with life-threatening food allergies)

Email me @ to RSVP.

Could The Epinephrine Have Killed Her?

I had an email from a teacher who was curious about the death of Natalie Giorgio (the 13 year old who died after eating a rice krispie treat made with peanut butter). 

Natalie had a known peanut allergy.  She took a bite of the treat and immediately suspected she shouldn't have and brought it to her mom.  Her mom agreed that there was peanut butter in the treat. 

They waited to see what would happen - was that the fatal mistake???  Some are saying that is the reason why she died: Delaying administration of the epinephrine.    

Here is her question:

This is so tragic, I feel for the family so much.  Melissa, did this happen because the epi's were applied too late?  That they can be ineffective if not administered immediately??  I am curious as to why they may have waited if they knew there was peanut butter.  Even IF there was any doubt one would give the epi's anyway wouldn't one?  Do you have any ideas??  I'm just trying to understand this situation.
Here was my response to Jane:

My allergist has told me that most of the deaths due to allergies occur with people who had a known allergy and failed to administer epi or delayed administration.  There was another death recently where the boy also received the dose later and died.   In the event that a known allergen is ingested they recommend IMMEDIATE ADMINISTRATION OF EPI.

My mom is anaphylactic to bee stings...

Her and I were discussing the tragedy of this case and the fact that they gave 3 epi-pens.  My mother mentioned that when she was in hospital the doctors told her it would be dangerous to give her any more epinephrine.  Could 3 doses have been too much?

So many questions..

  • Why did they wait?
  • It is said she started to show signs of a reaction 20 minutes after ingesting the treat.  Did they administer the epipen immediately upon these symptoms or did they wait longer?
  • Could the epi-pens have caused her death?  Were 3 doses too much? 
What do you think?  What would you do?  If you or your child ingested a known allergen do you think you would delay administering the epi-pen or would you give it right away?  Are you afraid to administer epinephrine?

Are the "experts" on the same page??

One of the things that I am noticing is that all of us are getting different answers from the doctors.  Some are being told to give benadryl and epi.   Some are told never to give benadryl for anaphylaxis.  Some are told to wait and see and others are told administer immediately.

My advice? 

Give epi immediately for known ingestion of a food allergen.

One more piece of advice if I may...

The common thread I see in most of the allergy deaths is that people are eating food that they have not prepared themselves.  We have a rule for our daughter that she is only allowed to eat food that I or her father has prepared.  Even still, we fear mislabeling on food ingredients and undeclared allergens or the risk of cross-contamination.    We all do our best to keep our children safe.

Let's support each other, not JUDGE...

It saddens me when I see the comments below articles such as the one of Natalie's death where members of our allergy community criticize the family for their actions and inactions.  Really?!!  Come on.  In the support group I host I advocate for non-judgement.  Those parents were doing the best they could for their daughter and they are now sharing their story with the press to publicize this death to promote advocacy and education or the public on the severity of these food allergies.  I send them my love and prayers.

An Allergy Mom always checks ingredients -but what about the ingredients in our Air?!

Indoor Air Quality -
An Allergy Mom always checks ingredients -but what about the ingredients in our AIR?!!

My life was forever changed when my children started suffering from their respective allergies.  All of a sudden I was forced to become hyper-aware of the ingredients in our food, our personal care products, and cleaning products.   I contacted many experts to learn as much as I could about how to make our home environment safer and was surprised to learn the importance of Indoor Air Quality for keeping my home safest for my kids.  I hadn’t considered the ingredients in the very air we breathe!  I had never really given air quality much thought and to be honest, I was making some of the worst possible mistakes that I could once I learned more!  Oops!   For example, using my basement as a dumping ground for cardboard boxes that can get moldy, having an untreated concrete floor that literally grows dust, and accumulating piles of dust-collecting junk.  I am embarrassed to admit that we even let my parents who are big smokers, smoke down there!!  What I learned from the indoor air expert that came to my home was that the furnace in our basement is actually the lungs of our home and that the basement of all places should have the CLEANEST air possible as this air was literally being pumped throughout our home.  

This is when I learned the keys to having the best possible indoor air quality for my home and I will share these with all of you in this series of blog posts.

I Am Not Alone

It turns out, I’m not the only mom who has made this same mistake!  Despite our efforts to live healthier, “greener” lives, many of us out there don’t think about the air in our homes and how it impacts the health of our families.  

Why should we care?
  • We spend more time indoors now than ever before -in fact, we spend more than 90% of our time indoors!1
  • Our homes are built better and although that sounds like a good thing -it actually means that we have homes that are more airtight -sealing in the air and not allowing as much exchange with fresh air from outdoors. It is very likely that your house does not have adequate fresh air!2  
  • Our airtight homes trap in the harmful gasses that come from the off-gassing of carpets, flooring, furniture and other building materials, VOCs and other chemicals.  We are literally trapping pollutants into the air we breathe.3
  • Improving Indoor Air Quality is one of the most important changes you can make to improve allergies and asthma symptoms.4

What can we do?

Let’s start by removing allergens and pollutants that make their way into the home with proper air filtration.  If your home has a furnace, this can be made easy by having a good quality air filter.  Have you ever changed the air filter in your furnace?  Did you even know you had one?  It’s ok if you answer no to these questions!  You can admit if you’re scared to venture down into the depths of the basement and have never gone near your furnace!  

Now’s the time to put on the super mommy cape (or get your husband to go down there ha ha) and check out your air filter in your furnace.  The standard filters that come with the furnace are not going to cut it.  The expert I had come into my home told me those things allow rocks through!  What we want is something that is going to get microscopic, particulates such as pollen, dust, mold, and pet dander out of our air.   

Using a high-efficiency air filter is one of the least expensive -and most effective -things you can do to remove harmful allergens and pollutants from the air in your home, improving your indoor air quality and the health of your family.

An Asthma & Allergy Friendly Solution:

There is a new brand of Air Filters on the market by Lysol that are the first ones to be certified asthma & allergy friendlyTM by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).  These filters:
  • are chemical-free
  • trap pollutants and allergens
  • neutralize odors naturally
  • inhibit the growth of bacteria using a mineral-based, antimicrobial agent
  • reduce pollen by 95%
  • reduce dust mites in the air by 92%
  • reduce pet dander by 85%
  • leave you with cleaner, fresher, healthier indoor air -for a healthier family.

Want one?

You can snag a deal on the first air filter that has been certified asthma & allergy friendlyTM by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).  Click here to buy and enter the discount code “Melissa” (that’s me!) for 25% off and free shipping on the site.  This code is active for fans of The Allergy Mom through August!

  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1989. Report to Congress on indoor air quality: Volume 2. EPA/400/1-89/001C. Washington, DC.
  2. “How to Get the Ventilation That You Need in Your House”
  3. “Care for Your Air: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality” by the EPA: United States Environmental Protection Agency.
  4. “Tips to Control Indoor Allergens”  by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.