Nov
15
2013

TellSpec: The Future of Allergen Detection

"Beam Your Health Up"

TellSpec: The Future of Allergen Detection

Ok, so it's no hovercar, but I feel like this new invention has propelled us into the far future, people. There's a new device in production called TellSpec, and it has the potential to absolutely change the lives of food allergy sufferers forever. With just a quick scan, the device can tell you the content of your food. Can you imagine not having to take anyone's word for what's in that pasta you order in a restaurant? Can you imagine being able to detect minute amounts of gluten or nuts? Wouldn't it be great to never have to worry about crazy allergy alerts? Wouldn't it be so great to be able to easily avoid any food allergen or ingredient you want to avoid? Incredible.

According to the TellSpec site:

TellSpec brings together laser spectroscopy, nanophotonics, and a unique mathematical algorithm in a revolutionary hand-held consumer device that can analyze the chemical composition of any food in less than 20 seconds.

The TellSpec handheld device beams a low-powered laser at the food you wish to analyze, measures the reflected light with a spectrometer, and sends the data via your smart phone, computer, or tablet to TellSpec’s servers in the cloud. Those servers use this data to deduce information about your food that is of interest to you. This information is then displayed on your computer, tablet or smart phone so you can intelligently decide if you want to buy or eat the food.




TellSpec has an IndieGoGo campaign running right now, with plenty of options for getting involved in helping to bring this product to market, and I cannot wait to see this on the shelves.

(Image Source: TellSpec)

Nov
15
2013

10 Things NOT to Say to Someone With Allergies

(unless you want to sound dumb)

10 Things NOT to Say to Someone With Allergies

Not everyone knows about allergies, much to the dismay of those who suffer from them. I asked around on social media, and I've collected some of the whackiest/most annoying/dumbest things people have said to those who have allergies.

Have you heard any of these? If you've said them, don't admit it. Just don't say them again, deal?

10. Oh, my dog is hypo-allergenic.

There's no such thing as a hypo-allergenic dog. It doesn't matter if your dog has hair (as opposed to fur), if it's bathed daily, or if it's one of those freaky-looking bald ones. Human allergies to dogs are generally related to the dander or saliva—two things every single dog has. There are no absolute guarantees that a dog won't cause someone a reaction. Example: My husband and son are allergic to dogs, and we have a Yorkie/Maltese cross. She doesn't affect either of them, until she licks my son's face. Then? Hives form. So yes, he's allergic to this "hypo-allergenic" dog. (Obviously we don't let her lick him.) Don't take offense, ok? Not everyone has to snuggle your puppy.

9. Do you have to use your EpiPen often?

EpiPens (or other epinephrine injectors) aren't like Advil. You don't just use them willy-nilly whenever you sneeze. They're used when a serious reaction (anaphylaxis) is a possibility. And when you use one, you have to head off to the good old emergency room for observation, too. They're also $100 a pop (literally, the needle "pops" when you use them), so they're definitely not something most people use with abandon. They're used for emergencies only, indicating exactly how severe a reaction can be. Most people avoid their own life-threatening allergies so I sure hope they're not popping EpiPens weekly.

8. Can she just have a little bit of peanut butter?

Some allergies are so sensitive that exposure to particulate matter (peanut dust, even) causes anaphylaxis. No amount of an allergen is safe. So no, you can't feed my kid just a little tiny piece of your peanut butter toast.

7. Can't you just give her some Benadryl?

Over-the-counter allergy medications are wonderful things, but no, in the case of a severe reaction, they wouldn't be able to help. And let's face it, they barely touch severe seasonal allergies, as most sufferers know come springtime.

6. Maybe if you'd let him play in the dirt more, he wouldn't have allergies.

There are plenty of studies out there that point to the Western world's obsession with cleanliness as a potential cause for the rise of allergies, but I can assure you, we play in the mud a-plenty and I'm no germaphobe. My son was born with severe allergies, and it wasn't because my house is too clean, that's for damn sure.

5. Eat more of your allergen—it will cure the allergy! (@sandierpastures, via Twitter)

So, you want someone who can die from a peanut to eat more peanuts? Can someone trace the logic here for me?

4. I know you're anaphylactic, but you don't have to be so upset about nuts being in the room! (@dezignated, via Twitter)

Cross-contamination, inhalation, accidental ingestion—these are real fears for people with allergies. So yes, when an allergen is present, the allergic person should not be.

3. He's allergic to dairy? I'm lactose intolerant too! (Karen M, via Facebook)

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactase (a type of sugar found in milk). To combat the gas and discomfort related to this, people can pop a few over-the-counter Lactaid pills and carry on loving ice cream. A dairy allergy is a severe reaction to the proteins in dairy, and it can be life-threatening. So not the same.

2. What did you do to cause your child's allergy? (Liz B. via Facebook)

Since nobody really knows what happens to a person's immune system that flips the switch for allergies, how about we leave the blame out of the equation? I carried two pregnancies the same way: ate the same foods, lived in the same place, created them with the same DNA combo. My first baby has no allergies and the second was born with so many, there was almost nothing safe for him. I have no idea what series of combinations made his little immune system go haywire, but I can tell you that this isn't a "fault" situation. It's completely ridiculous to blame a mom for causing allergies.

1. It's all in your mind. (@interabanger, via Twitter, Cindy B. via Facebook, and many, many other people, sadly)

I know, I know, plenty of people use the word "allergy" incorrectly. And heck, some abuse it by claiming they're allergic to something when the reality is that they just don't like eating it. But at the end of the day, if someone tells you they have to avoid something, is it really worth arguing? If they have an itchy tongue after eating kiwi, why tell them it's their imagination? If they sneeze whenever they pet the dog, why disagree?

Nov
03
2013

Starbucks Allergy Alert

Really, people? Really?!

Starbucks Allergy Alert

Every day my inbox fills with approximately eleventy gazillion Google Alerts filled with news and reports on allergies, every anaphylactic, and honestly, it's a pretty overwhelming Inbox of Doom. For the most part, though, I eagerly read these articles, and I generally agree with the opinion pieces about how the world needs a little more empathy in helping people with life-threatening allergies.

I don't get my back up when peanut allergy jokes are made in movies. I don't care if people hand out candy containing peanuts for Halloween (um, hello, I've been gorging on them all day). I don't expect the world to stop eating nuts just because my son can't eat them but I absolutely do think my kid deserves to feel safe at school. I do think food manufacturers should label accurately and strive to keep people safe. And I also think people need to be less dismissive and more supportive of the people dealing with these allergies. A little compassion goes a long way, but in the end, it's up to me to protect my son, and teach him to protect himself.

In this campaign to spread awareness of allergies, I really don't get stuff like this alarmist post about a Starbucks Allergy Alert. These kinds of alerts aren't doing anyone any good, are they? Freaking people out about how dangerous Starbucks can be to those with an allergy is less than helpful, really. Instead of blaming Starbucks, how about we educate people on managing their expectations of safety in places like these?

Here's the reality: Yes, Starbucks is totally delicious. And yes, they also sell a ton of allergen-containing products, from their drinks to their food items. So, no, it's not a safe place for people with allergies. Period. End of story. How is that even an expectation? How is this something worthy of an alarmist alert? This place sells muffins containing nuts. There's dairy everywhere. It's gluten central. And here are people whining about cross-contamination. Really? Apparently common sense ain't so common.

When you're dealing with a potentially life-threatening allergy, it isn't up to the 17-year-old barista behind the counter to know what's in your drink, it's up to you. It's not up to that kid to sanitize the counters to rid everything of reaction-causing proteins, it's up to you to realize the risk you take whenever you eat outside your own home. It isn't up to Starbucks to make everything safe for everyone, it's up to you to make decisions about where you will eat (or where your family will eat). Eating in restaurants isn't a basic human right, so I'm not really sure why people have this expectation of food vendors. I'd never put my life in the hands of a McWorker, so I certainly wouldn't do so with my son's life.

Check the labels yourself. Make phone calls to corporate offices. Call manufacturers. Research before you eat anywhere. Ask questions. Protect yourself as best you possibly can, but for Pete's sake, don't leave it up to anyone else. As an allergic person, when you choose to eat anything you haven't cooked yourself (or made from scratch), you have to understand the risk of human error whether it's via cross-contamination, misinformation or any other kind of mistake. I don't trust "allergy-safe" menus after hearing horror stories about mistakes made. I don't trust "may contain" labels after all the recalls in the news. I don't trust anyone else's judgment when it comes to what's safe for my son to ingest. 

It's not up to the world to remove the allergens from your life, it's up to you to protect yourself from them.