So did you read about the latest peanut allergy study? It tells us that if only we had eaten more nuts during pregnancy, our kids would be less likely to have peanut allergies. One-third less likely, as a matter of fact. That's quite a benefit to eating nuts, isn't it? Especially when we've been told for many years to avoid them while pregnant, right?
It seems to me that pregnancy/parenting advice changes more than the weather, and we all do our best to keep our kids (both in and out of the womb) as safe as possible, but you know what? This study can go straight to hell. It feels like a giant pointed finger shoved in the faces of the women carrying babies, and I'm not willing to take on the blame for my child's food allergies, thankyouverymuch. If only you hadn't eaten that! If only you had done this. Oh, wait, that was wrong, and you're still to blame! Too bad, Mama, it's all your fault.
Eight years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter, the recommendation was to avoid nuts while pregnant, for fear of affecting the baby in utero. Studies had shown that there was an increase in nut allergies in children when pregnant women ate them. I ate them anyhow. I love peanut butter, and wasn't about to give it up just because some inconclusive study said so. I also ate sushi, soft cheese and caffeine. When my son was in utero, I did the same.
One child has exactly no allergies, and the other has had too many to recollect over his short four-year life. So does this new study mean that had I not eaten nuts, my son's allergies could have been even worse? Or was it my nut-eating that caused these allergies?
Or maybe, just maybe, is this something that I couldn't control, and that we still really don't know enough about? I'm placing my bets on the latter. Studies like these need to shut their damn mouths with the blamey-blame, that's what I think. I agree that the rapid increase of food allergies is alarming, and I think that the cure is in identifying the cause, but I really think it's detrimental to start placing blame on pregnant women when we're not truly sure that's where blame should be cast.
Allergies don't take a vacation during the holidays. There's a spike in reported allergies this time of year, quite often because our homes are closed for winter, and we're dealing with dust, dust mites, mould, and other indoor allergens. I posted some helpful tips HERE for surviving winter allergies, but hadn't really considered just how allergy-filled our holiday decor may be. According to a recent study done by the folks at Claritin, 43% of people report that they take allergies into consideration when decorating for the holidays. I wasn't part of that 43%, but I'm sure listening now. I had the chance to chat with Colin McAllister, of Colin & Justin fame last week, and he shared with me some absolutely fabulous tips for allergy-friendly holiday decorating.
When we're decorating, we often forget that allergens could be hiding anywhere. For example, do you store your ornaments in the garage? Do you clean them when you take them out every year? I don't, and it had never dawned on me that with those lovely ornaments I bring inside, comes a year's worth of dust. Do you use a real tree? Had you considered that the tree is not, in fact, alive, but in a state of decomposition, which means it's rife with dust, mould and pollens (and who knows what else)?
Yeah. Not so merry, huh? Well, fret not, Colin & Justin to the rescue with these helpful tips to keep allergies at bay and keep that "feel-good factor" alive.
Real Christmas Trees
Choose: If a real tree is a must-have, consider avoiding pine as it's a major allergy trigger for many. Fir, spruce, and cypress are often better options. Even better: The Leyland Spruce, a sterile hybrid tree that doesn't even produce pollen. (Say what? Crazy!)
Shake: Make sure you have the tree shaken vigorously to remove and dead needles, and rid it of as much dust and pollen as possible.
Wash: Spraying off your tree will help remove potential allergens, and for even more effective results, using a vegetable wash will also remove any pesticides (another major irritant).
Colin also mentioned that if you absolutely must have a real tree, keeping it outside on a porch is a great option.
Choose: Choose a polyethylene (PE) tree to reduce the off-gassing from the materials used to make your tree.
Wash: Make sure you're thoroughly washing your tree when you take it out of storage. It's likely full of dust and mould, and considering wrapping it in plastic for storage next time around.
Alternatively, get creative! Choose a metal-framed tree, or these unique (and environmentally-friendly) cardboard trees from Boutique Cascades. One year, Colin used projectors to project winter and seasonal images on walls and ceilings in their home—how cool is that idea?
Dump granny's potpourri. Scents are major allergy triggers and are often toxic anyhow. Colin & Justin recommend avoiding the stuffed noses and irritated lungs altogether and go with unscented soy or beeswax candles to create a lovely atmosphere. I love simmering some mulling spices to give the house that warm, Christmassy smell myself.
Dust ornaments before you place them inside. In fact, unwrap them outside to avoid bringing allergens inside at all. Wipe with a soft cloth and when you're packing them up again, use fresh paper (rather than reusing the old dusty wrappings).
Clean wreaths with a soft cloth or vacuum (HEPA filter preferred!) to remove dust and other particles.
According to the Claritin study, 50% of people have declined invitations because of a pet in the home. Remember that when you're inviting guests! Be sure to inquire about allergies, and be the host with the most by making your home as allergy-free as possible. Carpets house gazillions of icky allergens (that I try not to think about), so when cleaning your home, make sure you're using a vacuum with a HEPA filter so you're not just throwing everything back into the air.
I'd like to extend another huge thanks to Colin for the enlightening chat. I'm off to scrub down my Christmas tree, because I'm wholly disgusted by what may be lurking within.
Happy (allergy-friendly) decorating, everyone!
When I began to suspect my son's reactions as an infant were somehow linked to food allergies, I started logging them. I'd track the foods I ate, and the reactions he'd have. Long before we ever met our allergist, I had a list a mile long of questions I needed answers to, and even then, I felt nervous about his diagnosis. There's so much to know about all kinds of severe allergies, and even now that we've had three-and-a-half years' worth of experience with his severe allergies, he throws us nice curveballs regularly so we don't get too comfortable. (Hello, allergy to cold.)
Sometimes the wait to see an allergist is months long, so during this time, you might as well gain as much insight into suspected severe allergies as possible, and arm yourself with questions for when you do finally visit your allergy specialist. We see a pediatric allergist for my son's severe allergies; don't be afraid to specifically request one with pediatric focus. They have a great handle on kids' needs and severe allergy management.
If you're having reactions, track them, always. Take note of what you eat, what you come in contact with, and how you feel. If your child is old enough to explain the way they feel, ask them, and keep track. Have as much information to share with the allergist during your first appointment as possible. There are a lot of important questions you'll want to ask your allergist about your child's specific severe allergies, and I've written some of them here for you. Remember that the key to safety is education, so don't hesitate to ask as many questions of your allergist as you like.
Carrying an EpiPen Auto-Injector gives me a sense of security, buying me those invaluable minutes to get him to an emergency room. But, as even Spider-Man knows, with great power comes great responsibility and when we were prescribed the EpiPen, I had a million questions. Along with speaking to other EpiPen-packing parents and your allergist, you can find great answers on the EpiPen Facebook page.
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