Hi, everyone, it's me, Debbie Downer again! I'm here to tell you that with the sparkle and joy of the Christmas holidays come allergens. Allergies often spike over the holiday season, since we're trapped inside with our allergens. As if the cold and snow this time of year wasn't depressing enough, we can't even get an allergy reprieve! But it's ok, I'm not just a bearer of bad news. I'm here with some tips for keeping your allergies at bay over the Christmas season:
Sanofi, I want to love your Allerject® epinephrine auto-injector, I really, really do. The size is just so perfect for popping into pockets, and it fits my tiny son so perfectly. I love that the device has a calm voice recording that walks people through the injection process. I rely on your product to save the life of my child if he should ever suffer an anaphylactic reaction, but with multiple recalls in less than one year, the trust is gone. I told everyone how much I loved your product in the past, but it's time we break up.
My son was born with many food and environmental allergies, and his immune system often seems...a little confused. It likes to throw us curve balls: reacting to things that should be totally safe for him, making him susceptible to every germ that floats through his school, and giving him asthma. He recently spent four days in the hospital after what I thought would be a quick visit to the ER for bronchitis. As it turned out, he was having a very severe asthma attack - but before that, we didn't even know he had asthma. Seeing him struggle to breathe was so scary.
You know I'm all for protecting people with food allergies, but I think sometimes our fear takes precedence over reality. Food bans are a hot topic in the allergy community, and I've been on the receiving end of some hate over my hesitation to support them without question. There's actually little proof that blanket food bans really keep anaphylactic people safe: many experts feel they're ineffective.
We all know what hives are, don't we? Raised, itchy patches that can drive allergic people completely bonkers. Most of the time, hives are caused by an allergic reaction. And when that happens, antihistamines reduce the swelling, and the hives disappear within a fairly short amount of time. Some people, however, live their lives with what's known as Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria.
Chelsea O'Donnell was adopted at just two months of age by Rosie O'Donnell. This past summer, she and her mother were at the centre of some hot gossip when Rosie reported Chelsea had run away, but Chelsea claimed Rosie had kicked her out. In every single media headline, Rosie was referred to as Chelsea's "adopted mother". Oof. It would appear from the outside that the two of them clash quite a bit, which frankly is nothing strange for a teenager and her mom.
When we were kids, television was in black and white, we walked to school uphill both ways (in the snow), and we had no internet. Childhood for my kids - who are now nine- and five-years-old has changed a lot - even since they were babies. One major difference is when we were told to introduce foods to them. We were advised to avoid the major allergens until at least one year of age (and up to three years in some cases).
Life's tricky. I'm 40 and I still don't have it all figured out. In fact, I make (big) mistakes on the regular, so I might not be the one to start doling out life advice, but since when has incompetency stopped me before?
Here are some lessons I really hope my kids learn before I did. Because life would've been a whole lot easier had I known this stuff before now.
Asthma has increased dramatically over the last few decades, with 500 adults dying of asthma each year (and about 20 kids). That's scary stuff. I know for my family, we tried to keep the indoor air clean when our kids were babies, especially since my husband has a number of allergies and asthma. We figured that keeping the air as clean as possible would help boost their immune systems and hopefully ward off asthma and allergies. Boy, were we ever wrong.
Sanofi Canada has issued a voluntary recall of all Allerject units currently on the market. The recall includes both strengths for all customers. Apparently they may have inaccurate dosages, which can be extremely problematic if needed for an anaphylactic reaction.
There have been more than 20 reports of device malfunctions, which sounds troublesome, but considering there are more than 2.7 million units out there in the market, that's not a huge number. But as we know, there's no room for error when dealing with anaphylaxis.
Food allergies are on the rise, but the causes still baffle scientists. Researchers constantly seek reasons why the increase is happening, and how to stop or reverse the trend. In results released in August of 2014, a study from the University of Chicago made huge waves in the allergy community. They found that increasing the amount of Clostridia, a common gut bacteria, protected people against food allergies.
Food allergies are confusing. Ask anyone who deals with them, and you'll find that answers vary from patient to patient and doctor to doctor. What we thought were facts have been proven false, and knowledge changes so rapidly, it's hard to stay on top of things. So I went straight to one of the foremost allergy experts for information about oral "food challenges" (OFCs). Dr. Adelle Atkinson is a clinical immunologist in the Division of Immunology and Allergy at SickKids Hospital, and she's also the mom of an allergic kid.
My son started self-carrying his epinephrine auto-injector in senior kindergarten, and now that he's off to grade one, it was important for him to have a sturdy way to have his life-saving medications on him at all times. The thing is, carrying cases for kids can be so expensive! $20 or more, and then shipping on top of that, since no local stores carry them. I made him one before, but it was flimsy and cumbersome for him to use, so we've been looking for something reasonable for awhile now.
What kind of person would resist a wheelchair ramp being installed to make the life of one student easier? Is that you? Are you the kind of person who, when asked to turn your music down at 11pm, complains about your rights being trampled on just because a neighbour wants to sleep? Are you against accommodating people with autism or ensuring those who practice different religions are treated fairly and equitably? Who complains that they can't send a food their kid likes to school because it can kill another child?
You know how I came to write this blog, and why speaking about allergies is so important to me. You know that my son (and millions of other people) can die from ingesting an allergen. You may read this blog because you deal with allergies in your family, or maybe you read it because you're just a kind, sympathetic person.
Food allergies are increasingly common in Canada (more than 2.5 million Canadians have them), but when it's your own child diagnosed with one, it's scary, isolating, and overwhelming. My son was an infant when we discovered he was allergic to many foods, but allergies can happen at any age. When they do, it's difficult to see the positive in a very life-threatening situation, but as someone who has dealt with these allergies for almost six years, I promise it'll get easier.