Protecting Kids with temporary tattoos

food allergiesParents of the three million or so kids in the US who have been diagnosed with food allergies whose kids have severe food allergies know they can’t be too careful. One bite of the food they are allergic to could be deadly. Indeed, according to the CDS, more than 200 people with food allergies die every year as a result of anaphylaxis.

Now, Michele Walsh, a mother of three from Baltimore, has created SafetyTat  to help remind teachers, classmates and babysitters to be extra careful.

temp tattooThe safety tats are brightly colored temporary tattoos or long-lasting write-on stickers that can be placed prominently on a child’s arm, with information such as “ALERT: NUT ALLERGY” or other critical information.

When you leave a child in someone else’s care at school or camp, “no matter how many times you fill out the forms, you’re still taking a leap of faith,” Walsh says. “This is like my voice with my son when I’m not there. It’s almost like teaching them ‘stop, drop and roll…’ They know exactly what to do.”

Another company –  Allermates offers allergy education tools, stickers, alert bracelets and other products for kids. Allermates was created by Iris Shamus, inspired by her son’s multiple allergies and an incident at school. “When you have a child with a food allergy, you’re always worried. It’s just part of your life,” she says. “I wanted to have something a little more personalized for him to remind teachers and babysitters.”

allermatesIt began with a fun necklace, then a wristband and a large selection of products accompanied by cartoon characters such as Nutso, a charming peanut, to help her son understand, remember and confidently discuss his allergies.

It makes me feel so much more secure,” she says. “I know you can’t be there all the time when you’re a mom, and this gives you peace of mind.”

Anything that can help educate the patient about their problem and continue to make them aware about it is helpful whether it’s a temporary tattoo or a warning bracelet,” says Stan Fineman MD, immediate past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.  “The important thing is for people to accurately find out what they’re allergic to and then make sure to take the appropriate precautions,” Fineman says. He says parents of kids with severe allergies should keep EpiPens on hand, check school policies, talk to school officials and bring in treats their kids can eat for special events.

allermates 2Betsy Shea of Chicago says both of her boys, 4-year-old Colin and 2-year-old Emmet, have nut allergies, and Colin wears Allermates’ green snap-on wristband featuring Nutso. She’s thinking about trying temporary tattoos for Emmet.

Having allergies herself, she remembers having to wear the traditional metal medical alert band, which made her feel different and self-conscious. But Colin “loves that band. He wears it with pride and thinks it’s just so cool. We couldn’t get him to take it off for a while,” she says.

We thinks it’s pretty cool too!

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Halloween: A scary time for those with asthma and allergies.

Most parents of kids with food allergies are well aware of the potential dangers of trick-or-treat candy and have strategies in place to avoid Halloween horrors. However, teaching your kids to just say no to Snickers bars may not be enough.   According to experts from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) there are many more unexpected allergy and asthma triggers that can pose a threat to trick-or-treaters, including dusty costumes, fog machines and makeup. “When people think of Halloween-associated allergies, they focus on candy and often overlook many other potential triggers,” said Dr. Myron Zitt, former ACAAI president in a news release. “By planning ahead, you can ensure not only safe treats, but also safe costumes, makeup, accessories and decorations.” The ACAAI advises parents to be on the lookout for six potential triggers they may not be expecting, including:

  • Gelatin  – Although it’s a less common trigger, research published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows gummy bears and other candies may contain this potential allergen. Parents can have their child tested for specific allergies and develop a food allergy treatment plan. They may also want to have some non-candy treats, such as stickers or small toys, on hand to swap for candy.
  • NickelCostume details and accessories, such as belts, tiaras and swords may contain nickel — one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis, which can make skin itchy.
  • Dust mitesOld costumes packed away in attics or closets may be filled with dust mites, which trigger asthma and allergies. Parents should either buy or make new costumes or wash old ones before kids put them on.
  • Makeup Some types of face and body makeup may include preservatives that may cause allergic reactions. Buying higher quality theater makeup can help avoid this trigger. Also be sure to test the makeup on a small patch of skin before applying it over a larger area of skin at least a few days before Halloween.
  • FogReal fog or fog machines can trigger asthma in some people.
  • PumpkinsAllergies to pumpkins are rare, but they can develop suddenly — especially when they are moldy or dusty. As a result, pumpkins purchased at a busy grocery store are less likely to trigger an allergy.

You have been warned!!!  Please stay safe out there this Halloween.

Hold That Call!

Could you be allergic to your phone?  In the second of our series of stories emanating from this year’s American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology allergists warn that “increased use of cell phones with unlimited usage plans has led to more prolonged exposure to nickel.”

According to allergist Luz Fonacier, MD, “Patients come in with dry, itchy patches on their cheeks, jaw lines and ears and have no idea what is causing their allergic reaction.”

Nikel is one of the most common contact allergens, and affects up to 17% of women and 3% of men. Contact with objects containing nickel, such as keys, coins and paper clips are generally brief, so the nickel allergy may not occur on the area of contact. However, the risk is increased by frequent, prolonged exposure to nickel-containing objects, such as cell phones.

Symptoms of nickel allergy include redness, swelling, itching, eczema, blistering, skin lesions and sometimes oozing and scarring. Avoidance of direct skin contact is the best solution and experts suggest that if you have a nickel allergy or are experiencing symptoms that you try using a plastic film cover, a wireless ear piece, or switch to a phone that does not contain metal on surfaces that contact the skin.

Those who suspect they have allergies to cosmetics, tattoos or nickel should be tested by an allergist – a doctor who is an expert in diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma.

To learn more about allergies and asthma, take a free relief self-test or find an allergist near you visit www.AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.

Love Hurts!

SRxA’s Word on Health team just returned from a memorable trip to Phoenix, Arizona.  In addition to managing a number of highly successful events, meeting many of our wonderful clients and spending some quality time with our Advisors; we were able to catch up with all the latest news from the field of asthma, allergy and immunology.

During one of the more memorable sessions, we learned that kissing and um, er, let’s just say, more intimate contact, can be fraught with danger for those with allergies, while in another we found out that everything from our makeup, to our cell phones might be making us sick.

Over the coming days we’ll be sharing the congress highlights with are readers, but in the meantime, let’s get back to kissing…

According to Dr. Sami Bahna, President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), while allergic reactions from kissing are relatively uncommon, they do occur.

Apparently, allergens from food substances can linger in a partner’s saliva up to a full day following ingestion, irrespective of tooth-brushing, rinsing, flossing  or other interventions such as chewing gum.

And if you’re one of the 7 million Americans who suffer from food allergies we’re not just talking about a passionate kiss. Even a kiss on the cheek or the forehead from a partner who has consumed an identified allergen can cause a severe reaction ranging from lip-swelling, throat-swelling, rash, hives, itching, and/or wheezing immediately after kissing.

And kissing isn’t the only form of romantic activity that can trigger allergic reactions in the highly sensitive. The ACAAI notes that sexual intercourse can pose its own hazards, given that some patients are allergic to chemicals found in spermicides, lubricants and/or latex condoms.  Even sperm can prompt an allergic reaction in some, as can the more general emotional and physical exertion of intercourse itself.

When it comes to semen allergy, Bahna said antihistamines can sometimes help with mild issues, as can immunotherapy treatments offered by allergists. Condoms can also help, as long as a person is not allergic to latex!

Despite these warnings, Bahna stressed, “I do not want this discussion to cause all people with allergies to live in fear. If your girlfriend or your wife is not very allergic to peanuts she won’t be affected by a kiss from a person who ate peanuts.”

Additionally, allergists can help determine what’s causing the allergy and find the right treatment. They have the training and expertise to treat more than just symptoms. They can identify the source of your discomfort and develop a treatment plan to eliminate it.

You can follow the ACCAI annual meeting on Twitter at #ACAAI2010.

Asthma Warning for Pregnant Women

It may surprise some of our readers to learn that asthma is the most common serious complication of pregnancy.  In fact, up to 55% of women will have at least one acute asthma attack during pregnancy.

Pregnancy may affect asthmatic patients in several ways. Hormonal changes may affect the nose, sinuses and lungs. An increase in estrogen contributes to congestion of the tiny blood vessels in the lining of the nose. A rise in progesterone causes increased respiratory drive, and a consequent feeling of shortness of breath.

Yet, despite this, many pregnant women are just not identified as asthmatic. All too often asthma is not reported by moms-to-be during antenatal visits and is therefore under-treated. Then there are those who know they have asthma but fail to take their controller medications for fear they harm the baby.

Such concerns appear to be unjustified.  According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (ACAAI), well-controlled asthma is not associated with significant risk to mother or fetus.

Uncontrolled asthma, on the other hand, can cause serious complications to the mother, including:

  • high blood pressure
  • toxemia
  • premature delivery
  • death

For the baby, complications of uncontrolled asthma include:

  • increased risk of stillbirth
  • fetal growth retardation
  • premature delivery
  • low birth weight
  • a low APGAR score at birth

The Pregnancy Committee of ACAAI advises that the risks of asthma medications are lower than the risks of uncontrolled asthma. They suggest that women discuss the use of asthma or allergy medication needs with their doctor, ideally before pregnancy.

SRxA’s Word on Health would like to hear your asthma and pregnancy stories.