Friday, December 19, 2008

NoPeanuts - Yes iPhone - An iPhone Allergy Companion Application

I got an i phone a few months ago, and I have to say it is really cool. So far I have figured out how to use the phone, surf the web (this took a while, why in the world is the web called Safari??), listen to music, and use the really cool map feature. Besides that, I am one of the most technologically challenged individuals out there. I was volunteering in Michael's class one time, and me and the other volunteer mother kept hearing this music coming from somewhere. We were trying to figure out, was it the school intercom???? something outside the class room??? After a few minutes I realized that I really liked all the songs that were unknowingly emanating around the classroom. In horror I realized that they were coming from my back pocket and my i phone. ooooppppssss....

I just recently discovered that there are these application things you can download to your phone. I am not even sure exactly what they are, but they seem pretty neat. Somehow I came across one called NoPeanuts. You can read about the NoPeanut Allergy Companion here.

"NoPeanut is an iPhone application that provided peanut allergy information. Peanut Allergies can cause a serious potentially fatal reaction. NoPeanut puts valuable information at your fingertips to help you communicate with food preparers/servers in multiple languages and help you make informed choices to avoid foods contaminated with Peanuts or processed on equipment that is shared with Peanuts. It is available on the app store here.
NoPeanut includes:
· Multi-language Digital Warning cards warn food servers/preparers about Peanut allergy and ask for safe choices instead (languages include English, French, German, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Hindi)
· Provide a list of foods to avoid for over 50 major restaurant chains in USA and Canada
· Includes Multi-language Emergency Help digital cards – Ask to have an ambulance called to treat potentially fatal allergic reaction to Peanuts (languages include English, French, German, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Hindi). Great peace of mind if you are travelling in an area that doesn’t use standard 911.
· Provide links to allergen info and where possible phone numbers to make it easier to get real time info."

The web site also gives you a visual tour of the application to check out, and a place to send them your feedback about this cool new application. I think it costs $2.99 to download it to your i phone. It seems like a small price to pay for any help I can find in dealing with our fun food allergies.

Now I just need to figure out how the heck to download things to an iphone.....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ignorance is Not Bliss for Those Dealing With Life Threatening Food Allergies

I had not really had to deal with ignorance or stupidity over the past few weeks (at least not in regard to food allergies), but over the past two days it has flown forward from various different school personnel. The first was a kind and innocent ignorance, a lack of understanding of the true dangers and day to day realities of living with a life threatening food allergy. A few months ago, Natalie's kindergarten teacher had overheard me telling her she could not bring certain food home because of Conor's allergies. She asked, and I explained that, yes, he had a life threatening allergy to peanuts. She expressed her concern, and told me that at a previous school she had worked at, there had been a sign posted in one of the classrooms that no peanuts were allowed. She asked when Conor would be starting kindergarten, and I said, next year, but I did not know where yet because of his allergies. Today when I was dropping Natalie off at school, I had Conor with me and was speaking to Natalie's teacher. She asked if I had decided whether Conor would go to school there next year, and I said probably not, as I did not think the school could be made safe. The poor sweet little thing looked me in the eyes and said it would be ok, I could have him put in her class room, and she would make a really nice sign for the door that no nuts were allowed. It was a very sweet gesture, and I thanked her, but it made me sad to realize that she thought dealing with a life threatening food allergy was as simple as posting a sign on the door. After explaining to her all of the things that went into keeping a child with this medical condition safe - ie epi pen, supervision outside the classroom, etc - she agreed that he probably would not be safe there. I still do not think she understood the entire picture, but at least she realized that a picture on the door was not enough.

Then of course there is the Pre-School that Conor attends. I think the worst sort of ignorance is that where the individual (Dopey the school director and teacher)does not think they are actually ignorant about the situation. Apparently at the school holiday party Dopey has a tradition of making a stone bowl soup. The children and the teachers all make the soup together, and then share it among everyone. Due to my previous efforts the school is sort of "nut free". (foods, not people). I decided to ask Dopey what was in the soup to ascertain whether it was worth trying to make it safe for Conor to try. When I asked Dopey what was in the soup since I wanted to determine whether it would be safe, he looked at me as though I had two heads and was speaking Gaelic. He proclaimed there is no way there could be any nuts in the soup, as it was only made from broth, vegetables, rice, pasta, and some other spices and things. He then had the gall to say that sometimes things have those warning labels on them, but that does not matter. After informing him that it does matter to me, and I am one of those paranoid mother types, I made a mental note to myself to hang out at the school all day tomorrow, and make brownies to feed Conor so he would not notice he could not try the soup. (he does not even like soup - whew)

So, those are my two forays into the pool of educational ignorance.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Another Great Information Web Site

Someone over at the Food Allergy Support Boards posted about this absolutely amazing site here. It is so wonderful that I thought I would also point it out here, in case anyone has not discovered it through different means. The site is put up by John Weisnagel, M.D

Really great Peanut Allergy Info.
This is a really detailed and intelligent overview on all sorts of different issues pertaining to peanut allergies. Here is an excerpt from his introduction to the article:

"This review of the complex issue of peanut allergy was started in Oct. 1998 following a great deal of attention given to the subject in the media at that particular time. This coincided with many publications in the medical literature as cited in the references seen below in the opening paragraphs, conclusions of the authors considered as "alarming, frightening", according to comments of some visitors scanning this article. There were articles in magazines, like Time, Newsweek, as well as in local papers on what seemed an increase in peanut allergy, on banning peanuts in schools or on commercial flights, etc.22,25. Some of the articles, and reactions to them, were posted and appear in the article, and may still be accessible (at times, they're removed without any warning). The effect of all this attention to peanut allergy resulted in a panic situation, both in the minds of the public as well as the medical community, an attitude that seems to persist. .....This ongoing article is updated regularly, as developments occur, hopefully not only to make everyone aware of this unpredictable allergy, but also to help ease the fear generated. All updates appear with the date of the posting and for a time (usually 3 months) preceded by this image. "

There is also a wonderful General Information Page here. This is one of the most complete list of resources related to all sorts of allergies, food allergies, asthma, and almost anything else allergy, atopic related.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Is It a Cough or Asthma - Both - Cough Varient Asthma

I love to watch that show Mystery Diagnosis on the Discovery Health Channel. I don't like the show because I am all that interested in medicine, or science, I like the show because it reinforces an idea that I initially had a lot of trouble with - Doctors frequently have no idea what they are talking about. I think I grew up believing Doctors were authority figures who always knew about which they spoke, and should not be questioned. Many years later after an unfortunate foray into allergies and asthma, I discovered this was not true.

Since Conor has a cold, and we are again fighting the asthma, I thought I would share some info on the type of asthma he has - Cough Variant Asthma. Many doctors failed to diagnose what was wrong with him, and we had many claim it was simply yet another bout of bronchitis, croup, or just a really nasty cough. Even after having the diagnosis, I have had pediatricians, and ER doctors not believe me. (Pediatrician said just a bad cough. Ended up in the ER later that day because of terrible strider and trouble breathing - ER doc was convinced it HAD to be croup. Very cool allergist confirmed not croup, but asthma at follow up appointment.)

So, here is some general information on Cough Variant Asthma.

"Cough-variant asthma is a clinical syndrome seen in children with persistent cough, absence of wheezing on examination, and reversible obstructive changes in lung function. The cough-variant phenotype is seen in approximately 25% of children with asthma, and it can be difficult to recognize and treat.

Children with cough-variant asthma are often symptomatic for a long period before an accurate diagnosis is made and can be misdiagnosed as having recurrent bronchitis or even psychogenic cough. Such children often receive multiple rounds of antibiotics before being referred to a specialist. Lung function testing is required to make an accurate diagnosis but can also be normal."

Pediatric Planet
"What is it?
Some children with a persistent cough have a condition called "cough variant asthma." This means that we believe that the child is coughing because his or her breathing tubes (bronchi) are reacting to irritation by squeezing in to a smaller size, just like in asthma. Children with cough variant asthma do not make the wheezing sound that we usually hear in children with ordinary asthma, though. This can make it difficult to diagnose the condition, and very often children with cough variant asthma have been through a number of other diagnoses or treatments. Parents of children with cough variant asthma usually find that regular cough and cold medicines don’t help their children, and of course antibiotics don’t help either. Cough variant asthma can be a very frustrating condition.
Once of the most important clues to learning that a child has cough variant asthma is that these children very often get a cough with every cold or upper respiratory infection (URI). The cough usually lasts for much longer than the original infection. Like children with regular asthma, children with cough variant asthma usually have other "triggers" that can set off a cough. These triggers can be things in the environment like smoke, dust, pollen, animal hair and dander, dust mites, roaches or many other things. Often weather changes can also be triggers. Children with cough variant asthma often cough more at night, which can be very disruptive for the child and the family."

A few more online resources.

Web MD

And anytime you are annoyed at your Doctor, be sure to check out Mystery Diagnosis