Did you know that, according to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011. Or, that every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department – that is more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year. Clearly, there is a need for food allergy awareness and research. (www.foodallergy.org)
For many families, finding out your child has a food allergy, or needs to follow a specific diet plan, can cause tremendous amounts of confusion and stress. During the summer, as we spend more time with extended family and friends, it can become even more stressful. Suddenly, every potluck and family gathering is a potentially life-threatening activity. 90% of food allergies are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat/gluten, fish and shellfish. These are foods most of us consider to be healthy.
I was first advised to go gluten-free in 2006 when we were struggling with infertility, and trying to get pregnant with Annie. At the time, this was not a “trendy” diet, and very few people in the food and restaurant industry had been educated on what exactly “gluten-free” meant. I was desperate to get pregnant, and after my naturopath told me that consuming gluten could be exacerbating my PCOS (and other autoimmune diseases), I immediately decided to give it a try. Going out to eat suddenly became scary (sometimes it still is), and sometimes, I choose not to eat at all.
When I get exposed to gluten, my arthritis and psoriasis flair up, and I am extremely miserable for several days. I am one of the fortunate ones. For many other allergy sufferers, this is not the case.
For many children, exposure to an allergen, even just a trace amount, can lead to death.
A couple weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend. Her daughter suffers from these types of extreme allergies. We were discussing Children’s Mercy Hospital, and how they recently partnered with The Food Allergy and Research Education (FARE). The goal is to help the 15 million Americans with food allergies get the education they need to stay safe. After checking out the website, www.foodallergy.org, I was curious to learn more.
Thanks to my partnership with Children’s Mercy, I was able to reach out to Dr. Chitra Dinakar, MD, Pediatric Allergy and Immunology. Today, I am excited to share with you more about the partnership between CMH and FARE, and how they are collaborating to make a difference, both in our Kansas City community, and throughout the world.
The first thing I was curious about was how and why the partnership came about. Here’s what Dr. Chitra Dinakar had to say…
“Children’s Mercy providers had decided to focus on the development of Food Allergy Care as one of the strategic initiatives of the Division of Allergy/Immunology in 2014. Spearheading that initiative, I had reached out to The Food Allergy and Research Education (FARE), the leading advocacy organization working on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies and the largest private funder of food allergy research, to see if they had any opportunities for collaboration. Serendipitously, in 2015, FARE put forth a bold initiative to create a Clinical Trial Network and support Centers of Excellence. We responded to the call for applications and were chosen to be one of the inaugural 22 (now 24) national Centers of Excellence/ members of the Clinical Network that are leaders in the field providing clinical and sub-specialty food allergy services of the highest quality. The Clinical Network strives to attain the common goal of ensuring that patients with food allergies have access to state-of-the-art diagnosis, treatments and research. The FARE grant partially supports the position of a Center Director and FARE Coordinator and guarantees collaboration in sharing of resources and educational materials.” —Dr Chitra Dinakar, MD, Pediatric Allergy and Immunology
That’s pretty cool. We all know that knowledge is power. By educating our families, there is a much better chance that a child with food allergies, or on a strict ketogenic diet (like Brock), will stay safe. Again, this is one of the things I love the most about Children’s Mercy. They don’t just diagnose a patient and send them on their way. They empower food allergy families (and our entire community) with the knowledge needed to successfully execute the changes that need to be made.
Just as the Keto nutritionists provide tailored recipes and ratios, the Division of Allergy/Immunology provide ongoing support to their families as well. For example,
“Each child is provided a folder that has general handouts on food allergies and resources (for e.g., identification of anaphylaxis, use of epinephrine autoinjector and FARE), along with data on specific allergens individualized for each child. Materials in the folder include age appropriate nutrition information, reading food labels, methods to avoid cross contamination, food safely, working with schools, alternative food choices to prevent nutrient deficiencies, and more. We have also established a Food Allergy Patient Family Advisory Council (FAPFAC). The FAPFAC is comprised of both parents/grandparents and staff (Center Director, FARE Coordinator, Registered Dietiticain) to advocate on behalf of parents and patients for the best quality of care and research, both in inpatient and outpatient settings.” — Dr. Chitra Dinakar
Because of this, and other support groups offered, FARE has recognized Children’s Mercy as a Food Allergy Center of Excellence. This gives Children’s Mercy the ability to continue to add cutting edge opportunities, and to participate in clinical and translational research for individuals with food allergy disorders.
Friends, having to be hyperaware of everything your kiddo puts into their mouth is hard. Unlike a typical diet, you don’t get a “cheat day” with food allergies. If you have a child suffering with an undiagnosed condition, I highly suggest you reach out to Children’s Mercy and ask about food allergy testing.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Children’s Mercy and FARE are rising up. Won’t you join them?
For additional resources on food allergy education please visit the following websites…