FAAN held one of its conferences in Chicago last weekend. I had never gone before, but I figured it would be a good opportunity for me to go and see what it was all about. I would say about 200 people attended, and what struck me the most was that there was very little racial diversity. Most attendees looked to be of European descent. I wondered at one point whether we were all somehow related to one another. Dr. Scott Sicherer from Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York spoke about a number of different issues. I’ve included a summary below of some of the things I learned at the conference.
As we all know, the diagnosis of food allergies is not a simple task— Dr. Sicherer says the most helpful information they have on an allergic individual is his/her history. This history, combined with the results of both skin testing and blood testing, will help them determine a person’s likelihood of reaction. Just knowing this has prompted me to get the notebooks back out and continue to right things down.
Dr. Sicherer walked us through perhaps 10 to 12 different case studies of individuals who had food allergies and who were experiencing allergic reactions. It was up to the audience to decide how to treat them, either with anti-histamine, epi-pen or something else. I found this exercise to be most helpful because I now have more confidence in my ability to make the right choice after going through this exercise. He also included an example when a child was turning blue. Turns out the child was choking and not having an allergic reaction. As he said, it doesn’t always have to be an allergic reaction.
Lack of Vitamin D? — Dr. Sicherer showed us a map of the U.S. which highlighted those states with the most epi-pen prescriptions. Turns out the states with the highest number of prescriptions are in the northern parts of our country. It was striking to see the difference between the north and south sections of the country. Sicherer says they’re looking into the possibility of a vitamin D deficiency in allergic kids.
Cooking— Did you know that when you cooked a food, the food protein is found in the steam that comes off of it. Dr. Sicherer talked about an instance when they tested this, and the person who was sitting nearby started to react to the food after inhaling the steam.
And finally, the epi-pen party—Denise Bunning, who I interviewed a few weeks ago for this blog, gave us some ideas about how to live with food allergies. Her presentation was quite helpful, and I loved her epi-pen party idea. She suggested that we keep our expired epi-pens and use them on fruit. In the past, she has invited her son’s friends over to an epi-pen party where they would all take turns using an epi-pen on an orange or grapefruit. I did not know this, but the natural inclination is to pull the epi-pen out of the thigh as soon as it goes in instead of waiting the required ten seconds before pulling it out. I heard from several people that to practice with the real deal is much more effective than the epi trainers. It’s obviously a great way to train friends, relatives and teachers as well.
All in all, I found the conference to be quite helpful. I would highly recommend it. For those families who are concerned about the cost of the conference, there is scholarship money available to cover the cost.
That’s it for now. Have a great week.
Here’s to safe eating!
May 14, 2008