Sunday, December 3, 2017

Preparing for a Food Challenge

When navigating through the FPIES reality, one of the more regular activities is a food challenge. When we began introducing foods to our son, several challenges resulted in days worth of medical attention. Now, each and every food introduction we do (whether the food is a typical FPIES trigger or not), is conducted in the hospital as a monitored challenge.

Here is what I’ve learned to best prepare for each challenge:

To Do:
  • Schedule a challenge when it is most convenient for you. Don’t try to squeeze it in between a work deadline and a holiday, or any other time frame that will add stress. Select a day that works for you and your family, even if it means pushing it out on the calendar a bit. The less additional stress, the better!
  • Line up the help you need in case the challenge extends into the day (or days). Ask neighbors to be on-call in case your dog needs to be walked, invite a relative to stay with your other children, etc.
  • Review the protocol for the particular challenge, and then go beyond the recommendations. It is standard for the hospital or clinic to provide guidelines on what to bring in terms of food. We adhere to these guidelines, and then also go above and beyond with our food preparation. Occasionally, our son will not ingest the recommended form of the food and we are thankful to have also packed options. For instance, the guidelines for egg was an egg powder packet that the hospital provided stirred into applesauce. This, perhaps not unsurprisingly, created a texture and consistency that was unappealing to our child. Instead, he ate the egg I scrambled that morning and brought in a Thermos. (He then failed the challenge, so perhaps I should have wished I wasn’t as prepared, but alas!)

To Wear:

  • Don a plain cotton dress. This may seem very specific, and it is!  Here’s why. I have learned to wear a dress as it allows me to use the restroom quickly with a toddler in tow who may or may not be feeling well. I also learned to never wear a top with a zipper, buttons, or other adornment as my son often wants to sit on my lap and rest (as a challenge is a long time period), and with a plain top, he has a smooth surface to lean on. If his stomach hurts, I don’t want to add an annoying button against his cheek! And finally, my son has eczema (as some children with FPIES do) and 100% cotton is the best material against his sweet, sensitive skin. A simple cotton dress hits on all three lessons learned and is super comfortable for a long day for mama, to boot!
  • For the food challenger, comfort is also key. I dress my son in loose clothing with sleeves that can easily accommodate an IV or tourniquet if needles must be used or a cuff if blood pressure must be taken. For bottoms, either shorts or sweatpants that have an elastic waist for both comfort and ease (now that we are officially potty-trained).

To Bring:

  • A stroller. Even if you’re toddler typically refuses to sit in one, bring it. Challenges can be tiring and I am always grateful to have something that my son can sit in to rest. A stroller is also ideal to idle down the hallways looking at the beautiful and incredible art collection our hospital boasts.
  • Small, engaging activities. We have challenged in multiple hospitals and each time, the sole means of entertainment is a movie. My toddler is not exactly a movie fanatic, so I collect little, mess-free toys and crafts for our challenges. Our favorites include:
    • Reusable stickers so we can create scene after scene
    • Small cars so we can push them all around our room
    • Puzzles that are easy enough to complete but challenging enough to pass the time
    • Neon markers and black construction paper so we can create works of art and then deliver to adoring fans at the nurses’ station
    • Search books so we can find every last image 
    • Growing capsules that turn into animals and other shaped sponges. Our last three challenges have all been in the same room which has a sink, as most clinic rooms do. We bring a couple of plastic cups that we fill with water from the sink, drop in the capsules, and watch them grow in the water. It definitely bides the time.

  • Non-challenge food. If you are in the clinic for long periods of time, hunger will certainly set in and being hangry is not quite ideal. Bring plenty of safe foods for your little challenger and plenty of adult munchies for you.
  • Cell phone charger. If you are like me, grandparents, spouses, and close friends will be texting for updates and you want to be sure to respond without worrying about the dreaded red battery once below 20 percent. 
  • Overnight bag. My goal is obviously to never need it, but I bring it just in case. A pair of cotton pajamas for the challenger and the same for the parent, a toothbrush and toothpaste for you both, and comfortable outfits for a potential day 2 is all you need. I leave the bag in the trunk of the car, far enough away to not be thinking about an overnight stay but close enough to grab if we are admitted.
  • A favorite lovey or blanket. Even if the challenge is a pass and all goes swimmingly, it is a long day and who couldn’t use a little extra bit of comfort?

May this post help you prepare and may all your challenges be a pass! 

This post was written and contributed by Margaret Hancock.  Margaret is a writer, a mother to three including a toddler with FPIES, and an allergy navigator herself since the age of twelve. Margaret recently launched Hots&Olives, a blog dedicated to living joyfully with allergies that can be enjoyed at

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Global FPIES Day 2017: Steps4FPIES

We thank you for making every step count by joining with us in our ongoing efforts to build awareness, increase support and advance research for individuals affected by Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES) for our 4th annual Global FPIES Day

This Global FPIES Day, we witnessed so many #Steps4FPIES! Whether it was through sharing your story with us and in your communities or changing your profile picture to build awareness, you helped to reach out and “start the conversation.” In writing blogs, contacting local media, hosting events or distributing FPIES informational resources to increase education, all of your efforts were an inspiration! Every voice matters, every experience shared today makes a difference for tomorrow.  

If you have not already done so, be sure to watch and share FPIES Myths, the newest FPIES awareness video given to this community by FPIES moms and volunteers Heather Martin, Jackie Morrow.  We thank Heather and Jackie and all those involved for their time and talents contributed to the making of this video.  

We were thrilled to hear a research update from Dr. Jeanelle Boyer, FPIES mom and researcher at Keene State College who is actively doing research on FPIES and the microbiomeBe sure to tune in to our youtube channel and get the updates on her research!

And, of course we are grateful to those listed below and to all who partnered with us to further the reach of awareness.

The need for awareness among providers and in our communities, alongside advancements in researching mechanisms, remains essential to continually building an increased understanding of this diagnosis and support for those affected by it. We remain committed to this work and we thank you for your support!

This post written by Joy Meyer, Co-Director/Co-Founder of The FPIES Foundation. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Talking with Children about Allergies: A Guest Post

This post originally appeared on Hots & Olives, Joyful Living with Allergies and is being shared here today by author Margaret Hancock, food allergy and mom to a child with FPIES. 

I remember it vividly. I walked into the taqueria for chips and salsa and left with the stunning realization that I didn’t know how to explain allergies to my child. 

It was kids night at the local Mexican restaurant and as part of the festivities, a balloon entertainer went from table to table twisting into reality Weiner dogs and giraffes. My toddler daughter’s face lit up when she saw them while my own face winced. For those latex balloon configurations were an exciting novelty to her and an allergy trigger to me. 

I told her we couldn’t get one and she began crying. I consoled her and said another time. I told her I was so sorry and apologized for not being able to accommodate her very normal request. I agreed that it was sad. I looked to my husband to jump in. I wept into my margarita.

In short, I did everything wrong. 

The next day happened to be her annual check up and with the previous evening’s incident fresh on my mind, I asked the pediatrician about explaining allergies to a three year old. He told me she is smart and to tell her the truth. Every time we encountered an allergen, simply say “that makes mommy sick.” Repetition is key. Say it over and over again. “That makes mommy sick.” Saying different things, using different words, or stumbling over different explanations and looking to someone else for an answer is confusing at best, and terrifying at worst, to a young child. The concept that something making someone sick clarifies. 
He also said to never apologize or emotionalize it. For its not something to be sorry for or emotional about – it’s a medical condition the same way any other condition is. She will only be sad if I make it sad. She will only cry and emote if I give her permission to cry and emote. 

I thought this all made darn good sense, but I needed to see it in action. So the next time we were faced with a balloon opportunity, I knelt down, looked my daughter in the eyes and said “those balloons are beautiful but we can’t go near them. They make mommy sick.” She nodded her head, shrugged her shoulders, and said “oh, okay.”

Amazing! My child IS smart and DOES deserve the truth! 

Having the knowledge to say these simple few words in a matter of fact, unemotional manner empowered me. I felt like I had the necessary tool in my tool belt and no longer felt panicked that I would encounter an allergen with my daughter in tow.  
This also translated well when several years later, we explained to her that her baby brother had allergies, too. “That makes W sick” not only makes sense to her, but she can easily explain it to others. I overhear her use the same line to her friends when they question why W’s breakfast plate is piled high with hots instead of buttered pancakes. She says it matter-of-factly, unemotionally, and confidently.  

The simple truth at play!

This post was written by Margaret Hancock. Margaret is a writer, a mother to three including a toddler with FPIES, and an allergy navigator herself since the age of twelve. Margaret recently launched Hots&Olives, a blog dedicated to living joyfully with allergies that can be enjoyed at