A study published on September 21st, 2020 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal determined that anaphylaxis in children spikes during Halloween and Easter and that for tree nuts, most cases occurred in children that were previously undiagnosed.
Author, educational presenter, clinical social worker, psychotherapist and advocate are just a few of the many roles that Melissa Scheichl occupies. All these roles came about from being the mother of children with severe allergies. Her journey of learning and experiencing the impact of life threating allergies on her children propelled her to create, in 2010, the website and associated blog at TheAllergyMom.com. Since then Melissa has helped provide support and a forum for families to share their experiences as well as finding ways to educate the public about life threatening allergies.
The Allergy Mom® Melissa Scheichl Provides Education and Support
By Kristen Stewart September 9th, 2020
Growing up Melissa Scheichl (aka The Allergy Mom®) of the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario, Canada, had both seasonal and food allergies and her mother suffered a dangerous anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting. As challenging and scary as these experiences were, however, allergies did not become a major focus of her life until her children were born almost 16 and 14 years ago.
“As a mom, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of your children,” she said. “My son Andrew's severe allergies to dust, dog dander and environmental allergies educated me on how to make our home and lives safer when dealing with environmental allergies. I learned about eczema, indoor air quality measures and how to alleviate seasonal and environmental allergy symptoms.” As if that wasn’t enough to handle, several years later her daughter Kate was born and diagnosed with severe life-threatening food allergies and asthma.
Melissa and her family watched Kate constantly, making sure she didn’t put goldfish crumbs or anything else dangerous in her mouth. However, just before her third birthday she had a bite of a granola bar that contained almonds. Despite testing negative to tree nuts on a skin test they quickly learned ingesting a food could cause a much different reaction. She suffered a dangerous attack of anaphylaxis.
For children with food allergies, “a normal childhood” can be difficult. It is also something that many parents try desperately to provide. That is easier said than done. From diligently examining ingredient listings, to educating friends, family and school officials about their children’s specific allergies and treatment, it can be challenging. It also requires enlisting the children early on to become their own advocate because Mom or Dad will not always be there. That is the wonderful story of Maya Konoff and her mom Jill Mindlin. Since her young daughter was learning to read a list of ingredients, Jill was educating and advocating for Maya and others about food allergies. Maya has learned those lessons; she has succeeded in becoming a strong advocate for young people with food allergies. Read their amazing story here.
Maya Konoff and Her Mom Jill Mindlin Talk Anaphylaxis, Advocacy and Living Each Day to the Fullest
By Kristen Stewart August 17th, 2020
"Read the 'gredients" was one of the first full sentences Maya Konoff spoke as a toddler over 15 years ago — and it was just the beginning of the lifelong advocacy she and her mother Jill Mindlin have undertaken for herself and others after she was diagnosed with severe food allergies at nine months old.
Maya had many serious reactions particularly between the ages of 1 and 4 and was diagnosed as allergic to all dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, shellfish, peaches and mustard. Naturally Jill found this scary and stressful but rather than becoming overwhelmed she got to work. She vowed to protect her daughter — and to not let her miss out on anything just because of her food allergies.
"It involved a tremendous amount of work," Jill says. "I really worked part time my whole career because I always said my first job was keeping her safe. My second job was practicing law."
While some parents go the route of saying no to particular activities in order to avoid possible exposure to allergens, Jill took the opposite approach. She believed anything they wanted to do was possible. It just took a good dose of advanced preparation.
The mother-daughter duo joke Maya's older brother was the "starter kid" and as he began each new school Jill met with officials to tell them about her daughter who would be coming two years later so that they had everything in place to keep her safe by the time she arrived.
We know that Anaphylaxis, the life-threatening allergic reaction, can be successfully treated with an epinephrine auto-injector (EAI). Without an EAI, the results are often tragic. Many families that have experienced this tragedy are working to promote awareness of anaphylaxis and the need for improved access to EAI’s. In Wisconsin, this has been the work Angel and George Mueller to honor of their 18-year-old son Dillon who died of anaphylaxis after being stung by a bee. When Tabitha Arnett, the Executive Director of the Indiana Osteopathic Association (IOA), met Angel, she was moved by her story and her efforts. Inspired and using Wisconsin’s “Dillion’s Law” as a model, Tabitha successfully created a coalition to help provide increased access to EAIs in Indiana.
IOA Helps Improve Access to EAI devices in Indiana
New Law Expands Access to Epinephrine Auto-Injectors
Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, strikes about 1 in 50 people in the United States. The good news is it can be treated — but only if there is an epinephrine auto-injector (EAI) immediately at hand. Some states including Indiana are working to make that goal a more frequent reality.
While many people with diagnosed serious allergies carry their own EAIs, life isn't perfect and sometimes they can be forgotten. Other individuals may be allergic but not even know it as in the case of insect allergies where up to half of people who died from a sting had no history of a previous reaction. There is no doubt the more epinephrine auto-injectors available in society, the more lives that can be saved. Enter Indiana's new law HB1207.
While institutions such as schools have previously been able to carry epinephrine auto-injector devices for urgent use, most need for this life saving intervention is more immediate according to Dr. Brian H. Black, President of the Indiana Osteopathic Association (IOA) who practices Emergency Medicine at Putnam County Hospital. "This law was needed to expand immediate availability anywhere, for those who may not even know they need it. Anaphylaxis is a true life-threatening event that can threaten an airway in minutes."
"The Indiana Osteopathic Association is proud to have led the charge at the state level in pushing through this urgent measure," said Dr. Black. "Our board is committed to assisting in ongoing awareness and education on use of epinephrine autoinjectors by trained public members."
The parents of three-year-old Elijah-Alavi were devasted by the loss of their son. While at preschool, Elijah, who had food allergies including dairy, was mistakenly given a grilled cheese sandwich. He suffered a fatal attack of anaphylaxis. From that tragedy Elijah’s parents embarked on a path of advocacy and education, so that other parents wouldn’t have to experience the same heartbreak. They founded the Elijah-Alavi Foundation, which includes “Elijah's Echo,” an initiative raising awareness of food allergies and anaphylaxis. The Allergy Advocacy Association worked closely with his parents on the successful passage of Elijah's Law in September 2019. This law provides the framework to establish guidelines for daycare providers for the prevention of and response to anaphylaxis.
Silvera Family Raises Awareness of Food Allergies in Childcare Facilities
It's just one little word, only three letters long, but it still has the power to break the heart of Thomas Silvera every time he uses it in reference to his son Elijah-Alavi who passed away at the age of three after an anaphylactic reaction.
"I think about the world of potential before him," says Thomas. "I think about his bright spirit that so many were robbed of experiencing. I think about his smile. I think about his best friend, brother, and my eldest son Sebi, and the life that they will no longer have together as a dynamic duo."
November 3, 2017 began like any other day with Elijah going to preschool in New York City. He had food allergies including dairy as well as asthma so the school had written and verbal instructions including asthma and food allergy action plans and his doctor's instructions about symptoms to look out for. Thomas and his wife Dina Hawthorne-Silvera had also given the school a list of foods Elijah should not be fed.
Despite these many precautions, on that day Elijah was given a grilled cheese sandwich. To make matters worse school personnel did not tell Elijah's mother what he had eaten and only said he was having an asthma attack. School personnel didn’t call 911 and didn’t administer epinephrine.
Thomas and Dina were devastated but also inspired to make a difference. "I think about how the moment where his life ended was also the moment that my life, quite literally, changed forever," says Thomas. "For my wife and I, the way this was, was us coming up from our grief deciding that Eli's life would be used to change law, policies, and practices." In short, they don’t want any other families to experience what they went through.