Food Allergies -Too Close to Home

May 9, 2015 by Amy Needle

Everyone has their own story to share when it comes to allergies.  You have your obvious seasonal allergies, your common food allergies, and the occasional skin allergies.  Unfortunately they can be brought on at any time in one’s life, unexpectedly!

Let me share with you my story real quick. I was recently on a 3-hour plane ride.  About 2 hours into the ride, the flight attendant came on the loud speaker and asked if there was a nurse or doctor onboard.  My initial reaction was to be nervous because I did not want to take responsibility for an adult, when I am in fact a NICU nurse.  So I asked the flight attendant if the patient was an adult or child… and wouldn’t you know it—it was a baby.  Long story short, I attended to the baby who was having an allergic reaction to a food.  I did my nursing routine and checked out the baby. The reaction seemed to stop at just itchiness on the skin, and luckily, did not escalade.  We gave the infant water to help flush him out while we anxiously waited to land.  What caused it you ask? The mother had given the 9-month old hummus for the first time, at 30,000 feet in the air.  Hummus is made with Tahini, which is pureed sesame seeds—a common nut allergy. Which leads me to my nursing lecture on how important it is to know what you’re eating.  Knowledge is power.

I found 3 different apps that could have helped someone in this situation:

  • Food, Calories and Nutrition (Android; Free)
  • Why Risk It (Android, iPhone; Free)
  • Around Me (Android, iPhone; Free)

Lets start with Food Calories and Nutrition 

Addressing my first point of nursing interest: The importance of knowing what you are eating.  This application shows you information on calories and nutrition for over 7,600 food products. The application works off line, so you always have the information with you.  Some great features are that it provides the contents of vitamins, minerals and energy distribution of foods, household weight measurements for most products (tablespoons, cups, whole items, etc.), and a favorites list.  There is also a detailed view with nutrient information for all common vitamins and minerals including percentage of DRI (daily recommended intake).  Most importantly you know the information is legitimate since it is provided by United States Department of Agriculture

** If the lady on the plane had this app, she would have known that there are nut-like ingredients in hummus

Then we move on to... Why Risk It 

This app helps you look up allergic reaction-type situations.  The site includes other peoples’ input and blogs about their experiences, providing support for those who have a known allergy.  It offers many links to facts about foods, anaphylactic reactions, and FAQs.  It provides definitions of terms that health care professionals are using, so a layperson can understand. 

What I like most about this app was that it encourages and empowers teens by providing them with knowledge and management of their own allergies. This way they can take control of their own diets and they don’t have to rely on their parents because eventually their parents can’t always be there in the real world environment. This app allows children and teens to do their own research, and then parents can just double check on it. This may help relieve some of the parental anxiety to decrease its projection onto their kids.

** The lady on the plane could have used this app to see how serious the baby’s reaction actually was.

Lastly the AroundMe 

Now that you have the knowledge, resources, and support; you need to know who to turn to when things go wrong.  I choose the app ‘AroundMe’ for its diversity of places it allows you to seek out.  Pharmacies, hospitals, and pubs (often thought of as a pharmacy) are all categories of their own. The app uses your location to find you the closest point of interest you are looking for.  Sudden onset of allergies will require timely treatment; this app will help cut back on time searching for your desired drug stores or even the scary thought of a hospital. 

**This app would have been good for the woman on the plane, because once we got off the plane she needed to purchase liquid/baby Benadryl ASAP.