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Allergy Education: A Visit to Boston Children’s Hospital’s Food Allergy Awareness Day

Whether it’s another parent who doesn’t take food allergy seriously or a school administrator who jokes about the peanut free table, dealing with the lack of food allergy awareness in the general public is one of the greatest challenges any food allergy parent faces. At best, a lack of allergy education can lead to an informative conversation that helps people be more aware in the future. At worst, though, it can put children in situations that may seriously threaten their health.

Fixing this problem will take education, and lots of it. From families to school boards and health policy-makers, the public needs to know more about how food allergies work – including how to diagnose and manage them. To help fill the education gap, we recently participated in Boston Children’s Hospital’s Food Allergy Awareness Day at the Franklin Park Zoo, an event specifically designed for families with food allergies.

Seth Belcher, one of our clinical sales consultants, represented Thermo Fisher Scientific at the event. While there, Seth had the chance to teach dozens of families about the science behind allergies, including how blood testing can help people with food allergies get a better sense of their sensitization to specific

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October 07 / 2014
Author Becky Rosenberger
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Getting Your Kids through the September Asthma Epidemic

The end of the summer is rapidly approaching, and that means that parents around the country are busy getting ready for back-to-school season. Over the next few short weeks, parents will have to take care of everything from school physicals and initial parent-teacher meetings to changing childcare and transportation schedules. As a parent myself, I know that this is already more than enough to worry about; but as a clinical educator, I think there’s one additional issue that needs to be on parents’ radar. I’m talking about the “September Epidemic.”

The September Epidemic is an interesting phenomena in the medical world. Every year, liHigh Schoolke clockwork, a huge spike in U.S. hospitalizations due to asthma occurs 17 days after Labor Day (which this year falls on September 18th). While the cause of the epidemic isn’t precisely known, the prevailing belief in the medical community is that it’s caused by a “perfect storm” of asthma triggers created by the new school environment.

In addition to ubiquitous fall outdoor allergens, the return to school also piles on new indoor allergens and irritants such as chalk dust and aerosols. This is a big deal because some

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September 08 / 2014
Author Becky Rosenberger
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Allergy Detectives: The Tryptase Case

Diagnosing a disease can be a lot like doing detective work. Doctors start with the “scene of the crime” – the symptoms the patient presented at the time they were brought in – and work backwards to determine the cause. Just like crimes in detective mysteries, the machinations behind symptoms are often much more complex than anyone suspected at the outset. This is true with some types of allergies, too. What is on the surface may seem like a simple two-step process (encounter allergen, develop symptoms) caMagnifying Glass Imagen actually be a multilayered interaction of different environmental factors and disorders.

Take bee venom allergies, for example. An allergic person gets stung by a bee and quickly develops an allergic reaction. Seems like simple cause and effect, right? While that is true in many cases, a small number of people with bee venom allergies also have a difficult-to-detect underlying condition, systemic mastocytosis (SM).

SM is a genetic disease that causes the body to produce too many mast cells, which are the cells in
one’s body that produce histamine and several other mediators that, when released, may cause allergic symptoms.  Because mast cells release these mediators when

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August 28 / 2014
Author Becky Rosenberger
Category Allergy Testing
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Nickel Allergies – Should Parents Be Concerned?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about nickel allergies, mostly driven by reports that an 11-year-old boy had his nickel allergy triggered by the metal alloy that makes up the back of the first-generation iPad. So how dangerous are nickel allergies, and how worried should parents be?

Fortunately, the answer is “not very”.  Though certainly unpleasant, it is extremely unlikely that a nickel allergy would ever cause a life-threatening reaction. The reason is that, even though the initial symptoms may appear similar, a nickel allergy doesn’t cause the same type of reaction as a food or venom allergy can. To understand why, it’s important to know that allergies can be divided into two broad categNickel_chunkories: “IgE-mediated” and “non-IgE-mediated.”

“IgE,” short for immunoglobulin E, is a powerful and important antibody that helps the immune system fight off invaders. Potentially life-threatening food allergies – such as peanut, milk and shellfish – are usually what’s called “IgE-mediated” allergies, because their symptoms are caused by the immune system’s release of histamines and other chemicals when the patient’s IgE recognizes the allergen to which they are sensitized. IgE-mediated allergies can cause very severe reactions, and IgE-mediated

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August 19 / 2014
Author Becky Rosenberger
Category Allergy Testing
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Allergies Getting Worse in the UK – But that’s Not the Whole Story

HSCIC logoIf it seems that your allergies just get worse and worse every year, a new study from the United Kingdom’s Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) suggests you might be onto something. According to the study data, hospitals operated by the UK National Health Service (NHS) saw a nearly eight percent increase in admissions for allergies in the past 12 months, of which 62 percent were classified as emergencies. The year before, only 56 percent of allergy hospital visits were emergencies, which means that allergy in the UK is becoming both more common and possibly more dangerous.

This confirms the findings of several other studies, which all indicate that the prevalence of allergies (food, perennial and seasonal) has been on the rise around the world for more than a decade. While many theories exist to explain this phenomenon, no one is totally sure what’s behind this increase.

What alarms us most about the data isn’t the rise in allergy prevalence – we’ve known that – it’s that emergency admissions are rising with it. There’s so much more in the media and online about better allergy diagnosis and

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July 08 / 2014
Author Becky Rosenberger
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“It’s Best to Test” With Haydn’s Wish

Haydns wishWe’re always on the lookout for organizations that are doing new and inventive things to raise awareness about food allergies – so when we heard that the UK-based non-profit Haydn’s Wish had a new campaign called “It’s Best to Test” going on, we reached out to them right away! The organization’s founder, Emma Wileman, was kind enough to sit down with us for an interview. Check out our conversation below!

Is It Allergy?: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us, Emma. To start, could you tell us a little bit about how Haydn’s Wish got started?

Emma Wileman: Absolutely. I started Haydn’s Wish after my son Haydn passed away from an unexpected reaction to peanut. We never knew that Haydn was allergic to peanuts; he had shown sporadic allergy-related symptoms before, but he had never experienced anaphylaxis. Our mission is to prevent tragedies like this from happening to other families by educating our communities and our doctors about food allergy.

IIA: Thanks for sharing that story – it must be very difficult to talk about the loss of your son.

EW: It is, but the goal of Haydn’s

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June 16 / 2014
Author Becky Rosenberger
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