Stop! My Kid Can’t Eat That: Food Allergies In Children

In the middle of the night in Atlanta, I got a frantic call from my daughter in Chicago. “Daddy, I’m so sorry to wake you, but Michael just ate a little piece of cashew and now his face is swollen and he’s breaking out in a rash all over his body.” Once I realized that her voice wasn’t just part of some bad dream, I gave my doctor’s orders: “Give him Benadryl and take him to the emergency room immediately!”As a board-certified allergist for 25 years, I recognized that my grandson was having a potentially serious allergic reaction and that his symptoms could get worse-much worse. Fortunately, by the time they arrived at the hospital, the swelling had subsided and his hives had resolved.Even though my grandson’s diagnosis was easy to make, food allergies can be one of the most frustrating and complex allergy issues facing physicians, patients, and families. If you consider the unlimited number of foods and additives we consume today, the variable time between ingestion and allergic reaction, and the varied and often-subtle symptoms, it seems miraculous when an allergy-triggering food is actually identified.Food Allergies In Children: A Disturbing TrendAsk anyone who raised children 25 years ago if they ever heard of food allergies back then, and the likely answer will be no. Yet today, who doesn’t know a child-if not several kids-who have severe food allergies? Pediatricians and allergists are observing first-hand that food allergies in infants and children have increased to epidemic proportions over the last few decades. Studies have shown that in the under-18 age group, the prevalence of reported food allergies increased 18% between 1997 and 2007. Approximately 4% of Americans are estimated to have food allergies. That’s more than 12 million individuals. The prevalence of food allergies is even higher-6% to 8%-in infants and young children under three years old.Any type of food can trigger an outbreak, yet the “Big 8″ account for more than 90% of all cases: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. Sesame is quickly becoming another common cause of allergies, especially in those with Mediterranean diets. The good news is that the incidence of documented food allergies decreases with age, probably due to the development of tolerance in children allergic to milk, wheat, soy, and eggs. Of the 2.5% of children allergic to milk, approximately 80% will “outgrow” their allergy by age five. Kids with peanut or tree nut allergies aren’t as lucky: Recent studies have shown that only about 10% to 20% of children will lose their allergy as they age.Pediatric Food Allergies: Instantaneous Outbreak Of the two main types of allergies, the “immediate hypersensitivity reaction” gets the most hype, probably because you can see the symptoms (whether it’s hives or swelling) right away. The other kind is aptly named “delayed hypersensitivity reaction.” Otherwise known as IgE-mediated, the immediate allergic reaction is the best understood and the most easily diagnosed. Yet it can also be the most serious. When the proteins in an allergenic food come in contact with an IgE antibody (located in the skin, gut, and airways, or in the blood), a cascade of cellular events occurs resulting in the release of histamine and a multitude of other chemical mediators. The rapid release of the histamine and other chemicals is what causes the allergic reaction. The outbreak, which generally occurs within minutes of ingestion, can be relatively mild or severe. Moderate symptoms might include a rash, generalized itching and redness of the skin, facial or eyelid swelling, abdominal cramping, vomiting and/or diarrhea. These can be treated with a quick-acting antihistamine and tend to run their course over a few minutes to hours. The most severe reaction is called anaphylaxis, which can occur instantaneously or a few minutes after ingestion. As a general rule, the quicker the onset of symptoms, the more serious the reaction is likely to be. Symptoms of anaphylaxis might include those mentioned above, but can also rapidly progress to breathing difficulties and chest tightness (due to bronchial constriction and swelling of the airways), a drop in blood pressure leading to shock-and even death. Epinephrine (also known as adrenalin), which is available for self-injection in the form of an Epipen and other auto-injectors, must be given immediately and repeated if necessary. Foods that commonly cause severe reactions include peanuts, tree nuts, fish, sesame seeds, milk, and eggs. The most serious reaction I ever witnessed resulted from the ingestion of a single pine nut. That tiny seed (it’s not really a nut) transformed a healthy teenager into a critically ill patient within a matter of minutes. Fortunately, the patient recovered, but anaphylaxis can be fatal if not treated immediately and aggressively. If your child has ever had an immediate allergic reaction to a food, you should consult with a board-certified allergist. To identify or confirm the symptom-triggering food, the allergist will likely give a few tests, either through the skin or blood. From there, you and your allergist can come up with a plan to eliminate the food from your child’s diet and discuss prevention and management of future reactions.Delayed Allergic Reactions: Subtle Yet ElusiveWhile less dangerous in terms of one’s immediate health, the “delayed allergic reaction” can be much more difficult to diagnose and treat. As the name implies, it can take hours or even days after ingestion for the symptoms to show up, making it harder to establish a cause-and- effect relationship. The typical symptoms can involve several organ systems and may be quite subtle in their presentation. In addition to the classic allergy symptoms (think nasal congestion, a runny nose, and a rash), delayed reactions may also present with very vague and nonspecific symptoms, such as frequent headaches, recurrent or chronic abdominal pain, fatigue and lethargy, irritability, dark circles under the eyes, leg pains, and recurrent ear or sinus infections.Part of the difficulty in diagnosing these food reactions is that there’s no reliable allergy test that can accurately identify or predict a delayed outbreak. Skin testing and blood tests aren’t helpful because they only measure the IgE antibody, which is responsible for immediate reactions. Research has not yet identified the antibody or antibodies responsible for delayed reactions, although there has been considerable interest and research in the possible role of the IgG antibody. Blood tests to measure this antibody are available, but its reliability as a predictor of delayed allergy has not yet been established.So how can you figure out if your child’s symptoms are the result of something he or she is eating? The best method we have right now is to eliminate the suspected food (or drink) from your kid’s diet for four weeks. If you notice a significant improvement in symptoms, you’re ready for the challenge phase: Serve the food in question for several days straight. If the symptoms start recurring, you can be relatively sure that a cause-and-effect relationship has been established. Even after avoiding the food culprit, it can still take a few weeks for symptoms to completely disappear, so be patient.By far, milk and other dairy products are the most common cause of this type of reaction. Over the years, many teenagers have walked into my office with their parents complaining about stomach discomfort and profound tiredness. By the time they’ve come to see me, they’ve usually been through various tests and have seen multiple physicians, including gastroenterologists, and have often been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. After hearing about their saga and symptoms-and seeing the dark circles under their eyes and their pale, sallow complexion-I can usually tell that it’s a dairy allergy. Fortunately, many responded dramatically to a few weeks off of milk. They couldn’t believe that the innocent act of drinking milk and eating dairy products could make them feel so ill-and that avoiding these products could restore their good health and vitality in such a short time.Food Allergy Cross-ReactivityIf you’re like me, you may have a food allergy that’s directly connected to your sensitivity to tree and weed pollens. Called “oral allergy syndrome,” this condition shows up when there’s a cross-reactivity between tree or weed pollens and corresponding foods that share a common allergen. For example, because ragweed pollen and foods in the gourd family share a common allergen, people allergic to ragweed may exhibit symptoms after ingesting foods such as melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew), zucchini, cucumber, and bananas. Because I’m allergic to ragweed pollen, I cannot eat melons or ripe bananas without developing intense itching in my throat. If you’re sensitive to birch tree pollen, you may react to apples, pears, and apricots. Celery may be a problem for those allergic to mugwort pollen.The typical symptoms, which are generally mild and transitory, are itching of the throat, mouth, and tongue. That aggravating throat itch often compels sufferers to rub their tongue against the soft palate, making a characteristic “clucking” sound. The vast majority of patients experience symptoms within five minutes of ingestion. Depending on the time of year, the presentation can be affected by the particular pollen season. The upside of this condition, which is the most common food-related allergy in adults, is that symptoms are only caused by the ingestion of raw or uncooked fruits or vegetables. The heating process that occurs during cooking breaks down the allergic protein, so you can eat boiled, baked, fried, or roasted fruits and veggies without triggering symptoms.Allergies In InfantsBecause of their age, newborns and infants can be especially sensitive to food allergies. Symptoms may include colic, irritability, excessive spitting and vomiting, rashes (including eczema or hives), nasal symptoms (such as congestion and runny nose), coughing or wheezing, and other gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea, bloody stools, or constipation). There can also be poor weight gain. Allergies in infants up to age one are almost always caused by food-most commonly cow’s milk. Yet a baby doesn’t have to drink milk straight for symptoms to break out: The proteins in cow’s milk can enter the baby’s system through some commercial formulas, as well as by passing through the mother’s milk during nursing. A small percentage of milk-allergic babies are also allergic to soy.In recent years, researchers have devoted themselves to understanding the disturbing rise of food allergies, especially in infants and kids. What they have discovered is leading allergists and physicians to dramatically revise recommendations on how and when we introduce foods to infants. For many decades, the time-honored and well-established approach was to delay the introduction of highly allergenic foods into the infant’s diet to prevent the emergence of food allergies. For example, solid foods are generally not recommended until six months of age, cow’s milk until one year, eggs until two years, and peanuts, tree nuts, and fish until three years. There is also a widely accepted notion that breast feeding alone for the first six months of life will minimize or delay the onset of food allergies and other allergic diseases (including asthma), as well as atopic dermatitis or eczema.The latest medical evidence, however, is debunking these age-old theories. Indeed, the recommendation to delay the introduction of foods to infants as a means of preventing food allergies may be the wrong approach altogether. Recent studies have revealed very credible scientific evidence to suggest that the common practice of delaying the introduction of cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, and other foods may increase the child’s risk of developing food allergies. And, even more importantly, there is evidence to suggest that the early introduction of allergenic foods may actually prevent the development of the allergy to that food. As an example, a recent study demonstrated that children in England were ten times more likely to be allergic to peanuts than children in Israel. One very strong hypothesis to explain this finding is the fact that Israeli infants are introduced to peanuts, generally through Bamba (a Peanut flavored snack that is used as a teething food), at about six months of age. On the other hand, children in England are generally not introduced to peanuts in any form until approximately three years of age. This study is just one of many that strongly suggest that an early introduction to certain foods can help babies build desensitization, thereby decreasing the risk of developing a food allergy.Managing Severe AllergiesHistorically, the treatment of serious food allergies has consisted of avoiding exposure and ingestion of the allergenic food, and making antihistamines and epinephrine immediately available. Total abstinence is indeed difficult and often impossible, as evidenced by the large number of accidental ingestions and allergic reactions that have resulted in emergency room visits. Even with strict avoidance measures, the potential for sudden and life-threatening outbreaks can lead to extreme anxiety in both the child-and the parent.Fortunately, medical research has now proven that orally-administered immunotherapy can result in a significant degree of desensitization, or tolerance, to a given food in most allergic patients. This form of therapy, however, is associated with a significant amount of risk and should only be performed under the watchful eye of a board-certified allergist experienced in oral tolerance induction. Presently in the United States, this form of desensitization is being performed at a few highly-acclaimed medical centers.An Allergy-Free FutureWith all the time and money being put into food allergy research, there is excitement in the medical field about the possibility of new breakthroughs in the near future-both in prevention and treatment. I, for one, am optimistic that a safe and effective treatment is close at hand.

Importance of Branding for E-Commerce Businesses

E-commerce businesses are becoming a reliable way to buy products online. Branding plays a direct role in improving chances of e-commerce business success. An increasing number of global customers are switching to e-commerce sites to purchase everything from groceries to apparel, and electronics to lifestyle products. The e-commerce industry has completely transformed the way in which consumers around the world access products and services. It has suddenly brought a world of options to the fingertips of end users. The future seems bright for the e-commerce industry, with major players branching out into newer product categories frequently (thus setting the standards for smaller brands).

For e-commerce businesses, things are going well enough, but the competition is also fierce. New e-commerce brands are launching every day and persistently trying to get a foothold online. When it comes to branding, e-commerce companies are leaving no stone unturned. In this scenario, it is vital that you build and implement a high quality branding strategy for your e-commerce business.

Branding Strategies For E-Commerce Businesses

By having a result-oriented, effective branding plan for your e-commerce business, you can stand out amongst your competitors. To achieve that, you must determine what makes your e-commerce business a unique player in the industry. Are you offering high quality products at the best available rates? Do you organize regular discounts and offers for your customers? Are you adding new product categories to meet more customer demands? What are the factors that would convince customers to choose your brand against others? E-commerce business owners must strive to highlight the unique selling points of their brand. Only then can an e-commerce brand be boldly promoted to larger audiences.

As an e-commerce brand, you have to be at the forefront when it comes to attracting product vendors as well as consumers to your e-store. Vendors would be interested in using your marketplace, if it has a strong brand that keeps providing value to customers. The number of sellers and customers you bring in to your network depends on the strength of your e-commerce brand, and how well it delivers on its promises. If you are intelligent in your branding, and consistent in your service quality, your e-commerce brand can achieve considerable success.

E-commerce branding, like all branding, is influencing the perception of your brand and its services, in the eyes of the customer. Effective e-commerce branding will make marketing easier, retain more customers, drive up loyalty, and create better potential value for steady, long-term success.

The way you must approach an e-commerce branding strategy is by highlighting some key points. With branding, you must uphold your business’s core mission, the problems you aim to solve for your customers, standards that it adheres to, and proof of the quality of services you provide. What are the factors involved in business branding and their importance?

E-Commerce Branding – Methods and Importance

1. Your Brand Image - A stellar, uniquely identifiable brand image helps customers attach value to your e-commerce brand’s personality. This includes various things such as logos, banners, taglines, marketing captions, social content etc., which should always represent your brand the best. This is quite important if you want to create value for potential customers and convert them into loyal customers. A good brand image goes a long way in retaining customers, by continually generating interest for your e-commerce brand’s offerings.

2. Customer Satisfaction - Customers are everything, when it comes to e-commerce or any other type of business. You can actually enhance customer experiences and drive up satisfaction (and loyalties). This is a big part of establishing your e-commerce brand. Put your best foot forward while marketing, deliver on your promises you make, and provide unmatched service and support to enhance your brand’s potential value. Remember that satisfied existing customers can and will bring in newer customers to your e-commerce business. Maintain your integrity and keep reinventing to bolster your brand’s chances of business success.

3. Find Your Unique Selling Proposition - As an e-commerce business owner you must determine the USP of your brand. This will help you brand and promote it better to larger groups of potential customers. Think about what sets you apart from dozens of competitors vying for true e-commerce glory. Is it your service quality or support? Is it the trust of your customers and your track record? Do you provide innovative offers, discounts and promotions on special occasions? Do you house the widest variety of rare products? You must determine why customers would choose your e-commerce site. What extra value can you offer to your potential customers that convince them to use your platform again and again? Find your USP and use it to strengthen your brand.

4. Utilize All Channels - Technological advances in the past decade demand that your e-commerce business maximizes its presence on all social, web-based and mobile platforms. More and more potential customers buy and sell through handheld devices, and almost all of them are on social websites. All your competitors are doing it, and so should you. It will help you make your brand easily accessible to larger audiences, which in turn will bring more conversions and significantly better revenues. Social and mobile should be the front and center of your branding strategy.

E-commerce sites can benefit from the above mentioned branding strategies. By using the concepts provide here, you can establish your e-commerce brand and take your business to the next level.

Eliminating Profit Robbing Telemarketing Calls to Your Business

Most of us small business owners don’t have the luxury of having a secretary or office manager to screen our calls for us. It can become overwhelming when answering sales call after sales call from telemarketers prevent us from doing what makes us money. To top it off, we can sometimes be talked into spending our hard earned money on products or services that are often overpriced and/or not needed in the first place.Each time we add a new business telephone number or change the business location of the ones we currently have, our telephone numbers are placed on a telemarketing list as a “new business.” Our business phone lines are then overrun by harassing telemarketers that want to be the first to sell a new business what they don’t need. You see a “new business owner” generally hasn’t fine tuned their decision making skills to the point that they can just say no and hang up. These skills come with time and experience. Telemarketers know this and target these new business owners because seasoned owners won’t fall for their tactics.I am always adding or changing toll free and regular phone numbers. To prevent this constant barrage of calls (I call it “the first wave”) or to at least limit them, I have developed a strategy that is working right now. You, as a small business owner, can take what you need from this and add to it your own ideas that you have found that work.First, the “Do Not Call” list! This list was set up for consumers and not businesses. We as consumers are afforded a lot more rights under the law than we are as business owners. Either way there is no mechanism the government can use to determine whether the number you put on the list is a business number or a residential number. I am not telling you to put your company’s number on the list. I am simply explaining that if you did, it would work. Any number that is put on this list almost instantly sees a drop in calls from telemarketers. You can find this list by doing a search for “do not call list” on your favorite search engine.Secondly you must accept the fact that if you need something for your business then you will seek it out and find it yourself! Train yourself to never buy “spur of the moment!” Spontaneous purchases can kill a business. Once you realize this then you will never change your phone service just because someone called and was nice to you. You’ll never buy twelve dozen light bulbs or two thousand feet of extension cord. If you need a first aid kit then go buy one at the Home Depot and don’t buy a dozen from a con man on the other end of the phone. First aid kits, extension cords, light bulbs and phone service are all the top sellers to the construction business, your industry may differ but I am sure not by much. You must say no and it is absolutely OK to be rude and to hang up mid sentence. The point is that once you have trained yourself to say “no,” then you can follow step three.Third, you must tell the caller that not only are you not interested but you want them to remove your company and phone number from their list. You must do this every time.
Watch out for “free” items, “we want to save you money” or “can I ask you why” because these are their favorite tricks to get you to spend. I try to be as polite as I can so that they will actually remove my phone number. Sometimes you may need to call an 800 number that they will give you in order to be removed from further solicitation. I recommend that you call and have your business’ phone number removed right away because these companies can actually sell your name to other companies as an “active” number and that will only make matters worse. The problem then spreads like a virus. The bottom line is to tell them no and to ask them to remove you from their list before you even hear what they have to offer.Another way that I minimize the distractions of telemarketing sales calls is to use caller ID. Unfortunately, only local companies that acquire work locally can utilize this method. My concrete cutting company services customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, so when I get a call from California or some odd area code, I will prepare myself to be firm and up front before I answer the phone. If my calls are forwarded to my cellular telephone and I find out the call wasn’t from a vendor or supplier then I will simply program the number as DNA into my cell phone. This stands for “Do Not Answer!” You can program up to ten numbers under one contact name in most cellular phones and give it a distinct ring tone. I have DNA1, DNA2 and so on and I am up to DNA9 right now. If I see or hear one of these numbers come in I just push the button that sends them directly to voice mail.Lastly and very important is the use of a device that is called the “TeleZapper.” The TeleZapper sends a digital tone through the phone line telling automatic dialers used my many telemarketers that the line is currently disconnected and or not in use. The automatic dialing computer subsequently removes your phone number from its list. This not only stops them from calling back it also prevents them from selling your phone number as an “active number.” This device became almost extinct once the “Do Not Call” list became a reality because who needs to “zap” a telemarketer if you are not getting any calls? It still works great for the small business and you will see a dramatic drop in telemarketing calls if you use it correctly. This device will not work if you forward your calls to another phone or if you use a voice mail provided by your phone company and your calls are sent to that voice mail box. It will work when a call is picked up by an answering machine in your office. The TeleZapper is very difficult to find anymore in retail stores but it is still readily available new on eBay or online.© 2007 Affordable Concrete Cutting Massachusetts, MA All Rights Reserved