iced coffee and whipped cream

‎Demit Strato Pens Facebook Post to Starbucks About Using the Wrong Milk

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Going out to eat can be a nightmare if you’re allergic or sensitive to certain foods. Even if you order an item without that ingredient, there is always a chance of cross-contamination or that someone will accidentally add it in anyway. This mix-up is something Demit Strato, like others with food sensitivities, knows all too well. In a Facebook post to Starbucks, the 28-year-old New Yorker shared his woes regarding an order gone awry.

“This is the second time I ordered a Venti Iced Coffe with Soy Milk this month where the Soy Milk request was ignored and regular milk was instead used,” Strato, who is lactose intolerant, shared on the brand’s page. “I’ve pooped 11 times since the A.M. My bottom hurts from all the wiping.”

Strato elaborated further, noting his request wasn’t because he wanted to “sound fancy” but because he didn’t want to be stuck in the bathroom all day. “I order soy milk so that my bottom doesn’t blast fire for 4 hours. I’m not a Charmander,” he wrote.

“I’ve been going to coffee shops for a decade and it’s happened more times than I can count,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I’ll get some cross contamination or just straight-up regular milk.”

Strato’s not the only person this happens to. More than 473,000 people have reacted to his post since Monday with many sharing their own experiences. “Had the same issue with ordering a frap made with lactose-free milk. It just seemed to taste too good to be true and I was right,” one person wrote.

“This has happened to me a lot of times. I finally told the Starbucks employees that if they used milk instead of soymilk that I would leave and never return; they’ve made my drinks correct every time since that day,” another shared.

According to the Facebook post, Starbucks replied to Strato’s message privately. Strato told BuzzFeed he’s since received a $50 gift card.

Thinkstock image via antpkr.

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My Food Allergies Are Not Just a 'Preference'

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For anyone who has food allergies, or has children with them, then all this might sound painfully familiar.

I learned how to read as a child by my mother handing me food in the grocery store and teaching me to read the ingredients looking for allergens. Yes, that is how serious it is.

I never eat dessert in restaurants. As someone fatally allergic to shellfish and tree nuts, I know most restaurants don’t really know what is in their food. A perfect example: I asked the waiter if there were nuts at all in the key lime pie. No. Are you sure, because I’m allergic? Definitely, no nuts. Not even in the crust? Um, no. Not even almond flour? Uh…oh, yeah, there’s that.

 

That is not an unusual interaction, and 99 percent of the time I don’t even bother. With more and more companies and restaurants catering their menus to people with food preferences, the word “allergic” is taken far less seriously than it once was. People use that word when they really mean “intolerant” or simply as a way to get their desired food the way they want it. Everyone has a right to control the type of food they eat, even without justifying why. The problem is that when the word “allergic” gets used too much, waiters in particular stop taking it seriously.

My first grade teacher thought she could just take the walnuts off the top of the salad at lunch and give it to me. She had no idea that contamination is all it takes – and as soon as I took the first bite it happened. Immediately my mouth started itching, welts formed all over my body, my face and lips swelled up and soon my throat began to swell also. That was one emergency room visit that could have ended much worse. Another 10 minutes and I would have been dead from asphyxiation as my throat would have completely swollen shut, preventing me from breathing. Luckily the school nurse knew exactly what to do, and we were down the street from a hospital. But I’ll never forget it.

In college I was studying for finals and had picked up a protein bar at the store (I rarely take that chance, they are usually full of nuts). I quickly scanned the back for the big bold warning that would tell me if it had nuts. Nope, just soy and dairy were listed. That was my mistake – my moment of complacency. Despite laws requiring those bold letter warnings, you must always read the ingredients. I took a bite and spit it out. I could tell as soon as I started chewing that something was wrong. The buzzing itch the moment it touched my lips. I immediately scanned the back as my lip started swelling within seconds – there it was, “almond flour.” I just happened to live quite literally behind an ER. I could have walked, but I drove. Two minutes later I walked in, and didn’t have to say a word. They knew with one glance. They hooked me up to an IV, rapidly pumping me full of things like prednisone and diphenhydramine. It was another case of luck. Had I not been so close, it would not have been good.

I routinely carry epi-pens, dissolvable children’s Benadryl (because I can’t swallow once my throat closes), medical alert ID bracelets and necklaces and a wallet card with information. I don’t eat food I don’t know a lot about. So I avoid social gatherings that involve homemade food, because I simply can’t trust that nothing touched anything I’m allergic to. I tend to only eat out at places I have been going to for many, many years. And I eat the same things. I don’t like to travel, because it just gets that much more complicated.

a woman's epi-pen and medical bracelets

That’s the reality of it, and that’s all I’ve ever known. I don’t find it dramatic, and it doesn’t really interfere with how I live my life – because my life has always been lived this way. I read the ingredients of everything. I’m highly anxious about being in situations where I’m expected to eat, because I don’t want to make a fuss or be rude. But my life depends on it.

When I ask the waiter five times about the ingredients, I’m not being “picky.” I’m making sure my dinner selection doesn’t kill me. When I avoid parties, it’s not me being “anti-social” – it’s because it takes so much thinking and planning and worrying that it becomes unenjoyable. No, I don’t want to “taste” something, “try” something or generally eat anything from anyone or anywhere that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted.

To some people it’s just food. But to someone with food allergies, it is the difference between living to see the next meal, and not.

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As a Food Allergy Parent, My ‘Hovering’ Is About My Kids’ Safety

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“Does it really matter what my kid eats next to your kid at school?”

“I didn’t think it mattered if we did a science experiment with egg.”

“I didn’t think they’d care if everyone else had ice cream and they couldn’t. Can’t they just have a little?”

“I know this person would die, but I’m thinking, ‘I never wanted to eat nuts more!'” Ricky Gervais on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon”

“You mean we can’t eat nuts in your house?”

When you’re a food allergy parent, lots of people — from fellow parents to teachers to comedy writers, all the way to your own family — offer their opinions about how you’re doing your job and often don’t hide that they think you’re overreacting, overanxious and overprotective of your kids and their allergies.

They lump us under the “helicopter parents,” label, parents who hover over our children’s every move, micromanaging their mere existence, implying we’re raising them to be adults who’ll be the subject of articles about kids who grow up to be adults who can’t cut it.

For years, when they were little, when they were still learning to advocate for themselves and still putting everything in their mouths, I did “hover,” watching everyone around us when we were out and about, watching every surface they touched, trying to wipe their hands before a hand that may have touched food that could send them into anaphylaxis reached their mouths. For years I had to imagine every scenario at school that could end with that dreaded call that my child had needed a shot of Epinephrine and been transported by ambulance to the hospital, or worse, that the school or my child hadn’t recognized the signs of anaphylaxis or couldn’t get to an Epinephrine injector quickly enough and my child hadn’t made it. That they had died, at school, helpless and without the right help. I had to imagine it so I could plan how to prevent it and work with the school to ensure their safety and their inclusion. Their survival depended both on my “hovering” and my ability to imagine worst-case scenarios and their contingencies.

This video actually inspired me to write this piece. While it showcases the pressures and decisions kids face and not their parents, it captures without question the decisions we “helicopter parents” have to prepare our children to face. It painfully and shockingly captures the line we as food allergy parents know our kids walk between life and death every day. Death — or at the very least, anaphylaxis, epinephrine and an ambulance ride to the ER — always lurk nearby. All day, every day, people managing food allergies face potentially life-or-death decisions from something as simple as food. That potential peril is really what hovers: the shadow waiting for us or our kids to forget to read an ingredient label; to eat food that might be cross-contaminated; to take our chances with a restaurant meal without doing our due diligence to ensure it’s safe; to forget an Epinephrine auto injector; or to decide it’s uncool, too much of a pain, or not a big deal to do any and all of the above.

For years I had to teach my kids to watch the world this way. To read every ingredient label. Twice. To never eat food that wasn’t from home. To never have their Epinephrine injectors more than arm’s length away. That a matter of seconds could be the difference between life and death.

But here’s the truth about food allergy parents and those with food allergies:

While other parents are teaching their kids to look both ways before they cross the street or to manage their own medical conditions or disabilities, we’re doing the same. We’re also teaching them how to stay safe and how to survive with food allergies in the real world. As food allergy parents, we also teach our kids incredible self-sufficiency, self-preservation, maturity, responsibility and survival skills.

My kids have completed “Allergy Boot Camp.” At 12 and 16, they know to read every label, by themselves — twice. They know that the safest food is food from home but if they get food elsewhere, they know to read labels, twice. They pack their own lunches, reading dozens of ingredients as they do so, and pack wet wipes to make sure their hands are clean. My oldest knows the labeling policies of countless companies and contacts them herself. My youngest may not always remember to turn in his homework (that’s a whole other article) but whether he’s heading to school or to ride bikes with friends, nine times out of 10, he remembers his Epinephrine auto injector and his inhaler. They take their Epinephrine and inhalers with them to every class at school. And they know how to speak up, respectfully and confidently, when a situation is unsafe. They are integral members of our meetings with school nurses, teachers and administrators as we advocate for their needs and map out their health plans each year.

Food allergy parents want more than you can imagine to let our kids eat out with friends and family. To share a holiday meal or birthday celebration without interrogating the host. To have our kid’s earned pizza or ice cream reward be a reward instead of a reminder of their disability. To never read an ingredient label or call a food company again. To breathe instead of holding our breath when our kids try new foods.

Do I wish they knew more? Sure. Do I wish they were better prepared for life on their own? Absolutely. I wish they could change a tire. Or change their oil. I wish my oldest could fight bugs on her own and that my youngest could remember to recycle his water bottles. I will never teach them everything. I didn’t know everything. Like most of us, I learned as I went. I’m still learning, in fact. And I can say, without hesitation, that I’ve learned the most as a food allergy parent.

I parent knowing that in addition to the risks every other child, teen, person assumes every day, my children will face unique pressures, unique choices. Decision after decision my kids will have to surmount peer pressure, their own yearning to fit in and the risk-taking urges of adolescence to make the right choices, choices that will keep them safe and alive. They will be at the mercy of those around them, at the mercy of their schools’ plans, training and execution of said plans — and of sheer circumstances — to survive their food allergies today, tomorrow and every day after.

I now know we “hover” for a stint because we have to. And then, like all parents, we pull back, take a huge breath and in an almost unparalleled leap of faith let them fly on their own.

I can’t guarantee they’ll always do the right thing. I can’t guarantee they’ll always be safe. I can’t guarantee that a bite or touch or breath of food won’t send them to the hospital, or worse, but I can be darn sure that thanks to my hovering when it mattered, they have a fighting chance. I don’t think any parent can really plan for, try for, or ask for more than that.

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Thinkstock image by mdphoto16

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6 Things to Know About Living With Food Allergies

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I have adult onset food allergies. It’s taken me years to admit to this. I know you’re probably thinking, “Allergies? So what?” Then you start factoring how much food influences our lives, or really how much we let it influence our lives. Imagine if every time you put food in your mouth you had to take a second and make sure your mouth wasn’t getting itchy. Imagine if you loved that food, but then realized your body did not like that food too. You want more, but you know it could literally kill you. It’s a new level of self-control, because really, your life depends on it.

It’s taken years of getting sick all of the time and not knowing the cause of my body rejecting food. Adult onset allergies aren’t something you are born with, but rather something that develops later in life. So what does that mean? It means I went my whole life eating whatever I wanted until my early 20s when I started getting allergy symptoms. So yes, I know exactly what I’m missing out on. I know the foods I loved, and I’ve been forced to accept I can’t eat them anymore. It’s a lifestyle change.

The thing about allergies is that the more you are exposed to them, the worse your reaction gets. So I could be eating foods that are “repeat offenders” that begins as something as simple as sneezing. Maybe I have it the next time and get sick. Then after eating it again and again, I could go into anaphylaxis and die. That’s how eggs were for me, which turned from eggs to all egg-derived products. To those of you who don’t know what that means, start looking at food labels – you’ll see most foods contain eggs. Since my egg allergy I’ve also developed allergies to all peppers and tree nuts, amongst other foods.

The top six things no one tells you about food allergies:

1. Having severe food allergies not only impacts your whole life, but those around you. It means your family catering to your allergies at every family event. It means your extended family of 30+ people knowing about your allergy and knowing what they can and can’t bring to those events. It means them having something there for you to eat and having to plan specifically for you. That’s if you have a supportive and understanding network of family – luckily I do. Sometimes it can mean bringing your own food with you.

2. It means having to plan for all social events and wondering if there will be food there you can eat. It means planning for a friend’s wedding and having to ask about the ingredients in every single food, from the breads to the entrees and desserts. It means either asking the host, the host’s parents or the servers about it mid-party because you know it’s their special day and no one wants to call an ambulance because you were negligent or embarrassed.

3. It means your friends understanding you need to warn every server about your allergies every time you go out to eat. It means going on a date and having to leave the restaurant after your water gets there because you realize there’s nothing you can eat. It means them hearing the “can you check the kitchen to see if the ____ has _____ in it” every time they go out to eat. It means waiting to order because you have to wait for a response from the kitchen, and that’s assuming they actually know. I’ve had experiences where the chef either didn’t know or made an assumption. That assumption led to an ER trip for me.

4. The debilitating anxiety of a going into anaphylaxis. The questioning of “Do I need my epi pen?,” “Is this going to pass with Benadryl?” or “Will this be the time I should have taken it but waited too long?” It’s the fear of not knowing how your body is going to respond to food and how long you should wait. It’s your heart racing and your mind wandering, and trying to decipher if it’s anxiety or reality. It means learning to trust yourself and your body, even when you’ve been hospitalized three times since this year started.

5. The sheer embarrassment of when an allergy is happening. Let’s say for example you’re at work – who are you supposed to tell? Do you let them call an ambulance for you? When you’re trying to slip under the cracks with food allergies and don’t want them to be noticed…then suddenly you’re the center of attention. Well now it’s certainly brought to everyone’s attention, and you’ve been noticed all right. Yes, it’s a medical disability according to the Americans With Disabilities Act, but that doesn’t need to be anyone’s business. Food is personal.

6. Being in a relationship and living with food allergies. It means that person has to be mindful of everything they eat as well, because kissing you can give you an allergic reaction. Yes, kissing someone who ate something you’re allergic to can trigger the allergy. It can linger for hours, even after brushing their teeth. It means them not ordering food you’re allergic to when you’re with them, because allergies can be airborne and breathing it in can make you sick. Let’s not forget about living together, because that in itself is its own obstacle when you have to have an allergy-free kitchen. That means this person is not only committing to you as a person, but committing to living with your allergies and catering to those needs.

I’m hoping this article can bring light to living with food allergies. I’m hoping it can help loved ones be more understanding. I’m hoping it can make food servers more aware. I’m hoping it can make people take allergies more seriously and realize the consequences. Lastly, I’m hoping people with allergies can read this and realize they are not alone.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via ViewApart.

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Thank You to Anyone Who Has Helped My Child With Food Allergies

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Food Allergy Awareness Week is May 14 through May 20. I’ve been thinking a lot about how far we’ve come in regards to my son’s food allergies. We made it two years without any major food allergy reactions. (Knocks on wood.) My 6-year-old child is alive and thriving. He has learned so much and continues to get used to his life with food allergies. And we have you to thank for it.

To anyone who has helped my child with food allergies,

Some of you have children with food allergies, or you have them yourselves. Some of you have relatives, friends, students or co-workers with food allergies. Some of you teach my child. Some of you feed my child. Some of you come into contact with my child. Some of you don’t even know my child.

But all of you have made a difference in our lives.

You understand that a child’s life is literally at stake. You understand how difficult it can be to navigate this allergen-filled life. You don’t laugh at cruel food allergy jokes or comments. You speak up when my child or any children are bullied.

You show you care on many days, in a million different ways.

You keep my son’s allergens, which are all nuts, away from him. You don’t offer him food, drinks or candy. You wash your hands when you enter our home. You respect our wishes and needs. You always try to help keep him safe.

You watch him closely at school. You keep an eye on him while he’s on the playground. You send me food allergy articles and video links. You pray for a cure while donating to organizations who are trying to find one.

You give us hope.

You choose to walk with us on this difficult, and sometimes scary, road because you know we would do the same for you. You know the health and welfare of a child is of utmost importance, and that not eating certain foods to keep a child unharmed is a small sacrifice to make. A sacrifice you choose to make each and every time because you know my child’s life is more important than a bag of nuts or whichever allergen could hurt him or some other child. You know he is still learning how to live with food allergies, and that a kindergartner needs a lot of help to stay healthy and make good decisions.

You don’t roll your eyes at us or make disparaging online comments about those with food allergies, because you have the intelligence, depth and compassion to know we did not choose this life. You know that anyone can get food allergies at any point in their lives. About 15 million Americans currently have food allergies and millions more worldwide have them. You know this and have learned the symptoms and how to use an epinephrine auto-injector.

You have seen many pictures of children who have died from food allergies. You know that I carry these children with me each and every day, and hope that my child does not suffer the same fate.

You know my son had his first anaphylactic reaction at the age of 4; you know how scared I was and continue to be. You know how I watched his face turn a pale shade of blue, and saw him struggle for air, during other reactions that were exacerbated by his asthma. You know those memories haunt me daily.

Boy wearing a jacket over a t-shirt that says food allergy wars and has an illustration of a boy holding a lightsaber

You know that when I look at my son, I still see a little baby. A baby created by love, a baby I will always love. A baby I will always protect no matter how old he is. A baby I cradled in my arms, a baby who is now a little boy. A boy who happens to have food allergies. A boy any mom would do anything to protect if he were her own.

Thank you for being able to put yourself in my shoes, and for realizing that my son’s life is as precious as your own child’s life. You know I will do anything I can to protect your child, and all children.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping my child with food allergies. I am forever grateful for wonderful people like you. May my child always be surrounded by such love.

May that love follow him wherever he goes.

Sincerely,
His Mom

Follow this journey on Poetologie.

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Mylan Recalls U.S. EpiPens Following International Recall of 81,000 EpiPens

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Mylan is voluntarily recalling 13 of its U.S. EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. products after an international recall of approximately 81,000 EpiPens.

This recall comes after two reports that EpiPens distributed outside of the U.S., failed to activate due to a potential defect in the pen portion of the device. “The potential defect could make the device difficult to activate in an emergency (failure to activate or increased force needed to activate) and have significant health consequences for a patient experiencing a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis),” Mylan said in a statement.

The EpiPens affected by the recall were distributed by Mylan between December 2015 and July 2016. If you have one of the following products, return it to Mylan:

Product/Dosage

NDC Number

Lot Number

Expiration Date

EpiPen Jr 2-Pak® Auto-Injectors, 0.15 mg

49502-501-02

5GN767

April 2017

EpiPen Jr 2-Pak® Auto-Injectors, 0.15 mg

49502-501-02

5GN773

April 2017

EpiPen 2-Pak® Auto-Injectors, 0.3 mg

49502-500-02

5GM631

April 2017

EpiPen 2-Pak® Auto-Injectors, 0.3 mg

49502-500-02

5GM640

May 2017

EpiPen Jr 2-Pak® Auto-Injectors, 0.15 mg

49502-501-02

6GN215

September 2017

EpiPen 2-Pak® Auto-Injectors, 0.3 mg

49502-500-02

6GM082

September 2017

EpiPen 2-Pak® Auto-Injectors, 0.3 mg

49502-500-02

6GM072

September 2017

EpiPen 2-Pak® Auto-Injectors, 0.3 mg

49502-500-02

6GM081

September 2017

EpiPen 2-Pak® Auto-Injectors, 0.3 mg

49502-500-02

6GM088

October 2017

EpiPen 2-Pak® Auto-Injectors, 0.3 mg

49502-500-02

6GM199

October 2017

EpiPen 2-Pak® Auto-Injectors, 0.3 mg

49502-500-02

6GM091

October 2017

EpiPen 2-Pak® Auto-Injectors, 0.3 mg

49502-500-02

6GM198

October 2017

EpiPen 2-pak® Auto-Injectors, 0.3 mg

49502-500-02

6GM087

October 2017

Mylan says it will accept all recalled EpiPens and will replace them with a comparable product free of charge.

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