October 8, 2007

Food allergy awareness group to start in HL

West Metro Food Allergy Connection support group open to all in area

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

When Brett and Mary Schlief of Howard Lake found out that their little peanut, Garret, has a peanut allergy, they began researching food allergies, and then decided to start a support group for people with them.

Garret’s peanut allergy was discovered when he was seen by his doctor for a skin condition, and a test that targets the top eight allergens revealed a high risk for peanut products.

“It’s scary – I was overwhelmed when I heard about it, and when the doctor said, ‘Here’s a prescription for an EpiPen,’” Mary said.

An EpiPen helps stop anaphylxis, a severe allergic reaction, and allows time to get emergency medical help.

The more information Mary uncovered about food allergies, the more she felt that she needed to do something to support other individuals and families who live with these types of allergies, and to bring about community awareness.

“Many people and parents of children find themselves numb after the doctor tells them that a food allergy has been identified. It is always helpful to have someone to talk to, to help gain perspective,” Mary said.

“The best way to obtain information is to find someone who has been there,” she added.

The new group is called the West Metro Food Allergy Connection, and is recognized by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) under the direction of Dr. Michael R. Wexler, MD, who is board certified in allergy and immunology.

“FAAN is the world leader in information about food allergy and is dedicated to increasing public awareness, providing advocacy and education, and advancing research on behalf of all those affected by the condition,” Mary said.

The first meeting is Monday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Howard Lake Community Room, which is located above the library.

Three EMTs and the makers of the EpiPen will speak at the meeting, in addition to a nurse practitioner who specializes in food allergies.

“You will be able to come and gather information, talk to others and parents whose children have allergies, and listen to Debra Peterson, RN, MS, CFNP of Advancements in Allergy and Asthma Care in Minnetonka,” Mary said.

Peterson will address the following:

• food allergy – what it is and what it isn’t.

• top eight food allergies (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish) and how to handle them.

• where to shop for special diets.

• how to live with food allergies at work, school, and daycares.

• where to find resources for testing and management of food allergies.

Mary hopes to attract people from all over the west metro area to the support group.

“I’m just really excited about it. Meetings are free and open to the public,” she said.

For more information, contact Mary at rosco@cmgate.com or (320) 543-3349, or Advancements in Allergy and Asthma Care at (952) 546-6866.

West Metro Food Allergy Connection

The first meeting for this support group will be Monday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Howard Lake Community Room, which is located above the library.

Professionals will speak at the meeting about how to live with food allergies.

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