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allergies

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says three in 10 people with other allergies will also have pet allergies. Up to 20% of the population have pet allergies, which means that having a four-legged friend isn't always feasible. There are many health benefits to dog ownership, like such as higher survival rates in the instance of a heart attack, and as it turns out, you might not have to forgo the companionship and benefits of having a dog just because you're allergic. You might not be allergic to all dogs.


Dog breeds that don't shed or are hairless are believed to be "hypoallergenic," but that's not necessarily the case. Pet allergies aren't triggered by animal hair. Proteins in the, saliva, and dander of cats and dogs are what actually cause allergic reactions. "Up to 30% of people who are allergic to dogs are actually allergic to one specific protein that's made in the prostate of a dog," Dr. Lakiea Wright, an allergist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, explained to CNN.

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So far, six specific dog allergens have been identified, and yes, it's totally possible to be allergic to one dog protein and not the others. In other words, someone who has dog allergies might not have reactions to certain dog breeds – and even genders. So, it's totally possible to still get a dog. "If you're allergic to only that specific protein in the male dog, you may be able to tolerate a female or a neutered dog," Wright told CNN.

Male dogs produce a specific protein called Can f 5. The protein, which is made in the prostate, spreads to dog's hair and skin when they urinate. "These proteins are very lightweight, so they get dispersed in the air as the animal moves around," Wright told CNN. "They can also stay in the air for a long time and land on our furniture, mattress, even our clothes."

Allergists can test for allergies to Can f 5 through a blood test or skin prick. "When we suspect a dog allergy, we're testing for that whole allergen," Wright told CNN. "But then we're also looking at specific proteins, the parts that make up the whole, to refine that diagnoses."

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Interestingly, dog ownership might actually prevent the development of future allergies. Studies have found that exposure to a dog before the age of one might protect against future allergies, and that being around dogs can lower children's risk of asthma.

Fortunately, not all dogs are boys and not all cats are girls, so it's totally possible to get a girl dog that doesn't make you cough and sneeze.

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No peanuts? No problem. How hungry kids with allergies have nothing to fear from this pantry.

People of all income levels deserve access to food that makes them well. That's where the ReNewed Health food pantry comes in.

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The kitchen at the Neri household looks a little like an ad for The Container Store.

The family of seven has an impressive system of color-coded plates, shelves, and utensils.

But all that color coordination isn't just because the Neri family loves organization. It's because their lives depend on it.


15-year-old Nolan is allergic to nuts, corn, soy, wheat, and gluten; 10-year-old Adison is allergic to dairy; and 2-year-old Link is allergic to rice, apples, and some types of milk. With a range of potentially life-threatening allergies, mother Lisa Neri — who has her own egg, wheat, soy, corn, and dairy allergies — has to be sure that there's no cross-contamination.



Look at all that organized glory! Photo by Angie Six/Flickr.

Keeping things organized isn't the only challenge. It's been a struggle for the Neris to keep those color-coded shelves stocked with food.

As a working single mother, Lisa Neri relies on government programs like SNAP (also known as food stamps), WIC, and food pantries to help keep her family fed. But even with these supplements, she still struggles to feed a large family with a variety of dietary needs.

That's why she was so relieved when she finally found a new food pantry called ReNewed Health.

Not only does ReNewed Health provide food to families in need, but they also have tons of allergy-friendly food.

Which is a big help for this single mother.

GIF from "Happy Endings."

Access to allergy-friendly food was a game-changer for the Neris. And there was serious improvement in their lives.

Nolan's health improved, and he went from earning low Cs and getting in trouble with teachers, to earning As and Bs. He's even on track to graduate from high school early. With the improved diet, he no longer had stomach cramps that kept him up at night. He started getting better sleep and being able to focus.

Sorry. I just felt like I had to give him ALL THE AWARDS ... virtually. Cue: "We Are the Champions." Photo by pohjakroon/pixabay.

The Neris' story isn't unique. 4.1 million kids have food allergies, and that number is only growing.

More than 1 in 5 of those kids also struggles with food insecurity, which means they don't have regular access to the amount of food they need to live healthy, productive lives. A big part of that comes down to money, since allergy-friendly foods tend to be more expensive. At Walgreens, you can get a 12.4 oz can of regular powdered baby formula for about $16. But if you need hypoallergenic formula? You might have to cough up as much as $45 for 14 oz. Ridiculous, right?

That's why pantries like ReNewed Health are so important.

ReNewed Health, which opened in Overland Park, Kansas, in April, is the first of its kind in the country. But the cofounders are working hard to make sure it's not the last. Through its nonprofit organization Food Equality Initiative, they're working with other nonprofits, doctors, food pantries, and schools to educate families and lawmakers about food allergies, food insecurity, and how to effectively combat them.

ReNewed Health pantry co-founder Emily Brown knows the struggle of trying to feed children with allergies on a low income. Her young daughter is allergic to wheat, milk, eggs, soy, and tree nuts. That's why she's a part of the pantry's initiative. As she told Al Jazeera America,

"I'm determined to keep fighting for equality for everybody to have the right to safe, healthy food. The right to live a healthy life. The right to feel good and have all of the nutrition that they need to thrive in school, to do well in work."

The right to a healthy life? Now that's something I think we can all get behind.

Big thanks to ReNewed Health. Because everyone should have access to allergy-sensitive foods they need — regardless of income.

Here's to more meals that are healthy for everyone!

Bon appetit!

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Children with special needs such as diabetes and food allergies can often feel left out or isolated.

There's a really ingenious idea that can help with that called "Jerry the Bear."

This bear is different from most teddy bears because a child can interact with him in ways that make it seem like they're not alone.

First developed at Northwestern University in 2013, Jerry the Bear has three versions — one for diabetic kids, one for those with food allergies, and one for helping kids understand the value of hygiene, nutrition, and exercise.


The first iteration, for kids with Type 1 diabetes, was a hit; kids all over the world have been able to use it to help control their blood sugars, deal with low blood sugars, and count carbs ... but most importantly, it helps them explain their condition to others. Here's what some parents have had to say:

"I think it's helped … conceptualize what is a carb."

"I don't want her to feel different. You know?"

"When people come over, and ... ask Conner questions, he goes to get Jerry."

"He's more than just a learning tool for her; he's a learning tool to engage the village, the community, the kids around us."





Here's one little girl's version of what Jerry is to her:

Hugs! Image via "Our Families" from Jerry the Bear/YouTube.

Kids with special needs can use this little extra boost of confidence — of feeling like they're not alone and having a "friend" who gets it.

Image via "It Takes Two" from Jerry the Bear/YouTube.

But even more important, it's a really effective tool to get them to learn how to take care of themselves properly.

The Type 1 diabetic Jerry, for example, can help kids count carbohydrates, monitor glucose levels, and learn how to talk about their symptoms when they don't feel right. It stimulates kids to talk more about what they're dealing with and what they're feeling about their health issues.

GIF via Jerry The Bear/YouTube.

The food allergy Jerry comes complete with an Epipen, which many kids with severe allergies need to learn how to use. And, at times, they're embarrassed to keep one with them or let anybody see it. Normalizing that experience can help them to not forget the pen somewhere (which could mean disastrous consequences).

What's next for the Jerry the Bear line of empathy bears? Who knows, but they're probably going to be fantastic!

Listen to these families talk about how this invention made a big impact in the lives of their kids:

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Pay close attention these lyrics of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," commonly sung at baseball games.

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks,

I don't care if I never get back.

Let me root, root, root,
For the home team.
If they don't win it's a shame.
Aahh.
For it's one,
Two,
Three strikes you're out
At the old ball game."








For some kids, that whole "never get back" part in this classic song can be taken literally.

What do I mean?

Let me get a bit ... graphic here.


GIF via FlorenceFreedomPro/YouTube.

When a child with food allergies ingests something they're allergic to, physiological effects begin within five to 30 minutes.

And guess what: That includes eating it, breathing minuscule fibers/particles of it, or even touching it.

First, some itching might start, then swelling of the affected area begins and can worsen. If it involves the mouth or air passages, they can swell to a point of making it impossible to breathe.

That can end badly ... sometimes in death. It's why many people carry an EpiPen, or epinephrine injector, which causes a temporary reversal of the biological process. But emergency services are still required — it just buys a little time.

Scary? You bet.

So back to the ballgame, already in progress.

Image by 주전자/Wikimedia Commons.

What's the #1 place you can think of that usually has peanuts?

The lyrics above probably clued you in ... that's right, baseball games.

Because peanut allergies have been rapidly rising for the last 18 years, a number of stadiums are featuring "peanut-free" nights, where they scrub the stadium before the game and do not allow any peanuts to be sold. At all. No outside food, either.

It's a small price to pay for kids to be able to enjoy a baseball game without that whole choking-to-death thing.

Ready for some numbers? All from FoodAllergy.org.

  • Up to 15 million people have food allergies.
  • 1 of every 13 children has some sort of food allergy.
  • Every three minutes, a food allergy sends someone to the emergency room or brings EMS to them.

Here's a clip about what they're doing at one stadium in Kentucky to make the game more allergy-friendly, featuring Blake and Logan:

To find sports games near you without peanuts, try PeanutFreeBaseball.com and FoodAllergy.Org.

And for a shocking but reality-based view into what anaphylactic shock looks like, check out this clip — but it's a little hard to watch.