Oral Food Challenge for Milk: Passed (My Final Blog Post)

Milk food challenge
Last month, Swissinfo.ch published an op-ed I wrote about living with food allergies. Here’s an update to that piece and my final post on this blog:

I have good news! My 3-year old son recently had his seventh oral food challenge—this time for cold cow’s milk. According to his pediatric allergist, he “passed” the test. Going forward, he must consume no more than 150 ml of milk every day for the next 3 months.


Evaluating the Results

Similar to the results for my son’s food challenge for raw egg, the little guy broke out in hives around his mouth almost immediately after the first dose of cold milk. After each subsequent dose (five in all), I made sure to wash his face with cold water. Thankfully, the hives lessened, but midway through the test, my son’s demeanor seemed to change a bit. He started to look tired, laying down on the bed. I was sure the test would be a failure.

Then another food allergy parent, who was also at the hospital monitoring a food challenge, pulled out an iPad. My little guy perked up, and we seemed to be back on track. All other symptoms seemed normal—blood pressure, heart rate, etc. We continued with the test.

For the last dose, the nurse kindly mixed the milk with Caotina (a popular Swiss chocolate powder for making hot cocoa). My son used a straw and slurped it up in record time. He was happy and back to his normal rambunctious self.

When it was all over, my son’s pediatric allergist declared the test a success, describing his current condition as atopic dermatitis (i.e., eczema) with a contact reaction to milk. Apparently, he no longer has a true food allergy to milk. Even though he can safely consume milk (at least in small doses, to start), his skin can still react when it comes into contact with milk.


Next steps…

At this point, my son doesn’t have any food allergies. The allergist told me it’s no longer necessary to carry along two epinephrine auto-injectors, everywhere we go. He needs to maintain his daily dose of milk, to avoid recurrence of the allergy. It’s what we’ve been waiting and hoping for since we first learned of his milk allergy in 2012. I still can hardly believe it.

Given these latest developments, I will no longer maintain this blog. Our son’s food allergy journey has ended (fingers crossed!), but I know it continues for so many others. If you ever have questions about living with food allergies, please don’t hesitate to send me an email. I’m happy to try and help.

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been reading Dairy-Free Switzerland and sharing your advice and kind words. I started this blog as a virtual support group because I didn’t know anyone with food allergies in Switzerland when we moved here nearly 3 years ago.

It’s been such a pleasure connecting with you all and learning from your experiences. I’ve heard from so many wonderful people living with food allergies both here in Switzerland and around the world. Also, I have to mention all the other food allergy bloggers out there who’ve helped me along the way. Your support has been invaluable.

As always, I hope you get some good news about food allergies too—whether it be outgrowing them, participating in a clinical trial or hopefully, one day there will be a cure!

Finally, if you’re looking to reach out to others living with food allergies in Switzerland, please contact the aha! Swiss Allergy Center or check out my recent blog post on Swiss support groups.

Many thanks, and best wishes to you all!

-Heddi

P.S. I will still be running the Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon in London this fall to raise money for Allergy UK. For more information and to make an online donation, please check out my JustGiving page. Thank you so much!

P.P.S. If you’re interested in continuing to follow my cooking and baking adventures in Switzerland, I’ve started a new Swiss food blog: Cuisine Helvetica.

Recipe: Swiss Rice Tart for Easter

Discover a dairy-free version of a typically Swiss tart made for Easter with rice, vanilla, lemon zest and a thin layer of apricot jam.

DSC08494

For our first Easter in Switzerland, I attempted a few dairy-free and egg-free Gâteau de Pâques. My experiments always looked bad, and the texture was never right. Honestly, I think some of it ended up in the trash. (Please note: For those of you still avoiding eggs AND dairy, I found an Easter tart recipe from aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse).

According to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the first tarts in Switzerland resembling today’s Gâteau de Pâques (in French) or Osterfladen (in German) may have started as early as the 16th century, and several sources pinpoint Basel as the birthplace. These tarts typically contain either rice or semolina. At our local Suisse Romande bakery, the Gâteau de Pâques has semolina and a thin layer of apricot jam. One of the bakers I spoke with there said he preferred using semolina over rice because it makes a lighter cake.

I tend to prefer the semolina-based tarts, but for this year’s Gâteau de Pâques (which I can now make with eggs), I really wanted to tackle a rice-based tart—especially since my past attempts were so unsuccessful. My dairy-free recipe uses the apricot jam layer instead of the more traditional raisins (the thought of moist raisins mixed with sweet rice just isn’t appealing to me). Both of my sons loved this tart, so I’m finally ready to share my recipe below.


Gâteau de Pâques

Recipe adapted from cuisine de saison.
(dairy-free, nut-free)

Tools:
Tart pan, 24 cm (9-10 inches) diameter

Ingredients:
500 ml soy milk
60 grams sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
120 grams rice (e.g., Camolino rice or risotto)
30 grams dairy-free margarine, melted
2 eggs, separated
about 320 grams prepared allergy-friendly pâte brisée (i.e., shortcrust pastry or pie crust)
100 grams apricot jam
powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions:

1. Stir together the soy milk, sugar and vanilla paste in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then add the lemon zest. Stir in the rice. Simmer for about 25-30 minutes until the rice becomes tender. Set aside to cool.

2. Add parchment paper to a greased tart pan (using dairy-free margarine), and then place in the prepared pâte brisée. Trim the sides, if necessary. Prick the bottom with a fork in several places. Spread the apricot jam evenly on the prepared crust.

3. Melt the margarine, and stir it into the cooled rice mixture. Separately, beat together the two egg yolks, and then stir them in as well, until well-combined.

4. Separately, beat together the 2 egg whites with an electric mixture (it will take forever to do this by hand) until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold them into the rice mixture. Take the rice mixture and spread it evenly over the apricot jam in the prepared crust.

5. Bake the tart for 40-45 minutes at 180°C/350°F until it’s set (it doesn’t wobble when you take it out) and lightly browned.

6. Once the tart has cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar (I made a quick bunny stencil with a sheet of paper, which I held down against the cake with some dried beans).

School vacation starts tomorrow, so I’ll be offline for the next two weeks. Happy Easter! Joyeuses Pâques! Fröhliche Ostern! Buona Pasqua!

Swiss National Day of Allergy 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015 – Today marks the seventh National Day of Allergy in Switzerland. Organized by aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse, this year’s event focuses on the relationship between allergies and skin, particularly during times of leisure, such as traveling or participating in sports activities. To increase awareness of allergies, aha! will be presenting images related to this year’s theme and sharing informational materials at seven train stations across Switzerland: Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Locarno, Lucerne and Zurich.

Image source: aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse

As part of its focus on skin, allergies and leisure in 2015, aha! is promoting several of its programs and activities related to this theme, such as its allergy-friendly camps for children and translation cards for traveling. Also, aha! offers training courses for parents of children with atopic eczema. At least two of these courses are planned for Suisse Romande this fall. Finally, aha! has lots of materials on allergies available via its website to help further this year’s message: “une bonne information et prévention pour une meilleure qualité de vie” (i.e., good information and prevention for a better quality of life).

For more information:

Food Allergy Clinical Trials in Switzerland

Peanut allergy was in the news again recently, due to a study out of Australia using a treatment that combined probiotics with oral immunotherapy. The study offers some promising results, as 80 percent of the enrolled children could tolerate eating peanut by the end of the clinical trial. At the same time, 45 percent experienced an allergic reaction, which according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) is similar to other studies using oral immunotherapy. If you didn’t see all the media coverage, here are a few links to get you up to speed:

Nuts

When I posted an article about this Australian study on Facebook, someone asked if I knew of any similar clinical trials being conducted in Switzerland. To address this question, I contacted a pediatric allergist working in Geneva via email. He wrote to confirm that no such study is currently being conducted here.

This inquiry made me curious about other food allergy clinical trials in Switzerland, and the pediatric allergist I contacted recommended an online database that’s maintained by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH): ClinicalTrials.gov. When I searched the database, I found three relevant studies that are currently open and recruiting participants. You can click the links in the table below for more information about each individual study.


Food Allergy Clinical Trials Currently Recruiting Participants in Switzerland
Study title Sponsor Types of allergens Estimated completion date Eligible ages
Molecular Analysis of IgE Antibodies in Walnut Allergic Patients University of Zurich Walnut November
2015
1 year to 70 years
Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management University of Zurich Peanut, hazelnut, walnut or celeriac February
2017
5 years and older
Tree Nuts Allergies: Does a Single Nut Allergy Necessitate the Dietary Eviction of Other Tree Nuts? University Hospital, Geneva Peanut and tree nuts January
2016
12 months to 16 years

Source: Search results obtained on February 16, 2015 from ClinicalTrials.gov for Switzerland when the condition entered was “food allergy.”


Additional resources:

  • For some helpful background information on clinical trials, check out the Frequently Asked Questions prepared by FARE.
  • In the United States, Vanderbilt University maintains ResearchMatch, an online patient registry. FARE and NIH worked together and used ResearchMatch to create a special food allergy sub-registry for patients interested in volunteering for clinical trials.

 

Have you ever participated in a food allergy clinical trial? If you have any experience or advice to share, please leave a comment below. Many thanks!

Homemade Dairy-Free Chocolate and Marzipan Penguins for Valentine’s Day

The professional version of chocolate-marzipan penguins

Our local chocolate shop always makes these cute little chocolate and marzipan penguins for Valentine’s Day. This year, I decided to tackle a homemade version.

After my son’s successful food challenges for eggs and almonds last year, marzipan is one of my new favorite ingredients (remember the Swiss Stollen at Christmastime?). Even thought it’s a major improvement, his milk allergy still prevents him from enjoying store-bought chocolates at this time.

To prepare for my confectionery experiment, I bought some dairy-free marzipan and food coloring. After shaping the penguins’ bodies and wings out of the marzipan, I spread some melted Enjoy Life Foods chocolate on their backs. Then, I dotted some chocolate on small drops of powdered sugar icing for the eyes (they seem a bit scared, don’t they?). My family of penguins certainly look homemade, but they taste really good, and the kids are excited to try them on Valentine’s Day.

My very homemade-looking penguins

If you’re looking to make some allergy-friendly Valentine’s Day treats, here are some recipes I’ve shared during the last few years. All of them are dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free and tree-nut free.

And, for another super-easy and no-bake recipe, check out Allergy Shmallergy’s Sweet Strawberry Hearts.

What allergy-friendly treats are you planning on this year for Valentine’s Day? Please share your suggestions and recipes by leaving a comment below. Thanks so much!