Thursday, April 30, 2009
Some food allergies can cause not so obvious reactions By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Food allergies can be serious conditions. Peanut allergy kills more people each year than any other food allergy. Therefore, people are well aware of the fact that allergy to nuts is common. Most people are also aware that allergy to seafood or shellfish is common. However, not all food allergies cause the major reactions that nuts and shellfish do. There are many reactions that are not as obvious. For example, there are many infants who have their formula changed because of suspicion of allergy. In some cases there is an allergy. In most cases there is not. The interesting thing is that parents think of the allergy as being to formula. It is actually an allergy to cow's milk. When the child goes on regular milk at one year of age, everyone assumes that the allergy is gone. That is not necessarily the case. Milk allergy can cause a variety of symptoms in infants and children. It can sometimes cause symptoms in adults. When I was in the Air Force, I had a patient come in with a severe case of eczema. Her mother was looking for a consult to see a dermatologist. The history showed that the eczema began when she switched her baby from breast feeding to bottle feeding. We stopped her formula and the eczema disappeared within two weeks. There are other children who develop wheezing with milk allergy. Some will develop abdominal pain after drinking milk. Others will have ear infections. Some infants will begin having ear infections soon after switching from breast to bottled milk. One of the less common reactions to milk is hyperactivity. I once had an 18 month old come to my office. The complaint was about her behavior. She was all over the room. She pulled everything out of every drawer and left the office a mess. She came back two weeks later after being put on a milk free diet. She spent the entire visit sitting on her mother's lap quietly. Milk is not the only food that can cause unusual allergic symptoms. One example of this is latex allergy. Latex is the plastic used in many medical devices. It can cause problems when a patient is hospitalized. What a lot of people do not know is that there are many foods that cross react with latex. Therefore, if you have a food allergy, you might also have a latex allergy and not know it. The foods that cross react are many. They include: apples, bananas, kiwi, peaches, plums, figs, grapes, melons, papaya, passion fruit, cherries, nectarines, pears, pineapple, strawberries, carrots, celery, raw potatoes, avocados, tomatoes; chestnuts and hazelnuts; wheat and rye. Not all people with these allergies cross react. However, it is something that you should be aware of. Another unusual allergy is one that I have. It is called exercise induced anaphylaxis. Individuals with this condition are allergic to foods. However, the allergy does not become apparent unless they eat the food and then exercise. The specific food is different for each individual. In my case, I cannot eat wheat and exercise. I can eat wheat and not exercise. I can exercise and not eat wheat. However, I cannot do both. Bagels have enough wheat that I get a reaction without exercising. It took several years for me to figure this one out. It is no different for other food allergies. You need to play detective when you suspect something. The tip off is usually having unusual symptoms occurring every so often. When that occurs, you need to look back at what you ate to see if you can figure out what message the food is trying to send to you.

MS advocates from Delaware visit Washington, D.C. Representing the Delaware Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, six MS advocates joined approximately 500 activists from around the country last week for the annual MS Public Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. The six-member Delaware delegation included chapter president, Kate Cowperthwait; director of programs, Katrina Holloway; Tom O'Brien, past-chapter chair; current chapter chair, Carl Hertrich; Gail Jasionowski of AAA Mid-Atlantic; and Vickie George, founder of the Yes U Can fitness program. Gathering in the congressional offices of Representative Michael N. Castle, Senator Thomas R. Carper and Senator Edward Kaufman, the Delaware delegation highlighted several issues that are important to more than 1,500 Delawareans with MS. Of the top three issues, the first is support for establishing an MS registry to provide accurate data about the incidence and prevalence of the disease. The second issue is comprehensive health-care reform particularly life-time caps and the two-year waiting period for Medicare coverage. ÒWe are looking at these health-care issues,Ó notes the chapter's program director, Katrina Holloway, Òbecause by eliminating them, we can keep Delawareans with MS out of institutions and in independent living. With accessible long-term care for all, Delawareans can have quality, long-term care in their own homes.Ó The third issue is the need for increased funding for MS research. MS activists made history last fall when they moved Congress to approve $5 million for MS research through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. This first-time line-item allocation under the CDMRP is funded through the Department of Defense, and MS activists are advocating for $15 million more. For more information on becoming an MS advocate, visit or call the Delaware Chapter at 302-655-5610 and ask for Marie.

Look Good, Feel Better program Women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer can receive free professional help to cosmetically disguise the appearance-related side effects of their treatments. LOOK GOOD...FEEL BETTER, a program developed by the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cosmetology Association, trains volunteer cosmetologists to help women with cancer, conceal loss of hair, skin problems, and other side effects that can result from cancer therapy. The next program will be hosted by the Cancer Care Center at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital on Monday, May 18, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Cancer Care Center's 2nd floor conference room. The program is free to all patients in active cancer treatment. Registration is required, and space is limited. To register, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Cancer Care Center at 629-6611, ext. 2588.

NMH offers free skin screenings Join Nanticoke's Cancer Care Center and the American Cancer Society for skin screenings on Wednesday, May 6, from 8 a.m. to noon, at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Cancer Care Center. Registration is in the lobby on the first floor. There is no charge for the skin screening, and pre-registration is not required. For more information, call 629-6611 or visit

Volunteers needed for MS events The Delaware Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society needs volunteers to help with their spring fundraising event Twilight at Baywood Greens on Friday, May 29 in Long Neck. Volunteers are needed on the day of the event from 4 to 8 p.m. and may choose from a range of activities, including registering event participants, supporting participants at rest stops, distributing t-shirts, loading and unloading supplies, setting up refreshments, and cheerleading at the finish line. For more information, contact Jenna Wagner at 302-655-5610 or email

Cancer Support Group The Wellness Community-Delaware offers a General Cancer Support Group for people affected by cancer and their loved ones. The free monthly support group meets in the Second Floor Conference Room of the Cancer Care Center at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford on the third Monday of each month from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The Wellness Community-Delaware is dedicated to helping people affected by cancer enhance their health and well-being through participation in a professional program of emotional support and hope. All facilitators of these groups are trained mental health professionals. For more information and to register, call 645-9150.

Laurel Depression Support Group There will be a free bimonthly Depression Support Group meeting in Laurel on the second and fourth Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Any person who has signs and symptoms of depression and is under the care of a professional counselor/MD is welcome to attend. To register, call Life Matters Counseling and Consulting at 302-465-6612.

Volunteer training offered Compassionate Care Hospice is offering training for anyone interested in being a hospice volunteer on May 4 and 6 from 12:30-4:30 p.m. The training will he held at the Cancer Care Center, second floor Conference Room, Nanticoke Hospital in Seaford. Volunteers must be at least 18-years-old, submit to routine background checks and participate in 16 hours of specialized training. Compassionate Care Hospice supports patients and families throughout Sussex County so volunteers can work in their own community. Volunteers are able to work according to their schedule and preference. Volunteers can also make phone calls from their own home and/or provide office clerical support. Volunteers are encouraged to participate in monthly support meetings and exchange phone numbers to build a support network. For more information, contact Felicity Lavelle at 302-934-5900 or

How to live with a chronic disease Anyone living with a chronic disease will benefit from a free six-month course on self management held at the Easter Seals office, 22317 DuPont Highway, Georgetown. Barbara Tucker, Community Ed coordinator for Delaware Hospice, will conduct the course, entitled ÒLiving Well,Ó which will meet for six consecutive weeks beginning on Thursday, May 7, from 1 to 3 p.m. This interactive class will help participants learn how to deal with topics such as fatigue, depression, medications, problem solving, nutrition and physical activity. Participants will learn how to make action plans, talk to their healthcare provider and communicate better with family members. Registration is required by May 1 and space is limited. To register, call Sally Van Schaik at 302-253-1140.