How to avoid the ‘kiss of death’ for those with food allergies

LAKE FOREST, Calif.—The recent widely reported death of a 15-year-old peanut-allergic Canadian girl who died after kissing her boyfriend, who had eaten a peanut snack, served as a wake-up call to parents of severely food-allergic children everywhere.

For these children, ingestion of even a tiny amount of a common food can be deadly. Because food and food residue is everywhere, staying safe is a constant challenge.

How To Manage Your Child’s Life-Threatening Food Allergies: Practical Tips For Everyday Life, by Linda Marienhoff Coss, was written to help meet this challenge. The book reveals numerous potential dangers that parents may not have thought of—and provides practical advice regarding how to minimize the risks of these situations. As the Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) explains: “Linda Coss covers the obvious, the not-so-obvious, and everything in between. This book prepares parents to bypass all the food allergy minefields in a detailed and doable fashion.”

For example, how many parents would realize the following?

Many children will react to minute amounts of food residue, including traces of allergens transferred to the child’s food from other products made on the same production line, or from utensils, cutting boards, or even the chef’s fingers.

Pet food with allergenic ingredients may pose a danger. For example, a curious toddler might eat the food, a messy dog can “contaminate” the house by spreading the food all around, or a child can have a reaction when licked by a dog that has allergens in its mouth.

Potentially allergenic ingredients can be found in personal care products (such as lip balms, soaps, shampoos, topical acne treatments, and hand lotions), vitamins and medications (watch out for the “inactive” ingredients), general anesthetics, and other “nonfood” items. The ingredients for everything that will go on or in the child’s body must be scrutinized.

Entertainers at children’s birthday parties sometimes throw food items (such as candy or peanuts) to the crowd.

And, of course, as last week’s tragedy points out, a kiss can be “the kiss of death.”

How To Manage Your Child’s Life-Threatening Food Allergies is a detailed, easy-to-use reference manual. It is available at, from, and from various booksellers nationwide.

Linda Coss is also the author of the popular What’s to Eat? The Milk-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free Food Allergy Cookbook. The mother of a teen-age son with multiple potentially fatal food allergies, Coss has more than 11 years of experience as the leader of a support group for parents of children with severe food allergies.

From the Dec. 21-27, 2005, issue

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