Dubuque 'buddy bench' creator hospitalized for food allergy - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque 'buddy bench' creator hospitalized for food allergy

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9-year-old Clare Vosberg Padget went to the hospital Saturday after eating a walnut brownie. (Photo courtesy: Trish Szalkowski) 9-year-old Clare Vosberg Padget went to the hospital Saturday after eating a walnut brownie. (Photo courtesy: Trish Szalkowski)
DUBUQUE (KWWL) - Many eastern Iowans are enjoying picnics and cook-outs this time of year -- but for people with food allergies, those come with a doctor's warning.

If food at these get-togethers are not properly labeled, they can lead to a life-threatening allergic reaction.

On Saturday, nine-year-old Clare Vosberg-Padget was at a picnic with her family.

Clare is the Dubuque girl who created "buddy benches" as an anti-bullying initiative. Read more about that here: http://www.kwwl.com/story/25042571/2014/03/21/clare-cares-in-dubuque-gets-big-donation-for-buddy-benches

"While we were eating, she said, 'I can't eat any more of this,' and I looked over and it was a brownie and it had walnuts in it," Trish Szalkowski, Clare's mom, recalled Wednesday morning.

For most kids, this wouldn't be a big deal, but Clare has a tree nut allergy.

"She'd just taken a very, very small bite, but right away she started getting hives around her mouth," Szalkowski said.

After giving Clare some Benadryl, the family took Clare to the nearest hospital.

"I was sort of scared, and also ... I knew that my mom was very scared," Clare said Wednesday.

Clare ended up being just fine, but it was a frightening experience the family hopes they don't have to repeat.

Szalkowski said even decorative nuts on top of food is enough to trigger Clare's allergy.

Clare just asks people bringing food to events to "make sure that you just, please, take a little bit of time to put a label or something on it," she said. "Because otherwise, if someone has an allergy to that, they could eat it and then it could close their airway if they couldn't get time to go to the hospital yet."

Over at Heritage Pond in Dubuque County Wednesday, residents, staff members and volunteers with Sunnycrest Manor gathered for an annual picnic.

Lee Culbertson is a life enrichment supervisor with Sunnycrest Manor's activity department and has been organizing these annual picnics for a dozen years. She said food allergies are a big concern.

"We keep in mind, of course, the residents' diets," she said. "We have very particular books that have all their information in it. We also are concerned about the volunteers and any types of special needs that they may have with food allergies."

She said almost everything at the picnic was donated - from many staff members' time and the tents and bug spray to the food. That's why Culbertson and her fellow Sunnycrest staff members make sure people at the picnic know what is in each dish.

"It seems to me that everybody has a little bit of a different sign or symptom of a food allergy, whether it be they break out or they, you know, have difficulty swallowing," Culbertson said. "So it's just critical that we follow that."

Dr. Brad McClimon is an allergist with Medical Associates in Dubuque. He said 90 to 95 percent of all food allergies are caused by the following groupings of food: milk, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts/tree nuts and seafood.

McClimon encourages people with food allergies to be on heightened alert when they attend picnics and cook-outs, because not everybody will label what's in their dish.

On the flipside, he said, people who add any of those foods to a dish could simply label them, to help people who may have food allergies.

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