Having a child with food allergies can be daunting, overwhelming, and scary. When we learned our son had multiple food allergies, I can remember being relieved to get the results but also being very nervous. Food allergies added another layer to his already complicated “preemie issues.”
Joseph is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, strawberries, and pineapple. Oh, and cats. He was once allergic to wheat but it was ruled out on the most recent allergy testing. Being able to add wheat back to his diet has made feeding him a little easier.
When it comes to food allergies, you can never be too careful. While Joseph has never had an anaphylactic reaction, I always worry when and if it will happen. When children are young, parents are their voice. Parents have to be proactive in making sure their child only eats “safe” foods.
Tips for Managing Food Allergies
- Label “safe” foods. You cannot use too many labels. Label with your child’s name. Label that it is a “safe” food. Put a label on the top, bottom, and side of the container or sandwich bag. If leaving your child with a babysitter, put all of the “safe” foods on a shelf in the pantry and label it (or on a certain counter). Label a shelf in the refrigerator that is only for “safe” foods. Leave a list of allergies in multiple places in the house. I go overboard with labeling.
- Have a specific lunch bag that always contains your child’s “safe” foods when leaving the house. We have a black lunch bag that goes everywhere with us. It goes to restaurants, it goes to school, it goes to the grandparents – it goes everywhere. Joseph knows it is his bag and his food. He knows he can eat anything that is in his bag.
- ALWAYS read labels – even if it is an ingredient you have used before. I learned my lesson on this recently. I made Joseph green beans for supper the way I always do. He ate a few green beans and immediately started breaking out around his mouth and he couldn’t stop scratching. I started checking labels. One ingredient I always use when cooking green beans now contains milk – his number one allergen. The ingredients have changed and I didn’t check the label the most recent time I bought the item. Fortunately, he did not go into anaphylactic shock and the scratching stopped. after 20 minutes. I learned a HUGE lesson. Always check labels.
- Even with food allergies, you can eat at restaurants. When we learned of Joseph’s food allergies, I thought our days of eating out were over. I always have food for Joseph to eat when we go to a restaurant. If you want to order something for your child, tell the waiter that your child has allergies and ask to see the allergen menu. It is a list of every item on the menu and any possible allergens. Ask that your child’s food be cooked on a separate grill. Confirm with the waiter or manager how the food is prepared to be sure there have been no changes to the allergen list. Be specific. You will be amazed how accommodating restaurants can be.
- Be proactive. At Joseph’s school, there is a sign hanging in every classroom that he may possibly enter. We had a minor incident recently where he had eaten something that was not sent from home. After consulting with the school nurse, we decided it best to make everyone who might come in contact with Joseph aware of his allergies. It lists all of his allergies, a reminder that he can only have foods sent from home, and lists mine and my husband’s contact information. A few teachers felt it was a confidentiality issue to have this sign hanging where anyone can see it. Not me. I created the sign and when it comes to the safety of my child, that is most important.
- ALWAYS have two Epi-pens on you at all times. They need to go everywhere with you – to the mall, to the grocery store, to church, to the playground – anywhere your child goes. Train anyone who might have contact with your child how to use it and the signs that your child needs it.
- Have your child wear an allergy bracelet. There are many companies, like Zoo Bears, that make them just for kids. This is another way to help ensure that anyone who has contact with your child knows they have allergies.
As with any medical condition, advocacy is key. Be your child’s voice. Life with food allergies can be daunting and scary but these tips can help keep your child safe.
Note: After ZooBears Medical ID saw this post, they wanted to extend a special offer to our readers! The code is PREEMIE (must use all caps) and saves you 15% and is good through Nov. 2014. We hope you enjoy this gift from their company!