There are some basics when it comes to being a food allergy parent. When you find out your child has an allergy to something, it immediately becomes blacklisted as something that you keep around. Food allergies are no joke! But, we can’t always control the environments that our children are exposed to. These five things are going to help you keep your sanity.
1. Have a Specific Action Plan
Don’t just expect to know how to inject the epinephrine just because you carry the injection medicine wherever you go. REALLY KNOW HOW TO DO IT! Practice, practice, practice!
In our home, we have the trainers in our miscellaneous drawer. I’m not going to lie, they have also ended up in my kiddos toys bins as well. I would say that we have a practice session of what would need to happen if one of my children was experiencing anaphylaxis. We pull out the Epi-Pen or Auvi-Q trainers and physically practice and reenact exactly what to do. This way both of our kids feel confident in what to do even if mom and dad aren’t there to assist them. A serious reaction can be stressful!
We also have a printed Action Plan hanging on the fridge. It’s a good open place for a reminder. It’s also conveniently located in a central area where it would be accessible to a babysitter or family member that may be watching our children.
Action plans are usually provided to you by your child’s allergist. Ask for one if you don’t have one! In my experience, they have one ready that can be filled in to be tailored to your individual child.
Allergy Action Plans don’t just have a big blaring sign saying to inject epinephrine. They show you what symptoms to look for and what kinds of other medications to administer as well. On each of my kid’s allergy action plans, we have the dose of antihistamine to give them. This has been so helpful in stressful moments when a reaction is occurring and I feel scatterbrained.
2. Read Labels
Don’t just make it your job to read the labels on food. Teach your kids what to look for as well! I taught both my daughter and son what words to look for on ingredient lists long before they were able to read. As soon as they could identify letters, I was teaching them what letters to be on the lookout for in food.
The #1 rule in our house with food is to read the label when buying the food and then reading it again before eating the food. It may sound silly, but it really has saved us from some really bad accidents. Checking and double checking never hurt anyone!
Look for cross-contamination and research what “other names” the food can have on a label. Cross-contamination isn’t always listed, so it’s best to shop around, call or email companies and ask them specific questions about how they process their food and what other foods are in their facilities. Be prepared for company employees to not be very educated with those specific questions, and try to have them get answers from upper-level people in the company that would have the information. The process can be lengthy, but so worth it when you have a good knowledgeable answer as to what you are feeding your child being safe.
3. Communicate with Others
Teach your child to be confident in letting people know about their food allergy. When my daughter was really little, we taught her to show people her allergy bracelet whenever food was presented to her. Was it a little odd? Maybe. But when a little girl puts her wrist out and shows you their bracelet, your bound to look at it. Olivia’s bracelet had her name and what she was allergic to in very clear writing.
More and more restaurants are becoming accommodating to food allergies. I usually call ahead before we decide to eat out, but if that isn’t a possibility, always mention your allergy to your server. In my experience, they usually send the manager over and you are able to communicate clearly with what needs you may have. Don’t just order something on the menu and hope that it doesn’t contain what your child is allergic to. Hoping isn’t a protective measure, communicating is.
Let people know what your child can and cannot have, or just don’t let them take food from anyone except for you. Birthday parties can be hard, but I think you would be surprised with how many lengths parents will go about to include your child in the festivities that have to do with food. You won’t ever know if you don’t let others know!
4. Clean Hands
Okay, let’s get real over here. Kid’s hands are really gross! Something that I drill into my kids is hand washing. Wash, wash, Wash! Hand sanitizer DOES NOT do the trick. Sanitizer doesn’t eliminate food proteins. A wet wipe does though, so I always have Wet Ones handy.
Wiping down surfaces is also key to reducing the probability of a reaction. Now, you couldn’t possibly wipe down an entire playground, but when my kids were really little, I would get a feel for what they were playing on the most and wipe down those surfaces to keep them safe. We are also sure to wipe tables and chairs off when we are out and about as well. I’m sure people think we are crazy germ freaks when we do this out in public, but I don’t care because it keeps my kids safe. We also do this when we travel on airplanes as well.
I’m also a huge advocate for teaching my own children and other children to keep their hands to themselves. I remind my children often to be mindful of where other people’s hands might have been. Did they just eat lunch? Did they just get done eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? It’s just easier to not touch rather than play 20 questions all the time.
5. No Sharing Food
Teach your kids to never share food or take food from anyone else but yourself. This rule has been a literal life-saver. I have had family members, whom my children really trust, try to give them food that has their allergens in it. As my kids get older, I help them understand that while others may want to be helpful, they may not understand food allergies to their full extent. Helping your kids understand the weight of the no sharing rule is the key to helping them stay safe! It’s applicable in all situations and truly does save the sanity of parents.
We all want our kids to be in a safe environment, but it’s not always in our control!
So there you have it! 5 Things that Will Keep Your Food Allergy Kid Safe!
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