Top 5 Things to Do With Children Who Have Food Allergies

Eleven years ago, I sat at an allergists appointment with my two-year old, and listened as the doctor told us he was severely allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. Foreign words like anaphylaxis, Epi-Pens, and emergency action plans were being thrown at me.  I was frozen in fear looking at my sweet toddler and his red, swollen back.  I knew he could never eat peanuts or tree nuts, basically any nut ever again, but other than that, I had no idea what to do.

Over the next few months, checking ingredients on packages became second nature. I knew which brand of chocolate chips I could use and what restaurants were safe. We had Epi-Pens and Benadryl on hand everywhere we went. We educated our family members and babysitters on how to keep Owen safe. I pretty much felt we had this whole food allergy thing under control… and then he started kindergarten.

We live in an amazing school district which happens to be peanut free. Teachers and office staff are trained to administer Epi-Pens. Our Allergist gave us an emergency plan to have in place while Owen was at school. I even bought a book called Allie the Allergic Elephant and had his teacher read it to the class on the first day of school to help educate the children.

Even with all of those safety nets in place, I was still a nervous wreck every time he left the house. Food allergy scenarios flooded my mind constantly…

What if he finds a piece of candy on the playground and eats it and can’t breath?”

“What is something happens on the bus, where there is no Epi-Pen?”

“What if someone eats peanut butter for breakfast and has it on their hands and then touches him?”

The list went on and on. I would literally make sure my phone was within reach at all times while he was at school. One time the school called me (about a PTA matter) and my heart started pounding so hard when I saw the number on my caller ID. I thought something had happened to him.

The elementary school years were rough. Kids would bring treats to school to celebrate their birthdays that he couldn’t have. He would attend birthday parties were they were serving peanut butter cookies. There was even a bout of food allergy bullying.

Looking back, I wish I had a food allergy mom handbook. Ideas, tips, etc to help us along that bumpy road. I gathered together all my top tips for mammas with little ones who have food allergies. I hope this helps.

Top Five Things To Do With Children Who Have Food Allergies

PEAN

Educate, Educate, Educate

My number one tip is to educate everyone around you. Anyone who comes into contact with your child.  This includes family members, teachers,  neighbors, other parents, bus drivers. EVERYONE knew Owen was allergic to nuts. We practiced with the Epi-Pen trainer. I bought this book and had Owen’s teachers read it to his class on the first day of school so even the children in his classroom were educated. These posters hung on the doors of his classroom. The more people who are aware of the allergy, the safer the child will be.

Epi-Pens Everywhere

Every year, I order two twin packs of Epi Pens (or Epi Pen jr’s when he was small). They cost a small fortune, I know. We keep one at home, one in my purse, his school teacher always has one in her classroom, and the nurse keeps one in her office as well. Before Owen was in school, my Grandma kept one at her house because he was there a lot. In the summer, I would take the Epi-Pens  and give them to neighbors. That way, if Owen was at one of their houses playing, there would be one there as well.

Owen is now is Jr High. He wears a SPIBelt around his waist with an Epi-Pen in it.  This has been a life saver! I remember when he was younger, wondering what in the world we would do when he was a teenager. The SPIBelt is a must!

BYOT {Bring Your Own Treats}

Every since Owen started school, I would make a huge bag of safe treats for him. They included Rice Crispi treats, Cheez-Its, Chips Ahoy, little bags of Skittles, Gold Fish, etc. I would put everything is a huge ziplock bag, write his name on it and give it to the teacher on the first day of school. That was his treat bag for the school year. If anyone brought in treats to celebrate birthdays or even class parties, he got to pick something out of his bag to eat. I knew he would still get a treat, but it was something safe for him to eat.

Always Read Labels

At the beginning of our food allergy journey, I checked and double checked everything he ate. Then, I got to the point where I knew what brands he could and could not eat.  Then, one day, I happened to notice that the label had changed on the plain chocolate Hershey bar. It use to say “Contains Milk”, but now it had a “Processed on equipment that also process almonds”. Suddenly, Hershey bars were no longer on our safe list.

Just remember, ingredients change. Companies change the way things are processed. Always double-check.

Medical Alert Bracelets

I ordered these bracelets in every color.  I also ordered some temporary tattoos. I felt more at ease knowing he never left the house without a medical alert notification of some sort. The bracelets were great because he would wear them all the time, he could switch out the colors if he wanted, and they were soft and didn’t bother him.

I hope some of these tips help all you food allergy mammas out there! Let me know if you have other ideas!

Xo-Haylee

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