I hate food shopping — I mean, I really hate food shopping … the smells, the sights, the sounds. I am my worst self at Stop and Shop. Impatient and cranky, I always forget my list in the car, get frustrated waiting for carts to get out of my way and become bored because I bump into the same person going the other way as I navigate through the aisles. They really should have one-way signs. Don’t even get me started on the check-out line. Inevitably, I get stuck behind someone who has all the time in the world and wants to know not only the price of every item scanned, but the names of all of the cashier’s grandchildren. Then, just when you think it is over, you open the back of your car to find that you never unpacked the pack and plays and strollers from Easter and you have no room for the packages. There has to be a better way. I know about ordering on-line but that requires organization and planning skills which I lack. If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m on a diet this week — hence, the bad attitude. I do have a point. If food shopping is a chore for me, I can only imagine how much more frustrating it must be for mothers of children with food allergies. Since my imagination is not what it used to be, I asked these real experts for some advice on how to make living with food allergies a little easier.
1. Be prepared – Put a little pack together with an Epipen (if you need one), Benadryl and information. Include directions for the epipen, the appropriate dose of Benadryl for your child and other important information. Here is a sample of the information that a friend of mine keeps on a sheet of paper in her pack.
Home address and all contact numbers. Include emergency contact numbers for someone who lives nearby.
Pediatrician’s address and phone number
Poison Control number
List of Allergies: i.e. peanuts, pollen, cats, etc.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction: i.e. hives, watery eyes, sneezing, etc.
What to do if symptoms occur: e.g. “At first sign of redness or blotchiness, give 1 1/2 teaspoons of Benadryl. If symptoms worsen, administer epipen to the upper thigh and call 911.”
Things to stay away from: i.e. peanut butter, asian food, etc. “Please also be aware that any food made in a factory that manufactures products with peanuts can cause an allergic reaction from cross contamination.”
When you take your child to a party or to a friend’s house to play, you can simply give them the pack. If you have a babysitter, you can leave the pack where she can grab it easily. If I am the temporary caregiver, I would feel much better having all the information and medication I might need in case of an emergency. It alleviates you from having to pass on all the numbers and information every time you leave your child in someone else’s care. For me, this would be especially important since I love to leave my children in the care of others.
2. Get on lists that will alert you to potential dangers. The FAAN (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis website) was recommended. In addition to providing support and promoting awareness, FAAN will alert subscribers to new foods that have allergy potential, letting you know about recalls and mislabeling.
3. Utilize available tools – These are some other websites that you may find useful if a family member or close friend has a food allergy. Check out Divvies which sells all kinds of allergen free snacks and Allermates which provides different types of medical alert accessories. Food Allergy Initiative, Allergic Child and Allergy Kids provide more information and support.
4. Be proactive – Children can outgrow allergies. If some time has passed since the last time you addressed your child’s allergies, speak to your doctor about having him or her retested. If you do not have a child with food allergies, the chances are good — and getting better — that you will carpool, have in your home or be at the playground with a child who does. It is useful to know the signs and symptoms of impending anaphylaxis. The Epipen website has some very good, easy to use information, as well as a short video on how to use the product.
5. Maintain your perspective – What impressed me most about the moms I talked to, was their cool, calm outlook on their child’s allergies. They know the facts and they are armed with information and medication. Don’t be afraid to be responsible for a child with food allergies. Simply take a few minutes to educate yourself on triggers, symptoms and use of medications in the unlikely event you should need them.
Number 5 is easier said than done. Keeping cool is an acquired skill. Despite the fact that my brain has shrunk with each pregnancy, I do remember a thing or two about emergency medicine. Still, driving home with my son in the backseat while his allergic reaction was worsening, was pretty stressful. If you are witnessing a reaction in progress, better to err on the side of caution. Call 911 and remember that the side effects of benadryl and epinephrine are nothing when compared to the side effect of anaphylaxis.