8 Tips for Parents of Kids with Food Allergies

Not long ago, I shared my son's food allergy story. In this post, I detailed the process we went through as we discovered and learned to manage his severe dairy allergy. It has been a very scary experience, but David and I have definitely learned a lot along the way. Now that I've shared our story, many of you wanted to hear more about how we manage the allergy in our daily life. So, I decided to share with you my favorite tips for parents of kids with food allergies.

Please note, I'm not a doctor and this is not medical advice. I'm simply sharing what has worked for me and my family as we've managed our food allergy adventures.

1. Get your child tested.

Seriously. If you have any inkling of a thought that your child may have a food allergy, get them tested. As I mentioned in our allergy story, my son's first pediatrician treated his reactions lightly and didn't think we needed to see an allergist. He wasn't formally tested until he was about 1.5 years old (because my momma gut knew something was up!) and it wasn't really until we had a formal diagnosis that we had a formal game plan, an EpiPen and a true understanding about his allergy. It makes all the difference in the world. Get. Them. Tested!

2. Teach your kids and their friends about the allergy.

It's truly amazing how much your kids and their friends will embrace food allergies. We have taught HDawg as much as he can understand at the age of two about his allergy. When he's not at home or school, he wears this bracelet to help alert others of the allergy. And he's proud of it! We teach all of his friends about his allergy, too. At my little one's school, they have an entire food allergy system in place- H is served only on a red placemat and a red plate. All the kids know that he can only eat the food off of that plate and that they cannot touch him while they eat. It's pretty funny because if, for some reason, their regular teachers are not in the class room during lunch time (and even though all of the teachers at his school are of course well-trained when it comes to his allergy!), the kids get super protective over H- "DO NOT GIVE HIM MILK, HE HAS A DAIRY ALLERGY AND DRINKS WATER! WASH YOUR HANDS!" Ha! The kids know what's up. Don't underestimate their value in helping to keep your child safe!

3. Be prepared.

When you are traveling anywhere outside of the comfort of your home, it's important to have a back up allergy-friendly treat for your kiddo. This is particularly important with the young ones, as kids like my two-year-old don't always understand or like the fact that they can't have a cupcake like everyone else at a birthday party. I hide a few of these special fruit chew treats in my purse and in his cubby at school for special occasions. They are dairy-free (I believe they're free of most of the top allergy ingredients!) and they have a long shelf life, so they're perfect as a back up. We don't eat them regularly at our house, so it's such a treat when needed! I've also ready about other allergy moms baking allergy-friendly cupcakes in advance and freezing them so you can quickly grab for a class party, etc. Also, for those of you who have contact allergies like us, always have a pack of wipes with you to wipe down table tops or other potentially contaminated surfaces! I have no clue how legitimate this is, but I read that wipes get rid of food allergy residue better than hand sanitizer. 

4. Make it a family event.

We've made the decision to go entirely dairy-free as a family. First of all, it was an obvious choice because H's allergy is so sensitive. We've had to rush him to the emergency room just because someone who touched cheese touched him. So it makes sense to play it safe and not keep any dairy in the house at all. But it also makes him feel good about to know that being dairy-free is a family choice, not just a stigma against him. I'll never forget one time we were out to frozen yogurt many moons ago and even though HDawg had his own dairy-free selection, we chose regular (dairy) yogurt for ourselves. I gave Little Lady June (who has no food allergies) a bite of my yogurt and H said, "I want some, too!" and I had to say no. The look on his face! I know life's not always fair and all that jazz, but H can't help his food allergy. So we'll take the no dairy hit as a team.

5. Explore your options.

When we realized how severe H's allergy is, we basically decided to never leave the house to eat again. And, truthfully, we still eat 98% of our meals at home. But, of course, you have to go out sometimes, especially if you ever plan to travel. This summer, we spent a week at the beach and really had to explore our options in terms of allergy-friendly dining. But it's possible! For those with dairy allergies, Happy Cow is an app that helps you source vegan restaurants. One of our favorite vegan friendly restaurants is Mellow Mushroom. Not only do they have a vegan menu (with dairy-free cheese pizza! hooray!), but most locations cook the vegan food in a completely separate oven so there is no chance of cross-contamination. Sigh, I can breath easily when we eat there. There are also some good fast-food restaurants who will work with you and have great allergy-friendly items on their menu like Chick-fil-A (grilled nuggets in the house), Moe's (it's nice you can watch them make the food so you can prevent cross-contamination... although I will say we have found shredded cheese mixed in with some of the vegetables which of course is a big no-no, we had to take it back) and Five Guys (of course, not an option for those with peanut allergies- they serve peanuts by the bucket there!). The point is, there are places out there that are willing to accommodate your family!

6. Let their allergy shine sometimes.

So much of their little life becomes about "don't eat that!" or "don't touch that!" so, when you can, create an allergy-friendly world for your child to share with others. For example, every cook out or birthday party or dinner that David and I host is completely allergy friendly. We make sure the whole menu is set to accommodate the allergy needs of all of our guests. There's just something special about knowing that even those with allergies can have access to all of the same foods everyone else is eating. And H gets so excited- "Momma, I can eat all of this stuff?!"

7. Surround yourself with an allergy friendly community.

At first, the world of food allergies felt so foreign to me. I didn't know anything about it, especially as a parent. And we actually still don't have a lot of connections in the real world with other allergy families. But I have been able to connect online with sooo many people who have kids with allergies. And it makes such a difference for my perspective and understanding of things! I highly encourage you to seek out blogs, forums or websites for other parents with kids with food allergies to give you support. I hope Ten June is one of those for you! You should always feel free to email me to chat or ask questions anytime!! (tenjuneblog@gmail.com) Some of my other favorite allergy sources are my sweet friend Julia Ryan (who has endured many long emails from me asking allergy questions!), SemiProper (who is developing a food allergy app that blows my mind) and Scratch or Sniff.

8. Keep a positive attitude.

I mean, I know that's a given, but it's worth a mention. This little food allergy world can be quite stressful at times and it can feel a little like you're fighting an uphill battle some days. BUT it's totally manageable, I promise. And it's resulted in a lot of positive changes for our family, like a better overall diet and a strong core family unit connection. My perspective is to consider my healthy child a blessing and know that if it takes an extra few steps to keep him healthy, that's fine by me!

Please feel free to leave any other great tips you may have as a parent of kids with food allergies in the comments below! The more insight, the better.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post! I grew up with (and still have) a severe peanut allergy, and I know it was so hard for my mom when my brother (who was also allergic) and I went to school or a friend's house. It's always nice to hear from someone who knows what it's like. Cheers to you for making changes to keep your whole family healthy and unified... I'm sure it's no small task, but what a great lesson for your kids about sticking together!
    Side note: I have enjoyed reading your blog for the last few years and I'm so excited that you're sticking with it! Love seeing/reading the adventures of your sweet family. Thanks for sharing your honest and genuine take on life here.


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