Food Allergies · Parenting

Practical ways to live a normal life with food allergies

Last week, we had another appointment with our pediatric allergist. We received some good news, but this still means we have a long journey ahead of us. Since food allergies are a daily part of our lives, we have some extra considerations we have to make on a regular basis. There are a couple of things we do on the daily to help us live a normal life with food allergies.

Consider your on-the-go meals

We always have extra food available and ready to go. Because of food allergies, it’s not easy for us to just stop at a restaurant for a quick lunch. We cannot always be sure that food is safe or not cross-contaminated with specific allergens. I am constantly meal planning with the intention of having left-overs to reduce the amount of time I spend in the kitchen. If I don’t plan ahead, I have to limit our outings so I can make sure we are home for meal times. In some ways this has turned into a blessing in disguise, as we tend to eat out much less and the meals my son gets are wholesome and nutritious.

toddler with food allergies eating an apple

Ensure play-spaces are safe

Scheduling play dates has been surprisingly straightforward for us. I am very lucky to have a fantastic group of mom friends who completely understand the limitations we have. Sadly, not everyone has this luxury. I need to be sure that those Cheerios my little one just found on the floor aren’t of the honey-nut variety. With this in mind, I always offer to host play-dates at our home, even though it can add to the extra work for housecleaning and hosting friends – but we love having people over and it’s an easy sacrifice to make. We also tend to be particular with the play centres we visit. Most these days are nut-free so this helps, for sure.

Find a babysitter you trust

Finding a babysitter you completely trust is important—and I know that goes for all parents, but even more so with children with food allergies. Their caregiver needs to know how to recognize signs of anaphylaxis and be confident with administering an epi-pen in the case of emergency. This is a scary one, especially for less experienced child-minders. I learned this the hard way by having a local teenager once look after Will. I remember the look on her face and her eyes fearfully watching me like a deer-in-headlights as I demonstrated how to use the epi-pen. It left my confidence a bit shaken, and sadly I didn’t get as much done in the time I had hired her for, but it was a good learning experience for both of us. 

Find a support network and local resources

It has also been reassuring to find other moms who are also dealing with similar situations, and to talk about how overwhelming food allergies can be.  I’ve found a local online Facebook group for other parents who are dealing with food allergies and some of the advice they have offered has been invaluable. Even more so, some of my closest parent friends have been incredibly supportive—including that time we made vegan icing—ensuring that my son could participate in the same activities (cookie decorating) and play groups as their children. I’ve also found a really great site (Allergy Bites) for finding local Toronto restaurants that are allergy-friendly. These types of resources have been incredibly helpful.

Always carry epi-pens

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be easy to leave them behind when you’re just going for a walk, a quick trip to the store, etc. It is so important to make sure we carry our epi-pens (plural – and I’ll talk about that in a second) with us. It’s always good to just get into the habit of making sure we have it with us at all times for safety. There’s also some belief that sometimes (rarely) an epi-pen can fail, so it’s always best to carry two – just in case.

Food allergies are becoming more and more common, which strangely is making it easier for parents to navigate through these scary waters. We are still navigating our journey, and there is some hope that perhaps these food allergies will change as he grows, and perhaps he may even grow out of them. Although I’m not getting my hopes up, it’s reassuring to know we are not alone in this.

Do you or your children have any food allergies? What advice would you share?

 

I’m a mom and wife who loves carpentry and at-home DIY. I work on a freelance basis in theatre and opera, and these days I’m navigating life with my son’s food allergies, as well as my postpartum anxiety. I live in the east end with my husband Brad, my son Will, and a Golden Retriever named Obie.

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