I’ve been reflecting recently about some of the excellent ideas and small mishaps by my extended family as they, too, learn to deal with my son’s multiple food allergies. We see everyone with regularity and I’ve been impressed with how conscientious our family became once they fully understood our situation and how they could help. Plus, they even gave me ideas for how to handle it. So, I plan to share some of our suggestions in a short series of posts.
Whether you visit weekly or yearly, understanding your grandchild, niece, nephew, cousin, best friend’s food allergy will help put everyone at ease! And, by considering some of our tried and true strategies, it should make your summer visit to grandma’s house all the more enjoyable!
Understand the Allergy (or Allergies)
Get an Allergy List Going and Post It
As the parent of a food allergic child, some intricacies of their allergy or allergies become second nature as you monitor food allergies on a daily basis. To catch family members up on your routine, it may be helpful to type up a list outlining your child’s restrictions and some of the unusual places these allergens can be found. I update my list after each visit to our allergist (when the list has the most potential to change) and email it around to my parents and in-laws. We all print out our copies and post them on the fridge so that everyone has something to reference.
My list looks something like this:
Food Allergy Restrictions
My child CANNOT eat:
Look out for:
Asian Foods (typically contain nuts, sesame seeds, and nut/sesame oils)
Bread Crumbs (most have sesame seeds)
Meatballs and Meatloaf (which are typically binded with egg)
Tahini and hummus (sesame seeds)
He CAN have:
Coconut and coconut oil
Safflower and Sunflower seed oils
All fruits, vegetables, and juices made without exposure to the above allergens
Educate the Household:
Make sure each member of the household knows that a food allergic visitor is coming and can help keep him/her safe by keeping them away from allergens and steering them towards safe, healthy options. Now is a good time to remind each member of the host’s household that they should ask the child’s parents before giving him/her any food or drinks.
You should note several things that families with a food allergic member do on a daily basis:
1. If you have just eaten an allergen, you cannot kiss the food allergic child for a while. Discuss this with the parents, but we have certainly noticed times where an allergen has caused hives from touch even without an allergic child ingesting anything. As excited as you are to see the kids, please consider this carefully before laying on the smooches!
2. If you have handled or prepared food with the child’s allergen, you’ll need to wash your hands before touching him/her. Again, exposure can lead to hives which are uncomfortable at the least.
3. If you are dealing with a nut allergy, you may wish to ensure that your hand soaps, body soaps, and/or lotions are not made with almond or other nut products. If they are, now’s a good time to shelve them for the remainder of the stay.
4. If you don’t know, just ask the parent. It’s not worth taking chances with food allergies. Reactions can be quite severe. Most parents would prefer to be asked whether something is safe in advance than worry about potential consequences. Ask a hundred and one questions. We really don’t mind!
5. Try to be relaxed about it. Although food allergies requires vigilance, it’s important to be flexible. Kids feed off adult energy. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed they’ll be – and the more fun will be had by all!
Next post, we’ll discuss a few quick but helpful preparations for a food allergic visitor you’ll be glad you did.