We’ve officially hit the season when the focus of activities shifts indoors and gatherings inevitably rotate around the kitchen table. For foodies, winter can be a wonderland. For the food allergic child and his parents, it can be intimidating and downright scary. If your child has a food allergy, consider following these five steps to keep him safe and healthy:
- Bring your own dish
Whether you’re going to a pot luck or a catered party, bring something you know your child can eat – something that comes out of your allergen-free kitchen and is carefully labeled with your child’s allergy in mind.
- Educate the host
It’s perfectly fine to call ahead and let the host or hostess know about your child’s food allergy and let him or her know that you will be bringing a dish that meets your child’s needs. However, don’t expect the host to alter the menu or kitchen to accommodate. No one knows your child and her allergy like you do, and you can’t expect someone without experience caring for a child with a food allergy to fully understand the dangers of cross-contamination. That being said, if you are leaving your child in the care of someone else for the night, come prepared with an Emergency Care Plan. Let the caregiver know the signs of allergic reaction and how to administer auto-injectable epinephrine (such as EpiPen) if necessary.
- Educate your child
Make sure your child understands exactly what foods are dangerous and which ones she should avoid. Remind her that even using a spoon that was in a dish that contains an allergen can put her at risk for reaction. It is just as important to talk to your child about the signs of her specific reaction and who can help if she starts to feel sick.
- Be wary of cross-contamination
If you brought a dish to a party that will be incorporated into a buffet, check with those who brought other dishes. Consider placing your “safe” dish between two other dishes that happen to be allergen free. Use one serving utensil per dish. And when you’re out at a bakery or an ice cream shop, tell the server about your child’s food allergy. For example, tongs that touch a peanut butter brownie before plucking an allergen-free treat from the case can quickly make a safe goody unsafe for the child with peanut allergy.
- Be prepared with auto-injectable epinephrine and Benadryl
Make sure you or the person caring for your child has auto-injectable epinephrine (such as EpiPen) and Benadryl at the ready, and that everyone knows when and how to administer the medications in the event of a reaction. Check the expiration date on your epinephrine. If it has expired, contact your pediatrician for an updated prescription. Much has been made in the news recently about the sky rocketing cost of EpiPen – talk to your doctor about a coupon or other methods to make sure the medicine is as cost-effective as possible, but do not risk going without this often life-saving medication.