Gina Clowes is the founder of AllergyMoms.com. We would like to thank her for guest blogging for us and sharing her family’s allergy story.
Note: This article was originally written for Health Central: My AllergyNetwork.com. To view the article there, click here.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Where To Start: Tips for New Food Allergy Parents when adjusting to life with food allergies. Soon after your child is diagnosed, you will realize how food is the focal point of every social occasion. So this week, I’ll share some tips for socializing as well as some ideas for a safer kitchen area.
Setting Up a Safe Kitchen
Your child’s age, the severity of his/her symptoms, your family composition and your own comfort and stress level will determine how you manage your home now. Some ideas to consider are: Removing all foods to which your child is allergic from the home. Removing only the most allergenic foods or the foods that have caused severe reactions.
Keeping “unsafe” foods in a different location (such as a high shelf or locked cabinet) or labeling unsafe foods. Keeping a special cupboard and refrigerator shelf for “safe” foods for the child and/or labeling the “safe” food. It’s also a good idea to have your children decide on a certain seat at the table. Make it a habit to sit in the same seat for every meal. This will cut down on confusion if you may be serving unsafe foods at any time.
The important thing is to agree on what will work best for your family and to make sure that your spouse and other children understand the new house rules.
Entertaining in your home
Some families accommodate the allergic child more than others. When we entertain in our home, I usually make everything safe for my son. Truth be told, the food is not always as tasty as it might have been in the past, but I have never felt that any of my friend or family noticed or cared.
At first, I tried having Thanksgiving with all of the regular dairy, egg, and wheat-laden fare. Then I’d make separate “safe” versions for my son. I was cranky and exhausted before the meal was even served. The past two years, I’ve made one meal. I make a cornbread stuffing, dairy/gluten free gravy and we have gluten/dairy/egg and nut free cakes and brownies for dessert. (I haven’t mastered a gluten/dairy free pie yet.)
I am so relaxed and happy that I don’t have to move dishes away from my son or worry that he might sneak a piece of some yummy looking dessert.
If you are a new food allergy parent, I would recommend you carry snacks with you all of the time. A few safe juice boxes or water bottles along with some individually packaged allergy-friendly snacks are something you can keep in your diaper bag, purse or car and you’ll always be ready.
Remember that others are not living in our “allergy world”, so even though you said your little guy could have a Popsicle, your hostess did not realize that a creamsicle was out of the question for him.
I thought lemonade was always a safe drink for my son until one mom surprised me with kiwi-lemonade.
When visiting a friend’s home, you need to slip on your “allergy-colored glasses.” You are on the look out for toddlers dripping sippy cups, or leaving a trail of finger food that contains dairy, wheat, egg or nut products. Keep an eye out for pets and their food which can contain allergens, even peanut. And during any holiday season, there is even more of a chance of candy or cookie treats left out.
It is hard for others to grasp the notion that a tiny trace of food can be deadly. So until your friends really “get it” and you are sure that they can safely prepare foods for your child, bring your own snacks. And if you can, bring some to share!
– Gina Clowes