Saturday, August 15, 2009

A mom's allergy survival guide

My friend, a mom of a child with severe allergies has lots of great tips. Here's a recent post from her blog Rhymes With Write:

not that you asked

but others have: with so many kids being diagnosed with food allergies, what are some tips of the trade for parents, either those just discovering they have allergic kids or those who come in contact with them through schools, sports teams, etc.?

so here is a list of my top 10...

1. It will get better. Not the allergies, necessarily, but your ability to deal with them. You’ll figure out what foods you can buy, what meals you can prepare, and how to deal with restaurants, play dates, school and other situations.
2. Carry meds. If your child has been prescribed an EpiPen auto-injector, carry it everywhere, and teach anyone who cares for your child how to use it. Many parents also carry convenient one-dose squirt packets of Benadryl for mild reactions.
3. Check out FAAN. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network offers lots of helpful information for free, and if you join, you can sign up for e-mail alerts when foods are recalled for undeclared allergens.
4. Get wallet cards for shopping. FAAN sells credit card sized “cheat sheets” that list all the names common allergens go by (caseinates, anyone?). They are extremely handy for grocery shopping, and for checking foods at other people’s houses.
5. Always check ingredients. Every time, even if it’s a product you’ve bought before. Manufacturers sometimes change ingredients, or use slightly different ingredients in different sized packages.
6. No nuts means NO nuts. If your child is allergic to peanuts, avoid tree nuts and vice versa; there can be cross-contamination between different kinds of nuts.
7. Be assertive. I’ve told my mother-in-law to stop bringing over brownies, asked moms at music class to put away their kids’ peanut butter crackers, and made restaurant staff miserable with requests.
8. Educate your kids so they can advocate for themselves. My daughters – the one with food allergies and the one without – can tell people what’s ok to eat and what’s off limits, and they check with me if there is any question. They're 3 and 5 - it's never too early.
9. Google is your friend. Looking for an online support group of other moms of kids with food allergies? Searching for a recipe for non-dairy cream of mushroom soup? Want to order your kid a medical alert bracelet? So much of dealing with food allergies is feeling like you have a handle on the situation. Don’t just freak out – freak out, then search the web.
10. Don’t forget about the mama (or dada). Chances are this whole food allergy thing is much harder on you right now than your child, especially if he or she is too little to really understand what is going on. Try to find ways to relieve your stress. I’ve found that exercise, Zoloft and Cosmopolitans work wonders.

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