I remember the first time the doctor told us that she suspected Matthew had a peanut allergy. I was really confused – was that really a thing? And was it a bad thing? In my new-mom-foggy-brain-haze (which I think has hung on the past 16 years), I had no recollection of ever meeting anyone with a peanut allergy (more on that later).
It didn’t take long to add to my confusion. Matthew was also diagnosed with an allergy to cats (no worries, we’re a dog family anyway) and cows (um, okay…). He also had severe asthma. If that wasn’t enough to process in one appointment, he also had eczema, a splotchy rash-like condition that caused blisters to randomly break out over 80 percent of his body. There were days Matthew looked like someone had poured scalding hot water over his body.
I left that initial allergy appointment with a 1-year-old baby and a plan to buy a humidifier (asthma). I would stock up on baby lotion (eczema) and throw out all the peanuts in the house. Simple. Done. Cured.
You can read more about my personal journey as a peanut allergy mom and how I googled – and cried – my way through the first few years. I’ve learned a lot in 15+ years of being a peanut allergy mom. Below are my top 10 tips for the new peanut allergy mom.
Here Are My 6 Tips for the New Peanut Allergy Mom
1. Epinephrine Prescription
I know this is a given, but you would be surprised! We actually left that doctors appointment in 2004 without an epinephrine auto-injector prescription. In fact, I didn’t learn what an EpiPen was until August 2005 after we moved 3,000 miles across the country. During our first well-check and introductory appointment, our new pediatrician asked if we needed a refill.
Naturally, I asked why we needed a refill – and for what. Remember, it was the early days of the Internet age – and Siri wasn’t exactly hanging around on my phone dishing out the 411 on nut allergies. Add to that, we didn’t know anyone who lived with life-threatening food allergies. We didn’t know what to ask for.
So if your child is diagnosed with any type of food allergy, ask your doctor about epinephrine auto-injector prescriptions. Most come with instructions and/or a trainer to learn – use them and become very familiar with how it works. And while you’re at it – ask about Benadryl or any other anti-histamines you should keep on hand.
2. Backpack/Carrying Case
EpiPens need to go with you and/or your child everywhere. Whether it’s down the street, around town or across country, the life-saving devices need to be with your child at all times. You never know when you might need them.
We have always carried our EpiPens in a Lands End bag we bought (and personalized) for Matthew years ago. We made sure in the early years to always hang the bag on the same hook by the garage door above our shoes every time we left or came home. It helped establish a consistent pattern and expectation of where the EpiPens were and served as a reminder on our way out the door to take the bag.
Other items to include in your chid’s backpack might include:
- Inhaler and spacer (if your doctor prescribes one)
- Copy of your child’s allergy action plan (see tip #3)
- Anti-itch cream/topical Benadryl
- Wipes (check ingredients – some wipes can contain seed oils)
3. Action Plan for Family Members and Caregivers
It’s super helpful to have an action plan and key allergy information printed out and placed somewhere in your kitchen (inside sheet protectors in a binder, on a clipboard). Because your kitchen is the primary place where you and your child eat, reactions are most likely to occur there.
For us, the kitchen is the heart of our home, the center where our family team huddles, banters with friends and just takes the time out to pay bills and make shopping lists. So it only makes sense for us to have all our necessary information about Matthew’s peanut allergies available there.
The following are some documents that will help you organize and communicate your family’s food allergy needs.
- FARE’s Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan
- Epinephrine Myths & Facts
- Allergic Living’s 6 That Save Lives
- FARE’S How Might a Child Describe a Reaction?
4. Food Allergy Chef Card
A food allergy chef card that details the allergens your child needs to avoid is a great way to communicate your child’s food allergies to a chef or restaurant manager.
FARE offers a food allergy chef card PDF template in English and has a variety of foreign language cards available to use when you travel internationally or visit ethnic food restaurants.
5. Medical ID Bracelet
A medical ID bracelet is a crucial tool to helping kids communicate to emergency workers about their food allergies.
A medical ID bracelet allows others to decide on what kind of medical attention your child needs if they are ever in a situation where they can’t speak for themselves.
From inexpensive, colorful designs to high-end, beautiful jewelry, the options are endless. There’s so many cool varieties of medical ID bracelets to choose from.
I remember the days of standing in the center of grocery store reading labels, half glad a preschool parent had called me to verify If a certain cookie brand was safe for the next day’s preschool party. The exhausted half of me thought there had to be a better way to figure these things out besides calling me out in 29-degree weather to do this research.
Thankfully, it wasn’t long after that David Bloom launched SnackSafely.com, ending my late-night research shenanigans to Walmart (thank you). The Safe Snack Guide is a resource for places where snacks may be consumed in the presence of children with food allergies.
U.S. food labeling laws make it difficult to know if a packaged food is free from allergens. Because of this, Snacksafely.com works directly with manufacturers to research the products listed in the guide. Most of the companies are members of the SnackSafely.com Manufacturer Partnership. They have committed to disclose how 11 allergens are processed during the manufacture of each product. L
Long gone are the days of preschool parties and class celebrations, but parents still call me occasionally with questions about particular foods. I always refer them to this handy guide. Check it out. I think it will be a good resource for you too.
Peanut Allergy Mom Tips
I hope these 6 tips will help you manage your new peanut/food allergy diagnosis with more confidence and less stress. It’s a life-long process and a daily part of our lives and it can be isolating and overwhelming if we let it be. Find your tribe. Read up on as much as you can and remember – it does get easier.
You can also download my free Newly Diagnosed Peanut Allergy Mom Checklist, which has additional tips and ideas.
What are your best tips for moms of kids with peanut/food allergies? Feel free to comment below or connect with me on my Facebook page.