If you're a newly diagnosed allergy mom, my heart goes out to you. Just over a year ago, my son was diagnosed with multiple life threatening allergies. I felt so overwhelmed with all I needed to learn + all I needed to do to keep my baby safe. An enormous amount of new responsibility was placed on me with the weight of my son's multiple food allergy diagnosis, he was only 15 months old, so I needed to care for his allergies. His allergies were completely out of his control + purely my responsibility. Kids often seem to be diagnosed with allergies as babies + toddlers, so the responsibility placed on the new allergy mom is incredibly high. I completely understand + hope to help you.
Here are 10 tips for the new allergy mom:
1. An EpiPen case or bag
EpiPens need to go with you and/or your child wherever you go. They are a lifesaving device + emergencies are unexpected, so the EpiPens always need to go with you + your little one, even if it's just a quick trip to the park down the street. You just never know. The EpiPens are also heat + cold sensitive, so having the EpiPens in a specific bag helps to easily bring them with you when you leave the house + then, hang them on the same hook by the door every time you come back home. It also helps to hang the EpiPen bag up high so the little ones don't accidentally get into the EpiPen bag. It helps to always use the same bag + hook so other caregivers always know where to get and replace the EpiPen bag.
We just got this new EpiPen case at Target. It is so fun + cute. I'm the one carrying it, so it's fun for me. This week these Oh Joy! cases are free at Target with the purchase of 3 first aid items. Hey, we needed more band-aids anyway.
2. An action plan + informational sheets to hang on the inside of your pantry door or cabinet door in your kitchen
It is so helpful to have information printed out about food allergies that are easily visible in your kitchen. Your kitchen is the primary place your child will be eating. So, reactions are most likely to occur in our own kitchens. If an emergency does happen, it's helpful to have all the information readily available. Also, we never know when we might have a babysitter + it's so helpful to have all the necessary information available to go over with them + for them to check if needed.
Be Food Allergy Aware 6 That Save Lives
Facts about Food Allergies, listing mild symptoms, severe symptoms + ways a child would describe a reaction
3. A backpack
The days of just running out of the house with a cell phone + keys quickly faded. So, I decided that I wanted to carry a backpack with the kids + my necessary items. It's helpful to put your EpiPen bag right in the backpack with your safe snacks, water bottles, diapers, keys, wallet, cell phone, etc. One additional thing that helped me decide that I'd rather carry a backpack over a purse or diaper bag was that I could just wear it over my shoulders + it wasn't as cumbersome or worrisome as having a diaper bag that I'd set down + maybe need to leave somewhere as I chased my little ones around the park or museum.
4. A water bottle with a covered mouth piece
Let's just say kids put their mouths and hands on everything. There will be times when other kids reach their hands into your stroller or backpack even + having a covered mouthpiece on your little one's water bottle is so helpful in preventing them from exposure to different allergens.
5. Allergy awareness stickers
Personally, I think allergy awareness is key. If others don't know about the peanut or dairy or sesame allergy, how can they help? How can they be proactive if they don't know that a severe reaction is possible? I personally love the stickers from Minted. They are adorable while spreading awareness.
6. The Complete Peanut Allergy Handbook by, Scott H. Sicherer, M.D., + Terry Malloy
This book was such a helpful resource in the early days of our peanut allergy diagnosis. I highly recommend this book, as it is very comprehensive in managing food allergies. Also, if peanut is not one of your allergens, you can just substitute peanut for dairy or fish or wheat, etc. as you read, because the principles outlined in this book really can apply to all types of food allergies. The book includes five parts: An Introduction to Peanut Allergy, Getting Help for Your Peanut Allergy, How Peanut Allergy is Treated, Living with a Peanut Allergy + Looking to the Future. This book was so helpful, I hope you are able to read it soon. Also, if you have friends or family that are interested in learning about the allergy + supporting you + your child, it may also be a great idea to send them a copy so they can help support you + your little one.
SunButter is free from the top 8 food allergens. It is such a great alternative to peanut butter + other nut butters. Plus, it is not made from a legume like soy or pea that can often cross-react with peanut. An allergy to sunflower is possible, just as it is possible to have an allergy to any food. So, if sunflowers are safe for you, I highly recommend! Not only is SunButter a great allergy friendly choice, but so nutritious as well. SunButter has the same amount of protein as peanut butter, double the zinc, 1/3 less saturated fat, twice as much fiber + nearly triple the amount of iron. Knowing that SunButter is so nutritious helps to make eating SunCups even more fun!
A journal dedicated to food allergies has been very helpful for me. It still is. An allergy journal was especially helpful in the early days when my little guy had reactions to foods that were not top 8 allergens (peanut, tree nuts, dairy, egg, soy, fish, shellfish + wheat). So, things were surely more confusing. It's been helpful to have a page with the diagnosed food allergies + the skin + blood results so I can compare over time. I've also kept a page with suspected allergens. It's also been useful to have a page with safe foods listed, they surely can change at anytime, but it is so helpful to come back to when feeling like so many foods have been ruled out.
9. Extra supplies in your EpiPen bag
Your EpiPens will go with you wherever you go + your child go, so it's best to be fully prepared. I personally feel best treating allergies in a proactive way, rather than a reactive way. In that, I'd rather prevent or avoid reactions as much as possible. Here are some things I carry in my EpiPen bag:
1. Wipes (check the ingredients, some wipes can contain seed oils)
2. Hand Spray (Buy one with safe ingredients or make your own: water + hand soap in a spray bottle)
3. Happy band-aids (not necessarily allergy related, but you will surely need them at some point)
4. Inhaler (if one is prescribed)
5. Note from your child's allergist listing the allergies
6. Allergy action plan
7. Pre-measured Benadryl
8. Anti-itch cream/topical Benadryl
Did you know that the current U.S. food labeling laws make it very difficult to know if a packaged food is free from allergens by the label alone? Snacksafely.com works with companies to verify that the products listed in the guide are free from specific allergens, including peanut. This website is a great place to start if you feel overwhelmed with finding safe food for your little one.
I hope these 10 tips will help you to manage your new food allergy diagnosis a little easier. I was there before + I know all the feelings + difficulties you are likely facing too. Lives surely can change with a diagnosis. I completely understand that + have lived it. Up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. Food allergies can be very isolating, yet many people live with them. Keep reaching out, earning about food allergy management, new studies + treatments on the horizon. I promise it does get easier as time goes on.