Note: This post is for informational purposes only. It is based on personal experiences and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care.
When my daughter was about 2 ½, we had her tested for allergies. I was concerned because her eczema never seemed to go away, no matter what type of lotion we used. We took her to a dermatologist who prescribed a special cream. I remember asking him if eczema could be caused by our dog and he said it was a possibility.
Hence the allergy test by our pediatrician. Turns out, my daughter has a mild allergy to dogs and cats. We also discovered that she has an allergy to peanuts and tree nuts. In fact, her peanut allergy test results were high enough that our doctor prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector for us to use in the event of an allergic reaction.
Parenting a kid with allergies who is in preschool and/or elementary school is a little different from parenting a teen.
For example, the preschool my daughter went to took special precautions. Parents who wanted to bring treats for a birthday or holiday celebration in the classroom were told to avoid nuts. Many kids are allergic to peanuts and/or tree nuts, so the cafeteria didn’t serve food that contained those ingredients.
When it came to playdates or parties, I always made sure the host knew about my daughter’s allergy. When your kids are young, you usually attend the parties with them or chaperone the playdate. If specific foods were being handed out, I could double-check that there weren’t any nuts. However, on the off-chance that it was a drop-off situation or she was spending the night at a friend’s house, I’d make sure to give the parent our epinephrine auto-injector (just in case), and I’d remind them of my daughter’s allergies.
My daughter is well aware of her allergies. Her best friend in elementary school ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches almost every single day for lunch. At first, the teacher’s aide thought they shouldn’t sit at the same table. However, we explained that her allergy is not so severe that she can’t sit next to a person snacking on almonds or eating a PB&J sandwich.
Now that my daughter is a teenager and has gained some independence, I’ve had to learn to trust that she will make smart decisions. As much as I may want to lean into the helicopter parent mode, I’ve learned to be more like Elsa and just ‘let it go.’
Here are some of the lessons that we’ve learned over time.
Be Your Own Advocate
My daughter has gotten used to asking people – “Are there any nuts in that?” When she was younger, I used to worry that she would forget, but I’ve had several parents tell me over the years that my daughter is not shy about asking what’s inside that dessert or entrée. She knows the severity of her allergy and wants to avoid having to use the epinephrine auto-injector at all costs.
Study the Menu
Reading the menu carefully is key when going out to eat at restaurants. Certain ethnic dishes use peanuts in their entrées. For instance, she knows that Kung Pao Chicken contains peanuts, so she can’t eat that dish when we go out for Chinese food.
Last year, she went on an after-school outing with her friends for some frozen yogurt. She understands that she has to steer clear of almond slivers, coconut shavings, Reese’s Pieces, etc.
Hidden Ingredients / Reading Labels
Sometimes there are hidden ingredients inside of a food item or in the preparation of it, that you are not aware of. For instance, there is a well-known burger chain that uses peanut oil to cook their French Fries.
Another lesson we learned has to do with the macaron. I’ve eaten these pastel-colored French desserts before and never gave it any thought. They come in a variety of yummy flavors and fillings. One day, I was going to buy a gift box to bring home and that’s when I discovered it was made with almond flour.
One way to avoid these situations is to carry a personalized chef card, like the one shown below.
This card outlines your food allergies and helps restaurant staff like a manager, owner, or a waiter understand what foods you are allergic to. You can download a chef card here: https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/food-allergy-chef-cards.
Always Carry an Epinephrine Auto-Injector
We have to get a new epinephrine auto-injector every school year because the medication expires. Since there are two epinephrine auto-injector in every package, we give one to our child’s school and keep one on hand. That means I will pack it in my handbag when we go out or I’ll make her carry it in her tote bag if she’s going somewhere with her friends.
Know Before You Go
Last summer, my daughter went on an overnight beach camping trip with friends and chaperones. During snack time, she grabbed the wrong cookie package (she thought it was mint Oreos) and ate a cookie. It turned out to be pistachio Oreos. Fortunately, she looked at the package carefully while she was still chewing and quickly spit out the cookie.
She immediately told an adult what happened. Fortunately, they didn’t have to use an epinephrine auto-injector on her. Mind you, before she went on the beach trip, we had gone over the “rules” with our daughter and even talked it over with the chaperones. However, stuff happens and it’s important to think ahead and plan for different outcomes.
I’ve found a handy resource on the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) website that’s perfect for reviewing before your teen’s next trip.
In my experience, communication with your teen is key. Hopefully, the 5 tips that I’ve outlined above will help you and your teen. I’ve also found websites, like FARE to be a great source of information. As always, if you have any medical concerns or questions, it’s best to discuss with your doctor.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, which means that I was provided compensation and/or product in exchange for this post. All images are my own unless otherwise noted. As always, my opinions are 100% my own.