precautions for going out

as you can imagine, we don't eat out very often. or do many things based around eating, like school picnics or birthday parties or holidays at other peoples' homes - or even going to friends' houses for dinner. not many people invite a family with 5 kids to dinner, anyway, so maybe this one isn't solely due to the food allergies ! ;-)
we've taken a lot of precautions to make our own home safe, like removing anything containing peanuts and the other most severe allergens.

~we also ask guests to wash hands and remove shoes upon entering.
~we ask service people coming to perform repairs/maintenance on household products to wash hands and remove shoes or wear those paper booties over their shoes.
~we have had bright stickers made and placed on the front glass door announcing that we have a child with life-threatening peanut allergy in the home and that we are a peanut free house as well as one requesting people to wash hands and remove shoes upon entry.
~we keep the sandbox tightly covered and the shed door always shut when not in use because we live on a park with a lot of squirrels & raccoons and neighbors leave out bowls of nuts and we are always finding peanuts in our yard and plants.
~i locate and identify these peanuts and explain the danger to all of our children, as well as any friends that might be over.
~we have no carpeting -to prevent trapping food and animal allergens.
~ we vacuum the one area rug daily and sweep several times daily.
~ we educate our children about signs of reactions and handling any foods or animals not from our own home.
~we always make sure to have an epi- pen close by.

however, we don't let this issue turn us into agoraphobes, either. we still go to the movies and out to eat at restaurants and other normal activities, we just have to plan for it and take some precautions. the movies, for example, are a big risk of a venture. elijah's corn allergy is very severe and even touching corn products breaks him out in a blistery rash. jovie's peanut allergy is life-threatening/anaphylactic, so she is also at risk in a movie theater, where she will be sitting in seats previous occupants were most likely eating peanut products in. here are some of the things we do to make the outing safe and still fun for all of
~before leaving, we slather the 2 year old multiple allergy guy from head to toe in raw, organic shea butter. this acts both as a reparative cream for his fragile skin as well as a barrier to allergens he may come into physical contact with. i also swab & line his nostrils with this or aquaphor anytime before we take him to a public gathering place - as a barrier to allergens as well as germs, since there are no medications safe for him to take should he pick up a bug. ( i actually do it for all my kids every morning and night because i don't want any of them sick if i can help prevent it !)
~i do the same for my peanut allergy 4 year old, just in case she touched a smear of peanut butter somewhere and then rubbed her nose. every little bit of barrier could only help in a case like that!
~i make sure she has her epi- pen on her at all times when we step outside the house - she has several cute little purses she carries it in and is well-educated and trained about not playing with it or showing it to other children. i carry the 2 year old's epi-pen in my bag.
~ i always try to nurse them before we leave the house. human milk has many properties that are extremely beneficial to a child with food allergies, including lysozymes that reduce swelling and redness, should an accidental ingestion of an allergen occur. it makes me feel better to know they have a belly full of breastmilk to help heal them should something harmful find its way in there next!
~ i make everyone go to the bathroom before we leave the house, to lessen the odds that we have to touch more surfaces & door handles at the theater by using theirs.
~ we bring a blanket to lay across 2 seats in the theater, for the 2 allergy kids & myself to sit on and avoid direct contact with the seats.
~ we bring our own snacks to eat. if the older boys want popcorn, we separate them from sitting near the allergy kids by a parent. we've never had a problem bringing our own food, when we show the note from our dr. specifying the multiple food allergies and stating that elijah can only eat foods prepared at home.
~while there, i absolutely accommodate any requests to nurse - feeding at the breast is the one place i can be certain they are 100% safe and getting nothing harmful. also, if a very minor contact w/ an allergen occurred, breastfeeding can be just what the doctor ordered to soothe mild irritation and prevent a wailing, itchy toddler from ruining a movie for everyone else.
~we don't normally use the stroller at this age for outings where we won't be walking much, but it's perfect to put the allergy kids in and keep them from touching door handles and other people and items around a theater. we wheel them to the theater and then fold it up and put them on our laps or the blanketed seats - and then use it again to wheel them out and keep them isolated from touching everything.
~ we make sure to have the other kids wash hands when exiting the movie. if the allergy kids have to go to the bathroom, we either carry them or play a game called 'hands in your pockets' to make sure they don't touch any door handles. while in the bathroom, i remind them constantly not to touch their faces. we wash hands and get them back into the stroller.
~when we get to the van, we wipe hands again with wet wipes.
~when we get home, everyone that ate popcorn/chocolate has to change clothes.

we do pretty much the same when going out to a restaurant, except we don't usually bring the big double stroller in, just hold their hands and/or carry them.
~i call ahead and speak to a manager to make sure they will be okay with us bringing our own food for the 2 of us that can't have even a trace of corn.
~i usually bring some leftovers, warmed up in a thermos for us - like a soup or stew or spaghetti.
~ if it's a special occasion and the rest of the family is going to have dessert, i bring us some store-bought coconut milk ice cream and ask the server to put it in the freezer until they bring dessert for the rest of our table - or i make cookies and bring those in a tiffin or brown paper bag.
~ i always specify that i'd like our food left in the containers it is brought in and try to keep them with me as much as possible, to cut down on the risk of cross-contamination.
~ we bring our own high chair cover, so the little guy isn't directly touching the surface of the high chair.
~ i wipe off the table in front of my allergy kids myself when we're seated, with wet wipes i bring.
going out to eat is actually still quite enjoyable and much less risky than going to the movies for us - restaurants these days are very accommodating to food allergies and when we'd venture out before the corn allergy, they'd bend over backwards to find us things we could eat and even make things not on the menu!

going to places with lots of other kids like chuck e. cheese or public pools/beaches can be a bit harder. we have to really keep an eye out for kids wanting to share food with ours, kids with pb&j hands touching my allergy kids' faces... and my kids touching them. just yesterday at the chiropractor's office, my 2 year old was in love with a toddling 1 year old and kept petting, stroking and kissing him - it was all i could do to get him to at least stop kissing the baby. in a perfect world, i'd love to ask the mother if i could wipe her baby down with wet wipes and let mine continue mauling him. here are some of the things i do instead:

~ i buy allergy awareness clothing for them. a shirt that says, 'i have food allergies' or 'no peanuts, please!' really goes a long way toward not offending other parents when you fend off a friendly hug from their child. it's also always quite a kick in the pants when that parent informs you that *their* child has food allergies and they were worried about *yours*, too ! i've made a couple of good friends this way.
~ i also put bright red rubber bracelets on them when we go out that announce food allergies.
~ i always have natural, gentle wet wipes with me and once i've had a chance to explain the food allergy severity and ask the parents, i ask that the child who wants to play with mine have their hands and face wiped if there was any chance they've eaten peanuts recently. most parents are great about understanding!
~ i always bring allergy-friendly 'yummy earth' brand suckers for my kids to share and hand out to anyone whose feelings might have gotten hurt by a refusal of a hug or a treat. so instead of just not being able to share or accept an offered treat, we have a safe option everyone can enjoy.

as for places like chuck e/ cheese, that's just not an option with this many allergies that are this severe. it would be a complete nightmare to even try, so we don't. i try to be realistic about what i can handle, and chuck e. cheese isn't it!

for activities like dance class or gymnastics, i contact the facility before we start and explain the situation.
~i ask if i can post a note informing other parents of the life-threatening peanut allergy and requesting them to refrain from eating or providing peanut-containing snacks in common areas.
~ it further asks that parents of children attending a class with my daughter have their child(ren) wash their hands before beginning that class.
~ i also always send her in with her epi-pen and make sure i use the trainer with her instructors before she starts a class.
most facilities have been awesome about letting me post the note and have even stopped carrying items with peanuts as an ingredient in their vending machines because of my daughter's allergy.

there's not much i can do about my son's multiple allergies, as they are not life-threatening like hers are and are also mostly a problem if he actually ingests the food. he does break out in a rash from contact with many of his allergens, but again - that's not as concerning as what happens to her - she could go into anaphylactic shock if she touches peanut proteins and then rubs her face. so for him the precautions i take include:
~slathering him in raw, organic shea butter before we leave the house.
~dressing him in long, light layers. for example, when he was in gymnastics, i put a long-sleeved, snug onesie on him with leggings over it and soft slipper-type shoes (like moss feet or bobux) on his feet.
~always making sure the instructors are aware of his allergies and know how to use an epi-pen and keep one in the same room he's in at all times.

and my best tip for being out of the house is that i don't let them out of my sight. it's simply too risky when they're this young and people might not know how to deal with an allergic reaction - or even that one is occurring. at 2, my son is not old enough to recognize that hives on his face mean he's having a food reaction that could turn anaphylactic. he will simply cry and ask to nurse. the first sign that my daughter has had peanut protein come into contact with a mucous membrane on her face is vomiting. most people around her would deal with the vomiting and then when her airway began to close up, they might think she's choking and try to do the heimlich or swat her back, when what she really needs is an injection from her epi-pen. i'm always very careful to tell the instructors and teachers of their activities exactly what a reaction might look like - and i make sure i'm always right in the building. until your kids are old enough to advocate for and protect themselves, you've got to do it for them when it comes to food allergies.


Nancy Cuevas Weimann said...

Wow Jack... I dont know how you can keep up with all this! I would just not go out!

gotta commend you! super multi allergy mumma!!!

AnneMarie said...

Great post!! Thanks so much for all the detailed info :)

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