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5 Essentials For Eating Out Safely With Food Allergies

08/26/2015 05:08 EDT | Updated 08/26/2016 05:59 EDT
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Before going out, I run through a checklist in my head of everything I'm going to need during the day. I start with the usual necessities like keys, wallet and cell phone, and then my list veers away from the norm to items that some may find extraneous, but are essential for my son's safety (and my sanity). Living in a world where my son is constantly surrounded by his allergens (a.k.a. danger) can be difficult, but with time I've learned how to make outings manageable by being prepared.

Every family does things differently for reasons that suit their lifestyles. Our family still goes out to eat at restaurants and other people's homes often, despite my son's multiple food allergies, so many of my "essentials" are related to eating out safely in a public space.

1. Epinephrine auto-injector

This is the first and most essential item in my bag. We never leave home without our epinephrine. It's our first and only line of defense in case there is accidental ingestion of any of my sons allergens, and it also provides me with a little peace of mind. There are some great carrying cases available that make it easy to carry, and keep it safe and dry, but for now I just use the case that the manufacturer gives away for free. I always keep at least one epinephrine auto-injector in my purse with my wallet to ensure I don't forget it, and I carry a second one on my belt or in my pocket.

2. Baby wipes or wet naps

In my opinion, unscented sensitive skin baby wipes are one of mankind's greatest inventions. They're a quick solution to the mystery hives my son gets from accidental skin contact with his allergens. When we're not home and faucets are not readily available, I use them to wipe my little guys hands before and after eating. I usually bring a lot with me so that I can offer wipes to any friends before they play or after a meal to reduce any risk of reacting to the foods they've eaten. I use them to wipe down table tops and chairs, and any surfaces he might touch while eating out to minimize the amount of allergen proteins he might come into contact with (some people choose to carry disinfectant wipes with them for surfaces, but I don't bother).

3. Good quality food containers

My son goes to restaurants with us often. My husband and I eat the restaurant food, my son orders a beverage and we bring safe food for him to eat. We've never had any issues to date. In fact, when we list out his food allergies to servers, they usually looked relieved when we tell them that we've brought his food with us. When he was younger, he'd be happy eating purees that were slightly colder than room temperature. Now that he's older and a "little" pickier, we've invested in some good quality food containers that keep food hot, so that servers don't have to leave with his food to heat it up. We use Thermos Funtainers, and he loves the fun characters. If I know we'll have access to a microwave, I bring food in a glass container with an airtight lid so the container is microwaveable and nothing spills during transport.

4. Placemat

When my son was a baby, we noticed that he'd get hives every time he sat in the highchairs that restaurants provided, so we kept a portable highchair in our car at all times to minimize his contact with restaurant surfaces. My son is 3 years old now and sadly doesn't fit in a portable highchair anymore. Unfortunately, he also hasn't mastered the art of eating neatly. Wiping down surfaces isn't always enough to remove all cross-contact risks, and I used to stress every time his spoon would fall on the table surface. I also noticed that he was starting to get anxious, because of my spazzy reactions. My solution was to bring a placemat with us every time we planned to eat out. Having his own placemat provides him with a safe space where he can feel free to drop food, put his spoon or fork down or rest his hands, and be sure that there aren't any lurking allergens. We usually bring a reusable silicone travel placemat that rolls up for storage. When we need to travel light, we use disposable plastic placemats that stick to the table and are super cute (but a little expensive). For a DIY disposable solution, you can try wax paper.

5. Travel sized lotion and soap for sensitive skin

This is not really food allergy related, but these are essentials for us, because my son has very sensitive skin and suffers from eczema. The lotion helps when he randomly gets dry itchy patches, and sometimes helps to soothe mystery hives. Soap is actually a new addition to my bag, because I only recently realized that some of the scented soaps in public washrooms cause his hands to itch and crack. To avoid any unnecessary discomfort for my son, I carry a small travel-sized container with unscented liquid hand soap for him to use. I reuse the travel-sized containers for hand sanitizers or rubbing alcohol, because they are designed to be spill-proof.

food allergy essentials

Those are my top five allergy essentials that will almost always be in my bag or in my car. What items do you carry with you to keep yourself or your child safe? Let us know in the comments below.

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