Navigating the outside world with kids can be tricky in any circumstances. You have to avoid cars, skinned knees, tantrums… the list goes on. But when your child also has to avoid nuts, the world becomes a lot trickier.
Aaryn Peterson, local mom and group leader of the Portland No Nuts Moms Group admitted “fear really rules.” But, she continued, if you are prepared, you and your kids should be able to lead a pretty normal life.
We asked Aaryn about her top tips for parents who are just learning that their child has a peanut allergy. Here’s what she said.
- Use the EpiPen. If your child has a reaction, use the EpiPen—the sooner the better. Even if it ends up not being a reaction to nuts, it’s better to be safe.
- Get an allergist. Meeting with an expert is key to understanding the challenges of living nut-free in a nut-filled world. The allergist should also help you come up with an emergency action plan, which lays out what to do if your child is exposed. This plan can be handed out at the ER.
- Educate yourself. Read up on what nut allergies mean, and how to protect your family. Aaryn recommends the following books:
- Food Allergies: A Complete Guide for Eating When Your Life Depends on It, by Scott H. Sicherer
- The Peanut Allergy Answer Book, by Michael C. Young
- Food Allergies for Dummies, by Robert A. Wood
- Make your home safe. Go through the home and remove unsafe foods. Be sure to scrub the house carefully – nut oils are notoriously hard to get out.
- Read labels. Reading labels can be tricky. You need to understand what works for your family – are you okay with potential cross-contamination, or is any potential contact with peanuts a no-go?
- Educate your child. Little tips can make a big difference when leaving the house. Teach your child not to eat at public tables until they have been wiped them down with a Clorox wipe. Teach them not to touch their eyes, mouth or nose until they’ve had a chance to wash hands.
- Educate your family. Family members outside of your immediate family may not understand the severity of food allergies. Let them know that family gatherings must be safe—which means don’t bring foods that have allergens, and also don’t eat nuts just before coming. For some kids, a kiss from someone who has recently eaten nuts is sufficient to trigger a reaction.
- Join a support group. There are many local Facebook groups that can help educate you about nut allergies. Some suggestions include The No Nuts Moms Group of Portland, The Oregon Food Allergy Network, and the Food Allergy Research and Education Group.
Check out our list of local nut-allergy friendly restaurants, like Boke Bowl, WOW! Burger, The Brooklyn House and Pollo Norte here. Always let the restaurant know your child has allergies, as the allergy-friendliness of restaurants can change as menus change.
Remember, as with many things, education is power.