My son has several different food allergies, which makes traveling and going to restaurants a bit challenging. On the up side finding soy free, dairy free and egg free products is a lot easier now a days. You no longer have to go to specialty food stores! I buy most of my son’s special food products at our local grocery store and I buy them at a reasonable price, which is always a plus! Here are a few tips that I have learned over the past year that may help you out!
Tip 1: Don’t forget to read food labels!
I cannot tell you how many times I have forgotten to check a food label… I would have never of guessed how many allergens could be hidden in a product! Most parents of children with food allergies know how important it is to read the ingredients label. In my house, to make life easier for me and for my family, my son has a special shelf in the food pantry that has all of his allergy free foods. I also label all foods in my pantry and in my refrigerator with a giant black “X” if that food is not safe for my son to have which makes sure that I don’t accidently give him something he cannot have. Even at restaurants I ask to read the ingredient listed on all the food that my son will be eating.
Tip 2: Don’t be afraid to leave your house!
Every time my son has an allergic reaction to something I immediately change into overprotective mom mode. I know that I cannot protect my son from the world (even though I try!) and after a few days of rashes and vomiting I soon realize that he is a toddler and needs to be a toddler! Luckily my son does not have life threatening allergies or else I think I’d be a complete basket case.
Tip 3: Don’t be afraid to bring food from home!
Whenever I leave the house I always remember to pack my son snacks or even a full meal to bring with us. Having your child’s favorite foods on hand can be a lifesaver when you are out somewhere and you want to buy yourself (or your other child) a treat that contains allergens. I bought a lunch tote on clearance at Target at the end of fall that is the perfect size for traveling. I also bought a cheap ice pack at the grocery store for $0.79, which fits perfectly in the bottom of the bag. I take the tote pretty much everywhere… Even into restaurants!
Tip 4: Don’t be afraid to eat at restaurants!
Restaurants over the past few years have become very accommodating to people with food allergies. If I know ahead of time that we will be eating at a restaurant I will go onto the restaurants website and research the menu. Most chain restaurants have a special menu for people with food allergies. Then when I arrive at the restaurant I will inform the server what my son’s allergies are so that he or she can inform the chef. I have yet to find a restaurant that has not found something for my son to eat.
Tip 5: Don’t be afraid to fly!
The TSA and most airlines have recently made flying with food allergies easier. The TSA allows you to bring milk, juice, and formula for children in your carry-on bag. These items are excluded from the 3-1-1 rule! (Check out the TSA website for an explanation of the 3-1-1 rule) Also, before you travel make sure to check out the TSA’s website on items that are on the ‘prohibited list’ to ensure that you can bring it through security without any issues. I also brought a note from my son’s pediatrician that listed the items he is allergic to and the items that we therefore had to bring in our carry-on (i.e. Rice milk). Before you book any airfare though, you should look up the airlines policy on traveling with allergies. In a few days we will be traveling with Jet Blue ourselves and I was amazed to find out that they make sure you are seated in an area that is free of allergens (such as peanuts). If for some reason they are unable to accommodate you then they will reimburse you for the airfare.
Even though having a child with food allergies can be challenging at times. With good planning and preparation you can travel with them have fun and keep them safe!