Living Healthy, Living Safe
You can help ease the stress of living with food allergies -- from daycares to family vacations -- by being prepared.
Read food labels carefully. A peanut-allergic child, for example, can't eat plain M&Ms safely because they are processed on the same machinery as peanut M&Ms. (Beware of sunflower seeds as well; the manufacturer that produces them may sell peanuts too.)
Ask about flu shots. While the mumps-measles-rubella vaccine is cultured with egg, studies have shown that it is safe for children with egg allergies. However, the flu shot, also cultured in egg, may cause a reaction in rare instances. Discuss with your allergist whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
Make a plan. Determine the steps you need to take in case your child has an allergic reaction. Communicate your plan and any emergency precautions to caregivers, family members, and teachers, as well as your child. For example, mine is simple: First, administer epinephrine, such as EpiPen Jr.; second, call 911; third, call the parents.
The first few minutes of a reaction are critical -- early treatment with epinephrine and/or a liquid antihistamine, such as Benadryl, saves lives. Because not every ambulance in every state carries epinephrine, it's best for both you and your caregiver or child's school to have a supply on hand.
Carry safe food and snacks with you at all times. Give them to daycare providers, babysitters, and friends who may watch your child.
With more research under way, potential for vaccines and other new food-allergy treatments keeps parents like me optimistic for the future. For now, my happy, healthy 10- and 8-year-old sons live normal lives -- few people ever notice the EpiPens they wear in a pack around their waists, the only clues of their life-threatening food allergies.