When we first found out our youngest had a peanut and tree nut allergy, we did what a lot of parents do, we panicked. How would he survive? There are nuts in everything! And then you hear all the horror stories about kids dying from ingesting peanut dust or kissing other kids that have just eaten nuts. Not to downplay these dangers, but it can drive a sane person crazy!
After we digested (pun intended) the diagnosis, I started to research, a lot. We vigorously read labels, spent hours pouring over web sites and articles, visited allergists, and accepted the fact that our lives had changed forever. We needed to change what we kept in our house, what we ate, how we ate out at restaurants, how we traveled, and we now have to be prepared at all times for any potential allergic reaction.
How do we do this? First of all, when we travel to foreign countries we use allergy cards. There is a website called www.selectwisely.com and they publish travel size cards that translate into multiple languages, how to say, “I have a nut allergy.” Or “I will go into shock if I eat food prepared with nuts.” Things like that. We have used these cards in France, Spain, and Italy, and they have been extremely helpful. They also can give you the key words to look for if you are grocery shopping in a foreign country so you don’t mistakenly pick up a product with the allergen you are trying to avoid.
Another tip is bring your own food when possible. On our first trip abroad with the little guy, we packed two weeks worth of Bagel Thins, Sunbutter (think peanut butter made of sunflower seeds), lots of dried fruit snacks, goldfish, and anything else we knew he could eat. Upon arrival, we realized there are SO MANY safe things he can eat if you go to the grocery store (or sometimes at a restaurant as well). Eggs, yogurt, fresh fruit and veggies, pasta, meat, chicken, fish, I could go on, but you get the point. The great news was, he was not going to starve! On subsequent trips we have continued to take enough “American staples” to get us through any tough spots, but I am happy to say he has now been to Europe four times and lived to tell about it!
We also learned that restaurants are extremely helpful when you inform them that your child has an allergy (the allergy cards did come in helpful here). We had pasta in Italy, egg dishes in France, potato dishes in Spain. They would make him special dishes just to accommodate his needs. So don’t be afraid to ask.
Finally, bring medications if your child uses them. Better yet, bring more than one set. One for you to carry, and one for your spouse to carry. We always travel with Benadryl and an Epi-pen. Also, carry a copy of your prescription. This past trip we had a scary moment when the little guy started to complain about his mouth itching after eating some gelato. We were quick with the Benadryl and monitored him closely, and thankfully there were no issues. Which leads to another thought, when you check in at your hotel, ask them where the nearest hospital or medical clinic is located. Just another way to be prepared.