April 30, 2007

A Field Trip Without Food Allergies

My daughter and I went on a field trip to the Zoo this week. It was an overnight trip with her 3rd grade class. If you like animals and kids staying up late, this is the trip for you.

Anyway, this trip was remarkably different that the same trip last year with her older sister. Both of them really enjoy the animals and both of them enjoy camping with their old man (c'mon, I'm not THAT old). The difference? This time the daughter I took does not have food allergies. None. Nada. Nothing.

I have gotten so used to traveling with Epi-Pens and extra food (as back-up), talking to chefs and kitchen staff, and checking out emergency procedures, I forgot how easy a field trip can be! Now, for a family who doesn't deal with child food allergies, this trip would have been as tough as any other overnight field trip. But for a dad who feels naked without the fanny pack on his hip (not too flattering when I wear it on my fanny), it was quite a different experience.

When dinner was served (burgers and dogs), there was no concern. "Whatever you want, honey." And when desert came out, "Okay, but only one cookie; we're having smores later."

This trip served as a reminder of how different life is for parents of kids without any food allergies. Something to think about when talking with other parents. Where those parents are coming from is a very different place and we, as food allergy educators in our own right, need to cognizant of that.

Posted by David at 9:11 AM | Comments (3)

March 19, 2007

Who Do You Trust with Your Child's Food Allergies?

I just got back from another camping trip with my daughters. We went up to the mountains, shot BB guns, did some archery, climbed a rock wall and did lots of hiking. At this particular camp, run by the YMCA, they also prepared meals in the mess hall.

I called the camp leader a week before we arrived to check out menu and ingredients for the trip. I was told, "No problem, we deal with child food allergies all the time." I was starting to feel better about my food allergy concerns.

So, the leader connected me to the kitchen staff. They faxed me a menu for the week and promised to send a list of ingredients. "This is impressive" I thought. The menu came, I circled a few things and asked about the ingredients. I didn't hear back before the campout, so I did as I always do and packed extra food in our cooler.

We arrived on Friday night to a confused camp counselor who said, "Oh, we don't make special accommodations or change the menu for food allergies. You, as the parent, are responsible." Hmm. That didn't feel too good. So I asked to see the camp leader, the man I talked to on the phone originally. With a big smile on his face he said, "No worries, we'll take care of you."

I fed my daughter from our cooler Friday night and Saturday morning. There were eggs served (she's allergic), so we took care to keep her food separate. Then came lunch on Saturday. Oh boy...

We arrived at the mess hall to find steak and chicken fajitas served on tortillas that were nut free. Sounds pretty good until we look at the front counter and see three large jars of PEANUT BUTTER and some jars of jelly! ARGH!!!

I rushed over to the counter and asked my kitchen contact, "We're these on the menu you sent?" Her answer? "No, these are just extras we put out for the kids." I found the camp leader and asked that he remove the PB&J for the rest of the weekend, he apologized and did just that.

"Extras?" Are you kidding me? I wanted to scream.

I went out of my way to make sure it was safe. The camp leader assured me they knew how to handle food allergies. The kitchen staff faxed me a menu ahead of time. And THEN went ahead and served peanut butter?

To top it off, this same camp runs summer camps for kids. In those situations, the parents just drop off their children and wave good bye. What if THAT was the situation here? I would have been given all the assurances of "we deal with this all the time" and could have received a call home that would go like this...

"Yes, David, I know we assured you everything would be safe, however, your daughter accidentally ingested some of the peanut butter we served during lunch."

I'm sorry for ranting here but THIS is exactly why we as parents of food allergic children simply cannot relax when it comes to entrusting our kids with others.

We need to be prepared for emergencies. Don't leave your kids with adults who don't know how to use an epi-pen. In fact, see them demonstrate how to use it. Don't trust kitchen staff 100%.

The best we can do sometimes is just not enough. Be concerned, ask more questions, find out their emergency plan. Where is the nearest ER? Then say a prayer that God will keep your child safe.

Here's to educating those who care for our children in our absence.

Posted by David at 5:18 PM | Comments (5)

November 6, 2006

Island Camping with Child Food Allergies

As you've read before, I camp on a regular basis with my kids. This weekend I took two of my daughters with a large group of dads to Catalina Island, about 25 miles off the coast of Southern California. This is a special trip that my kids alway look forward to. It's also a special trip from the perspective of managing food allergies.

One of my daughters is allergic to eggs and nuts... severely allergic. On this campout, unlike most of our trips, there is a catering service, which sounds like a great benefit to most of the dads but to us it's simply more work. Managing ingredients and the serving process can be a challenge to say the least. However, the staff at Catalina were more than happy to work with us.

We've been to this campsite once before, so at least we knew where to start. Because they were so helpful last time, we were pretty confident in the staff's ability to safely serve our daughter's meals. One phone call plus an email is all it took to kick off the process. I sent a copy of the 1 page flyer that has a picture of my daughter and explains her food allergies in plain and simple terms. Then I followed up with a phone call to Becky, the woman who was running the show, so to speak. She was friendly, understanding, sensitive to our concerns, and open to suggestions. Basically, if it was possible they would do it for us. I spoke to her when we arrived on the island and she sought me out at every meal the rest of the weekend to make sure everything was on track.

Now, I am WELL aware that many kitchen staffs, chefs, managers are not that helpful. If the staff at Catalina would not have been helpful in this situation, we would have taken a different path. I would have filled a cooler with more than enough food for my daughter for the weekend. I would have brought all my own utensils and made sure none of her food came in contact with others'. I would have been more watchdog than dad at that point and it would have taken away some of the fun from the weekend.

Happily, for this campout, we were treated well and my daughter's food allergy taken very seriously. For that I am thankful.

Posted by David at 5:00 PM

November 1, 2006

Back from Vacation with Food Allergies

Well, we're back from a week in Palm Springs... what a great time (except for the fires on the horizon, of course).

We went back to an old stand by for dinner, The Yard House. These folks serve great food at moderate prices and are absolutely attentive to child food allergies. (We knew this, that's why we always go back.)

The manager came to our table and explained how they manage food allergies. He said that all managers are required to work in the kitchen at some point so they understand the process. He asked us to tell our server about the allergies. The server marked our order as a food allergy and the kitchen staff is trained on how to prepare the meal.

Long story short, we had a great tasting, safe meal. The Yard House has locations all over the west coast and you can call your local location to talk to the manager about your particular food allergy situation.

Posted by David at 4:54 PM | Comments (2)

August 16, 2006

FAAN Travel Recommendations

Airport Security Alert
What Allergic Passengers Need to Know
August 10, 2006

Because of heightened security measures in airports, the Transportation Security Administration has announced that:


This includes all beverages, shampoo, suntan lotion, creams, tooth paste, hair gel, and other items of similar consistency.

Exception: Baby formula, breast milk, or juice if a baby or small child Is traveling; prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger's ticket; and insulin and essential other non-prescription medicines.

Check with the Transportation Security Administration at http://www.tsa.gov for the latest information about restricted items.

FAAN has these recommendations:

If you carry an epinephrine auto-injector, or other prescription medication, be sure that the pharmacy label is attached, and that the name matches the passenger's identification. Carry a letter from your doctor that explains the need for this medication. A sample letter is available on the FAAN Web site at http://www.foodallergy.org/Advocacy/airlines.html

If you carry a liquid medication, such as Benadryl®, you may encounter close scrutiny. Before your trip you may want to ask your doctor about possible alternatives, such as self-dissolve tablets. Be sure to check the ingredients on any new medication. More information is available about self- dissolve tablets on the FAAN Web site at

Source: FAAN

Posted by David at 8:11 AM