Parents of kids with food allergies prepare for the unexpected. We keep finding innovative examples of parents who have figured out proven techniques to keep their kids safe. One of the most amazing is Caroline, who blogs with grace and great humor at GratefulFoodie.com.
She has more than a decade of parenting two kids with multiple food allergies and asthma. Plus, her family lives in an area where wild fires can force them to evacuate without much notice. Here, she shares her family’s story and advice on creating an emergency kit. Bonus: her Sweet SunButter Caramel Corn with Sea Salt recipe. As she admits, “I don’t know how long a batch of it will last since we eat it within days.” Thanks for sharing your valuable insights, Caroline. Consider us grateful!
My son’s diagnosis with a long list of food allergies immediately taught me three things: always be prepared, french fries are not a food group (learn more about what is in your food) and learn how to catch a curve ball. By the time my daughter burst into the world, I was getting my ’food allergy legs’ and feeling fairly confident in my new world. Thankfully, her allergens were similar to my son’s and I didn’t have change too much in our household. We’ve been living with food allergies and asthma for 11 years now and eat incredibly well.
Eleven years ago, were positive that our culinary world had been crushed, which was hard for me since I have a hotel and restaurant background. Today, our son eats octopus and safe pomegranate sorbet floated in ginger ale with mint and side of Scharffenbeger chocolate clusters.
We enjoy living in Reno, Nevada, despite the wild fires and hot summers. Although, every summer on the hottest day of the year for the last 15 years, I swear I’m moving.
How to build a food allergy emergency kit
Within the last three months, we’ve had two wild fires in our area that gave us reason to either pack up or prepare to pack up. Thankfully, both times we did not need to evacuate. But I still had the kids pack up to learn how to evacuate and be ready for an emergency with food allergies and asthma. Apparently, we left the earthquakes of California to enjoy the wild fires of Northern Nevada. The good news about wild fire is that you sometimes do get a short amount of time to prepare. The bad news: it is wild! Either way, earthquakes, fires or floods, folks in our food allergy and asthma world need to be prepared at home, work and school.
When we lived in CA, my son’s preschool was required to maintain earthquake kits for each child. Due to his severe and complex list of allergens, this was a tough task, thankfully we eeked out a few non-perishable items for the kit. Eleven years later, we have so many more food allergy friendly options! Boy, have we come a long, long way!
Here are some of the lessons we learned that now drive how we prepare for the unexpected:
At work or school
Per their 504 plan, both of my children maintain jars of SunButter and a box of crackers in either locker or classroom. I want to ensure that they could spend the night at school and have safe food available. I also pack individual packets of SunButter in their backpacks too in case they are delayed during a field trip or anything arises.
In the car
After my son spent eight hours in the Emergency Room for an asthma attack and could not eat one thing since the hospital’s kitchen did not feel they could provide safe food to eat, I learned to carry food in the car. We now carry canned beans, a can opener, jars of SunButter, crackers and water. I’ll also carry safe marinara sauce and dried pasta in case of a last minute play date or social invitation. It is much easier to hand over a safe meal to share than trying to rummage through someone’s pantry for safe ingredients.
I always maintain all asthma medications and related equipment like the nebulizer, tubing, etc. on the same shelf in our medicine/toiletry closet. During the first wild fire when we packed the car, I showed the kids to sweep the entire shelf right into a bag. We were done packing our medications in less that one minute with one gentle sweep. We keep all our Epi Pens in backpacks or purses that follow us out the door, so there was no need to pack these up.
Next, we headed to the pantry where I had several jars of SunButter on one shelf, crackers, cereal and tuna on another. My lesson learned here was to move those items onto the same shelf as in the Asthma medications. This packing took a bit longer. Now I try to maintain one shelf with all the items we need in one spot. My friend Luann maintains a duffle bag in a hall closet already packed with those items! She is one efficient lady!
I have a feeling we are not done with wild fires and that I need to stay on top of emergency preparedness with food allergies and asthma. Some of my friends were evacuated during both fires and went to hotels that may or may not have had safe food for my kids. I learned that I don’t want or need that added stress of find safe food during a crisis. Especially when we have so many good choices out there now for safe food that will sustain us for many days!
Lastly, I learned that nature and life happens, so being prepared for any sort of emergency is the only way to go! Being ready for an anaphylatic reaction or asthma attack or needing to evacuate your home…just be ready! Looking back at these two fires I couldn’t have imagined packing up two kids, one hubby, one grandpa and a bird and then trying to find safe food!
Do you have an emergency kit? We’d love to hear about it. Comments welcome here or on our Facebook page.