Food allergy advocate, writer, speaker and consultant Erin Malawer helping to take the stress out of living with food allergies by simple, practical solutions, positive parenting, food allergy education, and the best product reviews.
Headed to an amusement park this summer? It’s a good time to plan your meals ahead so you don’t have a meltdown on your hands. And, navigating an amusement park can be easy! In fact, you may be surprised to see how many major amusement parks are well-prepared for guests with food allergies. If you’ve recently visited an amusement park, please be sure to leave us a comment and let us know how it went!
Headed to an amusement park? Consider these tips:
Pack (or ship to your hotel) snacks and hard-to-eat-safely items like breakfast, hamburger rolls, granola bars and desserts.
Bring a collapsible cooler (AND freezable cooler packs) to tote into the parks for the day. They are great at storing safe food as well as keeping epinephrine auto-injectors cool during long, hot days.
ALWAYS carry two auto injectors. Everyone wants to carry as little as possible to an amusement park, but two auto-injectors MUST come with you. Consider a small backpack with a zipper so you’re not bogged down with a spillable purse or tote bag. You’re going to need sunscreen anyway…!
Contact culinary services at least a week in advance to ensure you have a fun, easy and SAFE day at the park!
Walt Disney World, Disney Land and Associated Properties
Disney is renowned for how it accommodates guests with food allergies. They are truly the gold standard. Guests can review menus and have access to chefs to obtain further information. It is recommended that you discuss your food allergies with each server, as always. There’s lots of excellent information and suggestions online, including contacting them prior to your trip should you have 4 or more allergens and how to bring safe food into the parks.
Universal Orlando recommends prepping for your trip by reviewing menus and discussing your allergies with a Guest Services advisor. Plus, they outline how to bring your own food into the park should you need to!
If you’re headed to Universal Studios Hollywood, you’re in luck: you can easily view what’s safe online. Call Guest Services if you have multiple food allergies or further questions.
Legoland refers guests with food allergies to a Dietary Guide that doesn’t connect at the present moment. They also suggest contacting LLF-Food@legoland.com prior to your visit to answer specific questions. Per their guidelines, outside food and drinks may be brought into the park for dietary needs.
Did you know that Seaworld has designated dining facilities for visitors with food allergies? There is at least one restaurant in each of their parks that is best suited to handle food allergy issues and preparation. Click each link to read more about Seaworld’s food allergy preparations and policies.
In addition to making allergen menus available at most of Hershey Park’s restaurants, dining for those with food allergies has just gotten easier with the addition of a gluten-free, nut-free, fish and shellfish-free restaurant. Hershey notes that every nursing station is equipped with EpiPens, but – as always – remember to bring your own.
Sesame Place keeps its allergen information to individualized questions. They ask that guests ask specific questions to AllergenfriendlySPL@sesameplace.com at least 3-5 business days in advance for additional information. A culinary representative will work with each guest to ensure a safe dining experience. Guests with food allergies are allowed to bring in safe food.
Six Flags have a variety of restaurants at each park. While you cannot see an allergen menu on their site, you may be able to get the name of food vendors and research ingredients that way (for example, Six Flags Great Adventure has a Panda Express that a visitor could research). Should you have food allergies, you can bring food inside the park. If you plan on eating at one of the parks’ restaurants, be sure to ask LOTS of questions about ingredients and prep including french fry oil and cross contamination.
Busch Gardens seems to take food allergies seriously. They answers a lot of excellent questions right on their website and provide ways of obtaining even more specific information should it be needed. Busch Gardens Tampa even offers allergen friendly dining facilities. Again, collapsible coolers are allowed for those with dietary restrictions.
Cedar Point’s website identifies dining locations that serve certain allergens as well as a few that do not serve certain allergens. If you have multiple food allergies, this may take a little cross referencing to find a few things that are safe. They do not list information about brining in safe food from outside – so you may have to contact them directly.
Knott’s Berry Farms follows the same process as Cedar Point in identifying products and locations that use allergens. They also identify certain locations and products that are free from specific allergens. Again, they do not list if you can bring in safe food from outside the park. Contact them directly should you need additional information.
Once again, Canada’s Wonderland follows the same process as Cedar Point and Knott’s Berry Farm in helping guests navigate the park. They list dining options by allergen, so if you have multiple food allergies, expect to cross reference these lists. They do not state whether or not you can bring in safe food from outside of the park. Contact them directly with additional questions.
Just in time for Food Allergy Awareness Week (May 13-20), here is the essential list of reading and graphics to help educate yourself and others. Post these in your social media feed, forward appropriate articles to school and camp, and print graphics to hang up in school and elsewhere.
In advance of Food Allergy Awareness Week, Healthline has published its annual list of the year’s top allergy blogs. Each blog offers a unique perspective and serves as a great resource to food allergy patients, their families, and their communities.
A food allergy diagnosis is jarring at any age. But it is particularly unsettling when your baby or toddler is diagnosed. Parents worry that they may not be able to recognize the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Large-sized auto-injectors seems especially intimidating and parents often worry that the dose of epinephrine will overwhelm their infants’ small, little bodies.
Until recently, the 0.15mg dosed auto-injectors – typically used for children weighing between 33 and 66 lbs (15 – 30 kilograms) – were the only option for infants and toddlers. However, kaléo Pharma, the makers of Auvi-Q, just announced that the FDA has approved Auvi-q 0.1mg – a strength intended for infants and toddlers.
The FDA-approved Auvi-q 0.1mg will have several features that are better suited for little ones.
It is dosed properly for infants and toddler weighing between 16.5 and 33 lbs (7.5 to 15 kilograms)
It contains a needle length appropriate for smaller bodies, reducing incidents of injury.
If you’re not familiar with the Auvi-Q epinpehrine auto-injector, it’s a compact auto-injector about the size of a deck of cards. Auvi-Q features voice prompts to guide you through injection step-by-step and contains a needle that automatically retracts for safety.
If you have a baby or toddler and would like more information, here is a link to Auvi-q’s 0.1 page and, as always, speak with your doctor.
Check out The Allergy & Asthma Network’s fantastic and informative publication Allergy & Asthma Today. You can find it in your doctor’s office or online. Not only does it contain information about food allergies, but it also covers asthma and other allergies as well. I learn something new in every issue.
When I first met my husband, he was such a carnivore he used to joke that the only way he’d eat a vegetable was via pizza. He also told me that he was allergic to raw fruits and vegetables. All raw fruits and vegetables. Needless to say, I was skeptical.
When I joked to our allergist that my husband was peddling his “allergy story” as an excuse to eat more steak, the doctor and nurses just stared. Instead of laughter, they gently whispered that what he was experiencing was a real thing called oral allergy syndrome. The joke was definitely on me.
Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) is experienced by so many people – as many as 1 in 3 people with seasonal allergies – that it is likely the most common form of food allergy in adults. Those with OAS react to certain (usually fresh) fruits, vegetables, and nuts usually at the same time they have hay fever and environmental allergies. In other words, if you suffer and sneeze when the spring pollen comes blowing in, you may experience itchy ears and lips when you eat almonds, peaches or carrots. This is not considered a separate food allergy but rather a cross-reaction from the weed and tree pollen found in fruits and other plant-based foods in a distant form.
Sufferers of oral allergy syndrome may notice that they experience symptoms more frequently during spring pollen season. Some sufferers may ONLY experience symptoms during peak periods of pollen and some experience them year-round.
OAS symptoms tend to occur within moments of eating a trigger food. Symptoms of oral allergy syndrome include:
Itching or burning of lips, mouth, ear canal, or throat;
Swelling of lips, tongue or uvula;
Eye, skin and nose reactions are common;
Tightness of the throat;
If the allergen is not digested fully, it may delay releasing histamine resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, indigestion, and/or cramping;
Oral allergy syndrome rarely results in anaphylaxis – the most severe form of food allergic reaction.
An allergy to certain pollens can correspond to oral allergy syndrome to certain foods. See the chart below to explore which pollen (and their variants) are found in which foods.
If you believe you experience OAS, you should make an appointment with an allergist to confirm your suspicions and rule out a true food or latex allergy. As you lead up to your doctor’s visit, it’s a great idea to begin a food journal to chart and track symptoms which may relate to this condition. Once at the allergist’s office, you can expect them to go over your food diary, symptoms, your personal medical history and – if necessary – give a skin prick, blood test or set up an oral food challenge. As with a regular food allergy, an oral food challenge is the gold standard for diagnosis.
Treatment options are similar to those for environmental allergies since they are interrelated. Allergists may suggest that you avoid your trigger foods or eat them only when they are cooked for a certain length of time at a certain heat (since this alters the protein that sets off an allergic reaction). In some cases, a doctor may treat the environmental allergy with antihistamines or steroids and occasionally will prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector in case of severe reaction. Be sure to ask your allergist about immunotherapy. Allergy immunotherapy had been reported to help both the environmental as well as oral allergy syndrome symptoms.
Having food allergies can be limiting during food-centric holidays. They are especially hard for kids during candy-themed holidays like Easter, Valentine’s Day and Halloween. Children with food allergies are often left out or feel excluded from the goodies AND the fun.
But it can be easy to make sure Easter is enjoyable for everyone. Many families fill the candy void by using non-food treats. If you need some inspiration for how to fill your Easter eggs this year, look no further!
Glow Rings: Boys and girls alike love glow rings. They fit any finger and extend the fun into the night. Maybe it will send the kids outside while you clean up dinner!
2. Sticky Hands: You can ball these up easily and fit them inside eggs. Sticky hands are perfect – kids love softly slapping against windows and mirrors and stretching them as far as they can go!
Vinyl Glitter Mini Sticky Hands via Amazon: http://amzn.to/2porkec
3. Squishy Animals: I don’t know exactly why, but these little squishy animals are addictive. They’re a great replacement for fidget spinners and fantastic for the kid who loves collections.
4. Stretchy Ninja Flyers: Okay, full disclosure… I want these right now – for me. They look like so much fun! Small enough to fit in your pocket (or egg!) and great for an active kid. Have a contest to see how far you can make your ninja fly! Be the fastest to fling and retrieve your ninja!
6. Itty Bitty Nail Polishes: This set of Frozen-themed nail polish could be divided and placed in a number of eggs. It will be like finding a rainbow!
Frozen Piece Nail Set via Amazon: https://amzn.to/2pCNf2d
7. Wind-Up Toys: These are fun for everyone! Plus, this pack comes with 28 assorted toys. Use some now, save some for later! And, these are fantastic to bring to restaurants or other places where your children might need a little diversion.
Passover is almost here! The 8 day celebration is a favorite celebration for a great reason: in commemorating the story of Moses, it honors freedom everywhere. Modern day Jewish people refrain from eating leavened bread to reflect on the Israelites’ quick flight out of Egypt and their perseverance through the desert. Given the restriction on yeast, many Passover recipes weave matzoh crackers or matzoh meal and eggs into delicious and inventive meals.
But of course, if you’re allergic to wheat or eggs, this holiday can be challenging. And finding safe products poses a problem for those who wish to observe the holiday and participate in the traditional Passover dinner, called a seder.
Thankfully, companies have begun to take note and gluten-free Passover products are MUCH easier to find today than they were when my son was first diagnosed with a wheat allergy almost 12 years ago.
From matzo crackers to graham crackers, creamy chicken soup to the ever-essential matzo ball soup, and desserts galore, gluten-free alternatives are finding their way onto shelves in supermarket and are available for shipment online.
Egg is often used more often during Passover to lighten dishes and replace traditional leavening ingredients. But what if you are allergic to eggs? Kugel, gefilte fish, matzo balls, and matzo brei are all held together with egg. Not to mention desserts?!
I hope that no one finds themselves in the situation of experiencing a severe allergic reaction. But it pays to be prepared. Studies have shown that delayed use of epinephrine is the leading cause of negative outcomes during anaphylaxis. That’s why #MinutesMatter in the event of an emergency.
What can you do to prepare for an unexpected allergic reaction?
1. Have a current Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and review it. Emergency Action Plans are forms filled out by your doctor or allergist which outline actions to take in the event of an allergic reaction. They are arranged into If/Then actions based on symptoms making it easy to determine what you should do. And, EAPs should always note the presence of asthma in a patient, as asthma can complicate a reaction. To learn more, please read Allergy Shmallergy’s Emergency Action Plan or obtain a copy like the one created by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
2. Lay patient down. If the patient is vomiting, lay them on their side. Elevate the legs if possible. This position helps with blood flow.
3. Administer epinephrine. The sooner, the better. Should you need to administer epinephrine, do not wait. Early administration of epinephrine is associated with the most positive results, including less medication needed at the hospital.
4. In the case of severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) first administer epinephrine, then call 911. You will need to go directly to a hospital after experiencing anaphylaxis even if symptoms subside. This is because patients require additional monitoring and because secondary reactions can occur – even hours after contact with a suspected allergen.
Other keys to success:
Always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors with you wherever you go. Most allergic reactions occur between seconds to 60 minutes after coming into contact with an allergen. However, in rare cases, allergic reactions can be delayed. Epinephrine is the only medication that will stop an anaphylactic reaction.
Train your tween, teen and friends about the symptoms of anaphylaxis, how and when to use an epinephrine auto-injector. Make sure they understand that there’s no major downside to using an epinephrine auto-injector. Remind them to inject first, then call 911.
Carry Benadryl liquid or Zyrtec syrup for minor allergic reactions. In the case of anaphylaxis, patients will still need epinephrine to stop this type of severe allergic reaction. However, if someone is experiencing minor reactions (for example: hives, itchy mouth) products containing active ingredient Diphenhydramine will help make things more comfortable.
Most importantly, follow this Emergency Room mantra: If you THINK you need to use epinephrine, you DO need to use it.
Sony Pictures and the creators of the upcoming movie “Peter Rabbit” are facing a backlash from parents across the globe after it was revealed that the rabbits use a gardener’s food allergy to attack and impair him.
Food allergies are among several disabilities that are used as cheap gags in movies and on TV. Sometimes, such as in the movie “Hitch” and on the TV show “Modern Family,” they garner laughs because the symptoms of anaphylaxis are so severe and fast-acting that they take the audience by surprise. Sometimes they are used to show weakness or to emphasize low social status, like nerdiness. In a recent Party City ad slated to run during this year’s Super Bowl, having a food allergy was deemed “gross” to convey it as annoying.
What makes the “Peter Rabbit” use of food allergies particularly distasteful is that 2017 was speckled with stories of food allergy bullying across the world; including the arrest of two young teenagers who knowingly used a peer’s food allergy against her sending her into anaphylaxis and at least one death – that of a 13 year old at the hands of his classmates who had snuck cheese into his sandwich at lunch.
The exclamation point on the “Peter Rabbit” case is that the rabbits reportedly state that food allergies are “made up for attention.” Unfortunately, this plays on some people’s already-formed perception of food allergies and undercuts how serious they truly are.
The use of food allergies to prompt laughter reinforces stereotypes, spreads misinformation and strengthens the idea that food allergies are a choice meant for self-importance or as an inconvenience to others. The use of food allergies in children’s media prays on the worst fears of children with food allergies and their families. [1 in 13 kids in the United States have food allergies – that’s nearly 20 kids – and about 80 family members – in every screening of “Peter Rabbit” who live with the anxieties of the very severe consequences that just a small crumb of an allergen can trigger.] These children are watching their nightmare come to life on the big screen.
The food allergy community is accustomed to hearing food allergies become the butt of a joke. Jokes, as distasteful as they are to some, may have their place in adult-oriented films and television shows (as is the case with the movie “Hitch” and “Horrible Bosses”). But when it’s placed in children’s programming, it becomes unacceptable. Exposure to such imagery, dialogue and attitudes during such a formative time in their lives can affect young audiences with food allergies (and influence those without) both psychologically and socially. It can scare and scar those with food allergies. And, showing it “even in a cartoonish, slapstick way” (as Sony describes it in their apology) teaches others that food allergies are not to be taken seriously. By watching “Peter Rabbit,” kids are learning that using someone’s food allergy against them is both humorous and without consequence. Meanwhile, children with food allergies are watching – horrified – while the audience jovially cheers the rabbits on. It’s amazing that storylines, such as this one, pass through vast numbers of people for approval without being questioned for their impact on children.
Thankfully, Sony has issued an apology recognizing the insensitivity of the “Peter Rabbit” material. Let’s hope that other production companies learn from this lesson. Apologizing after the fact is the easiest thing in the world. How can we ensure that this doesn’t happen in the first place?