Summer is a time for children to have fun. School is out, the weather is warm, and the days are longer. For many families, these months are a time for a vacation. Whether it be a week up north or a day in the city, the summer is a great time for family bonding. But, how do you take a food allergy child to an environment that you cannot control? It’s terrifying enough to send a food allergy child to school – a place where you do have some element of control. But when taking them out into the world, how can you keep them safe?
Food Free Zones
Several museums are food-free zones. Aside from their cafeterias and courtyards, no food is allowed on the premises. For food allergy families, these museums are a small slice of freedom. These establishments allow parents to take their children out for a fun day without worrying about the peanuts other children might be eating. It is still a good idea to keep your child from touching surfaces, and don’t forget to take precautions, but at least you can be comfortable. There aren’t any nuts lying around.
Nature is a great option for families looking to get out. For food allergy families, picnicking in a park or taking a short hike are all allergy-safe ways to enjoy a day outdoors. For many children with food allergies, smelling their allergen is enough to set off a reaction. There is enough room to keep your distance in a park and ensure that no one gets too close for comfort.
With the number of people living with food allergies growing yearly, several establishments consider themselves completely allergy-free. A quick google search and a supportive allergy community should be able to point you in the direction of these places. While it is still smart to be cautious, you can be confident that allergies are on your mind at a place like this. Plus, by visiting these establishments, you support your food allergy community, which is always a plus.
Not only are water sports fun and challenging, but they are completely allergy-free. It is probably because it is virtually impossible to eat while banana boating. For allergy-free families, spending a day in the ocean could be just what the doctor ordered. It is outdoors, big enough to keep distance, and wet enough that nobody’s eating a peanut butter sandwich. Plus, there are fun options for the whole family with so many different possible activities (snorkeling, surfing, boating, etc.).
Pro Tip: Going to a private beach maybe a little more expensive, but it is a sure way to ensure that the area isn’t crowded, giving you a little more peace of mind.
Not all places allow walk-ins. For many activities, you need to make a reservation in advance. For food allergy families, this limitation could be a saving grace. When making your reservation, mention to the establishment that you are an allergy-free family and see if they can be accommodating. This may mean warning you about the products that they use or keeping your group small and separate. Many places are willing to help out; you just need to let them know that help is needed. And if they choose not to accommodate your needs, you know to look elsewhere.
Stick to What You Know
The first time going somewhere is always the scariest, but once you cross that bridge, you can allow yourself to feel more comfortable moving forward. Obviously, this doesn’t mean letting your guard down completely but slowly building trust. You may feel more comfortable doing this with small establishments or places where you have built a staff relationship. Regardless, sticking to what you know is generally a good plan of action. If you found that an establishment was kind and accommodating, not only will continue your relationship with them be beneficial to you, but it will encourage other establishments to follow that same note and be open to serving the food allergy community.
When raising a child with food allergies, every new adventure comes with a whole host of new fears. But it is our job as parents to prepare our children for their future. No matter how much we may like to, we can't be protecting our children every second of every day. We have to do our best to provide our children with the tools they need to succeed later in life. Part of this includes taking our children out into the world. Show your child just how you ask the staff to be accommodating and even urge them to do it independently. Please encourage them to be open and vocal about their food allergy to have the confidence to express it later on in life.