I blindly stuck my hand in my purse and fished around, looking for his Epi-Pen. I couldn’t find the familiar thick plastic injector and dumped my bag out only to find that it was missing. I must have given it to him, or my mother, another time and forgot to get it back. I was horrified, feelings of self-deprecation over my negligence washed over me. I quickly assessed our situation. We were at my mother’s house which is very low risk, he was going to do a 1K fun-run with my sister who was well aware of his allergy, the things and places to avoid and they would be back within a few hours. I relaxed a little, but everyone was on high alert now.
The feelings associated with forgetting his Epi-Pen are not pleasant: guilt, fear and anxiety. The ‘what-ifs’ swirled in my brain. But the reality is, we’re human. We forget things, it happens. I always have his Epi-Pen with me, so assumed it still was. Thankfully the day passed without incident, as all our days (except one) have for the last 10 years that his peanut allergy has been a part of our lives. Our good fortune doesn’t make me naive, though. Instead it’s a stark reminder that I need to always be checking, and re-checking, to make sure we have what we need.
Whether a day out at the park or a week long cruise, there are certain things that families with food allergies have to consider before departing on their excursions. As prominent as anaphylactic allergies are in our lives, important things can be missed in the fray of packing and preparing to be away from home. Hopefully this checklist will help you remember those key things. If your child is old enough and/or developmentally able, have them go through the checklist first so they have a sense of ownership over their health and well being (and you can, of course, double check later).
Pack a ‘day pack’
In a small, zippered bag, place the following:
- two epi-pens
- 2 – 3 single serving bendryl packets
- allergy/restaurant cards
- emergency information card (if needed)
- a rescue inhaler (if needed)
This pack keeps all the critical things in one place so while traveling, when you’re going out for a day-trip on your vacation, or sending your little one off with a family member, you can easily grab it to take along. This is a great thing to have on hand all the time, not just while traveling.
Somewhat obvious, but remember the following things:
- check expiration dates and get refills before going
- bring them in their boxes with prescription labels to avoid any hold-ups at airport security
- bring at least 4 with you, ideally 6 for trips longer than a day. Two in the day pack, two with the other adult (who isn’t carrying the day pack) and two in the checked luggage.
Purchase individual serving packets for the day pack and day trips. For long trips or flights, keep a few extra with you (in addition to the ones in the day pack). For trips longer than a day, purchase a full bottle in addition to the individual dose packets (check in your luggage if flying).
Medical Alert Bracelet
Make sure information is accurate and up-to-date and that the bracelet is in good shape. Replace if necessary.
Asthma medications and inhalers
If your child also has asthma remember to:
- check expiration dates
- check counters to ensure there is enough medication for the trip
- don’t forget spacers, if needed
- carry nebulizer and medication, if needed
I stumbled on these Food Allergy Cards recently and think they are a great way to notify the staff at restaurants and eateries of your food allergy needs. There are several companies offering these with a variety of information and verbage. Choose the one that best fits your needs, or have ones tailor made for you through a printing company.
For international travel: translated cards can be a life saver — literally.
Emergency Information Cards
In case you are for some reason separated from your child, write out several index cards with the following information on them:
- child’s name, allergens, health concerns (asthma, diabetes, etc)
- parent’s names, cell phone numbers
- local relatives/contacts and their phone numbers (if applicable)
- place one of these cards in the following places: one in each parent’s luggage, in parents purse/wallet, in the day-pack (see below), and in child’s bag/carryon.
- another option: buy ready made ones, these even have your child’s picture on them.