It's summer and that means outdoor picnics and barbecues. Outdoor celebrations are fun but they can also be a source of stress for parents of children with food allergies. Here are some ways to keep your child safe at barbecues, cookouts and picnics.
Remember the epinephrine!
This is the most important part of preparing for an outdoor event. Keep your child’ epinephrine auto-injectors with you at all times. Also don’t forget that they can’t get too hot or too cold. Keep them well insulated and out of sun. And be sure to keep them out of reach of other curious children.
Keep safe food safe
Outdoor events are the perfect setting for food cross-contamination. If you bring a dish to share that is safe for your child, set some aside and label it before anyone else is served. Keep it separate from the main food area. Cross-contamination can happen quickly and in ways that are not easy to tell. Other guests might mix up serving spoons, touch other items on their plate or drip from other dishes as they are serving. Even better is to bring a safe meal just for your child and avoid cross-contamination completely. Make it fun, maybe in the theme of the holiday, so your child isn’t disappointed if their food is “different.”
Keep an eye on your young child
Little ones often don’t understand which foods are safe and which are not. In the time it takes for you to turn your head and say hello to someone, little ones can pick up a bite of food or be offered food by others. Keep a close eye on your child to make sure accidents don’t happen. Be sure they know which adults to come to you when they want to eat something.
If you are at the party with a spouse or trusted family members, take turns being "on duty" so everyone get to socialize. Another option is training a trusted older child or teen to shadow your child.
Bring wipes to keep hands clean
Most likely, your child will be playing with other children who are eating unsafe foods. Bring disposable hand wipes so it is easy for everyone to keep hands clean. Remember that hand sanitizers do not remove food proteins. If a bathroom is not always available to wash up, hand wipes are your next best option.
Let others know about your child’s food allergy
Make sure everyone knows about your child’s food allergy. Ask them to not feed your child at all. Have quick answers ready about why food allergies are a big deal. You can also let the host know before the event. They may be willing to help you spread the word and help keep your child safe.