doctor using a stethoscope to examine a child holding a teddy bear, navigating severe food allergies in kids

Parenting is full of curveballs. Just when you think you’re hitting your stride there is a new obstacle. One of my biggest challenges has been navigating our son’s severe food allergies. When he was just eighteen months old, I entered the world of scratch tests, EpiPens, and lengthy grocery store visits. I experienced intense anxiety over what to feed my child and how to keep him safe. Almost five years later, I’m sharing tips for anyone new to or struggling with navigating severe food allergies in kids.

Form a partnership with your child’s pediatrician

A strong relationship with your child’s primary care doctor is critical when there is an ongoing medical condition. You will rely heavily on them for advice, reassurance, and referrals to specialists. Speak up and ask for what you need. For our family it was important to have access to a team of pediatric allergists. Because of our older son’s allergies, it was also a high priority that our younger child have a scratch test prior to introducing common allergen foods. Your pediatrician can help you prepare for specialist visits, which can be stressful and emotional. After conversing with my pediatrician, I keep a running list of questions in a note on my phone so I can remember everything during our annual allergy visits.

Seek emotional support

It’s hard to put into words the intense anxiety that comes with seeing your child experience anaphylaxis. It can be challenging to find a balance between getting your child to internalize safety restrictions but also feel comfortable trying new foods and eating outside your home. We try to allow our son and ourselves to feel frustrated and grieve the allergy while also remaining positive. Our family recently started working with a psychologist who specializes in immunology. She has helped us manage both our son’s anxiety as well as our parental anxiety.

Create an allergy bag

Put all your allergy necessities in a central bag that is easy to transport and have with your child at all times. We use a mini backpack similar to this. In our bag we carry Zyrtec, Benadryl, 2 EpiPens in this case, wipes, a copy of our son’s insurance card, and doctors’ phone numbers. We also include allergy-friendly snacks and candy to have on hand.

Get organized

Being an allergy parent requires more preparation. When I was starting out, I kept a categorized list of allergy-safe foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks. This helped me focus on the foods that were options and dwell less on the ones that were restricted. I also developed a working list of special-occasion recipes by holiday. This helps me plan ahead for the ingredients to keep on hand as I approach the different times of year.

Attending kids birthdays can be tricky from a food perspective. I usually reach out when I RSVP, letting the family know about my son’s allergy and seeing what’s on the menu. This way I can bring something similar without putting any stress on the host. We keep our freezer stocked with vegan cupcakes so that when celebrations come up we are dessert ready.

Utilize blogs and social media resources

I regularly use recipes from the blogs Allergy Awesomeness and Make it Dairy Free. I also belong to several Facebook groups: Parents of Children with Multiple Food Allergies, Moms of Kids with Milk Allergies, Allergy Moms Who Travel, and Disney Food Allergy Group. These groups are clutch when you need ideas for a recipe. Through these groups I also discovered the “switch witch.” For those of us who celebrate Halloween, the “switch witch” comes on Halloween night to take away any candy with allergens. In its place she leaves a small treat. These groups also help me find ideas for safe foods and restaurants when traveling. I direct message any restaurant I’m considering and ask them about their food preparation and how they avoid cross-contamination.

Stock up on allergy-safe foods

You will be packing a lot of your own food so it is helpful to have things on hand. We have great luck finding a range of dairy- and egg-free food at Trader Joe’s. Their vegan desserts such as these mini cones, bon bons, and sunbutter cups are favorites in our house. We also love their vegan pesto, french onion dip, parmesan, mozzarella, and Boursin cheeses. Some of our other go to brands include: So Delicious, Kite Hill, Yum Earth Candy, No Whey! Foods, Partake, Made Good, Enjoy Life, Hippeas, Abe’s Muffins, Daiya, and Applegate Farms. If food insecurity is impacting your access to allergy-safe foods, these resources may be helpful.

While allergy life can be complicated, you will find your new norm. Your child can still enjoy eating delicious food. It just takes work, patience, and creativity. You’ve got this!

Leah Rockwell
Born and raised on Cape Cod Leah Rockwell grew up with a love for the ocean. She has always found the kid table the most interesting place to be and knew from a young age she wanted to pursue a career working with children. After studying child development at Bates College she moved to Boston where she received her Masters and CAGS degrees in school psychology from Tufts University. Since 2005 she has practiced school psychology. When she isn’t counseling and writing evaluations, you can find her trying to convince her own kids to play soccer. Leah resides on the Cape with her husband and two very energetic sons.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here