Road Trip with a Food Allergic Child ~Part 4: What did your dog have for dinner?

The final leg of our trip:  Bar Harbor, Maine.   Fortunately we had a microwave at this hotel so we didn't have to worry about setting off any more fire alarms!   At this point in the trip I had become frustrated with cooking out of hotel rooms and trying to create appealing dishes while balancing my tools and ingredients on the limited counter space beside the hotel bathroom sink!  The rest of us were feeling very tired of restaurant food which once again sealed the deal that next time we travel, we will get accommodations with a kitchen.

On our way to Bar Harbor we stopped for lunch and my son had a bowl of clam chowder which came with a package of oyster crackers.   My daughter loves crackers and remembered having them in Florida so she immediately reequested her own pack.  She was very excited as she waited for the waitress to bring her crackers and we were happy that she was able to share in something from a restaurant.   When the crackers came, they were in fact the same ones that she has had before and the ingredients were fine but then I noticed that little U (Kosher Symbol that I often cross-reference with the ingredients for confirmation that something is dairy-free) and it had a D beside it.   I had recently written a blog post about the kosher symbols and now knew that this meant the presence of Dairy.   Even though we knew she had eaten the crackers before without incident and the ingredients read safe, I did not feel comfortable giving them to her with the little D there.  You can imagine that she was very upset and she started bawling in the restaurant.  Other people were looking over wondering what was causing our daughter to throw a fit and they heard us trying to appease her by promising to get her different crackers from the store later etc.   It was a big scene and ruined lunch for everyone.  To make things worse, my husband and I got into an argument afterwards because of this issue because he feels that I am too paranoid at times and that the crackers would have been fine.  I argued that I could not give her something that I felt could be risky and especially when we were in a different country, unsure of where the closest hospital is.  I was very really is exhausting having to scrutinize over every thing she might eat and ingredient labels and then it was causing us to fight which was more upsetting.  We were both tired and frustrated and sad to see her so upset.  It really isn't fair that her brother gets to have the crackers and she doesn't.   We explain to her that fair doesn't mean the same for everybody, and that different people have different needs and circumstances.   Sometimes these explanations just don't help when you are 4 years old.

We had a great time in Bar Harbor despite the food allergy issues and I would highly recommend going there if you ever get the chance.  It is just beautiful and there is lots for a family to do.  On our last day we went for lunch and then took a boat trip to see lobster fishing in action, harbor seals and a lighthouse.   Bar Harbor is a great place to travel to if you have a dog as well.   There are many shops in town that cater to dogs and their owners and they are welcomed in many businesses and hotels.   They are also welcome at the Acadia National Park. 

Kate just loves dogs and on our last evening as we walked to dinner she was happy to see so many dogs out walking and made sure to say hello to all of them.   She was wearing her brown and white polka dot dress that I love and we came across a dog with a coat that matched her dress!  The dog, named Bella, was very friendly and Kate was more than happy to befriend Bella.   Unfortunately, the dog kept licking Kate's face and I had just learned in my allergy safety training course that this can be dangerous for children with food allergies if the dog has eaten something that is not safe for the child.  We went off to dinner and sure enough within a few minutes, Kate had a huge hive on her face.   I am pretty confident that this came from Bella but do not know whether it is because the dog had in fact eaten something with milk, egg or nuts in it or perhaps Kate is allergic to dogs like her brother?   We will find out soon as she is getting her annual allergy testing this week (skin tests) and for the first time ever we are going to do the RAST (blood) testing as well.  I will keep you updated on how that goes!

We are back home now and happy to be eating home-cooked meals!  We have great memories of our trip overall and brought back an adorable little jingle bell lobster ornament that will remind us every year at Christmas of our wonderful trip to Maine.  Nothing beats time together as a family and I am truly grateful that we had such a happy, safe, vacation experience.

Thanks for following me on my journey as we did our Road Trip with a Food Allergic Child!

Road Trip with a Food Allergic Child ~ Part 3: Did someone call the Fire Department?

How embarassing but bound to happen....I set off the fire alarm in our hotel room in Ogunquit Maine by using the hot plate in the room!   I was soooo careful to make sure that I didn't let anything get too smoky while cooking and I was diligent about confirming everything was shut off and unplugged after use but one little slip and I was busted!  

Cooking in a hotel room is not the ideal situation but as an allergy mom to a child with life-threatening food allergies, I was not taking any chances with restaurant food for my daughter.    Breakfasts were easy as our daughter LOVES cereal but lunch and dinner warranted a hot meal and since the rest of the family was able to order off the  menu and have their pick of anything they wanted, I had to make sure that the food I was whipping up on my hot plate was yummy.

Over the 4 days we spent in Ogunquit, on our dreamy beach location, I was cooking spaghetti with caramelized onions and pepper and organic chicken sausage, brown rice with chicken breasts and peas, and of course K's dogs.   I was worried that passerby's would smell the aroma of cooking wafting out of my room and that I would be caught doing the in my room! 

Long story short (to save time and further embarassment to me)....I left the pan on the burner and it may or may not have been entirely turned off and next thing I knew, my sunbathing on the lounge outside our room was interrupted by my daughter informing me that some strange man was in our hotel room!   I turned around to see that the fire chief was in there investigating a very burnt pan!   Mortification!!!!

I apologized profusely and was relieved to find that the fire chief, fire fighter and hotel manager were all more than understanding of my need to cook for my allergic daughter and they told me not to apologize.  I was asked if I carry an epi-pen for her allergies (to which I responded, yes -6 of them!) and they were more than sympathetic to her needs.   It was surprising and helped to soothe some of my embarassment.

A few of the neighbours questioned me later (Are you the lady trying to burn this place down?)....

So far the trip has been good ...beautiful beach, great weather and the best part -time together as a family.   I am not going to lie though- eating out every day is taking a toll on all of us....I never fully relax in a restaurant with my daughter and worrying about her touching the tables and chairs and getting hives from skin contact which she does from time to time.   I feel guilty that she has to eat from her lunch box rather than getting to order off the menu like the rest of us and it breaks my heart even as I am telling her to stop complaining and to be happy that she is healthy otherwise and able to run and play and have a wonderful vacation with her family.   My husband and I both agree that next time we travel, we will rent a cottage or somewhere with a kitchen so that we can cook for ourselves rather than having to eat out all the time.   We are making it work but it is exhausting and takes some of the fun out of the trip.

Next stop:  Bar Harbor (at least we will have a microwave in that hotel to use so I don't have to risk any more visits from the fire department!!!)

Road Trip with a Food Allergic Child ~ Part 2: Preparing Food in a hotel room

Day 1:  Our first full day on vacation!  We spent the day in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Had a lovely day but we could not have spent a week at this spot -not a lot to do with the kids.   Fortunately we are off to the beach at Ogunquit tomorrow! 

Our son was excited to eat the free continental breakfast downstairs while my daughter stayed up in the room with me (much to her disappointment).   She was not happy to be stuck with me while her brother and dad got to explore the hotel.   She was hungry however and ate her breakfast in the room.   This room is the DREAM set-up for us but unfortunately, our other rooms will not be this well-equipped.   We are in a suite with a full kitchen and table.  

I am mentally preparing myself for the reality that our next hotel will not have the space we have here and am just hoping for a dresser or desk to set up my portable kitchen! 

Here's what K ate today (not my proudest parenting accomplishment that she ate nitrites all day :( but at least she was happy and we all don't eat quite as healthy on vacation!)....

  • P.C. Organics Apple Cinnamon Muffin (I usually make my own muffins but these are great when you need some in a rush and I was able to make them quickly while packing for our trip).
  • Bowl of Vector Cereal with rice milk (I like that it has protein in it which is hard to find for breakfast when you are allergic to milk, eggs and nuts!)
  • Orange Juice
    **Kate was delighted when her brother returned from breakfast with 2 boxes of cereal for her (the mini fun kind that I never buy!   He brought her Raisin Bran and Frosted Flakes -she ate both!)

We were out in Portsmouth exploring the town for lunch so Kate ate her packed lunch that we brought along.
  • Hot dog and bun
  • Cucumbers with poppy seed dressing
  • Lemonade (Nantucket Lemonade)
  • Cape Cod Potato Chips
  • Chocolate Soy Pudding
  • Ham Sandwich with Whole Wheat Bread
  • Organic Cream of Tomato Soup (dairy-free)
  • Crackers
  • Juice
Day 2:   We are leaving our wonderful suite today (I am going to miss the kitchen!!!)

Kate had her usual breakfast of Vector and Rice Milk along with some extra cereal from the breakfast downstairs -today they had Fruit loops and Rice Krispies so K was in heaven

I am packing her lunch for on the road:

She will have a Sunflower Seed butter and honey sandwich and apple sauce for lunch. 

We plan to get some groceries once we arrive at Ogunquit so that she can have a hot meal for dinner tonight.

Off we go to Ogunquit....yay!

The Allergy Mom
Kate was happy with her food and we had a great day and that's really all I can ask for!

Road Trip with a Food Allergic Child ~ Part 1: Packing

We are leaving today for our family vacation to Maine. Any parent knows there is a lot to pack when traveling with young children but when you add a food allergic child to the mix the packing can be stressful. As I mentally prepared for the trip (I often lay in bed thinking about these things), I decided to share the process on my blog. I plan to write throughout my trip to document our travel with a child who is anaphylactic to milk, eggs and nuts.

What I packed:
  • medic alert bracelet (she never takes it off)
  • epi-pens (talk to your physician about how many epi-pens you should carry and what dosage is safe for your child)
  • benadryl (for skin contact)
  • insulated travel case for epi-pens and benadryl (I use the drawstring insulated drink/bottle bag that came with my diaper bag -it works perfectly)
  • Norwex travel enviro cloth for wiping down surfaces to avoid risk of cross-contamination
  • Norwex dish detergent (I also use this for laundry if I need to wash something by hand)
  • pillow with 2 cases (I remove one if it gets dirty and then have another)
  • sleeping bag
  • hot plate with double burner
  • pot with lid (for cooking rice, soup, etc.) - I prepare all of her meals myself as I prefer her not to eat at restaurants
  • frying pan
  • sharp knife
  • her own cutlery
  • her own plate, bowl and cup
  • napkins and papertowels
  • her own placemat to put down when eating her packed food at restaurants (to prevent cross-contamination from the restaurant tables)
  • Pyrex dishes for transporting food to restaurants and out and about
  • lunch box with Mabel's label indicating her allergies
  • cartons of rice milk
  • cereal
  • rice
  • crackers and other safe snack foods
  • canned beans, chick peas
  • Bragg's soy seasoning (some soy sauces have caramel colour and we prefer the bragg's as it is healthier than reg. Soy sauce so I bring it along)
  • Imagine brand Organic cream of tomato soup carton (dairy free)
  • safe hot dog buns
  • Shopsy's all beef weiner (sometimes it is hard to find dairy free weiners and buns and these ate a good treat for lunch when we are eating out so that she is happy to have a treat for lunch too)
  • apple sauce (the only fruit k eats - I suspect she is allergic to fruits as well)
  • Sunbutter (Organic Sunflower Seed butter that does not contain traces of nuts)

We leave this afternoon and will drive ten hours straight so that we are traveling when the children are sleeping rather than during the day when they are less likely to want to sit for that long! I will have snacks for the car and our stainless steel water bottles. We will be stopping for dinner so I am packing one of K's favourite dinners - chicken legs, peas and noodles with olive oil. She is such a trouper and never complains about not being able to eat off the menu like the rest of us. She is amazing and I am so proud if her and how responsible
she is at the young age of four.

Epi-pens and passports my husband keeps reminding me, if I have those than anything else can be purchased en route if needed... I still can't help asking myself, am I forgetting anything?!

The Allergy Mom

Airline Travel and Food Allergies

As I plan our family vacation to Maine this summer, I am thinking a lot about travel and food allergies.  Our upcoming trip is a road-trip but last January, I traveled with the kids to Florida by airplane.  I was surprised that nut products are still served on-board and that there are no restrictions on passengers with regards to the snacks they carry-on.  Sure enough, my daughter (who was 3 at the time and couldn't keep her hands off everything!) broke out into hives on her hands and face.  When my mother met us at the airport after the flight she could not believe the reaction my girl had just from coming into skin contact with allergens.

I have just written the following email to a representative at Air Canada (I will keep you posted on the response):

Dear Sir,

My name is Melissa Scheichl (f.Pearson) and I run a website called where I offer advice for parents of children with severe allergies and/or anaphylaxis.  

I am currently writing an article for the site on Food Allergies and Travel and am hoping to get the most current information from you regarding how Air Canada plans to accommodate and ensure the safety of travellers with these types of allergies. 

On a recent flight to Florida, my daughter broke out in hives all over her face and hands after boarding the plane. She is allergic to milk, egg and nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios and peanuts to name a few)...   Her allergies are so severe that even skin contact is dangerous for her.   Ingestion could be fatal.  After eating one bite of a product that contained almond, my daughter was rushed to emergency with life-threatening anaphylaxis.  

Epi-pens last for approximately 10 minutes, so when I travel I pack 4 or 5 to bring on the plane along with Benadryl.  It is terrifying as a parent to imagine what could happen if my daughter suffered a reaction while we were in the air that required medical attention.   I would like to know what the protocol would be in that case and what plans are being made to reduce the risk of cross-contamination on the plane from other passengers who may have eaten  foods that are unsafe to others.

I believe my daughter reacted after touching the television screen and hand-rests on the plane.  For future travel I plan to bring lanolin wipes that destroy protein to wipe down her seat and surfaces that she will be in contact with.   As  mentioned on the Air Canada website, there still lies the risk of the fabric and foods falling in the cracks of the seat and on the carpeting.   It would be beneficial if the planes had wipeable seating and flooring so that this was an easier issue to deal with.

I have heard rumours of Nut-free sections and would like confirmation about this.  Unfortunately, inhaled allergens can be a problem and even 1/70 000th of a peanut can illicit a reaction in a food allergic person.   It is my personal opinion that peanuts and tree nuts should be banned completely from the planes and passengers' snacks could be checked as they board just as containers with liquids are).  This is what schools are now doing all across the country and it would not be a surprising policy to most travellers.

The prevalence of allergies is rising at a dramatic pace and it would be horrible to wait for a tragedy before dealing with the reality of the need to accommodate Food Allergic passengers.

Thank you,

Melissa Scheichl

Here is what Air Canada currently has on their website regarding travel with Food Allergies on their planes:

Please write to your MP to enable Motion 546 to be passed at the House of Commons this Fall.  Awareness of the severity of Anaphylaxis and Food Allergies is an important first step towards future legislation to protect our allergic children.