Food Allergy Moms Have an Edge in the Pandemic

Back in February, when most of us were really realizing that a novel coronavirus was spreading throughout the world, we were reminded again and again about the basic rules of hygiene.

And again and again, I was caught between disgust because grown-ass adults need to be reminded to wash their hands like they’re six and amusement because these rules became my life as a food allergy mom five years ago.

Did you know that basic hygiene rules also keep people with food allergies from going into anaphylactic shock?


Hands Holding two teal ribbons facebook image for How Food Allergy Moms Have an Edge in the Pandemic via

So those few weeks between the virus coming to Virginia and Virginia shutting down didn’t change much for me and mine. We didn’t start washing our hands frequently — we already were. We weren’t suddenly wiping down common surfaces — that’s what we do throughout the day. We weren’t sharing our drinks and eating utensils — it can lead to death.

The longer the pandemic drags on, the more I realize:

The rules Food Allergy Moms have learned to live with and work to instill in our kids give us an edge during this pandemic.

Wash your hands!

I say this just as often as “do you have to pee?” every single day. Twenty seconds with soap (or long enough to sing the alphabet, which I’ve made the boys recite loud enough for me to hear a time or two so I know they’ve done what I’ve asked).

And it has to be soap and water or a commercial hand wipe. Why? Because hand sanitizer is not effective in removing allergens. It’s not even effective at cleaning your hands or killing every germ out there.

Washing your hands really does save lives.

Wipe down everything!

Was the cafeteria table wiped down between classes? How well was the table at the restaurant cleaned before you sat down? How clean was that dishrag?

You can see food, but not the proteins that cause allergic reactions. Wiping down common surfaces at home or in public might seem like overkill, but as food allergy moms, we’d rather be safe than sorry.

No touching!

Don’t touch your face. Don’t lick your fingers! Stop biting your nails. DON’T pick your nose! Sorry, you can’t kiss me.

Some people don’t react to touching their allergen, but they will if that allergen touches a mucous membrane. These membranes are your eyes, nose, and mouth and when allergens reach these areas, reactions can be more severe (anaphylaxis).

This is why we’re big hand washers. 

Viruses work the same way. You might not get sick from using a doorknob, but if you decide to eat fries out of the bag without washing your hands first, that virus can find its way into your mouth and make you sick.

So…Wash your hands 😉

Don’t share drinks (or utensils)

Food allergens can survive in your saliva for over four hours! This means that you could eat a PB&J sandwich for lunch and cause someone to react if you share a drink at a movie theater two hours later. Or, your cake could have traces of an allergen in it without you knowing. If you use your fork to steal a piece of pie from your friend with a food allergy, then you’ve contaminated their food.

Most of us have been told at least one point in time that sharing drinks (or utensils) spreads germs. So this is just good life advice.

Not feeling bad about having this all to himself.

Keep Your Distance!

If you’ve been eating someone’s allergen, a simple hug or kiss can cause a reaction. Peanut dust can linger on clothes or your lips. Those allergens can cause skin reactions or worse. Food allergy moms try to keep their kids away from anyone who has been eating an allergen because you don’t have to see it to react to it. It’s not that we don’t want our kids to accept Great Aunt Lilly’s hug, it’s just that we don’t want to worry about hives from a kiss on the cheek.

Now, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, we’re being told to distance ourselves from people we don’t live with. It’s not that we don’t want to visit grandparents, it just that we don’t want to worry about killing them because we didn’t know we were sick ourselves.

Assessing risk

Food allergy parents are constantly assessing risks. Do I trust the label on the package or should I call the company? Does the steakhouse have peanuts at every table? How seriously do my relatives take my child’s allergy to be able to depend on them for child care? Are my kids of an age where they can be more responsible for themselves and I don’t have to hover?  

Every food allergy parent assesses risk but it’s is an area where the final decisions will vary greatly. One family might be okay with their child eating food produced on shared lines with their allergens. Others won’t be. One family might be okay with their child sitting on movie theater chairs. Others will bring a blanket to drape over the chair so their child doesn’t touch food residue.

Now that the country is beginning to open back up from Stay At Home mandates, everybody will find themselves assessing the risk of doing something “normal” again. And what one person feels is safe will be something another wouldn’t dream of doing just yet.

Last week, I read a post by Emily Oster about assessing the risk of seeing grandparents and putting your kids in daycare as it relates to COVID-19. But her framework for assessing risk is similar to mine as a Food Allergy Mom and once again I was thinking “Welcome to my life!” Her post got one thing right for sure: sometimes there is no easy answer.


So. Being a Food Allergy Mom means knowing there is always a risk of reaction. We can never take that risk away, so we must protect our kids and teach them how to protect themselves as best they can.

For us, this means making sure L has his AUVI-Q every time he leaves the house. It means bringing safe food to parties so he’ll be able to eat. We keep a stash of peanut-free cupcakes in our freezer so that L doesn’t have to go to a birthday party without a sweet treat. It means stocking up on wipes and keeping them with us because hand sanitizer does not get rid of food proteins that cause reactions. Sometimes, it means removing ourselves from situations that make us/L feel unsafe, or decline invitations that would put him in those positions to begin with.

Sending your child to preschool with a Food Allergy Kit via
L’s Preschool Food Allergy Kit: Auto-Injector, allergy meds, and extra snacks for when we didn’t get notice of classroom celebrations.

COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon. It’s a very nasty virus that we might never have a cure or treatment for. So, we need to figure out how to live with it. That means figuring out how to protect ourselves — and others — from something too tiny to see with the naked eye that has the potential to kill. 

Something Food Allergy Moms know about all too well.


Food Allergy Moms Have an Edge in the Pandemic pinterest graphic via


Visiting the Outer Banks with Food Allergies

When you have food allergies, traveling can be daunting, but it’s totally doable. The trick is really to plan ahead and make sure you carry your epinephrine auto-injectors with you at all times.

Last year, we went on our first week-long vacation to the Outer Banks. I was excited, but also a little nervous to be visiting the Outer Banks with food allergies. We had never spent that much time away from home and all things familiar.

Would we have to stick to fast food and making our own meals? What would it be like to stay in a house where the family before likely enjoyed peanut butter? What would it be like staying with my family who definitely does enjoy peanuts?

Thankfully, visiting the Outer Banks with food allergies was easier than I thought it would be. A lot of that was because I planned ahead a best as I could. I also have fellow Food Allergy Mamas to thank for sharing their general travel tips:

Research the Area

The Outer Banks looks small on a map, but it’s actually pretty long. 200 miles of islands, to be exact. We were looking at beach houses from Duck all the way down to Cape Hatteras. My comfort level was to stay in the more populated area of Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, or Kitty Hawk. Here, there are chain restaurants and the (one) hospital is close by.

Get a Kitchen

This will be a must for us if we stay further away from the hospital. There are a lot of independently-owned restaurants in the Outer Banks, especially in the lesser-populated areas. This can make dining out tricky. Most visitors rent beach houses, but if you’re looking for a hotel try and find one with a small kitchen.

Most beach houses are equipped with common kitchen utensils, but exactly what and how much tends to be a gamble. Our house in Kill Devil Hills had four coffee makers! The house we rented in Buxton last month that didn’t have sheet pans. If there is something you know you’ll need to consider bringing it.

Another tip I’ve seen in the food allergy groups I’m in is to bring anything that is hard to clean, such as your own toaster or slow cooker.

Bring Your Own Food

Relating to the above, there are grocery stores up and down the Outer Banks where you can buy food to make your own meals and snacks. This was key when we stayed further south in the lesser populated Buxton.

Before heading down to the Outer Banks, we created a rough meal plan and stocked up on some of our favorite non-perishables. This way we could buy what was on sale and save money and not get caught off-guard if we couldn’t find it in the store. I ordered Made Good granola bars and bought some of our favorite peanut-free candy (it’s a vacation after all!).

I have also prepared our own trail mixes and cookies to take with us so I know L will have something fun that is safe to eat. Don’t forget to bring a few storage containers or bags for leftovers!

RELATED: Our Go-To Peanut-Free Snacks

Make all parties aware of the allergy

The Outer Banks has a LOT of really beautiful beach houses that can host several families or groups of friends. Communication and setting expectations are key. We spent our week with my parents, siblings, and their spouses. They’re all aware of L’s allergy, but they don’t live with it. The last thing I wanted was for L to have a reaction so far from home, so I emailed them to remind them of the labeling guidelines we follow and respectfully asked that no peanut products be used in the house.

Allergy Friendly Outer Banks

I asked one of the Facebook Groups I’m in for peanut-free restaurant suggestions in the Outer Banks and someone told me to join the group Allergy Friendly Outer Banks. I requested and got accepted as we were driving over the bridge into the Outer Banks. This group was a huge help in learning more about restaurants that were allergy aware. Using the search feature was quicker than waiting for an answer to a question, and I used it often during our stay.

If you or anyone in your party has a food allergy, I wouldn’t visit the Outer Banks without checking this group out!

Outer-Banks-Bodie-Island-Nature-Walk via

Reach Out to Restaurant Owners

As I mentioned, the more populated Outer Bank beaches have chain restaurants. Having this option was important to me on our first visit. They were familiar and it’s easy to look up allergy info online.

But there are a lot of really neat independently-owned restaurants up and down the Outer Banks. For a lot of these, a basic website with a menu and an About page are all they have. If you want to learn more about how they handle your allergy, you’ll need to contact them. I’m okay with emailing (I love me a paper trail!) and was thrilled at how quickly I received responses from the few restaurants I reached out to. One Bar-B-Q restaurant sounded good on paper, but when they emailed me back they let me know they have bowls of peanuts on all their tables.

Soap Up

Rental units and hotel rooms will be cleaned between uses, but they aren’t always cleaned thoroughly. In beach houses, the cleaning of cups, plates, kitchen utensils are the responsibility of the prior renter.

One suggestion I came across regarding beach vacations was running the existing dishes and utensils through the dishwasher as soon as you arrive. My family thought I was crazy scrubbing and running a dishwasher full of clean plates, but as I took things out of drawers and cabinets, I noticed some of them had food residue stuck on them. I took out what I thought we’d use (plates, utensils, glasses, ice cream scoop, pizza cutter) and washed those. I kept them on a towel on the counter so I knew they were safe to use.

Yep, this means bringing along your antibacterial wipes, sponges, dish soap, and dishwasher detergent. And yep, it sucks to do some light cleaning before your vacation gets underway. But making sure the items my son would eat off of were clean put my mind at ease.

When we visited Buxton, we ended up using disposable plates, cups, and utensils because our say was going to be so short, so that’s another option to think about.

Bring Your Auto-Injectors

I brought along Benadryl, Zyrtec, and ALL of L’s Epi-Pens (three sets at the time). Remember to bring your set of auto-injectors with you wherever you go. I bought a special case for a set to go in to keep them safe while we were on the beach and rocked it all in a fanny pack when we went on excursions.

wave on beach with text overlay Visiting the Outer Banks with Food Allergies via Muddy Boots and Diamonds blog

In the end, we had a blast on our first week-long vacation. We went on a dolphin tour, rode in an airplane, played mini-golf, and swam in the ocean. We didn’t let food allergies stop us from having a great week in the Outer Banks.

What tips do you have for visiting the Outer Banks with food allergies? Or traveling with fod allergies in general?

What I Learned From A Failed Food Challenge

I’ve been quiet about L’s peanut allergy as my pregnancy and J’s birth have been easier for me to write about. But we’ve been busy seeing a new allergist who does Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) for peanuts and getting tests done — including a food challenge.

I’ve been hearing more and more about OIT in the food allergy groups I’m in on Facebook. The idea seems logical to me: eat a little bit of your allergen to build up a tolerance to it. It won’t cure a food allergy, but as long as there are no complications, a person can reach “Bite Proof” status.

After all of the trouble we had with his preschool teachers giving him “May Contain” foods, I wanted to reach “Bite Proof” status. And maybe at that point he could enjoy cake at a friend’s birthday party as well.

The allergist L had been seeing didn’t participate in OIT, saying it went against his Hippocratic Oath. I respected that but wanted more information so I made an appointment with one that does up in Northern Virginia, about 1.5 hours away.

Our first visit was supposed to be an OIT Consult but switched to an allergy re-evaluation. He went over L’s previous labs and decided to do another scratch test for peanuts since it had been several years since L’s last one.

That result was definitely positive. His wheel was 75 — huge.

The allergist told us to come back for an actual OIT consult, which we did about a month later. Here he went into more detail on what to expect and answer questions.

The first step would be a food challenge, but there is a new blood test (Basophil Activation Test, or BAT) available that can do that in a test tube. We opted to try that first in hopes of not having to put L through a challenge.

Unfortunately, L’s result was inconclusive, which happens with about 15-20% of patients. No one knows why, but it meant we would move forward with the food challenge.

Green Peanut M&M in Palm of Hand via

A food challenge is the first step to OIT if it’s been a while since your reaction, or, in L’s case, hasn’t had one. (He did have eczema as a baby, which is what prompted allergy testing, but we have not been 100% certain he has ever had a reaction to food.)

The food challenge was scheduled two months out, and during this time I worried. I fumbled my way through trying to explain to L he would need to eat the food we’ve been telling him to avoid for years. We saw another allergist for a back-to-school checkup who said more than likely L would react, just based his component test showing he’s Ara h2 positive.

The day of the food challenge arrived last week. We had to get up really early to make it to the 8:45am appointment. L was quiet the entire drive up.

We got settled into the office’s OIT/challenge room which had a TV, books and magazines, and a big comfy couch. We definitely sprawled out and made ourselves at home, knowing we would be there for about 3.5 hours.

We were asked to bring a number of peanut products with us: peanut butter, peanuts, Reeces Pieces, and peanut M&Ms.

L showed us that we did a really good job teaching him not to eat peanuts because it took us a good 30 minutes to get him to eat one peanut M&M.

And it was hard to coax him. I wasn’t confident he would pass the challenge and I had NO idea what kind of reaction he would experience. L got even quieter and my heart broke when tears started rolling down his face. I debated throwing in the towel, feeling like this was being done for the benefit of myself and Mr Boots more than L.

But he did it. L ate one peanut M&M and my heart stopped as I watched.

L chased the M&M down with water and went back to playing the iPad. But he kept drinking more water. Every time he took a sip, I asked if his throat or mouth felt funny. He insisted it didn’t.

Then I noticed his breathing was changing. My heart went to my throat. He sort of zoned out a moment and vomited.

“Nope!” I said and immediately jumped off the couch, moving quicker than I’d moved in the last year, and got a nurse.

In the 30 seconds I was gone, L had vomited all over the couch, there was a trail of it leading to a sink, and he was covered in it. Mr Boots was holding him over the sink where he vomited some more.

Five minutes had passed from the time L ingested the M&M to when he vomited. The challenge was over; it was unsuccessful.

I asked the allergist if we needed to administer the Epi Pen, but he said we’d watch L first. He felt that L had probably vomited everything back up. L’s heart and lungs were good as well, so unless he got worse or vomited again we wouldn’t need to administer epinephrine.

Once the allergist said L sounded fine, I went to the car to get him a change of clothes. I packed them the night before in case we ended up at the hospital. I kicked myself for not remembering that vomiting was a sign of a reaction. I had been too concerned with the possibility of respiratory distress to think about needing a change of clothes for a gut reaction.

L changed his clothes, and the allergist said we’d monitor him for another hour or so. I watched him like a hawk. About 10 minutes later his breathing changed. I asked if he felt like throwing up again and he said yes. Mr Boots walked him over to the sink just in time for him to throw up again.

I got the allergist and he gave me a choice:

Let L continue to throw up since he still sounded good or administer his Auvi-Q.

Everything told me to administer it. He ate his allergen and was throwing up. But being given a choice made me hesitate.

The allergist saw my hesitation and said, “Why don’t we give him the Epi Pen. Do you have it with you?”

I went to the diaper bag where I had packed all four of L’s Auvi-Qs. I took one out and paused.

“I’ve never used this before!”

The allergist was super calm during all of this. He told me he’d walk me through it.

I told L what I was about to do, but I don’t know how much he was really listening to me.

The Auvi-Q is awesome in that it talks you through the steps. The allergist showed me where to place it on L’s thigh and the auto-injector counted down for me.

L jumped when it injected but he didn’t make a big fuss about it. Three seconds and it was done. He began shaking, which is normal, but it wasn’t long before he stopped feeling nauseous.

We didn’t need to use a second Auvi-Q. The allergist listened to L’s heart (a little fast due to the epinephrine) and breath sounds, which sounded good.

Around 11am, our allergist said we were free to go, or we could stay a little longer. We had our room until 12, and I made it clear I wanted to stay. I asked about a possible bi-physic reaction and our allergist said he didn’t think L would have one since he was vomiting. He said bi-physic reactions are rarer than people think.

L’s shaking subsided and he perked back up to his normal, goofy self. We left the allergist at 12 and you wouldn’t have known anything had been wrong two hours earlier.

Peanuts in shells failed food challenge blog post via

I reflected on what happened that morning during the ride back home.

I had heard stories of parents administering the Epi Pen or Auvi-Q on their kids. Many of them said that it wasn’t as scary as they imagined it would be.

They were right.

The biggest take away for me was giving the Auvi-Q was not hard, but determining when it was time to administer it was.

Had we been on our own, I think would have administered it as soon as L began throwing up since we knew he ingested his allergen.

We didn’t have to call 911 since we were in a medical office. But had we been on our own, we’d have administered epinephrine and called an ambulance.

I felt terrible having put L through this food challenge. But now we know. We know he’s allergic to peanuts. We know we have to avoid them. We know he can have an anaphylactic reaction.

He knows for sure that peanuts make him sick.

And I know I haven’t been an Allergy Mama Bear for nothing.

How to Make the Best of Trick-or-Treating with Food Allergies

The first October after L was diagnosed with his peanut allergy I wasn’t sure how we would handle trick-or-treating with food allergies. Still new to the nut free life, I decided to be pro-active by making a visit to our local grocery store a couple of weeks before Halloween so I could figure out exactly what candy he could keep from the stash he collected while trick-or-treating.

I slowly made my way down the Halloween aisle, picking up and reading the labels of nearly every bag of candy on display. The more I read, the angrier I got. Even the candy that looked nut free had “may contain” warnings. Most of the bags of candy weren’t safe for L at all.

I walked out of the store with tears running down my cheeks, my anger giving way to sadness as the visions of Halloween I had prior to L’s diagnosis were shattered.

This was yet another occasion where there would be strict rules in order to keep him safe. L wouldn’t get to enjoy the pile of candy he amassed during trick-or-treating as his brother could. I’d have to try to come up with a plan to make him feel just as included as his brother during another food-centric holiday.

carved-pumpkin-Tips on Surviving trick-or-treating with Food Allergies via

I see a lot of moms asking, “How do you handle trick-or-treating with food allergies?” this time of year. Today I am sharing what has been working for us.

For younger children, help them choose candy that is safe.

If you’re still walking up to the door with your kids, use this time to help them make wiser choices. If the house is offering non-food treats I encourage L to take one of those. If they’re offering Tootsie Pops and M&Ms I remind him that the lollipops are okay for him to eat, but not the M&Ms. Walking down that aisle at the grocery store actually helped me feel more confident in helping him make these choices.

If all the options are unsafe, I let him choose what he wants and we figure out what to do with it once we get home. There’s definitely no harm in declining the treats from a house with no safe options if choosing something unsafe isn’t your comfort level.

Never ever eat the candy you received until you get home.

It’s dark and even with a flashlight, it can be easy to miss the fine print on fun-size candy wrappers. If your child likes to enjoy the treats while they’re out, bring along safe ones to hold them over until the trick-or-treating candy can be sorted through.

Keep safe candy on hand so they can trade their unsafe candy when they get home.

I buy candy that L likes and keep it on hand so he doesn’t have to feel like he is giving up all of his candy. Some parents use the Switch Witch idea and have their kids trade their candy for a small toy on their wish list.

Go through treats with your kids.

This should be done no matter what (one year we received pieces that looked as if they had been grabbed from the bottom of someone’s purse!). Remove anything that is not safe or questionable. Doing this with your kids also helps them learn which candy is safe and which is off-limits in case they encounter it at other times during the year. Some places, like dentist offices, let you donate unwanted candy. If it’s early enough you could hand it back out to trick-or-treaters without allergies.

We remove candy that does not have ingredients listed or don’t look familiar. If there are any treats that we are unsure of a Google search usually helps us determine whether or not L can have it. If Google isn’t helpful then the candy is removed and/or traded.

Since G does not have food allergies, we’ll ask him to trade some of his candy with L. This way, G gets some of the candy with peanuts (which are usually off-limits the rest of the year), L gets safe candy, and they both end up with a more even stash (which makes this mama happy!).

Finally, always make sure you have your epinephrine injector (both of them) with you.

Everyone with a food allergy should carry their epinephrine injector with them at all times, but the scary fact is that most don’t. Accidents happen, so make sure your child has their life-saving medicine with them — or carry it yourself if you are going to be with your child. I actually bought a fanny pack for this purpose and love it!


When L experienced his first Halloween with food allergies, he was avoiding peanuts, tree nuts, and coconut. If you’re looking for nut-free candy, I hope you’ll check out my list of 25 Halloween Candy ideas.

It’s important to understand that any food can be an allergen. To make sure all of the trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood enjoy Halloween, I hope you’ll consider participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project and offer non-food treats instead of (or in addition to!) your sugary favorites.

Trick-or-Treating with Food Allergies via | How to Enjoy Halloween with Food Allergies

Tips for Surviving Trick-or-Treating with Food Allergies via | Tips for Surviving Halloween with Food Allergies

I’d love to know if you have any other tips about trick-or-treating with food allergies! Let us know in the comments.

Super Easy and Addictive Halloween Rice Krispie Treats

I remember the first time I had candy corn Rice Krispie treats. A co-worker made them for a Halloween potluck and I couldn’t stop eating them! Up until then, I had never thought to add candy to this classic childhood dessert. I’m not a huge fan of candy corn but they actually work really well in these. It’s the only way I enjoy candy corn now.

I don’t think I’ve made them since L was born as candy corn isn’t a very allergy-friendly treat. It was a year or two after his peanut allergy diagnosis before I learned of any brands that made peanut free candy corn.

I was so excited to learn that Dollar Tree sells bags of peanut free candy corn made by Coastal Bay at this time of year. L was finally able to try a Halloween staple for the first time last year and he loves it!Coastal Bay Peanut Free Candy Corn from Dollar Tree via

Now that I know where to go for candy corn, I bought a bag last week and finally made candy corn Rice Krispie treats for the boys. They didn’t even last 24 hours! This is a recipe I’ve been itching to share with you all for a while now, and I’m so happy I can offer up a version that has peanut free candy.


The ingredients you use will depend on YOUR comfort level. At the moment we go by label reading and do not call brands to learn more about their manufacturing/cleaning processes. Not all families are comfortable with that. If you have any food allergies or intolerances, please use ingredients/brands that you are comfortable with when making these cereal treats. Ingredients to make candy corn rice krispie treats

Candy Corn Rice Krispie Treats

Elevate this classic childhood dessert with candy corn candies. These super easy and addictive Candy Corn Rice Krispie Treats are sure to be a hit at your next Halloween party or potluck!

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword Candy Corn, Marshmallow Treats
Author Emma


  • 3 TBS butter
  • 12 oz marshmallows  1 bag of jumbo size or 4 cups of mini marshmallows
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 1 bag of candy corn


  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir to melt completely.
  2. Remove from heat and add cereal and candy corn. Stir to combine.
  3. Using a buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into a pan coated with cooking spray.

  4. Allow the mixture to cool then cut into smaller pieces.

Recipe Notes

  • If you're not a huge candy corn fan, you can chop up the candies into smaller pieces.
  • A 13x9-inch pan is recommended, but I used a 7.5x11 which made them thicker.
  • I put the pan into the refrigerator to help them cool quicker, but when you do this you’ll have to take the treats out and come up to room temperature a bit before cutting them.
  • These will keep in an air-tight container for a couple of days -- if they last that long!

candy-corn-rice-krispie-treats-with-peanut-free-candy-corn via

Who sells peanut-free candy corn?

I like to buy our candy corn from the Dollar Tree now (they also sell peanut free candy pumpkins!), but Jelly Belly is also a big supplier that is peanut free as well as YumEarth Organics.

Candy Corn Rice Krispie Treats using peanut free candy corn via

Candy Corn Rice Krispie Treats using nut free candy corn via

Do you like adding candy to your Rice Krispie treats? What’s your favorite?