Ask Us Anything: Allergies at a Fair, Festival, or Amusement Park

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We got this question on our Facebook page this weekend:

Dear Scratch or Sniff,

Our town is hosting its annual county fair this week. In previous years we have always gone. However, we are now aware that our 3-year-old is allergic to two types of tree nuts. My husband and I have been debating the fair for a few weeks, and we just can’t seem to feel safe giving it a go this year.

My 3-year-old is disappointed, because he loves seeing the animals. My 6-year-old is disappointed because he wanted to go on rides this year. I am disappointed for them, but I just can’t seem to find a plan that would make me feel safe. The first and last time we had a reaction it was full anaphylaxis and he was 2, so not able to communicate what was going on. Has anyone braved the fair with a food allergy in little ones?

— Meghan

Yes! We have. In fact, the Scratch or Sniff team had a great discussion about this after we saw this question. My oldest was diagnosed with food allergies after a reaction to hummus at 18 months old. My middle daughter was diagnosed not too long after, and they’ve got nine food allergies between them.

In the beginning, we were so overwhelmed, we’d beg off on parties altogether (a milk allergy meant a pizza party was a stressful event) and stayed home. But we got into our food-allergy-family-groove, and now we rarely miss out. In fact, we took our first family plane ride and our first family trip to Disney as part of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in May, and I’d be lying if I said the thought of being 30,000 feet above the ground and far away from an emergency room didn’t make me panic a little.

Tips to mitigate risk (and fear):

Stock up on baby wipes. Baby wipes are my very best friend. My girls are all out of diapers, and we still buy these by the case. It’s important to remember that hand sanitizer doesn’t remove allergens like a baby wipe will. We use them liberally in public — wiping hands, wiping chairs, wiping hands, wiping table surfaces, wiping hands, wiping toilet seats, wiping hands … we wipe our hands a lot.

huggies-wipes

Huggies gave us some convenient wristlet packs at Disney (thanks, Huggies!). We attached one to the stroller and I kept one around my wrist when I brought all three girls to the restroom. Anytime we sat down at a table to eat a meal, we gave the seats and the tables a quick wipe-down before sitting down to eat. We never knew if someone ate a peanut butter sandwich or an ice cream cone right before us, so wiping it down mitigated risk of cross-contamination.

We wiped hands often — after touching rides, door handles, high-fives, buckles, and definitely before eating. While we were there, we heard a stomach bug was going around. A side bonus? We didn’t catch it — maybe due to our vigilant hand wiping.

Pack your own food. Local fairs and festivals can’t accommodate food allergies like a restaurant can. Sometimes we’ll catch a treat that the girls can have — we’ve had luck with cotton candy, since cotton candy is just sugar with extra sugar — but be vocal about your kids allergies. We’ll pack meals and a couple treats so they feel less left out when they see kids with huge sundaes walking by. I’ve *never* had someone give me a hard time for packing our own food. In fact, the policy for most amusement parks now is that food allergy families can bring whatever they need.

Don’t forget your emergency meds. Keep them on you at all times — always carry an Epi-pen and a spare. Each girl gets two Epi-pens, and we usually stick them both in the same case. But, if we’re at a place like a fair or festival or Disney where they might split up to go on different rides, we split them into two separate cases. The Epi-pens always travel with the kids.

epi-pens

Have fun! Easier said than done, for certain, but trust that you’ll get into your groove soon. Be gentle with yourself, too — this is new territory and takes a little getting used to.

Good luck!

Roo Ciambriello

If Scratch or Sniff founder/editor Roo Ciambriello could list all of her favorite things, they'd include her sweet little family, food trucks, and every AMA Snoop Dogg has done on Reddit. Roo is a copywriter out of New Haven, Connecticut, and loves writing fun stories on the backs of potato chip bags and cereal boxes in Whole Foods, Target, Nordstrom, Kroger, y mucho mas. Roo creates voices for brands, ghostwrites for celebrities, writes a personal website, and is (much to the chagrin of those around her) pretty active on Twitter. You can also find her providing commentary on advertising/branding at Adweek and eating fajitas on deadline days.

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