“How are we supposed to do this?” I sobbed. I was sitting on our bed, venting to my husband while blowing my snotty nose.
We had just started introducing peanut butter to our second child, which was one of our daughter’s food allergies, and my anxiety was racing a hundred miles per hour.
How long would the food allergen remain in our other child’s saliva? What if he put a toy in his mouth? Could that cause a reaction if my daughter touched it?
Would I be able to clean up the dining area well enough? Or would I miss an allergen protein hidden in some sneaky place?
My fear was raging full steam ahead and I had endless questions about how to actually accomplish this feat practically.
Honestly, the only reason we were even trying to do it was because our allergist had told us to serve peanuts to our son 3 times a week. We were told that it was supposed to help reduce his risk of developing an allergy to it as well.
At the time, our son was still a baby. He was drooling nonstop, chewing on his fingers, and constantly chucking food off of the high chair. Our kitchen floor always looked like a tornado had passed through during meal time.
So you can imagine my terror about having to serve my daughter’s allergen to my son.
How was I supposed to help reduce the risk of peanuts being an issue for my son while also protecting my daughter from accidentally coming into contact with it?
It just felt impossible to me.
Lauren and her husband also experienced this same fear when trying to introduce their youngest child to the older sibling’s food allergies.
After talking about it together and hearing how other food allergy families tackled this issue, here are a few ways to feed a child one of their sibling’s allergens.
First Things First
Before anything, definitely check with your allergist to see if this is even an option for your family or if they have a specific safety plan for you to follow.
Remember: We are not certified medical professionals. We’re fellow moms. Please reach out to your child’s allergist for medical advice.
Depending on your children’s medical histories and profiles, the allergist may not advise you to feed the other siblings a particular food allergen for a variety of reasons.
For example, Lauren was also told to give her second born child the eldest sibling’s allergens 3 times a week. In the middle of trying to manage all of that, Lauren’s family moved to Colorado.
Then their new allergist heard about Lauren’s weekly routine managing the risk around the food allergens. He actually recommended to her it would be okay for them to stop.
He felt that it was actually impacting Lauren’s family’s quality of life negatively in the long run. It was causing undo stress and anxiety for everyone while simultaneously exposing her son to risk.
They discussed the studies that point to early introduction, and how there was just no guarantee that it would prevent her daughter from developing allergies to those foods.
So, due to her son’s medical profile, and his prior reaction history, the risk was too high for Lauren’s family. They stopped putting so much pressure on themselves to give their youngest child the allergens of the older sibling multiple times a week.
Now, with all that said, your family and allergist may still decide that it is best to feed your other kids one of their siblings allergens. And that is totally okay! Every allergy family will have different comfort levels. Different kids have different needs!
If Sibling is a Baby
1. High Chair in the Garage/Yard/Patio
The first time we gave my son peanut butter, one of our daughter’s allergens, he was in his high chair in the kitchen.
In less than 15 seconds flat, it was on the floor, walls, kitchen counter, and every crevice of his high chair.
My heart practically stopped. I spent a few hours scrubbing every inch of that area down in order to make sure my daughter wouldn’t somehow wind up with a peanut protein on her skin.
Needless to say, we never attempted to feed our young son peanuts in the kitchen again.
Many food allergy families have purchased an additional high chair that they keep in their yard, out on the patio, or in their garage. That way the food allergens being fed to a sibling will be less likely to come into contact with whomever is allergic to it. And it’s nice to use the hose to clean everything down.
If you have a backyard, you could definitely utilize this option during warm weather seasons. During the winter, the garage might be a more realistic reality. We have even read about food allergy families placing space heaters out in their garages when the weather is cold!
Other Ideas That You Could Consider
- Have another adult present if possible to either help you or watch your other children
- Have your child wear only a diaper while eating (so you don’t have to manage soiled clothes with the allergen on it)
- Use disposable dishes and silverware (that way you don’t have to stress about washing dishes well afterwards)
- Wrap a disposable table cloth around the high chair tray that can be tossed after eating
- Put newspaper or another disposable table cloth under the high chair to dispose of later (in case the allergen falls off the high chair)
- Keep your hair tied back and wear short sleeves so that you aren’t accidentally getting the allergen on you
- Wash your hands well before and after serving the allergen food
- Keep track of everything you and your child are touching after preparing/eating the allergen
- Wipe your child’s bare skin off before reentering the main living area
- Bathe your child and put on a set of clean clothes
Later, after you and your child are washed off and clean, go back to the high chair and wipe it down from top to bottom with soap and water. Examine the surrounding area to see if you missed anything.
If you are concerned about storing the allergens in your home or wondering how to clean food allergens off of objects effectively, check out the link below.
FARE is the trusted source of information about food allergies and you can read their article “Tips for Keeping Safe at Home” for some additional awesome safety tips.
2. Line the Shower with Plastic Bag
Now, this was probably overkill, but it is what my husband and I ended up doing in our home. It is what made us feel the safest. Hear me out.
I laid a trash bag flat on the bottom of our master bathroom shower. Next, I removed my son’s clothing and placed him on top of the trash bag. Then, I would sit next to him outside of the shower and feed him a few bites of peanut butter.
We made sure to use all disposable dishes and silverware again for easy clean up. It really did help cut back on the allergen cross-contact concerns and it was nice to be able to just rinse out the shower.
After we were finished, I would remove his diaper and ball it up inside of the trash bag. Then I stuffed them directly into a separate trash bag along with the throw-away dishes.
Lastly, we would shower and put on fresh clothes before being around my daughter. Later, usually during nap time, I would scrub the shower down as well.
If Sibling is Out of the Baby Phase
1. Go to a Location Outside of the Home
Now, maybe your situation is different than Lauren and me. Perhaps your children were diagnosed when they were older or you have upper elementary to teens. They might still need a sibling’s allergen in their diet.
We have heard from many food allergy moms that they allow their older kids to eat foods at a trusted family member or friend’s house.
For example, if one of your children’s allergens is dairy, the child that is not allergic to dairy could eat it when they go over to a friend’s house. That way it stays in their diet, but it does not put their allergic sibling in direct danger.
Some moms even take their children out for “mother and kiddo” dates and eat specific allergens in a restaurant away from their home.
If this is an option you’d like to try, remember to have your child:
- Wash their hands before leaving their friend’s house and again once they arrive home
- Change out of their clothing and into clean ones
- Brush their teeth well
2. Designated Eating Area at Home
Your comfort level with this will depend on a few things. Here are some questions to consider.
One, are you keeping the allergen in the home? Is your child at an age where eating is not as messy? Is your child aware enough of allergies and the seriousness of keeping it away from your allergic child?
What are the needs of your allergic child? For example, when Lauren’s son had a dairy allergy, her allergist actually wanted them to keep dairy in the home. He was tolerating baked dairy and they wanted the exposure. For his peanut allergy, this same allergist recommended peanuts not be consumed in the home and the home be entirely peanut free.
Only you can answer these questions!
If you are comfortable having the allergen consumed in the home, you could have a designated eating area. Clearly label the allergen and store out of reach of your allergic child.
After eating, this designated eating area needs to be wiped down with soap and water to remove the allergen proteins. Remember, allergens don’t need to be “killed” like germs, they need to be removed.
To help keep things contained, you could consider separate dishes or disposable dishes.
This is Not a Deal Breaker
Lauren and I want to be clear that it is best to follow an allergist’s advice. BUT it is equally important to listen to your mom gut.
If you know that having to manage all these allergens in your home is completely not doable, then please don’t hesitate to share those concerns with your allergist.
Be transparent about your fears and elaborate on how it is impacting your family physically, emotionally, mentally, and practically.
You are smart, hardworking, determined, fierce, and brave. I know this to be true because you are a food allergy mom. It’s in your DNA.
Keep going, momma. You’ve got this.
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