Food Allergy Talk with the Super Nanny: 7 Tips for Staying Safe at Holiday PartiesJessica Cohen
Jo Frost may forever be known as the original Super Nanny. In her Mary Poppins like manner, she can float into pretty much any disheveled household of maddeningly misbehaved children and turn it right side up again. There are few parents I know who did not at least once watch that show and wish for Jo Frost to show up at their doorstep every now and again.
What you may not have known about Jo Frost is that she suffers from a potentially life-threatening food allergy to all nuts and shellfish. Prior to entering any family’s home for the week, her team spoke with the family about her allergies and requested that they take any known triggers out of the household during her stay. Then her team went in and did one final check of the home before her arrival, just to be extra safe.
Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Jo Frost about food allergy triggers, having an action plan, and what to know before you go. It is a conversation I have had several times in the past as my own son has multiple food allergies, several of which may trigger an anaphylactic response. This time of year can be especially difficult for those of us who are managing food allergies, with all of the parties and events surrounding the holiday season.
We hit it off, Jo Frost and I, over our common bond of food allergies. (At least in my mind that is how it went.) And in case you were wondering, she was absolutely lovely.
Here is advice for food allergy management from the Super Nanny herself:
How to Stay Safe at Parties When You (or Your Kids) Have Food Allergies 1 of 8
Create an Emergency Plan 2 of 8
First and foremost, Frost said to know your triggers, and know the signs and symptoms of a potential reaction. This step is incredibly important for any family and any child. It is vital that we raise children to be totally aware and understanding about their food allergies. Having an action plan in place in case of an emergency is also essential.
Communicate with the Host Before the Party 3 of 8
Frost says she talks to the host beforehand about her food allergies in a way that is polite, honest and clear. She has found that the more open we are about speaking to others about our triggers and potential reactions, that people tend to become more understanding and empathetic. For example, recently new neighbors invited her to dinner at their home. She called in advance to ask about the menu for the dinner. After politely declining the invitation upon finding out that the menu included her allergy triggers, the neighbor gracefully offered to accommodate her by eliminating the trigger foods from the menu. She had a wonderful time at her neighbor's home and felt safe from a potential allergic reaction.
Take All Your Necessities with You 4 of 8
Frost carries two EpiPens (epinephrine auto-injectors) at all times. Whenever you see her, even on the red carpet, she has two EpiPens in her bag in the event of an emergency. Frost is now working with the brand to raise awareness about food allergies in this country. In fact, this year the life-saving medicine is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
If You’re the Host, Communicate with Your Guests 5 of 8
There is no gray area when it comes to food allergies. Ask your guests questions if you are unsure of what items are safe for them. You have to know in order to keep your guests safe, so please feel free to ask in advance. The more you know, the more prepared you will be, and the safer your guests will be as well.
Look Up "Anaphlaxis" 6 of 8
Some of these families Frost has worked with had never heard of anaphylaxis, so it was an education process. We need to educate America about food allergies. Once the families were educated, they have had empathy and embraced it in the end. We need to continue that education process so our children will be safe from triggers, from bullies, or from people who simply do not know the severity of food allergies.
Educate Others, for Your Kid’s Sake 7 of 8
We want our children to feel included, and they should feel included rather than isolated because of their food allergies. If we continue to keep an open dialogue, it will reduce both the fear of the unknown and the feeling of isolation. The more we educate people about food allergies, the more prepared and understanding people will become about them.
Celebrate the Real You 8 of 8
Kids who have food allergies (like my own) often hate that feeling of being different, and sometimes they struggle to understand who they are beyond their food allergies. They come to identify themselves by their food allergies. As a parent I want my son to see that he is so much more. So I asked her thoughts on this, and she eloquently replied, "My life-threatening allergies do not define who I am as Jo Frost. They do not define who I am as a woman. He will understand that when he realizes all the fantastic things he does beyond his food allergies. The activities he does, fun that he has, his character. As they become more magnified, the food allergies go from the front of your mind to the side of your head. You learn to live alongside your allergies. You live with it, in harmony together."
Thank you, Jo Frost. This mom really needed to hear that.
Please note that this post is intended to share information and ideas, as well as to create conversation. Please consult a medical professional before making changes to your lifestyle.
Image credit: http://25yearsofepipen.com.
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