At Allergic Living, we know that life with food allergies, asthma or celiac disease can lead to innumerable hours spent managing your family’s meals and environment. From remembering to take epinephrine auto-injectors without fail, to minding asthma triggers and packing food on the go, a lot of little things can add up over the course of a day, a week, a year.
That’s why we’re pleased to bring you a list of nine small but important ideas, life hacks if you will, to help ease your load. Whether you’re a parent, a teen or a just diagnosed adult, there’s something here for everyone to make life with allergies, asthma and celiac disease more user-friendly.
1. TOOTHBRUSH COVERS – Safety meets fun
The essence of a good life hack is a small thing that makes life easier in a number of ways. Covering up your toothbrush, or your kids’ brushes, to make them less likely to be mixed up, and to avoid contact with allergens or gluten-containing food another child was eating, is a little idea that can make a big difference.
The covers, such as those made by Dentek, may also curb the spread of germs. With cute animal designs such as pandas, elephants and cows, who knows: the kids may actually get excited about brushing those teeth!
2. WEAR YOUR EPI – medicine without a bag
Every person with severe allergies knows it’s a must to carry at least one epinephrine auto-injector at all times. But the editors here have also heard many excuses: “I didn’t want to carry a bag”; “I needed my hands free”; “I left mine in my locker”.
The trouble with excuses is that they won’t do much for you in an emergency. They also aren’t necessary – so heave them out the window. The fact is, whether you’re planning to play sports, go for a job, or bust some dance moves, there are ways to keep your auto-injector close.
For instance, it’s exactly the active situation that Omaxcare desired durable auto-injector carriers that strap to either the waist or the leg. These products are perfect for times when you need ease of movement or discretion under a pant leg. They’re also proof once again that food allergies need not slow anybody down.
3. SMARTER SETTING – cool placemat, will travel
Finding a safe surface for eating while on the go can be a big challenge when you’re managing food allergies or celiac disease. Wipes are always helpful to take along. But for added peace of mind, here’s a less obvious solution: an awesome new placemat. When we started searching, we found some attractive and ingenious options, such as the FlatBox LunchBox by Solvetta. It does double duty as an insulated lunch bag that can be unzipped and spread out into the perfect placemat for children or adults on the go.
4. EPI ON THE RUN – grab and go system
Hang them on a hook. Place them on pegs in your cabinet where gloves and hats are kept. Install a coat-boot-and-epinephrine wall system (like the one pictured from www.potterybarn.com) in your entryway. This life hack works in three ways: First, by putting your or your child’s pair of auto-injectors near the door, you’re making it second nature to just grab and go – with no more fishing through – handbags or drawers, or the risk of forgetting in haste. Centralizing auto-injector storage makes it simpler to train kids to remember to take them, and to show caregivers and visitors where they are kept.
And last but not least, having the epi carrier hanging right by the door works as an excellent visual reminder and reinforcement: Never leave home without it.
5. READY DESSERT OR MEAL – defrost your social life
With allergies and celiac disease, use this life hack to make the freezer your best friend. Being prepared for unexpected gatherings can help to keep you safe – and socializing. Dietitian and celiac expert Shelley Case coined the term “planned overs”. She doubles or even triples a favorite recipe, and freezes the rest in single portions. Apply that logic to pasta sauce or hearty soups, and you’ll have potluck-to-go.
For kids, inform birthday party hosts of precautions, and that your child will bring a safe dessert. Then make that task a breeze with bake-ahead cupcakes popped into the freezer. On the big day, thaw and frost, and pack your quick creation into a carrier such as Fox Run’s dapper Cupcake To Go holder. The holder’s color choices also help to avoid mix-ups or cross-contact. Invest in a good-sized freezer, and your family will be party-ready.
6. MEDICAL ID – proudly fashionable
Staying safe need not mean sacrificing style. Women and girls have a wide variety of beaded and bejeweled choices these days, such as the bracelets (pictured) from Lauren’s Hope. Whether a statement piece or a simpler style, all come with medical plaques and custom-engraving. For guys, there are sturdy, sporty and high-tech options. MedicAlert has a wide range of wrist-wear, but also shoe tags, arm bands and necklace charms for men and women.
Finally, if you’re looking for a durable yet sleek design, American Medical ID has dozens of styles available in precious metals such as gold, sterling silver or titanium.
Whatever you choose to indicate your allergy or asthma in an emergency, pick something you’ll want to wear all the time. ID wear cannot serve its most important function from inside a drawer.
7. APP FOR THAT – digital disease log
Keeping tabs on the factors that triggered recent symptoms can help you and your doctor to isolate food and environments to avoid. Smartphone apps like Allergy Journal (pictured) are designed to record reactions, products, meals, locations, etc. (iPhone/Android). AsthmaMD uses mobile technology to chart peak flows for you and your doctor, log flare-ups, compare against an app-based asthma action plan, remind you to take meds (iPhone/Android).
Also helpful are more general apps such as Cozi, which is designed to coordinate family life, with an interface that literally puts parents on the same page (iPhone/Android).
Need a lower tech solution? Try a pen-and-paper journal (doesn’t need recharging). Accurate records can make a big difference in understanding symptoms and gaining control of your condition.
8. DON’T MAKE THE BED – mess up dust mites
It may seem counter-intuitive and against everything mom has taught you, but a good life hack to keep allergens at bay in the bedroom is to be a bit messy. Specifically: stop making your bed.
Dust mites thrive in moist, warm environments, and when you tuck in those hospital corners, you’re sealing in the ideal living conditions for the microscopic pests. By leaving the bed covers loosely pulled back, you allow the sheets to cool and dry out during the day, making the top of the bed less hospitable to mites. There’s even a reputable study to prove this. (Seriously mom, there is!)
Now the mites will just temporarily go deeper into the mattress and return with your warmth, so invest as well in a good barrier cover under the fitted sheet of that rumpled bed.
9. COLOR-CODE IT – take kitchen cues
Are you a family with multiple food allergies or does sister have celiac while others at home still consume gluten? Here’s a smart and eye-catching way to avoid cross-contact in the kitchen. Stay on top of the risk with one set of colored dishes for the food-allergic family member, and employ the same color-coding for utensil handles, cutting boards, cutlery and storage containers.
When it comes to leftovers, get crafty by ordering premade labels from sites such as Smart Allergy Friendly Education or Mabel’s Labels. For more handy ideas on setting up a“friendly” kitchen, click here.