Updated: Jul 19, 2018
What to have in your bag to be prepared.
Venturing out of the house, especially when you're new on the allergy journey, can sometimes be fraught with fear and anxiety. In contrast to your home environment, where you have greater control, the external world can feel seemingly like a mine field.
However, it doesn't have to feel this way. As with learning the signs and symptoms to recognize when a reaction with happening, just as important is ensuring you have the right tools with you to face whatever situation may arise. Over time, especially as you find that you are indeed prepared to deal with what comes your way, you will build back the confidence to be able to enjoy your outings.
So what are some of the essential items? Here is what we have found always keeps us covered.
First, the medications you'll need:
Your epinephrine autoinjectors. This is first and foremost, and a must-have every time. Never, ever, EVER leave the house without these. We recommend carrying two of them at all times. It can be tempting not to bring these, as they are bulky and you may (hopefully rarely) have to use them. But in that dire, unexpected moment when you do need them, there will not be time to try to go find some. It's absolutely critical to bring these with you all the time, every time.
Benadryl (Diphenhydramine HCI). Important for treating mild reactions. If you carry the full-size version, we recommend an easy oral syringe for quick administration of the right dosage. You can also purchase a smaller travel-sized vial so you aren't lugging around a big bottle all the time, or better yet, our favorite is the single dose vials for children from CVS, only because they are the only pre-dosed versions we've found thus far.
Note: As of July 2018, it seems that either the CVS single dose product is temporarily out of stock or discontinued. We will let you know if it become available again. In the meantime, if you prefer pre-dosed versions, you can purchase these lab vials and pre-measure out the doses yourself. It makes it easy in the moment when you don't have to try to measure out and can just pop it open and take it. Disclaimer is that I haven't tried these vials myself, but based on reviews, thought they were the most practical option. I'd put a piece of electrical tape or masking tape over the top as an added precaution against leakage.
Hydrocortizone. This is one to discuss with your allergist, but for many children with contact allergies, hydrocortizone can be helpful in topically treating very mild skin reactions.
Asthma medication. For those who also suffer from asthma, it's essential to also have your medication and possibly the spacer that goes along with it, as it's easier to use that way.
Next, some helpful items to ensure your environment is always as clean as possible. I share about some of these items in my post on dining out, but I'm sharing it here also as these are helpful for all situations.
Clorox wipes. Whether it's tables, chairs, or airplane seatbacks and windows, it's important to clean surfaces in a manner that can help remove any allergen residue. We've found Clorox wipes to be the most effective in doing so, more so than Wet Ones, Kleenex, or Purell.
Traditional water-based wipes. Great for wiping surfaces after you've used to Clorox wipes, to remove the strong chemicals. These are also helpful (though not quite as effective) for a waterless way of cleaning hands when a sink isn't nearby.
Gentle soap. If you or your child are prone to contact skin reactions, it can be helpful to have with you a travel-sized version of a cleanser you trust. While most soaps out there are probably OK, there are instances for those who are especially sensitive when the soap they have on hand may be irritating. If the skin is already reacting, the last thing you want to do is further aggravate it. Having your trusted cleanser on hand is helpful for removing any residue that may have triggered a reaction.
If you are out and about alone or if you are leaving your child with other caregivers, medical identification information can also be extremely helpful.
Medical ID. Medical IDs provide critical information to first responders in the case of emergencies. Paramedics and medical professionals are trained to look for medical IDs when they respond in an emergency situation. This is especially crucial for those with severe food allergies, particularly in cases where no one can speak up for the person (i.e. if both you and your child were in a car accident together). The medical IDs help others know what to watch out for or could also help them identify root causes of certain emergencies if relevant. We purchased ours (pictured in the top image) from StickyJ, but there are plenty of websites out there with different options.
Allergy buttons. These are helpful primarily for very young children who can't yet speak up for themselves, particularly if you are leaving them in the hands of other caregivers. It serves as an extra reminder. Yes, they are a little in-your-face, but when it comes to food allergies, you can't ever be overly careful, especially in situations where the caregiver may be watching multiple children and in spite of their best efforts might forget. This way, they don't need to always refer back to their notes, and it contains some critical information right there. These are available at many online shops like Zazzle, though I personally prefer using Etsy as you can customize it for your child's specific allergies. (The one pictured above is one that I custom created a while back; I also have a separate one that's more general that just informs people not to feed my child without speaking to me first.)
Finally, helpful tips on carrying all these items, since there is so much. If you can find a bag to keep all of these items together, that would be ideal. One thing we've run into is when we change bags (i.e. backpack during the school week vs. baby bag on the weekend), it's sometimes hard if all the items are in individual pockets or not housed together. Keeping them in a pouch for easy grab and go is helpful.
Important note: It's important to understand that epi-pens are temperature sensitive. For that reason, it's recommended to carry them in an insulated bag. We particularly like the bag pictured below from Allermates, not only because it easily carries all the essentials, but also given how compact it is, the great design, and the ease of carrying it around.
While it isn't the largest bag and can't carry all the other items I've mentioned like wipes and soap, it at least carries the absolutely critical items, which is sometimes all you need if you are going out for a walk or run. It's also compact enough to throw in a larger bag that does fit all the other items as well.
Note: The above is not a substitute for professional medical advice and is meant to be just one perspective. Always consult and seek the advice of your doctor. This post also contains some affiliate links, but any product recommendations are my own.