What You Should Know About Allergies

When You're Child Doesn't Have Allergies

by: Erica Ehm

Peanut free logo You are lucky! The number of children with allergies is climbing at an epidemic rate. If your child doesn't have a peanut/nut allergy, chances are a friend, classmate or cousin does. Allergies are everyone's concern because what you put in their lunch box or snack bag could end up in the mouth of a vulnerable child.

The school year is about to start. My daughter Jessie is one of thousands of students with allergies who will be socializing with classmates. I feel the need to explain to every parent how to be safe for my daughter and all the other allergic children.

When I found out Jessie was allergic to peanuts (which is actually not a nut - it's a legume!), all nuts and fish, my life changed. I've gone from Carefree Mom to Vigilante Mom. No place is safe. Ingestion of just a trace of any nut or fish could prove fatal for my little Jessie.

Here's an example of how scary our life has become. This summer we went to an all-inclusive family resort. Our server and chef were warned about my daughter's allergies. One night we ordered the beef. After a couple of bites I noticed little hives around Jessie's mouth, then her eyes. She starts clawing at her swelling, itchy eyes. Clearly, she's having a reaction, but to what? The chef admits there might have been traces of nuts in the sauce on the beef. Luckily, her reaction was manageable. That night, once she was safely asleep, I had a huge cry - the gravity of our delicate situation had become clearer to me.

Naturally, my family and friends are terrified of feeding my daughter something fatal. It has become my job to educate everyone in my life about what peanut/nut free REALLY means.

Here are a few tips:

Just because it isn't a "nutty" product, there could be peanuts or nuts in it!!! It's essential to check the ingredient list for a MAY CONTAIN warning. If you see the words "traces of" it means the product was made in a factory that uses nuts. If there is a trace and my daughter eats it, she will likely have a reaction. I'm not over reacting. I witnessed it that night on vacation.

Ice cream and popsicles are prime suspects. A good friend of the family who was aware of my daughter's allergies brought vanilla ice cream for dessert, thinking it was safe. What she didn't understand is that most factories use nuts in frozen products. So even plain ice cream is not guaranteed to be nut free. Check the ingredients on your ice cream packaging. You'll be surprised how difficult it is to find nut free ice cream. One of my favorite companies is Chapmans Ice Cream and Popsicles, but even they have products that aren't peanut and nut free. Make sure you check before buying!

Birthday parties are very scary. Most supermarkets do NOT make nut-free cakes. The highlight of the party is the cake, so taking my daughter to a birthday party is stressful. There are many nut-free bakeries out there. When throwing a birthday party, PLEASE keep food-sensitive kids in mind when choosing your cake and loot bag goodies!

I hope this clarifies things a bit for you. So, when you're packing school lunches or snacks for your family, think of my daughter Jessie. She might be in your son or daughter's class. I really love her and don't want anything to happen to her. I'm sure you don't either.

Here are some products I recommend!

No Nuttin' Granola Bars. They're free of 8 of the top 10 food allergens. No peanuts, no tree nuts, no dairy, no eggs, no sulfites, no trans fats, or animal by-products.

Tickle your Tummy cookies, cakes and cupcakes are as beautiful as they are scrumptious. Shortbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies, custom butter cream cakes and cupcakes are all handmade and nut free.

Boomi's Beads Severe allergy? Serious medical condition? Over 70 styles of fashionable medical bracelets, shoe tags and zipper pulls for girls, boys and adults. Fashion and function. Makes a great gift.


Erica Ehm has gone from rock'n roll to rocking the cradle. After a decade starring on MuchMusic, she had kids and is the founder of YMC.ca and the Ehm & Co, a digital agency focused on moms. Erica's two teens Josh and Jessie, and hubby Terry help her put life into perspective.