Food Allergy and Leaving Home In A Hurry: Are You Prepared?

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If you ever need to temporarily leave your home because of a natural disaster (e.g., wild fire, flood, ice storm, gas leak), will your food allergic child’s needs be met?

This question came to mind after reading the harrowing story of a family forced to evacuate their home because of a wild fire. One child in this family had a food allergy, and another asthma.

Fortunately, this household had a few days to plan and pack before needing to leave the home, but not all emergencies allow time to prepare. Here are some contingencies that every food allergic family should think about, and arrange for, before an emergency arises:

  • Prescriptions and Papers. In evacuation situations, people are encouraged to remember the 5 P’s: people, pets, photos, prescriptions, and papers.
  • With a food allergic child, you will not only want to pack the medications and auto-injectors needed to address food reactions, but also any allergy related papers such as your child’s 504 plan, their allergy testing history, the business card of your doctor, allergist, and pharmacist, and copies of letters doctors might have written on the child’s behalf.
  • Keeping important allergy papers together in one grab-and-go folder is wise idea. Parents will also thank themselves profusely for making sure their child’s auto-injectors and other medications are up-to-date and in good supply.
  • Food and Shelter. Consider what type of temporary living arrangement your family might need. Many families utilize emergency shelters, but the food provided may not be safe for your child. Maybe a relative’s house, an extended stay hotel, or a rented condo would be better options for you. Think about keeping a list of suitable places and their phone numbers in your grab-and-go folder.
  • You might also want to find out whether your insurance has “loss of use” compensation, which pays for necessities such as hotels and meals should families be unable to stay in their home.
  • If you shop for special foods or snacks for your child, or order them online, consider always keeping some extra on hand. In emergency situations you may be off-line for awhile, and the stores you usually shop at might be closed.
  • More Might Be Better. In evacuation emergencies, people are usually encouraged to pack enough clothing and supplies for 72 hours. Unfortunately, crisis situations may last more than three days, and sometimes there is no home to return to. Families that plan ahead can pack enough essential supplies for more than three days away, making a difficult and scary situation a bit easier to bear.

Besides remembering the 5 P’s, those who have been through an evacuation recommend every family prepare a written list of what to pack in an emergency. It’s tough to think clearly in a crisis, and a what-to-pack list is something we would all be thankful to have should we need it.

Source: Nicole Smith/Allergic Child Photo credit: Eric Hamiter

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