Ah, summer… 

It’s the time of year to slow down, to kick back and relax. Time for picnics and pool parties, summer camps and vacations…and a whole lot of wonderful food.

But not so fast.

When you live with a food allergy, it isn’t quite so easy to relax. Summer offers the opportunity to break away from routine and structure. But that freedom can cause headaches for families who depend on routine to manage a food allergy.

Living with a food allergy doesn’t have to mean staying home all summer, though. It is very possible to take part in all the fun of summer – including the food. All it takes is a little up-front work to ensure that your family can head out and enjoy the season safely.

Here are some of our family’s best tips for eating away from home during the summer:

Do some early reconnaissance.

Call your host or venue before the event to ask about the menu and food preparation. Knowing what’s available ahead of time can help you plan for your time away from home. Ask whatever questions you need to know so that you can enjoy your time – and your meal – without excess stress.

Do your own research.

Many large restaurant chains provide menus and nutrition/ingredient information online. For independent restaurants, call ahead and talk to a manager or the owner to find out what you need to know. Business owners want you to enjoy your time with them and are often very eager to help.

Be open about your food allergy.

Some people prefer to keep information about allergies private. But it is far safer to communicate with people around you so they can help. People are often willing to accommodate food allergies when they know your needs. Being open about allergies helps raise awareness, too. That can help someone else in the future.

Bring your own.

When you can’t be certain about the safety of the food where you’re going, pack some hearty go-to options to hold you over. There’s nothing worse than being stuck at an event with nothing to eat. Having your own stash will help ease your mind. If you feel uneasy about toting a lunch box, let your host know ahead of time. It helps avoid unnecessary hurt feelings and they may even help you find a way to store what you bring.

Know your safe brands.

Learn about the ingredients and safety of certain food brands. The more you know about popular brands, the easier it is to eat away from home. In restaurants, you can ask about brand names and know what to expect. In a pinch, you can make a quick stop in a market or convenience store and grab what you need quickly.

Inform your kids.

As much as we want to, we can’t be with our kids around the clock. They are going to find themselves in situations where they will have to make choices on their own. Teach your kids about their allergy and how to read food labels. Teach them how to speak up and advocate for themselves so they don’t have to feel afraid to ask for help. The more kids know, the more confident they can be when they fly solo. And that helps you as a parent feel comfortable, too.

Asthma and food allergies.

One more important reminder: If you or your child have asthma, it pays to be extra vigilant when communicating about and monitoring your food allergy. Asthma puts people with food allergies at greater risk for an attack. Any asthma symptom that is overlooked can potentially lead to a more severe allergic reaction as well. So it’s especially important to consider and closely monitor any asthma symptoms – even the mildest ones – in order to prevent a potentially dangerous scenario. Make sure to review your food allergy action plan and check the box to indicate if you or the child is asthmatic.

Summer is a wonderful time to explore the world, try new things, and meet new people. Living with a food allergy doesn’t have to put a damper on those experiences. With information and a plan, you can make sure your family has a safe, fun, and delicious summer.