Let's play ball!

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To us, summer screams baseball. My boys love to play it and we all love to watch it. But best of all, is cheering on our favorite team in person, preferably with a hot dog in one hand and a cold soda in the other.  

The first time we took my son to a live baseball game, he was only a few months old. At a time before his food allergy diagnosis, he slept through the entire game despite the roar of the crowd. How ignorantly simple and relaxing that game seemed when we compared it to the next time we took him. At age 3, sporting his Nationals’ hat and the littlest baseball glove I’ve ever seen, we brought him back to the stadium - this time with the trained eyes of food allergy parents.  We noticed all the little things that could send us home – or worse, to the emergency room. The peanuts, of course.  But the small selection of whole foods and lack of information at the concession stands was frustrating as well. It felt impossible to feed a preschooler avoiding peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, and sesame seeds at the time. I was thankful he was so entertained by the action on the field, he forgot to ask for a snack.    

According to Reuters, roughly half the Major League Baseball teams now play host to peanut-free sections throughout their seasons. For those who are severely allergic to peanuts, the idea of sitting next to someone unshelling peanuts seems frightening. Although the risk of a reaction at an outdoor venue is very small, according to Dr. Wood (Chief of Allergy and Immunology at John’s Hopkins Hospital; see http://nyti.ms/aFiHNY), these special accommodations offer enormous peace of mind at a traditionally peanut-full sporting event.

Many teams now offer peanut-free sections, including the Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets among many, many others. And, don’t forget about the minor league teams joining the peanut-free trend! Check out all the latest peanut-free dates on your home team’s website or at peanutfreebaseball.com.

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We’ve had great luck attending baseball games. But luck isn’t everything; you’ll need to come prepared:

1.  Bring a lot of wipes. I begin by wiping down our seats and arm rests.

2.  Hot day? Bring a small, insulated lunch bag with a cold pack to keep your epinephrine at room temperature.  Since you don’t want to freeze it either, I sometimes wedge a kitchen towel in between the cold pack and autoinjectors or use a frozen bottle of water (which will warm over time) rather than a cold pack.

3.  If you’re allowed to bring one in, try to pack a modest snack in case concessions are hard to navigate. Stadiums are getting better about offering healthier choices. Read about the options available at Nationals’ stadium, for example (and they’ve only gotten better since that was written!): https://shmallergy.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/gluten-free-and-other-safe-concessions-at-nationals-park/.

4.  Remember: Hand sanitizer does NOT remove allergenic proteins. You should always wash your hands with soap and water before eating your hot pretzel or popcorn.

Don’t be held captive by your food allergy this summer.  Prepare, explore and – in this case – play ball!

Erin Malawer, Allergy Shmallergy

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