Packing For The Pool -- Food Allergy Style!


Summer has arrived and I couldn’t be more excited!  I have fond memories of summertime as a child.  Most of my days were spent at the community pool with my mom and brothers.   We’d arrive mid-morning and stay until three in the afternoon, only leaving enough time for my mom to ensure dinner was on the table when my dad arrived home from work. 

Now that I’m a mom, I realize that spending each day at the pool was the PERFECT play-date.  Each of us had countless friends to play with, my mom had other “mom friends” to chat with, we weren’t playing at home so there was never a mess to clean up, the sun and swimming alone wore each of us out so bedtime was never an issue, and mom always came prepared with a packed lunch, generally consisting of temperature-resistant peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  If you ask me, it’s a win-win-win-win-WIN! 

Unless your child has food allergies.  A food allergy diagnosis changes everything and makes simple activities like spending the day at the community pool a bit more complicated.  However, despite the challenges I’ve found that it can be done with a little extra preparation and a slightly larger – no, more like GIGANTIC – pool bag.

Not sure what to pack when heading to the pool? Below is a list of my top three items that are ALWAYS in my pool bag.

  1. Epinephrine Auto-Injectors, Antihistamine, and Asthma Medications:  I never leave the house without our allergy and asthma meds.  So, of course, the pool isn’t any different.  However, it’s a bit more tricky with the heat because the epinephrine cannot be left in extreme hot or cold temperatures and must be protected from light.  So how does that work at the pool??  The solution that I’ve found has been a product called a Kool Blanket.  The Kool Blanket is made up of individual water-filled cells and has a cooling effect when wrapped around the epinephrine auto-injectors.  I have two little men, each with food allergies, so I carry four epinephrine auto-injectors with me at all times.  I have four Kool Blankets.  I use two at a time and store the additional two in our cooler for days when we are at the pool or out in the heat for an extended period of time so I can switch out the Kool Blankets to ensure that our epinephrine doesn’t go bad in the heat.  It’s not a 100% fail-proof plan, but it’s worked for us.
  2. Sunscreen:  Sunscreen is tricky.  I’ll never forget the summer following my little man’s peanut, soy, and tree nut allergy diagnosis because it was the first time that I had ever read the ingredient label on a sunscreen bottle.  I was so discouraged.  Every item on the shelf contained tree nut oils, soy protein, and many even included hidden peanut oil (arachis oil).  That explained some of the mystery hives that appeared and the never-ending summer battle with extreme eczema.   I finally found some “safe” sunscreens online.  My go-to brands are Badger, Blue Lizard, and California Baby (which can now be found on store shelves). 
  3. Safe Snacks:  Over the years I’ve learned that it’s best to take “safe” snacks everywhere I go.  You never want to be stuck somewhere with a hungry child.  Am I right, or am I right?!?!?  The pool was no different.  I carry with me a small cooler filled with bottled waters, Enjoy Life Decadent Bars, Skinny Pop Popcorn, individual SunButter packets, and fresh fruit and veggies.  If we are staying for the entire day, then I also toss in some SunButter and jelly sandwiches. 

Of course, a pool bag wouldn’t be complete without towels, goggles, pool toys, a big floppy hat, and some good reading material for mom.  I love my Living Without and Allergic Living magazines because they help me stay up-to-date on the latest happenings in the food allergy world and are chock full of new, “safe” recipes to try. 

 What do you carry in your pool bag?  Have you found a “safe” sunscreen?  What about snacks – what do you pack to munch on at the pool?

Lauren Kossack, Our Life as an Epi-Family