Thursday, August 1, 2013

Back to School with Food Allergies & Intolerances ~ MUST HAVES!

August is among us, my friends. That means back to school!

Time to have the kiddos try on their sneakers and jeans, find out what still fits and what doesn't. Make sure there are no rips, holes, or stains on backpacks, coats, etc. and go buy new, if need be.

Supply lists of notebooks, pencils, scissors, markers, and crayons. Barbie folders or Hello Kitty? Tough decisions

It also means for food allergy families (or those on special diets with an intolerance, for example) refilling numerous prescriptions - like inhalers and epinephrine injectors, 504 meetings and plans, and figuring out how to clearly manage the school year as safely and educated as possible.

I'm often asked what are my favorite lunch boxes, allergy ID tags, braceletsfood allergy t'shirts, and labels for my own daughter for school. So, I decided to put together a nice post of "Must Haves", featuring just some of the items we love, that can help give you ideas for your own family as you prepare for back to school!

ETA: This post has been updated for 2016

First and foremost, the most important thing about having a child in school with food allergies is making sure you have an Emergency Action Plan in place. FARE has a great Food Allergy Action Plan offered as a free download online, available in both English and Spanish.

I redo this form each school year, with our Doctor. I make sure the main office, bus driver(s), and her teacher each have a copy, as well as, keeping one in her medicine case that carries her epinephrine injectors. (If your school also has a school nurse make sure they have a copy, as well.) The Food Allergy Action Plan should also be inclusive to your Section 504 Plan. (You can learn more about 504 Plans here.)

Now, with that said, let's talk AWARENESS GEAR:

Wristbands: We've tried a lot of medical ID and awareness bracelets. Little Miss always found them uncomfortable, I felt they were too pricey, they weren't identifiable enough, or she flat lost them. What's the point in having it if she won't wear it or I'm constantly replacing it?

Allerbling: We've had our Allerbling bracelet for a year now. We love it and still use it! The full kit comes with two bracelets (1 small, 1 large) and charms for the Top 8 Allergens. You can buy additional charms for allergies such as to strawberries, sesame seed, corn, coconut, bees, chocolate, and even a gluten free charm. I like that the bracelet stretches, so it fits nicely, and is water proof. The bracelet is also available on Amazon.

Allermates: Our newest addition is this new one, pictured above, from Allermates. It's their "I Have Allergies" wristband. You can write the allergies and emergency contact information with a ball point pen on the inside. Again, I love that it's waterproof! The bracelet snaps on the ends, allowing two different sizes.

Allermates also now sells their own Charm & Multi-Allergy Bracelet. They offer quite a bit more charms including ones for asthma, cats, dogs, pollen, penicillin, food dyes, and even ones noting that your child carries an epi-pen injector. Love that!!

My sassy little rockstar actually likes wearing them both together. She thinks it's a fashion statement, while Mama gets peace of mind knowing she's well ID'd for emergencies!

Added July 2014 --
MySquareID: Our newest medical bracelet! I have a review post that just published and offers a PROMO CODE. These are a NEW kind of medical ID that offers an online medical profile and will alert medical contacts with the scanning QR bar code. 


ID Tags: Having Medical ID tags for your kiddos backpacks, lunch bags, and sneakers (think field trips!) is essential. Since Little Miss started school full time just before turning two, I have always made and laminated my own tag for her backpack indicating her allergy, that she carries an epinephrine injector, and my contact information. 

Kid-e Tags: We love love love our Kid-e Tags. We use one on our backpack now, the keytag on our lunch bag cooler, and Little Miss sports the shoe tag on her sneakers. You could also use the keytag on a keychain, belt loop, or jacket zipper pull. Each tag features an easily identifiable medical alert sign on the front side. The backside allows you to write in your child's allergies/ medical conditions, DOB, doctor's name, and emergency contact info. Kid-e Tags was created by a Food Allergy Mom for families like hers. 


Clothing: I love having t'shirts and allergy aware clothing for Little Miss to wear on field trips (and even birthday parties). It's one more precaution to make someone stop and hopefully think before trying to hand her, or come by her, with something that may be harmful. It's also great on school assembly days or when I know she's having a substitute teacher ahead of time.

Cafe Press: Cafe Press offers a wide variety of allergy aware t'shirts, sweatshirts, buttons, etc. That's where I purchased this "No Peanuts" tee for my Little Miss. She loves the girly colors, I love that it's clear and precise about her allergy. They have other allergens and "do not feed me" t'shirts available in many designs.

Do Not Feed Me: The "Don't Feed" t'shirts are great for younger kiddos who may not be able to easily vocalize their allergies to others. They come in five different colors and allow you to check which allergens your child avoids. There are even spaces to write in your own. 

Olli Lolli: Olli Lolli Allergy Apparel offers one of the nicest varieties of allergy clothing. I love the simplicity of their awareness shirts (made from organic cotton) but completely fell in love with the company after discovering their Olli Pocket line of windbreakers, hoodies, and pants that are specifically made to carry your child's epinephrine injectors, insulin injectors, or asthma inhalers. This is a great way for your child to carry their medication with them at all times. Update: Unfortunately, they're going to be closing their business/ store *sniff sniff* so what's left on the website is what they have left to sell. No new items will be manufactured.

Medicine Cases & Bags: Depending on your child, the school, and the laws where you live, everyone will have to handle this differently. When Little Miss is off school and goes to daycare, visits family, or while with me for that matter, we carry our emergency medications in one nice case (which I'll share in just a moment). During the school year, we keep a set of her inhalers and Benadryl in the main office, but her epinephrine injectors stay with her at all times. She has always done it this way since she started school full time at two years of age. Her injectors are in the front pocket of her backpack. That way they she has them traveling to/ from school on the bus and they are close by during school hours. They also go with her on all field trips. 

Note: Photo above is from 2013 before the Auvi-Q recall. If you're still using an Auvi-Q injector, please replace it with an Epi-Pen immediately and contact Sanofi about reimbursement.
Target First Aid Bag: This First Aid Bag from Target (pictured) is only $5.99! Great deal. We love ours! It has a hard exterior, interior pockets, and a small removable zipped bag inside. The interior small bag is the perfect size for your epinephrine injectors, as pictured. The pockets are great for holding Benadryl, inhalers, and our Food Allergy Action Plan. We have a tag on the outside of ours with Little Miss' name. This would be a great case for your child to keep in the nurse's or main office to house all their emergency medical needs in one spot. 

Allermates Cases: Allermates not only makes fabulous wristbands but great cases too. They offer a few different styles and even a "grab & go" bag that can hold your injectors and/or inhalers. These cases are a great size for backpacks (or your purse). 

SafetySack: SafetySack offers a great nylon pouch that has a child resistant safety lock with closable slide zipper. The emergency action plan is visible on the outside of the bag to easily identify your child with their name and photo, their medical needs, and how to respond to an emergency situation. It's roomy enough to hold your injectors, Benadryl, and an inhaler. 

Etsy: Looking for something a little fun & different? Etsy offers some adorable handmade cases. I'm partial to the owls, myself. ;) 

Mylan EpiPen Program: If you haven't already, you can register your EpiPen Jr or EpiPen injectors and receive a complimentary carrying case in the mail (limit 2 per user).


Stickers & Labels: Why would you need stickers and labels? They become another way for your child to easily identify "safe" items - whether it be snacks or craft items for school. My daughter, for instance, does not eat anything provided by the school or other parents. I ask they tell me ahead of time when treats are coming in so I can try to pack her a "safe" comparable items (for instance, Timmy is celebrating with chocolate cupcakes - so I will pack her our own safe cupcake that day so she feels included). There are times, however, a parent surprises the teacher or the teacher forgets to tell me. So, I send in safe shelf items like EnjoyLife Foods or HomeFree Treats cookies that the teacher can give to her in those circumstances. I mark them as Little Miss safe foods, so she and her teacher knows. The labels and stickers are also great for children who have anxiety issues eating or taking food without their parent there beside them. If they begin to know and recognize their safe indicator at home with you, they will also know that a snack is safe you sent in at school time.

Etsy: Etsy is a great resource for finding custom stickers used for clearly identifying safe and not-safe items. Marking your child's treats or snacks with a "safe sticker" indicating their name and allergens is a great way to let them and their teachers know that this item is OK! 

Mabels Labels: Mabels Labels offers great Allergy Alert Labels that are waterproof and durable. They're dishwasher and microwave safe, and also UV resistant. They're customizable with your text and choice of icon picture. These are great for sticking on lunch containers, water bottles, etc. 

Allergy Free Zone: What I love about Allergy Free Zone is their offering of not only stickers, but Allergy Alert Tattoos as well! Great for school, field trips, or parties. Like the tattoos, their stickers feature a general "Allergy Alert" or "Peanut Free" choice. 

Gluten Free Labels: If you have a child with a gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease, Gluten Free Labels is a great resource. They offer great and easily identifiable toothpick flags, labels, and tags. The silicone tags are made to withstand the oven, dishwasher, and microwave use.  

Now, my personal favorite, LUNCH GEAR:

Bento Boxes: Besides being a waste-free and eco-friendly approach to lunch packing, packing lunches in bento boxes is another great way to help protect your child. Picture this: Your kiddo is at the lunch table. Although they may sit in a designated "safe" area, how clean is that table - really? By packing their lunch inside a bento box, they can open the lid and eat right from inside the box. Their food never has to touch the table! When you pack with baggies, you risk them dumping the contents to fish what's inside or having to sit their sandwich on top of the small baggy, that has already touched the table. It's just another nice precaution to keep their foods tidy and in one "safe" container. There are tons of great boxes on the market, so find the one that best suits your needs. Listed below are just a few of our favorites.

EasyLunchboxes: If you frequent, or simply take a quick scroll through, it's pretty apparent the lunch box we primarily use are our EasyLunchboxes. Beside the value (they come 4/pack and ship for free from Amazon), they are durable, microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe. They're also BPA Free and offer fun choices of lid colors (4 each in the classic or brights sets). I love the compartments, as they house all our fruits, veggies, and allergy free foods neatly. The lidded Mini Dippers that fit inside are great for dips and sauces. What some people may not know is you can actually write on the lids with a dry erase marker. Something we've done in the past for fun. It washes off and can be a great way to add extra markings or indicators for "safe" foods for your child. You can also just simply write a sweet love note or draw a funny picture, as well. 

Planetbox: We have also been using and loving our new Planetbox Shuttle. Planetbox offers a line of three lunch boxes (Launch, Rover, & Shuttle) in three different sizes. What you may not know is each size is available with DIY Magnets. You can purchase them with your lunch box or later as an added accessory. Another great way to write your child's info and allergens. Planetboxes are great because it offers compartmentalized dining, in one piece - so you never have to worry about your kiddo coming home without a lid to their bento box since it's attached. 

Lunch Bags: The lunch bag can be of just as much importance as the lunch box. Remember, you can jazz up any off the shelf bag up by using the tags and labels I've listed above so that they're easily identifiable and marked clearly with your child's allergens/ medical needs. 

Allermates: Our newest lunch bag addition! And I love it! Little Miss is excited to use it for school this coming year. She loves that it's her two favorite colors, pink & purple. I love that it clearly states "I Have Food Allergies", while still maintaining a fun "kid look". Don't worry if you child isn't a fan of pink & purple, they have other great colors and even matching snack bags! Each lunch bag also features a fun allergy info card on a side pocket on the bag where you can write your child's info and indicate their allergens. The lunch bags are 7.5x10x3", so guess what that means? YES! They fit an EasyLunchboxes container. WOO! 

Yubo: Although we don't use our Yubo lunch box system as often, there are a lot of great advantages to the box itself. One being their customizable & changeable faceplates they offer. What I did, shortly after getting ours, was create a custom photo plate. Here I was able to add a photo of Little Miss and indicate her allergens by creating my own "allergy friendly" plate. 

Flatbox by Solvetta: I first learned about these lunch bags from another food allergy mom. The flaps of the sack zip down so it can be used as a placemat. The entire sack itself actually folds flat for easy storage too. She loved the idea of her daughter eating her allergy safe lunches on a self-contained placemat. That way her lunch box never touches the table and should she drop some food, it won't risk being cross contaminated. We just recently got one of our own and Little Miss has been loving it so far! 


Other Helpful Items: We all know ways that we can make our own lives easier and items that help make our kiddos feel loved are important too. That's why I've gathered added a few items here at the end to help!

Water Bottles: Why is a good water bottle important for food allergy kids? Well, not only is it great to pack ice cold water for their lunches because it acts as an ice pack for the entire box, but it's also healthy! *Just say no to sugar junk drinks!* Okay, okay, off my soap box... really, depending on your child's allergens, do you want to risk them putting their hands and mouth all over the water fountain? No. Didn't think so. At my daughter's school, she is in a nut free classroom... however, the entire school is not free from. So that means the hallway water fountain is not only a germ fest but also a possible nut fest! Kids from other classes who may eat PB for lunch, then put their sticky fingers all over the buttons, and let's face it, kids have a gross tendency to stick their mouths right up on the fountain when drinking. Eww? Yes, but it happens. And I do not want my daughter's mouth anywhere near that. If she drinks what all I pack her in her Camelbak Water Bottle, she can easily refill in their classroom sink, but usually one bottle for the day suits her just fine. She now has two Camelbak Kids Bottles (and I have an adult one for me) that we use daily - yes, even on weekends. They don't leak, they're easy to open, and she loves the fun designs for kids. They're sold on Amazon, Target, & other select retailers. 

MOMables: I use to be a recipe contributor on the MOMables blog - you can still find many of my yummy gluten free & allergy friendly recipes there. Chief MOM, Laura, is now the author of three amazing cookbooks centered around healthy eating, kids, and making lunch time a breeze. Find her books on Amazon.

Lunchbox Love: Lunchbox Love Notes may be the cutest invention. Ever. No matter what you pack (artsy, simple, over the top, or plain) you can be sure to let your kiddo know that they are loved and special when they find these cute notes tucked inside their lunch bag. They're actually adorable for adults too! Each card has a fun trivia or a joke on one side, along with an inspiring message on the other. I love to use the fun trivia as a theme inspiration for Little Miss' lunches, like this elephant themed lunch box, pictured above. You can also save 15% with promo code: LBLKMGB

For even more product ideas and items you can buy for lunch packing, check out our Lunchbox Goodies page!

What's on YOUR list of "Must Haves"? 
What have you already bought or would recommend to other families? 
Please share in the comments below!

I received samples of some of these products for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links. All opinions expressed are my own and based upon our experiences and liking. Read our full Disclosure Statement here


  1. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this. I am sending my PA/TN son to preschool for the first time this year. As the date approaches I am becoming more and more of a basket case. This is just what I needed.

    1. Oh thank you! That's exactly why I took the time to put it together - I so wish when my own daughter started schooling I had a nice "one spot" resource of things I didn't think of and where to find them. So it was really a labor of love having been there myself! AND I am still learning and finding more things out every day! BEST OF LUCK to you and your kiddo!! I hope some of these resources can help ease your mind!

  2. WOW, awesome, thank you!

  3. AMAZING post! We are sending our Little B to play school this fall and I will be using SOOO many of your ideas here. Thanks so much! Honored you listed me in the post!

  4. Wow - that's quite a list, and quite a post! Well done and a great big round of thank you's from custom eater moms and dads sleeping more soundly everywhere!!

  5. Thank you so much for such a great comprehensive list. We do a lot of the same things too. The only two things I would add is 1) thermos water bottles keep drinks super cold and the straw is covered. And 2) it is nice to have a cupcake keeper when sending a cupcake to school. It keeps the cupcake from getting smooshed and separate from the others and easily recognizable. Just my 2 cents. Awesome job!


    1. Great mention on the thermos bottle~ They are a great option, my little miss just doesn't like drinking for metal bottles (they leave a funny taste to her).

      Cupcake keeper! Yes, great add!! We have one and you're ABSOLUTELY spot on, it's perfect for sending an individual safe treat.

      Thanks Mia!!

  6. I have recently discovered that a gluten free diet immensely helps with my fibromyalgia so my kids are standing with me on this in an attempt to eat better (God love 'em!). I've been researching up a storm for fun, healthy, bento-style lunches to pack for them this next school's a struggle because one is going into 2nd grade and one is going into 3rd and sometimes the ideas that I come up with are too "babyish" lol I LOVE your blog and thank you so much for taking the time to do all of this so people like me don't have to look upon this severe diet change as a burden! FYI on the lunch love notes...I quickly went through all of the different kinds that they offer so I made my own trivia cards. Kind of a pain in the butt to make but the kids absolutely LOVE them! White card stock cut into a smaller size (I do about 100 cards at a time and leave them to dry overnight on the floor in my bedroom). Then at the top write (or type) out your trivia question (I googled grade appropriate trivia and you'd be surprised how much you can find!). Then at the bottom write out the answer. Put a clear piece of tape over only the answer part on each card (I use regular packing tape). And then over the clear tape use a scratch off paint (mix regular craft store paint with a few drops of dawn dish liquid). Sometimes it takes a couple of days to dry as you may have to do more than one coat. I always have a plastic spoon or fork in the girls' lunches and they read the question, try to answer, then use the opposite end of the utensil to scratch off the answer. My girls say the kids that sit around them love it too because they all try to answer the question and see who gets it right lol Again, thank you so much for all of the great tips!!

  7. Wow!!!!!!! This post is a total life saver!!! Myself and my 6 yr old were just diagnosed with celiac...and lots of food allergies. My older son was just diagnosed with 6 of the top food allergies!! I have suffered my whole life undiagnosed, I'm so happy my sons were diagnosed young. Being new to the allergy world, this really opened my eyes to ways I can help them with their lunches at school and at other people's houses. I definitely have more peace of mind after ordering some of the products!!

  8. Thanks so much for posting! My son is staring preschool next week and today, I started to feel so anxious about his nut allergy!

  9. What a wonderful resource list! Thank you for linking it to the Back to School Traditions link up. I have shared this post on Google+.

  10. Thank you so much for this post! My son has multiple food allergies and will be starting Pre-K 4 on Monday. This is the first year he will be in school, so I have been very anxious! I didn't know all these things existed and because of you, now feel very prepared for the school year. I had a question though & would GREATLY appreciate your advice - My son's classroom has 1 snack bag & kids take turns bringing in a snack each day. My son will not be participating & I will pack his snack each day. The teacher explained this to the parents at open house last night & also stated that we would have a nut-free classroom. (We kept the other 5 less severe allergens and the severe fish allergy out of the equation). I had a parent challenge me last night in front of the other parents & was insistent on bringing food in for my son. I think she was trying to be nice at first, but when I stated my case, she came back a 2nd time, arguing with me about it. How much information do you share with the class? Thank you for your help!!!

  11. Thank you so much! I came across your post on Freedible and just shared on my page. I will pass on your post to all of my food allergy mom friends!
    Jess (The Patient Celiac)

  12. Thank you so much! I came across your post on Freedible and just shared on my page. I will pass on your post to all of my food allergy mom friends!
    Jess (The Patient Celiac)

  13. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to put this together. This was truly a godsend and saved me hours of research on my own. From one food allergy momma to another, MANY THANKS!!!

  14. Thanks for you post! I thought that this was a very helpful post. My daughters are allergic to nuts :( I am sending my elder girl for attending school this year and really looking forward to it. I hope all goes well.

  15. Hi Keeley! Thank you very much for including the Best EpiPen Belts I sell on on your list (it just came to my attention). I appreciate your recommendation very much! I love your desire to put the resources together in one spot. That was my thinking when I named my company. All the best ~ Elizabeth

  16. Awe! I have been sharing this blog post and didn't even notice that you had included a link to my owl cases! Thank you so much! Love your blog!! It is a life saver for this very uncreative in the kitchen momma!


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