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By: Holly Marie | AFAA Editorial Contributor
Our time at Disneyland has proven to be one of the safest we've ever encountered. I count myself lucky that we are able to give him that experience as a child and that he can just truly be. Be a kid. See the magic that the world possesses.
Our mission as parents of a food allergy child is making sure he is in the safest and healthiest environment possible.

Our son is deathly allergic to Gluten, Arrowroot, Peanuts, and Tree-nuts. He immediately throws up upon ingesting eggs, apples, and beef. Other allergies that cause digestive distress include: shellfish and pork.
Disneyland with Food Allergies

Our time at Disneyland has proven to be one of the safest we've ever encountered. I count myself lucky that we are able to give him that experience as a child and that he can just truly be. Be a kid. See the magic that the world possesses. I can count the restaurants on ONE finger that we can go to in our city. And I know many of my fellow food-allergy parents know which one I am talking about- two thumbs up that they are now GMO free! At Disneyland there were multiple options for us to eat at as a family and until you live with food allergies you just don't know how special that really is.

MEALS

ADR (Advance Dinner Reservation) – cuts wait times down to 5 minutes(or no wait-can I get a high-five?) instead of the typical 40-50 minutes and get in to the Disneyland Park BEFORE it actually opens for the public. Rockstar Status. Can also get Character Meets done as well. We ate at the Plaza Inn(in Disneyland) and were able to take pictures with characters who came around to our individual tables. We ALWAYS bring a ton of dry cereal, baby food pouches, camelback water bottles(easy to refill), and rice-krispy treats. For dinner our MUST for every visit is Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue. Delicious, finger-licking good time. Drinks flowing(hello Diet Coke) in large mason jars, a live band(great for kids to watch), and all you can eat BBQ, corn, beans, and cornbread. Plus being tucked away from the crowds of the parades(during dinner time) is most pleasant-surrounded by cool pine trees.

FOOD ALLERGIES

Plus- if you have food allergies and you book two weeks in advance they are more than willing to accommodate you and will work to make sure your meals are safe and MAGICAL. They will order food YOU CAN EAT and ensure that your time is both safe and enjoyable.

Each time we have had the Head Chef of both restaurants come out and welcome us, letting us know that they are making our meal. Not having to worry about life-threatening food allergies? Now THAT is another reason that Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth.

You can also ask many of the fast service food stops if they are allergy-friendly. We always stop and watch the Star Wars Jedi Training and last year they did not have any safe options for us to grab(which is why I always bring more than enough food with us) BUT this year they had their own menu options for food allergies and the Head Chef cooked my son his food.

Or – save time and money and bring your own food. You can eat snacks while waiting to board rides; just be ready to store those snacks. See Fanny Pack.

RIDES

Road Map to Rides – Check height restrictions, make a list of which rides are a must. We bring wipes to quickly wipe down each the surface area-so simple I can do it in my sleep. My husband made a spreadsheet. Don’t forget about Baby Swap(Rider Exchange)! Hello secret path through Indiana Jones! Know which ones are Fast Pass and USE THEM. A lot of the kids rides have a large line and no fast pass… know which ones are height and AGE friendly for your family before waiting. Little known secret for tiny tots? The ride hidden behind the Splash Mountain Exit NEVER has a wait and is baby and toddler friendly. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. LOVED being able to ride that a couple times with two EXTREMELY happy little ones.
FANNY PACK

I’ve worn one in each adult trip I’ve taken. At first I’ve had a few snickers and a couple call outs BUT when they are asked to store their backpack in lockers after they’ve waited an eternity to get on a ride? Payback? Knowledge is power. You can ride EVERY SINGLE RIDE at Disneyland while wearing a fanny pack. The same sadly can not be said for the much cooler looking cousin, the back pack.

Snacks, Epi-Pens(crucial for us), Cell Phone, Keys, Tickets. BOOM. Always with you. Please remember to bring a ziplock bag to store your cell phone in and Epi-Pens(in the fanny pack) because you can AND WILL get wet on Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain(does that really need to be written?) and by a wayward toddler trying to “help” you with your water. Inevitable.

Babywearing & Strollers

Last year I forgot my precious LILLEbaby in the car(and it is a TREK to go back to the car) and goodness my back paid the price. Babywear for the WIN!

Strollers are necessary for babies or toddlers. Our baby and two year old took multiple naps throughout the day on our first trip to Disneyland. Plus we just “parked” our stroller outside each ride with about fifty of it’s stroller friends and never had a problem.

You can rent strollers but it is far easier for us to bring our own with allergies AND save some money while we are at it.

This past year we only used our stroller to get to the park and to get across large distances. But our soon to be two and three year old went all day without napping in the stroller so we parked it at the Haunted Mansion for 8+ hours. My little girl DID sleep in the LILLEbaby for two hours and we rode the train around the park and watched my husband and three year old go on a couple of rides.

FREE SOUVENIRS

Free Souvenirs – Get the Buttons – First Disney Trip, Birthday, Honorary Citizen of Disneyland, Family Reunion, Happy Anniversary, Just Engaged, Just Graduated, Just Married….there are even more from City Hall and any of the shops on Main Street. Ask a cashier.

Also get a Jungle Safari Map – just ask one of the tour guides. Speaking of Jungle Cruise. It is the FIRST ride we go on. Everyone in the park makes a BEELINE for Indiana Jones and we just grab our fast pass for Indiana(or rider swap-MUCH faster) and then get onto a boat for a hilarious ride around. Every single trip at Jungle Safari brings different jokes. Last year while holding the baby on my lap I forgot about a certain part that JUMPS out at you and nearly lost my marbles. Lucky that Emma Marie thought it was hilarious. Message me if that information is need to know.

CALL

Call Disney – Extremely friendly, knowledgeable staff and will answer any question! (714)781-4636.

Do you have any Disneyland Tips for our fellow food-allergy parents?

Please comment below and SHARE!




More Disneyland Information:

A Day at Disneyland: Tips & Tricks

Disneyland Trip: Toddler & Preschooler FAVORITES

Author:

Holly Marie is a mom to a toddler and preschooler, former teacher and high school coach. She shares the best parenting advice she can find. She continues to work hard at keeping a happy, healthy home. Come join the adventure in parenthood! www.ascuteasabugsear.com

Let me know if you have any questions-

Feel free to send an email to Holly Marie- AsCuteAsABugsEarBlog@gmail.com.

Twitter: AsCuteAsBugsEar

Facebook: As Cute as a Bug's Ear

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By: Amy Martin | AFAA Editorial Contributor
My son's confidence soared during the process as the reality hit that something he touched or ate could no longer kill him.
"Mommy, I can eat ANYTHING here. ANYTHING!"  My six year old's eyes were wide with the realization that the grocery store, which had previously seemed so small because of restrictions due to a peanut allergy, was now huge with possibility. 24 hours earlier he had eaten the equivalent of 24 peanuts in his allergist's office after nearly 6 months of increasing doses of peanut protein and eventually peanuts themselves. Now he was free to eat anything at all in addition to his daily peanut maintenance dose of 8 peanuts. After much taste testing, chocolate ice cream with peanut butter swirls and Reese's cups became his favorite.

He struggled a bit at the beginning. Those first four months seemed to drag and I wanted to keep him in a bubble because each illness would force us to slow down and wait a day or two to increase his dose. Once he hit his first peanut though, I fell like we were suddenly on a freight train to our destination: freedom. One peanut was revolutionary, 3 peanuts meant we could try peanut M&M's, 4 peanuts we dosed with chocolate flavored peanut butter and at 5 peanuts he switched to regular peanut butter. 

My son's confidence soared during the process as the reality hit that something he touched or ate could no longer kill him. The change was huge and noticed by all. Our doctor even told me that we were going home with a different child than we came to Utah with and it is so true, in all the best of ways. I reflect back and realize my initial statements that this 6 months in another state would be but a blip in time by comparison to a lifetime of freedom, was true. We are one month post graduation and I can hardly realize how quickly it all passed. We are already back in Arizona and my son back in school. He continues to dose twice a day with a two hour rest period and if he were to eat an abundance of extra peanut during the day, he would also observe a rest period, but he still doesn't love the taste enough to taste more than an extra bite or two. In two more months, we will reduce to dosing once a day.

Every bit of stress in the beginning of our OIT journey was completely worth it for us. I would not hesitate again to choose the same path, the same doctor and the same timing. For our family, we did the absolute best thing. My son is seven years old and in a few years, or even months, will completely forget how sad and scared he had been when he suffered reaction after reaction before we chose to try OIT. All we ever aspired to was safety and normalcy for him and we have more than succeeded. 

Amy Martin is a guest blogger and volunteer for AFAA. She maintains her own blog detailing her family's journey navigating the waters of food allergies and OIT. You can read more at www.barefootinpearls.blogspot.com.

 
 
By: Amy Martin | AFAA Editorial Contributor
He has eaten his first peanut ... and his second and third, and well, today, he ate 4 peanuts.
"Not good." My son said, with a twisted face. After months of steady and incredibly slow increases, sometimes bumpy days and watchful nights…he finally reached the threshold to increase to his very first peanut. 

We did it. 

{I don't feel one bit badly about saying “we” because this is truly a family effort, even though my son has to be the one to ingest his poison, he couldn’t do it without us behind him every step of the way.

He has eaten his first peanut…and his second and third, and well, today, he ate 4 peanuts. Twice. Once in the morning and again tonight. Do you know what happened after he ate it? Nothing. 

I have cried every single time I have watched another OIT patient eat their first peanut; yet, on his day, I was all adrenaline, ready to pounce if need be, watching my contact-allergic child shove an entire peanut in his mouth. Everyone smiled and took pictures. As he announced his displeasure at the texture, everyone laughed and then….nothing. He was fine. All our work was paying off and I just witnessed it in all it’s glory.

Every day before had gotten him closer to where he needed to be, but now it is more outwardly meaningful. I am handing him whole peanuts to eat. No more liquid or powder, I know exactly what I am feeding him. At three peanuts, he was able to dose with Peanut M&M’s along with a good friend he has met through our weekly doctor’s appointments. The boys were so excited to buy red and green Christmas M&M’s. This week, when he increased to 4 peanuts, we decided to try flavored peanut butter. Next week, we will switch to plain peanut butter. 

Walls that once barricaded him and us from a normal life have begun to crumble. Today, he sat right next to his lifelong friend, who happens to live here in Utah, as the friend ate a PB&J sandwich. I ordered a grilled cheese for my son, despite the fact that there was peanut butter on the menu and teenage boys behind the counter who may not be as vigilant about cross contamination as I would like. We went to the grocery store and he got to pick out something as a snack that said “may contain” or “processed in a facility with peanuts.” So many new experiences!

When we began, his doctor promised us this life; a life that allows us even more freedom as we get closer to graduation. We put our faith in this doctor and this program and I can clearly say: it works. I have no doubt that even if some time in the next eight weeks we falter, we will not fail. I have said on the good days and the bad, before we even moved here and now, I will never regret making this choice for my son and our family.

 
 
By: Amy Martin | AFAA Editorial Contributor
I saw exactly how minute an amount of peanut could cause a reaction and because of OIT, I saw his body now accept it.
“I’m FINE!” my son said as I asked him for the 100th time if he felt ok. We were nearing the end of OIT Day 1. It was our long appointment, nearly 8 hours of increasing his dose of peanut protein every 15 minutes until he reached our goal of 2.5 mg or he reacted…whichever came first.  We would then be sent home with half of our final dose to give him ourselves, twice a day for the next six days. On the seventh day, we return to the allergist’s office to double his dose. In the absence of a reaction, we will continue to increase his dose weekly until he is eating 12 peanuts, twice a day and “graduate” after he eats 24 peanuts in a single sitting with no reaction.   

Our Day 1 visit was perfect. He reached his goal. Not only was it the first day of his journey to a safe life, but he was able to sit and play Minecraft all day, uninterrupted, with the except of the nurse squirting peanut-protein-laced Kool-Aid down his throat. His weekly, hour-long appointments never measure up to that first day in his six-year-old eyes.  

One evening, the week he was consuming around 1/200th of a peanut, he sprung a single hive and began clearing his throat a lot and had extra saliva in his mouth. I let his doctor know right away. We kept in close communication as the symptoms subsided within twenty minutes without treatment. The next day, he had no reaction at all. I had just witnessed his body adjust and overcome the poison being slowly introduced into his body! I shudder to think what would have happened if he were accidentally exposed to an entire peanut.  

Strangely, I am thankful for this very minor reaction. It wasn’t especially scary, but that is because he is given controlled doses that would be immediately reduced if he did begin having reactions. This was a small reminder that my son is crazy allergic to peanuts and that we are absolutely doing the best thing to protect him. Accidents happen. Cross contamination is real. I saw exactly how minute an amount of peanut could cause a reaction and because of OIT, I saw his body now accept it.  

Every day, every week, he is safer. My son, who has been afraid to touch playground equipment out of fear that there is peanut butter residue on it, willingly consumes micro doses of peanut protein every single day. He is dreaming of his OIT graduation and of all the peanut-containing foods he will no longer have to avoid. His body and his mind grow stronger with each dose. I’m constantly in awe of these brave kids. They are small warriors, who know far too much about life and death for their age, on a crusade for their freedom. 
Amy Martin is a guest blogger and volunteer for AFAA. She maintains her own blog detailing her family's journey navigating the waters of food allergies and OIT. You can read more at www.barefootinpearls.blogspot.com.
 
 
By: Amy Martin | AFAA Editorial Contributor
 "Adventure" became the word we used over and over to make it all seem less scary. Mostly for me. The kids were handling it better than the adults.
"We're off!" I told the kids as we pulled out of the driveway, a small trailer packed with all our necessities for the next six months in tow. “Everything is Awesome!” blasted through my speakers. I had been easily convinced by a fellow allergy mom in one of the OIT Facebook groups that if there were ever a time to move to Utah for treatments, it was now. My husband and I discussed it and agreed all the pieces were in place.  We were already selling our house to move closer into town, but had not yet bought another and my son was still young, just about to enter the first grade. He was totally on board for treatments and I knew as he got older it would be harder to convince him to both eat peanuts and to leave his friends.  

All the arrangements had been made and an apartment was waiting for us in Utah as well as our first appointment with Dr. Jones. I planned to homeschool while there so as not to endure the sicknesses involved with starting a new school. Excessive illnesses would prevent us from maintaining regular updoses. My husband would come visit as often as possible, but someone needed to stay home and keep our business going. "Adventure" became the word we used over and over to make it all seem less scary. Mostly for me. The kids were handling it better than the adults.  

Our appointments would be weekly, only to increase his peanut dose. First, he would be getting minuscule amounts of peanut protein in a liquid solution, then move on to peanut flour and eventually, actual peanuts. I would be administering the doses to him morning and evening.  There were rules to follow about proper rest afterward, when to go to sleep, making sure he had food in his stomach and not spacing the doses too far apart or too close together.  I knew these rules coupled with being a temporary single parent with two kids and a dog in a one-bedroom apartment would be a lot.

I also knew if we stayed in Arizona it could be years before a doctor there would offer OIT. I would spend all that time worried about accidental peanut exposures. We would be too stressed about a mid-air reaction to fly and visit family on the east coast. We would not be attending any baseball games. More than anything, I wanted to relieve the stress and worry of touching something with peanut protein on it for my six year old. I never wanted to hear, "Am I going to die?" from him again because he was reacting.

To us, this six months would be but a blip in the grand scheme of things, yet change our entire lives forever. 

 
 
By: Amy Martin | AFAA Editorial Contributor
On Facebook I found OIT and peanut allergy groups.  I read the good stories and the bad. I looked at pictures of children who had previously been admitted to the hospital due to accidental peanut exposure, happily pop a peanut m&m in their mouth. I saw kids with life threatening dairy allergies eat pizza and ice cream. Every photo made me cry. I could see the potential. I felt hope for the first time in a long time. 
“No! I don’t want to do it! Please don’t make me eat a peanut!” shouted my teary-eyed six-year-old son. I had not even gone into detail about what OIT entailed, but he gathered enough information to draw his own conclusions from what little I had explained.   

Since his anaphylactic reaction from a restaurant sandwich, I had been researching treatment options non-stop for my son’s peanut allergy. Of the few therapies available, this one fit our family the best. Oral immunotherapy (OIT) is the introduction of minuscule amounts of an allergen into the patient’s system, through ingestion, building up tolerance over time. There have been several studies and trials involving OIT over the years, but I wanted a private practice doctor. They seemed to customize the program to the child and go a little slower, thereby minimizing allergic reactions.    

On Facebook I found OIT and peanut allergy groups.  I read the good stories and the bad. I looked at pictures of children who had previously been admitted to the hospital due to accidental peanut exposure, happily pop a peanut m&m in their mouth. I saw kids with life threatening dairy allergies eat pizza and ice cream. Every photo made me cry. I could see the potential. I felt hope for the first time in a long time.   

First, I needed my son’s participation. Then, we had to work out the logistics since there are no board certified allergists offering this treatment in the state of Arizona. We knew we would need to fly for appointments or temporarily move, neither of which was ideal. One of the closest allergists was in Utah, Dr. Jones of Rocky Mountain Allergy.  He regularly commented in the OIT Facebook group and seemed to have a lot of patients in the group having great successes with treatment. He was also compassionate to what we as parents of kids with food allergies go through on a daily basis. I could tell he was someone we could trust with such an important job.   

I went to the Facebook group for advice about getting my son on board with treatment. I can only imagine how hard it is for these kids to purposefully eat their food allergen after avoiding it for so long. It is their poison. One mom of a patient who recently graduated from the program posted a video of her daughter completing her final challenge, eating 24 peanuts at once, after months and months of slow and steady up-dosing, and then launching into a victory dance. I played the video for my son who watched intently and in silence. He must have hit replay a half dozen times. Finally, he looked up at me and said, “I want to do this.”  From that point forward, it was on me to figure out how to make it work because he was more than on board, he was dead set on this. He was ready to stop being scared. He was ready to eat peanuts.
 
 
By: Amy Martin | AFAA Editorial Contributor
That day was the catalyst for all the days and mostly nights of research I would do, searching for an answer.
            I must have eaten too much, my stomach hurts, he said. My eyes darted to his plate and instantly I felt sick, too. His fruit was untouched. All that had been eaten was a couple bites of his sandwich.  Our instructions were clear and the same as always, One grilled cheese, cut in half with a side of fruit. He has a severe peanut allergy.  Same as always, we were assured it would be fine.  Clearly, it was not.  I gave my husband the look, then took my son to the hand washing station outside where we washed his face, hands and tongue as well as we could. 

            I made a quick stop at the kitchen to inform them we were having a reaction and they assured me it was impossible as they took proper precautions. I sat down to the table and realized the look meant eat all my fries in my absence to my husband.  Annoyed but preoccupied, I noted that my sons mouth had begun to bleed. It was swelling on the inside. A manager came by to again tell me they prepared his food safely (a conversation with her later revealed there were not peanuts near his food, only peanut butter. PEANUT BUTTER!!!) and to get my contact info for follow up later. 

            Our friends at dinner with us pointed out the hives popping up on my sons mouth. I told my husband that maybe I should inject him with his Epipen, which we keep with us at all times. We hesitated. (Not a mistake I would make again) Instead, we ran out the door and drove across the street to urgent care where they administered my sons first life-saving dose of epinephrine.

            As I contemplated if it was legal to wrap him in bubble wrap and lock him in his room rather than send him to kindergarten, as he was supposed to begin the following week, I decided that I could never trust anyone to prepare his food safely and therefore, avoidance was no longer the only viable option for us.

            As awful as that day was for us, as much as I loathe that restaurant and their carelessness that could have cost me my five-year-olds life, that day had to happen.  That day was the catalyst for all the days and mostly nights of research I would do, searching for an answer. I could not play defense anymore. It wasnt working. In order to stop living in fear of the next time, we needed to meet this food allergy head on.

 
 
By: Holly Nace | AFAA Editorial Contributor
I was a young mother, with an incredibly sick child who was not being listened to.
I should have listened.

I knew there was something wrong with my young son.  Appointment after appointment I allowed myself to be quieted by a doctor that was sure I was over-reacting.

What should have been my breaking point was when we rushed to the Emergency Room with our little boy, who was in anaphylaxis shock. Only to return to our Pediatrician, one that we had researched, believed in and trusted with our little one's life, to be shushed again.  It was a freak incident.  "Don't let him have that food." He said.  I felt defeated.

I begged for a prescription for an Epi-Pen.  He said that my son was not big enough for one. My son was over 28 lbs and I was refused a life-saving measure that I felt we desperately needed.  I told them how the E.R. Doctor's said we had just made it in time. WE HAD JUST MADE IT IN TIME. My Pediatrician didn't bat an eye.

All of the memories, the helplessness, and the terror come back to me.  With what I know now, I am ashamed that I did not act sooner.

My young son looked like he was sick on more days than he looked healthy. I asked our Pediatrician if we should be wary of any other trigger foods.  I was extremely hesitant to try peanut butter. I even told our Pediatrician that if and when I had my little boy try peanut butter that we would be in the parking lot of Phoenix Children's Hospital. He laughed at me.  He laughed at me in that small room as I clutched onto my little man.

I was done. I was done being talked down to.  Being talked at, instead of listened to.  I was a young mother, with an incredibly sick child who was not being listened to.

The first visit with our new Pediatrician was for my brand-new baby girl's well visit.  My son was not even present and I told her just a snippet of our history with his illnesses. She immediately gave me an order for allergy testing and a prescription for an Epi-Pen.  I bawled into my new little girl's receiving blanket.  I was just so thankful that she listened, she cared. She assured me that we would figure out what was wrong with him, no matter what. 

I should have listened to the self-doubt, that there was something wrong with my child.  My intuition told me there was an answer.  I let a medical professional make me believe that I didn't know what was best for my child.  That I was overreacting.  I am my child's advocate, their champion, and mother.

My little man is allergic to over twenty-five different foods.  The majority of which were staples in his diet. He is indeed highly-allergic to peanut butter and I am thankful that I at least listened to the tiny voice that said we don't need to try that food.  I did listen.

 
 
By: Sarah Plato, Community Outreach & Development Coordinator | North Scottsdale | AFAA
"Dr. Sharma: It is true that some asthma inhalers contain  lactose, and as a result, contain trace amounts of associated milk protein...." Allergic Living Magazine
Thank God for Facebook. Today I was looking through my "news feed" which previously I thought was a silly name for a category for friends' complaints and annoyances of the day, until today when I stumbled on this article by Dr. Sharma about dairy in dry inhalers used for asthma. Well, I stopped in my tracts and read this carefully as my son has an anaphylactic allergy to dairy and has mild asthma treated by inhalers. I found this amazing that some dry inhalers have lactose (milk sugar)! I'm reading on and the article doesn't name which ones list dairy as an ingredient so I read on to the comments left by readers and found a name my son uses- Pulmicort! Thankfully my son uses
the nebulizer formulation which apparently does not contain milk- phew! Still, what on Earth would make me think "oh yea don't forget to check for milk in that inhaler." Another reader also commented on finding peanut as a contaminant in one of her inhalers... Scary business! So now I have learned a new lesson..."call every drug company for every drug my allergic child is given- every time."