Preparing for Inclement Weather With Food Allergies

Updated on January 16, 2018
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Jillian is a food-allergic adult and mama with years of personal experience to share with the greater food-allergic community.

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With extreme cold, wind, snow, and ice pounding the country now that winter is in full swing, it is time to prepare if you live with food allergies or any kind of special diet. I'm not going into the obvious details about extra flashlights and batteries—we have other things to be concerned about.

Not only do we need to have extra safe food on hand, but we also need to think about keeping our medications protected and available as well as being prepared for evacuations.

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Food and Water

It is recommended to have at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food on hand for each member of your household that does not require refrigeration, defrosting, cooking, or a significant amount of water to prepare. Here is a simple list of ideas, but you'll need to consider your particular set of allergies and diet restrictions:

  • Whole grain cereals and bread
  • Granola bars
  • Safe trail mix or seed mixes
  • Dried fruits
  • Low sodium crackers and other snack foods
  • Canned protein such as chicken, salmon, tuna, beans
  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Canned soups and chilis (they don't have to be heated up)
  • Nut-free or nut butters and jelly
  • Shelf stable milk or milk alternatives
  • Baby formula or pumped breast milk if you have a baby that drinks it (if dependent on a breast pump, consider alternative backup power options)
  • Many vegetables can be eaten raw, such as carrots, cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, even corn on the cob
  • Drinking water: at least one gallon per person per day
  • Multi-vitamins can help replace nutrients you may lose on a temporarily limited diet
  • Instant coffee, for those that don't do well without it ;-)

You'll want to ensure that you own a manual can opener in case you lose power.

Remember: Keep foods on hand that are known to be safe for your food allergies. During a blizzard with compromised roads and busy emergency personnel is NOT the time to experiment with new foods.

If your diet consists of mainly homemade staples such as bread, try to make some extra ahead of time and freeze it. Keep a portion defrosted on hand that will be readily available.

According to the FDA, most food in an unopened refrigerator will keep for 4 hours. After that time, it is recommended that the refrigerated food is discarded. The temperature in the refrigerator or freezer needs to remain at or below 40 degrees F. If you have room in your freezer, you can transfer what you can to the freezer right away to try to buy some extra time. A full freezer will remain cool for 48 hours, a half-full freezer for about 24 hours. But be sure to check it with a thermometer to ensure that it is at or below 40 degrees F.

If you have a grill and find a safe time to use it when you won't be in danger from the storm, you may want to safely store the supplies you'll need to run it. Remember to not use any gas grill or stove indoors, in a basement, garage, under a deck, or in some other enclosed area due to the dangers of carbon monoxide.

Medications

Losing power presents additional concerns for certain medications. You'll need to protect your epinephrine injectors from extreme temperatures. According to the Mylan website:

"EpiPen® and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine injection) Auto-Injectors should be stored in the carrier tube provided at a temperature of 25ºC (77ºF); however, temperature excursions between 15ºC and 30ºC (59ºF to 86ºF) are permitted. EpiPen® Auto-Injectors should not be exposed to extreme heat or cold, and should be protected from light."

Personally, I keep my epinephrine injectors close to my body and under several layers when I am in cold temperatures. If the temperature in your home dips below the recommended temperature during a power outage, you should replace your epinephrine auto-injectors as soon as possible.

Regarding medications, it is recommended to keep a one-month supply of any necessary medications. This includes antihistamines, and especially asthma medications. If you or someone in your home requires the use of a nebulizer machine for rescue medication, you should have backup power options, or if your doctor is ok with it, use an inhaler. Check all of the expiration dates on all of your medications, and replace any that are expired or will expire in less than a month.

Evacuations

Pack a bag now in case you need to evacuate quickly during an emergency. In the bag include:

  • A list of and all necessary medications, including dosages and a nebulizer, if required—all clearly marked and easily accessible
  • Your emergency food allergy action plan that details symptoms, and what to do in case those symptoms are present
  • Your asthma action plan, also detailing symptoms and how to address them
  • Your doctor and allergist's name and phone number
  • Your pharmacy name and phone number
  • Your medical insurance ID card
  • Safe foods

If you wear a medical ID bracelet, make sure that you have it on. If you need to evacuate to a center by yourself, make sure that you tell people there about your medical condition, what to check for if something happens, and the location of your medications and action plan.

Remember to charge up your phones! If you have a land line, you may want to try to locate one of the old corded kind of phone that is not dependent on electricity to make emergency calls.

Stay safe and warm! Please share this with anyone you know living with food allergies.

© 2018 Jillian Erin

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