Washing, bathing and cleaning in an Itchin’ house

Sadly, lots of kids with food allergies also have related conditions such as asthma, eczema and hayfever. We have all 3 of these in our house, which we have learned to manage fairly well.

On top of this, our Mr 3, Harry, has a very serious allergy to some cleaning products and certain chemicals. After a particularly scary reaction and a race to the emergency department just after he turned one we were given an epi-pen, which we carry at all times. However, we have since discovered that he is a super sensitive little dude and that even a visit to a recently cleaned public loo or a change in sunscreen can leave him crying in pain from the nasty burn type reaction that spreads over his body from contact.

So I wanted to share with you some of the ways that our family washes, bathes and cleans, whilst managing these allergies.

*Please keep in mind that I am NOT a doctor or dermatologist and am not suggesting that the things that work for our family WILL be the answer for yours – but we have had a long journey to work out these things and I’d love to think that it might give you a place to start if you also have an Itchin’ household that is not restricted to the Kitchen. Additionally, we are not in any way paid to endorse these products!!

My 3 beautiful reasons for changing the way we do things!
My 3 beautiful reasons for changing the way we do things!

Vaccuming – Since dust mites and dust are an asthma trigger for us, and we have 3 little people and dog inside (!!), I vacuum twice a week. We have pulled up all carpet and put down bamboo and we don’t have cloth blinds/drapes to eliminate as much as we can.  Lots of vacuums just stir up dirt and blow it back out again so a really good vacuum is helpful. We installed a ducted vacuum system (which you can do yourself if you are handy, like my husband, to save big $$) which means that the pipe goes straight to the motor outside in the garage and there is no dust re-circulation. I know lots of other allergy sufferers who swear by their Dyson’s too.

Dusting – I use a damp or electrostatic cloth to avoid stirring up dust. I dust weekly to keep on top of it – we live in an area where there is still quite a bit of house construction so it gets really dusty!

Mopping – When I had a tiled floor I had a great steam mop. Loved that I could get a really clean floor without any chemicals. Sadly, steam mops are a big no no on wooden floors so I have recently purchased a Norwex microfibre mop that I use with plain water. Enjo also make a similar product and there are other less expensive versions available at the supermarket.

General cleaning – Orange oil, bi-carb soda and plain white vinegar are my new best friends. I haven’t always been a fan of this type of cleaning product but as I have tried to protect my family I have also been convicted of the need to protect our environment (and our household budget as a bonus!). I use about 10 drops of orange oil in water mixed in a spray bottle to clean the bathrooms, toilets and showers. As opposed to tougher chemical cleaners, you do need to do this more frequently because it isn’t as good at cleaning up a scary build up of mould and grime, but if you keep on top of it weekly, it works well. Bi- carb and warm water is a great cleaner for most things, use it as a paste if you need more of a cream type scrub or mix with a small amount of vinegar if you want a fizzing clean. Works for cleaning kids bath toys, un-blocking drains, and de-scaling your iron and kettle. It also works for getting smells (like pet wee or vomit) out of carpets . I do have to confess that I still use a bit of bleach on the inside of my toilet bowl – it is away from contact with Harry and those ingrained ideas about germs are very hard for me to completely ignore 😉 I use white vinegar in my dishwasher as my standard rinse aid and if I run out of the dishwasher detergent I use a heaped tsp of bi-carb and 3 drops of orange oil – works beautifully!

Two of my best cleaning friends
Two of my best cleaning friends

Washing clothes and nappies – My favourite washing detergent is called ‘Rockin Green’. I haven’t found it in a supermarket yet but it is easy to order on line with a Google search. It is totally phosphate free and also free of enzymes and optical brighteners. It is particularly amazing if, as we do, you wash cloth nappies. If I don’t have the Rockin Green, I use a standard sensitive washing powder, but I use only about 1/3 of the amount specified on the pack and often do and extra rinse too. As a pre wash for cloth nappies, a teaspoon of bi carb is amazing. I also sprinkle a tsp of bi-carb into the bottom of the nappy bucket to help absorb the smells.

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Bathing – Any kind of detergent is out for Harry, so we bath the kids nightly in warm water and a few tablespoons of Dermaveen Oatmeal Bath and Shower oil. If they are out at another house it is just plain water and a face-washer. A couple of drops of food colouring in the bath turns it a great colour if you want to make it more interesting. The oatmeal oil is beautiful and moisturizing and it is lanolin, paraben and fragrance free.  Because I am in so much contact with the kids, I also use this to wash myself.

Skin care after baths – To keep on top of the rashes and scaly skin we need to make sure the kids are very regularly moisturized. We use Dermeze Ointment. It is a soft white paraffin and quite thick, but it works wonders for sore and sensitive little bodies. We also use organic rose-hip oil on sore spots if they’re not bad enough to require the really strong medicated creams we also have. Dermaveen also make a nice thick eczema cream that is lovely and relieving and not as greasy if you aren’t so dry or itchy.

Bath time and after bath skin care
Bath time and after bath skin care

Nappy Rash – This has been a big difficulty for Ellie as well as Harry, so after lost of bleeding bottoms (after only 1 acidic nappy) and doctors visits, we seem to have a routine that clears it up fairly quickly. We avoid commercial wipes and use warm water mixed with a tsp of bi-carb and wipe with a soft, chemical free, make up pad.  Then when it is particularly bad, we use Hyrdozole cream (from your Pharmacist, it is a anti-fungal mixed with a cortisone) and then after a few minutes, use a very thick layer of Nappy Mate paste over the top (this was developed at the Children’s hospital in Perth for kids who were admitted to hospital with Nappy Rash, and is very thick and can be quite tricky to apply but it is by far the best healing barrier cream I have ever come across). Also let those bottoms air as much as you can … fresh air and a bit of sunshine works wonders!

I realize that all written down in one place, this looks like a lot to change – but be assured, we have done this gradually and it’s now just second nature.

Keeping your kids safe and well is always a big challenge – Good Luck and please let us know if you have any other tips for managing these things in your Itchin’ house.

Tips for having a successful weekend away

“How many sleeps Mum?!”

We fielded that question for at least 10 days – the kids were super excited about our weekend away in the country, and so was I. There was some trepidation on my behalf though – having kids with allergies makes travelling quite a bit harder and requires some forward planning – but I think my preparation made our weekend a great (and allergy safe) one.

Before you go:

– think about where you are going and staying –

  • What type of accommodation are you booking? I think self-contained is a great idea for families with food allergies. It doesn’t give the cook as much of a holiday but it certainly reduces the risk.
  • Is there a hospital in the vicinity? This is something to think about if you are dealing with anaphylaxis. We had a district hospital nearby and I knew we were only a short air-lift to Perth.
  • What activities will you do that could be risky? We were staying at a farm where we would be feeding animals – I made sure I remembered to ask the farmer when we arrived if there were nut products in the feed – there was, so we were able to help our kids adjust to the fact that they coudn’t feed certain animals and the farmer was fabulous too – he let our kids feed the other animals so they didn’t miss out.
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Feeding Katie the Kangaroo

– plan your meals –

  • Dinner – I planned our menu for the weekend and froze two dinners/partial dinners from our meals in the week so that I didn’t have to cook much while away. We had soup and rolls the first night – all I had to do was reheat the soup and put the rolls in the oven for 5mins. The second night I used the leftover taco mince I had frozen in a pasta bake – so I cooked pasta and added some grated carrot, cooked broccoli (just throw it in the pot of boiling pasta 5min before it is finished) and then I took Jemima’s portion out before sprinkling cheese on top and baking in the oven.

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    Ready to bake my Vegan Chocolate Fudge Cake – thanks to RetroMummy
  • Snacks – I brought fruit and dip and crackers (as well as baby snacks)  but I also baked a cake for us to have as a treat (see here for the recipe). Very exciting for the kids!
  • Lunch – we planned to have bakery lunches as we knew there was a bakery in the town. Those who could had pies and Jemima had hot chips as the bakery wasn’t as well stocked as we had hoped. Very thankful for the humble hot chip! The one thing that could have gone wrong was that the pie Cohen chose didn’t end up being the one he got (the lady picked up the wrong one) but we didn’t notice until he was a few bites in. That made us very thankful that there hadn’t been a satay pie or something and that we will need to be more careful next time!
  • Breakfast – we had special “holiday” cereals that we don’t normally allow at home. 2 days of Coco Pops and Nutrigrain was super exciting for the kids and easy for me. Emmalyn was very happy with her Weetbix still especially with the view of the alpacas out the breakfast window.
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Saying hello to the duck who was after our breakfast!

– Make a list

  • My Mum always wrote packing lists so that’s what I do too. I write it a couple of nights before so that it’s in the back of my head and I am less likely to forget something come packing night.
  • Don’t forget your medications. As well as our regular emergency bag (epipens, asthma prevention meds and ventolin), I make up a little first aid kit including Panadol, Nurofen, Redipred (that’s a prescription one so only if you need it), our extra epipen, bandaids and Paraderm Plus (an antiseptic, anaesthetic and anti-itch cream – covers lots of bases).

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    Out collecting rocks and feathers

While you are there:

– Activities

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Fresh sour dough with lemon infused olive oil
  • With little kids, not doing much driving is the best choice for us so we enjoyed being a walk into town (that option had made the accommodation very appealing) and spent time exploring the farm, feeding the animals, playing in their playground and made one drive out to an olive oil company for a parents’ choice activity – yum!
  • We continued with our regular rest routine as Emmalyn needed to sleep anyway and the kids (and us!)love their downtime.
  • We enjoyed not having anything else to do and having my husband around without work needing to be done was great.
  • We brought a couple of toys each as we planned to be outside most of the time. The best one for the older two was Jemima’s Lego briefcase with a couple of extras. How great is Lego?!

We had such a wonderful weekend away – hoping we can do it again soon!

Menu Planning and Keeping my sanity!

Several times in the last 4.5 years on our food allergy journey I have made mistakes or oversights that have led to my kids having reactions … and trust me – it feels awful 😦

So I wanted to share with you some of our tips for how we cope in our home in the hope that it might help you too.

Menu

  • Have lots of safe snacks on stand by. Individually wrapped and frozen slices, muffins and breads are really handy. I always have some fruit or rice crackers in my nappy bag so I can feed Ellie if we get caught out somewhere for longer than I had expected.
  • We all eat the same thing at meal time as much as possible to avoid cross contamination (and it’s easier for me!)
  • We all use Nuttelex instead of butter or margarine so that there aren’t any remnants in spread jars.
  • Different face-washers each day for Ellie and the boys so that we’re not wiping allergens on her if the boys have been eating them.
  • Will’s allergy to most nuts is potentially life threatening so, as a blanket rule they are not allowed in the house, and Harry isn’t allowed to eat them when he’s out because he’s in such close contact with Will (we may need to rethink how we deal with this one as they get older).
  • Always check labels on packaged foods – ingredients change, even between versions of the same brand (eg plain or grain packet bread mix). I recently made the mistake of buying a home brand version of a cereal that is normally fine for Will only to have him break out in hives after eating only a tbsp. Turns out the home brand version had vitamin A extracted from peanuts in it!
  • I don’t love doing dishes so I try not to use 2 lots of utensils when cooking, so if we aren’t eating exactly the same thing, I tend to do Ellie’s first. Eg, drain the GF pasta first then use the same drainer for the regular pasta afterwards, or cut Ellie’s bread on the bread board and then when hers is on the plate, do the regular bread next.
  • Baking paper in the sandwich press is easily switched so that there’s no contamination from crumbs or cheese etc.
  • Make sure faces and hands are washed after meals and snacks and before kids play with toys.
  • Lastly we talk to our kids regularly about allergies. The boys are 2 and 4 and they know to always ask about nuts and eggs before they eat food from anyone else. Fortunately (in some ways) Ellie’s reaction to some things are quite instant so they have seen the welts pop up when they kiss her after drinking milk etc. And they know not to feed her anything unless they’ve checked with me – and even tell their little friends when we are out and about.

Do you have any other allergy survival tips to share?

What’s in Jessie’s kitchen?

Just like Libby’s kitchen, mine is filled with Tupperware … but I’m sure there’s room for more!

This post is to help give you an idea of the kinds of things you might need/want in your kitchen if you are a family with multiple food allergies.

After a horrible mouse plague when we lived in the desert (we’d sometimes kill more than 20 in a night inside!!), my husband agreed that everything needed to be airtight – so you can check my fridge and pantry out below:

In the fridge/freezer we have:

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During the day …
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… and after meal prep each night!

 

Nuttelex: We all use Nuttlelex (a vegan butter), even those who don’t need to, to try and avoid any cross contamination.

Milks: Full cream cows milk for Peter and the boys, and Ellie and I use mostly oat milk but also rice and almond milk, depending on what it is we’re cooking/drinking.

Yoghurts: Homemade dairy and homemade soy.

Eggs: 5 of the 6 of us can eat eggs now (YAY!). These mostly come from friend’s chooks.

Cheese: Dairy Cheese and Bio Cheese

Dates: Medjool dates – I buy them in bulk as they are the base for soooo many things we make.

Dips: Cream Cheese (soy and dairy), hummus

Herbs/Spices: minced garlic, ginger and chilli

We always have loads of fruit and vegetables on hand for easy snacks.

Frozen stuff: I am lucky enough to have a big freezer. It is spilt in to 6 labelled drawers (yes, I’m a massive nerd!).

Drawer 1: Breads and scrolls, pizzas and savoury muffins. These are in zip lock bags, to pull out easily for lunch-boxes.

Drawer 2: Baked goods and sauces. These are all the cakes, muffins, pikelets, frozen pastry or raw pie crusts etc. Also home-made gravies (in reusable squeezey pouches), jars of salsa, apple sauce and tablespoons of aquafaba.

Drawer 3: Meat. I buy in bulk for 10-12 weeks at a time, portion it out and label it. (Looks like a lot but it works out to about $250 for 10-12 weeks). This drawer and the one below make monthly menu planning very simple for me.

Meat

Drawer 4: Pre-made meals. I cook in bulk and freeze the left overs.

Drawer 5: Frozen fruits, herbs and veggies. Mostly there is a pea/corn/carrot combo, peeled, overripe bananas, peeled and seeded avocados and mangoes, berries, blanched spinach and extra herbs from my garden.

Drawer 6: Milk (I buy 12L at a time) and dog food.

In the pantry we have:

Flours: more than 20 kinds. Quite a collection.20151023_212005

Sweeteners: Honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, golden syrup, rice malt syrup, date syrup, molasses, stevia and coconut sugar, also icing sugar for cakes.

Carbohydrates: We use mostly brown rice, but also basmatti and arborio rice, corn cous cous and quinoa as well as a mix of GF pasta, spaghetti and Slim Pasta.

No egg: an egg replacer made by Orgran

Cereals: Mostly we have porridge made with plain rolled oats, but we also make our own muesli (with a mix of seeds and dried fruits) and have some Freedom Foods cereals (at the moment we have the Rice Puffs). Also rolled quinoa and polenta.

Condiments etc: salt and pepper, spices (galore!), tomato, bbq, (homemade) sweet chilli sauce and coconut aminos. We use balsamic, red wine, white and apple cider vinegars, Massel stock powder (chicken, beef and vegetable style). The oil we use is mostly rice bran oil, but also olive oil for dressings (plain and garlic) and occasionally coconut oil. I make my own Mexican Spice mix and French Onion Soup mix. Nutritional yeast too.

Dried fruits: Sultanas apricots and prunes are the staples.

For baking: GF baking powder, bi-carb, edible gelatine, corn-based glucose syrup, vanilla bean paste, vanilla bean dusting powder, cocoa/cacao.

Seeds and nuts: the regular seeds are sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and chia seeds. Our regular morning tea snacks are a mixture of almonds that I dry roast, dried chick peas and dried broad beans, as well as a small sprinkling of dried fruit. In winter we have a soup mix that I make up with red lentils, yellow and green split peas and barley.

Crackers and biscuits: Corn Cruskits and sun rice multi-grain rice/quinoa squares, and occasionally sa-ka-ta rice crackers. Biscuits are normally home-made but we keep a back up packet of Macro’s ginger nuts too.

Spreads: Vegemite (of course!), Sunflower Seed butter.. Occasionally we have jam too.

Tins: Beans and legumes, coconut cream and milk, bbq baked beans. Crushed tomatoes. Tins of salmon.

Special treats: Organ makes a good custard powder. Mini marshmallows or Sweet William chocolate or choc chips, also FreeFrom Cake mix is often on standby. Popcorn kernels – so cheap and easy!!

If they are available, for all that I buy, I tend to go for organic, preservative free and Australian grown/made where ever possible.

Do you have any other allergy friendly kitchen staples?