I bet you’ve discussed, at one time or another, what to do in case of the Zombie Apocalypse. If not, I suggest you find someone and do so immediately! I’ll wait.

[I’m assuming you are returning 30 minutes later if, in fact, you had never done this. If not, I assume you are skipping very quickly to the next part.]

When you thought about your Zombie Apocalypse/Mayan Calendar End of Times prepping, did you think of all the things you might need to do for the food allergic individual in your life? It’s one aspect most zombie movies/end of the the modern era films, books, and television shows don’t address.   But we, the food allergy community, need to  “Doomsday” prep for the everyday mishaps. And, hey, you’re already doing some of it! What do I mean? Let’s go back to elementary school and the 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and that sneaky, pesky, essential H–How.


Every member of the food allergy community “preps” on a regular basis. We “prep” safe foods for school lunches, special trips, and just everyday eating. We also “prep” by always carrying epinephrine and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) in addition to various creams, lotions, asthma medications, etc. Preventative measures are a part of who we are and what we do in regards to food allergy.

As we are more vigilant than many in our day-to-day lives so we need to be more prepared in emergency situations.



Stuck on the WV Turnpike via WSAZ

We are fundamentally a community of preparedness but what happens in the event of an emergency when essentials such as water and power are unavailable for extended periods of time? Could you prepare safe foods for your family in the event of a massive power outage (West Coast 2011) or a water crisis (Charleston, WV)?  What if you were stranded in your car on an impassable highway? You may think it’s not likely, but I bet that’s what people in Atlanta (aka Hotlanta), GA thought in January of this year when a snow and ice storm brought the city to a standstill.

In the last year in my in my home state of West Virginia, there have been massive statewide power outages, weeks to months of water safety concerns, and winter travelers stranded for up to  20 hours on the WV Turnpike. I know these local events have changed the way I think about preparedness for my family but particularly for my food allergic child.

The power outage in July 2012 was an eye opener  as gas stations didn’t even have the power to pump the gas needed for vehicles or generators, pharmacies were closed, and the local hospitals struggled to stay powered.  The water crisis in Charleston was horrifying on so many levels, but it made many of us keenly aware of how much we truly take clean, potable, readily available water for granted. After the Turnpike incident, I began carrying an emergency bag (based on season) in the car.

Water and power are key components in how we care for our food allergic loved ones. The health and, ultimately, lives of food allergic individuals rely on proper cleanliness to reduce risks of cross contamination.

The federal government in conjunction with various state institutions use this month as an opportunity to encourage citizens to prepare for a multitude of scenarios. Assorted government entities have even addressed, sometimes tongue and cheek, a few worst case events.  HealthyChildren.org has posted information on family disaster supply lists as well.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating Doomsday Prepping.  What I am advocating is having a family plan and  an emergency car travel bag.

What and How?

1. What are the most likely scenarios in your neck of the woods? Tornado, flooding, earthquake, hurricane, snow, wild fire, etc.? Make your plan fit your location.

2. Find out the specifics of each child’s daycare or school disaster plan in the event of separation.

3. Create the family disaster plan which will include (but is not limited to): meeting places, routes of evacuation, and communication strategy.

4. Obtain two copies of important documents (and don’t keep them in the same location)

5. Stock the emergency car travel bag. Items may need rotated based on season but may include:  blankets, battery powered flash lights/radio, extra batteries, first aid kit, change of clothes/shoes, important numbers, extra phone charger, cash,  garbage bag, etc. This list is not all inclusive; please use the resources below for more ideas.

6. Food Allergy specific needs:

  • Safe for your family canned, ready to eat fruit, veggies, meat, soup, safe drinks (in addition to water), cereal, crackers, trail mix, cookies, etc.
  • Manual can opener
  • Wipes (since we know hand sanitizer will not remove food proteins)
  • Prescription and OTC medications  (this is not just food allergy specific but it is a MUST)
  • Knowing the effects of anaphylaxis and how to quickly and effectively treat our loved ones is just as important as actually having the medication.

More on the meds. (I wouldn’t be a good Food Allergy Pharmacist if I didn’t discuss the meds.)

  • As always, carrying your epinephrine auto-injector (EAI)  is key as well as any other “as needed, ” or, PRN, medications such as albuterol inhalers, nitroglycerine, etc.   Never keep medications stored in the car; extreme heat or cold can cause the medication to breakdown and become less effective.
  • Having an extra EAI, inhaler, etc. on hand could be life saving in the event of an emergency situation. However, as a pharmacist, I see “refill too soon” rejections several times per day while at work. So how can a patient get around the “refill too soon” dilemma?

            Here are a few options:

  1. Get the medication refilled as soon as the insurance will allow it.

Some plans allow for early fills up to a week or 10 days early for medications that are not controlled substances.  This is a time to be very familiar with your insurance plan; I have seen a “cumulative refill too soon” rejection which means that the insurance has kept track of how soon the fills have been and at some point, even if the fill is actually due and not early at this specific time, the insurance company will flag it. Very few insurance companies employ the “cumulative refill too soon”; it should be laid out in the policy paperwork. Cumulative refill too soon rejections shouldn’t be a huge issue since I am not suggesting stock piling medication. I am only suggesting having an extra month or so on hand.

        2. Use a coupon and don’t use your insurance.

       3. Pay the “cash price”.

“Cash price” is what pharmacy people call the price without insurance. Depending on the medication, this could be expensive or super cheap.  I will discuss how to get the best bang for your buck without compromising safety or efficacy in an upcoming post.

  • Finally, remember to always rotate your stock of medication if you have several bottles. First in means first out. In the pharmacy we mark each open/used box with an X and newly delivered medications go on the back of the shelf.

7. Practice. Just as we practice fire drills, we should practice our family emergency plan. This would also be a good time to evaluate the appropriateness of the emergency travel bag contents (i.e. different seasons means different needs).


Now. (Just because you think the Zombie Apocalypse isn’t about to—I mean, power outage/natural disaster/chemical spill, isn’t going to affect you, the reality is anything could happen at any time.)

We don’t wait to make allergist appointments. We don’t wait to administer an epinephrine shot. We shouldn’t wait on this either. Basic preparedness is something we food allergy moms and dads do everyday; take this opportunity to take another step in ensuring the safety of our food allergic loved one.  For more information on how to discuss disasters with your children (but probably not zombies) and also how to cope with behaviors after your family has experienced an emergency situation, please visit the sites below.