Category: Eating Out Guide

When Milk Allergies Strike: How to be Prepared When You’re Not at Home

 This is a guest post from “An Apple a Day.”  Thanks to Joseph for contributing:)


Sometimes triple-checking labels are not enough — unfortunately, milk allergies
have a tendency to strike, and usually away from home. Here are some ways
to deal with milk allergies at school or wherever else you or a loved one with
allergies may be.

Always check labels. Even if it’s something you’ve had no problems with in the
past, manufacturers can change ingredients without notice. Train yourself and your
child to check the label every. Single. Time.

Do not accept food from anyone else. Hammer home the point that all food must
come from home. Unfortunately, it can be hard to tell what is in baked goods or
other foods, so do not even risk it; make sure your child understands that taking
food from others with even the best intentions can be dangerous. On playdates or
for school days pack a lunch.

Avoid fried food and foods that have batter on them. Even though there may
not be milk in the batter or the food being fried, the oil may have already fried
something with milk in it and would cause a reaction. Just another thing to be
conscious of that may stave off an attack.

Carry an over-the-counter antihistamine.
Often times a regular oral
antihistamine, such as Benadryl, can stop a reaction dead in its tracks if caught
early. Have some with you at all times and pack some with your child when you
send him or her off to school or on play-dates.

Keeping epinephrine on hand at all times. This should not be your main way
to prepare for an allergic reaction, but is necessary in case a bad one occurs. If
your doctor says you need an epi-pen, bring it with you. Make sure one is readily
available at school for your child and it might be a good idea to leave one at the
houses of playmates.

Joseph Gustav is a guest blogger for An Apple a Day and a writer on the subject of medical transcription training for the Guide to Health Education.

Wendy’s Honey BBQ Chicken

We went to Wendy’s the other night, and my son (now 13) decided that he wanted to test the Wendy’s Honey BBQ Chicken wings.  The menu said that they didn’t contain any dairy in the batter, however, they were cooked in the same oil as items that contained dairy.  Since he tested so low with his most recent allergy test, I felt that it would be a safe for him to try them.  About 30 minutes or so after dinner, he broke out in a few hives underneath his arm and on his chest as well as a small eczema rash on his chest.  I gave him some Benadryl just in case the reaction spread quickly and sent him to bed.  It looks like we need to go back to being 100% strict, at least for now:)

***On a side note, he had a small bite of peanut brittle the other day with no apparent reaction.  It had butter as one of the ingredients.  (He thought it had no dairy in it.)  I’m not sure why he reacts to some things and why other things don’t seem to affect him.  I just hope that he can figure out how severe his allergy still is before going on to college, etc.***

Possible good news – accidental milk with no reactions:)

We were at the airport and I bought my kids some organic protein bars and orange juice to help tide them over until I could find them something more substantial.  It’s always harder finding allergy friendly foods when you’re both in a hurry and in a new place with tons of people.  Because of that, I was thrilled when I found these bars.  One of them said, “Dairy-free” on the front and the other one said, “Wheat free.”  I grabbed both and quickly read over the back to make sure that they both were safe (meaning “dairy-free”).  My oldest son took the “Wheat free” one by accident, though I thought both were safe.  After eating half of it, he said, “Mom, this is too good to be dairy-free.  Are you sure it doesn’t have any milk?”  This is not what I wanted to hear just minutes prior to boarding the airplane.  I grabbed the wrapper, just in case, and re-read the ingredients.  What I thought said, “almond butter” actually said, “almond, butter…”  I wasn’t entirely sure what to do.  I knew that the doctor had given us clearance to test baked milk, but the last time we had tried the smallest amount, my son broke out all over in a rash that itched for weeks.  I decided to keep the Benadryl handy (why did I forget my epi-pen???) and watch him closely on the plane, as he had only had a few bites.

Amazingly, he had NO REACTION!!!!  This is my son who has been anaphylactic to milk his entire life (he’s almost 13).  This is the boy who breaks out in hives and is sent to the hospital by simply eating a roll that had real butter accidentally brushed on top or a handful of the wrong popcorn.  This is the mom who yells out loud at a potluck dinner, “Don’t use that spoon in my chili!” for fear of cross-contamination (quieting the entire room, much to my embarrassment…but that’s another story:))  This is also the mom that cried when he went to scout camp for fear of a leader not getting there in time if he had a reaction (I “grilled” the EMT the night before he left.)  I’m not sure how much “butter” he actually had, however, I feel excited at the thought that just maybe he can once again qualify for the baked milk challenge.  Even more exciting is the possibility that perhaps when he goes off to college, he won’t have to struggle quite so hard in regards to his food allergy.  Of course we’ll roll with the punches, but the possibility of him outgrowing his allergy is a beautiful thought:)

McDonald’s French Fries Contain Dairy

I just recently learned that McDonald’s french fries contain dairy in them.  Also, their chicken nuggets contain dairy as do the chicken nuggets at Wendy’s (they must have changed their recipe in the last year or so).  Although my son has not had an anaphylactic reaction with the fries prior to my finding out, he has gotten rashes that we had no idea where they came from.  If you go to my website: and click on the Eating Out Guide, there are links to the  nutritional information for these and other restaurants.  Always double check labels as companies are constantly changing their recipes.  If nothing else, at least my family will be a little bit healthier now that we can’t have their fries:)

Red Robin Restaurant makes accomodation for allergies

We went to Red Robin Restaurant the other day and they were SO accommodating for our allergies. They gave me an allergy “menu” that listed which items they recommended that are dairy-free. It also included menu options for peanut allergy, egg allergy, tree nut allergy, soy allergy, and fish allergy. The food was great and my kids loved it! You can have them e-mail you a copy of their allergy menu at You have to sent them a query and let them know what your allergy is. It was very kid friendly and overall a great experience for us! The floor manager even came out to talk to us and make sure that everything went okay:) I’m glad that so many restaurants are taking our food allergies seriously.

Bob Evans Allergy Friendly:)

We went to Bob Evans restaurant tonight. When we told them about our milk allergy, the manager came out and spoke with us in person. He spoke with the chef and made sure that the kids’ pasta was boiled in a new pot with no butter added. He also substituted the garlic toast for french fries which were dairy-free. He cooked the burgers on a griddle that never has butter on it and didn’t toast the bun (to avoid any contact with butter). He also left off the cheese. In addition to this, he read the ingredients of the other kid’s menu items and informed us that the grilled chicken and potato smiles were also dairy-free. It was such a pleasant experience. I thanked him and the waitress for their kindness and told them that we would definitely be coming back thanks to their service and help with our kids’ allergies. It’s nice to know that some restaurants will accommodate our needs and do so with the greatest of care.

Rain Forest Cafe – almost allergy friendly:)

We went to the Rain Forest Cafe in San Francisco, CA. We called a day ahead and asked if any of their menu items were dairy-free. We were told that the pasta dish could be prepared without butter and without any parmesan on top and that the burgers could be grilled separately, but that the bun had milk. The french fries were also dairy-free. We were told that when we arrived we needed to ask for the floor manager and that he would help accommodate our allergy needs. Everything was wonderful, the environment was fun for the kids, and the service was really friendly. That said, when the pasta dish was brought out, a huge breadstick lay on top of the food smothered in butter and parmesan cheese. After all the care that went into preparing the pasta dairy-free, it was amazing to me that the breadstick was included. We gently informed the waiter about how grateful we were for the care shown us, but let him know that in the future, when others come in with similar allergies, to try not to include the milk-laden breadstick with the dish. He was embarrassed and apologized. We assured him that we were grateful and appreciated all the help in our behalf. That said, I am always amazed at how many people don’t realize all that is entailed in a milk allergy. We just have to hope that people will be educated and that our children will still be able to enjoy life and be safe in a public setting in spite of their allergies:)

Scout Camp with a Milk Allergy

Sending my son off for scout camp is a pretty big step for me in terms of his allergy. To make sure that what he eats is completely dairy-free, we will be sending up his food separately. I plan on getting a copy of the scout menu and then supplying meals that are as close as possible to the real thing so that he won’t feel like he stands out too much (though sometimes he likes it:)). I have also contacted the scout master and asked him to personally oversee his food to make sure that he gets the right items as I won’t be able to be there. I know that I’ll be on pins and needles the entire week that he’s gone.

It’s amazing to me how much harder it is to do ordinary, everyday things with an allergy. Every time we are out and want to go to a restaurant, we have to stop and ask ourselves if it is worth the unknown of a milk allergy and if we can trust the chef to really be able to accomodate us. (We’ve had many instances when we’ve special ordered something dairy-free and twenty minutes later it is brought out with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top or the like.) Often, we order a burger with no bun and only ketchup on the side, just to be on the safe side. Some french fries even contain dairy, so they’re not always safe either (almost ALL of A&W’s menu has dairy in it, including the buns).

On a positive note, I am so grateful for my son’s milk allergy as it has encouraged me to eat healthier and make things from scratch a lot more often. I am less tempted to eat junk food when four out of five children can’t have it.

I hope to educate my son so that by the time he leaves home, he will have the skills necessary to survive in the world with a milk allergy.