The first time we brought our little guy to Ireland he was only 5 months old. At that time, the (Irish) hubby and I had dreams of going back to Ireland every year so that our son could bond with his overseas family. We also talked about spending a year there before the kiddo started school, hopping cheap flights to sexy European countries on a whim.
See, allergies hadn’t come into our life just yet.
We hadn’t started our baby boy on solids, and we were two months away from his first reaction (to peanut butter). And little did we know, he’d have a total of six allergies within a year from the time the above photo was taken.
After allergies made an appearance, our European travel plans seemed challenging, if not impossible. How could we travel with a baby/toddler who had multiple, life-threatening allergies? And how would we stay at our in-laws’ home when half the food in their pantry would pose a real danger to our son? We imagined we’d spend more time inconveniencing everyone & stressing about everything than having fun.
So we stopped talking about our travel plans for a long, long time.
After our son outgrew two of his allergies, the Ireland idea started to feel more do-able. Still stressful and scary, but… do-able. So in late 2018, we finally returned to Ireland, babe in tow. This most recent trip was 2.5 years after we brought him the first time (though it felt like an eternity). I’m happy to report that things went really, really well.
Not only is Ireland GREAT about labelling allergens on products and in menus, but the hubby’s family were AMAZING. It was a HUGE learning curve for them, but they tried their very best to understand and make accommodations. Which is why…
… drum roll, please …
WE ARE MOVING TO IRELAND THIS SPRING!!
Yup, I’m still in shock. And nope, it’s not forever.
The plan is to stay there for 1 year so that our little guy can bond with his Irish family (and play with his many, many Irish cousins), and then return to Canada in time to: (a) find a home, and (b) have him start SK.
And possibly even more exciting? I plan to continue sharing my experiences eating out with food allergies while living abroad. That’s right, say hello to AllergyBites in Dublin!
If you have any interest in navigating Ireland with food allergies, be sure to follow this blog, join the AllergyBites Community on Facebook, or follow my allergy adventures on Instagram. Because did I mention we’ll be travelling to the mainland too? France, Italy, Portugal, Spain… here we come!
And no, this is NOT an early April Fool’s joke! 😉
Here’s a glimpse into some of our (very!) positive experiences in Ireland:
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🍀 Ireland travel post No. 1: Allergen labelling 🍀 . See this adorable Supermarket Till set by @casdontoysuk? This was an early xmas/bday present for the little guy from one of his Irish aunties. 🎁 You know what's so freakin' awesome about it (other than the fact that it beeps & buzzes & keeps him busy for long periods)? The fake food is literally labelled as it would be in real life. That means that there are full ingredient lists, allergen statements and more! My almost 3-year-old asks me to list the ingredients, and excitedly tells me whether or not an item is safe for him or not. 👍👎Anywho, what you see on these toys (in terms of labelling) is what you get in Ireland. Not only are allergens listed in bold, but things like vegetable oil are broken down, so if you have a sunflower allergy (like us!), you don't have to guess if a product is safe to consume. It is SO handy, considering sunflower isn't a top allergen and wouldn't be included in regular allergen statements anyway. To sum it all up, grocery shopping is much less stressful in Ireland than in Canada! The one not-so-great thing is the fact that sunflower oil seems to be a very popular oil over there. It would show up in the weirdest places (kind of like soy here!), and it made it tough to find many safe packaged items for my son. That said, there seemed to be WAY more safe boxes of chocolates, so that was a bonus… for him! 🍫😉 All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by how labelling in Ireland/the UK made life a LOT easier for us. 1 point Ireland! 🍀 . . . #foodallergies #travellingwithfoodallergies #allergytravels #allergiesinireland #traveltoireland #irishtravels #tourismireland #illtakeyouhomeagainkathleen #shoppingwithfoodallergies #allergystatements #allergylabelling #allergiesandtheinlaws #allergyfamily #allergymom #allergydad #lifewithfoodallergies #foodallergiesbite #allergybites
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🍀 Ireland travel post No. 3: Eating out 🍀 . This will be my last post about our recent trip to Ireland. And if you know me, you know I couldn't do a series like this without talking about my absolute favourite thing: eating out. 🍴 While having an allergy outside of the top 10 (thanks, sunflower!) can make it quite tricky, something I wanted to mention about restaurants in Ireland is this thing they have called allergy menus. 📋 These menus are both a blessing & a curse! A blessing because all of your questions about ingredients are answered up front… if your allergies happen to be in the top 14, of course. #notsunflower A curse because, as @allergy_girl_eats previously posted about, they seem to be a replacement for server knowledge or accountability in many cases. In our case, the only place we even attempted eating while out and about in Dublin was Milano (milano.ie) — for 2 reasons: (1) It was highly recommended in an Ireland allergy group, and (2) it had pizza on the menu, which is 99% of the time safe for us. 🍕 When we got there, I was taken by surprise when I began to list my son's allergies — clearly noting that sunflower was not in the top 14 — and was promptly handed the allergy menu. Okay, but… that's only helpful for 3 out of 4 of our allergens. Right off the bat, I didn't feel listened to and it scared me a little. 😬 I had to repeat my concern 3 times before our server went to speak with the chef to see if their pizza was safe. Good thing I persisted because we learned there was sunflower oil in the pizza dough. (I told you sunflower oil is everywhere in Ireland!!) I started to panic because we hadn't packed enough food and we don't usually trust pasta outside of our home due to the possibility of containing or having come into contact with egg. Well, suddenly the allergy menu was my best friend! I was able to check the pasta dishes to see which (if any) had egg in them, and we discovered the bolognese seemed perfectly safe. After our server double-checked with the chef, we were good to go! 🍝 Our hungry little dude happily scarfed back his pasta, and all was well in the world again. 3 points Ireland! 🍀🍀🍀 (post continued in comment 👇)
Convincing or what?
So yeah, my family and I are heading to the Emerald Isle really soon. Hope you’ll join me at the last #AllergyMom Meetup I’ll be attending before I leave on a jet plane. Come say good-bye and meet the lovely allergy mama who’ll be organizing meetups in my absence.
By the way, if you ever have questions about travelling to Ireland (or other parts of Europe) with allergies, feel free to reach out anytime. I may not always have the answers, but I’m happy to help when I can.
Safe appetit & bon voyage! 😉
This post was written by AllergyBites founder, Kathleen O’Hagan. Kathleen is a writer, a foodie, and the mom of a toddler with multiple food allergies. Want to help make a difference? Contact Kathleen about volunteering for the Top 10 Challenge fundraiser.
Friendly. Supportive. Encouraging.
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