My five year old daughter has a food allergy, and although it doesn’t define her, it is a big part of her life. Now that she’s school-age, she’s starting to get more play date invitations, which has opened up a whole new can of worms for us, especially me as the allergy mom.
How do we navigate play dates with her allergy? How can I keep my daughter safe at her friend’s house? How can I help other parents feel comfortable with having my child over to play?
Nowadays, approximately 1 in 13 children have a food allergy, so there’s a good chance your child has at least one or two friends with an allergy (“FARE” Food Allergy Research and Education). Play dates with food allergies can be anxiety-provoking for everyone involved, so from an allergy mom, here are three tips to ease the worry on both sides of the date.
1. Ask the Allergy Mom and Dad Questions
Parents of children with food allergies (at least in my personal experience) are over-the-moon THRILLED when another parent asks questions about food allergies. It shows that you care about the well-being of their child, and what parent wouldn’t love that? If you’re not sure what to ask, keep it simple:
Does your child have an Epipen or other allergy medication?
Is there anything specific that I need to know about his/her allergy?
- If the kids want a snack or drink while they’re here, what is safe for him/her to eat and drink?
- An allergy mom (or dad) may:
Give you safe snack suggestions (This is great! Please stick to them!)
Ask you to please NOT serve any snacks to their child, especially homemade snacks/treats. Even if you’re triple sure your homemade cookies have no eggs/peanuts/milk/etc., we’re still not comfortable letting our child eat them. Please try not to take this personally or feel offended. It has nothing to do with you or your food choices. It’s just the easiest way to keep the child safe.
Offer to bring a snack to the play date for their child or all of the children playing. Please take them up on it! It’s one simple way to ease everyone’s anxiety about food safety.
- An allergy mom (or dad) may:
2. Wash Your Hands and Wipe Down Hard Surfaces
Cross contamination is a real thing. Children can sometimes have an allergic reaction if they come in contact with their allergen on a surface. To help reduce this risk, have everyone wash their hands before the play date starts and then wash them again before having a snack. Also, take a quick moment to wipe down your kitchen table or countertops, especially if you know your family ate the known allergen for breakfast that morning.
3. Learn How to Use an Epinephrine Auto-Injector
In the same way that we’ve learned the basics of CPR or what to do when someone is choking, this last tip seems to make sense for anyone who is around children. How? Ask a food allergy mom or dad! If they have an Epipen, they also likely have a trainer pen. Ask if they can bring it along to the playdate and teach you how to administer the Epipen if need be. Or check out FARE for information and a tutorial on how to use an epinephrine auto-injector.
Food allergies are tricky, and like with anything else when it comes to kids, everybody’s situation is different. Please know that even as parents of children with food allergies, we’re just figuring this all out too. So thank you for including our children and helping keep them safe while they’re in your care.