Playing it Safe: How to Prepare for a Playdate with a Child That Has Food Allergies
Playdates and other social activities not only help your child develop friendships, but they can also build their self-confidence and independence. If your child has a food allergy, you may feel anxious when he/she participates in activities outside of your home. Households with food allergies are usually much more aware of how to limit exposure to the allergen and avoid cross-contamination than those without food allergies. An allergy doesn’t need to dictate your child’s social life. Although food allergies can present some unique challenges, with a little preparation, a playdate can be a fun, stress-free experience for everyone. Allergist, Dr. Amee Majmundar, shares some tips on how to make your play dates allergy-safe.
How to prepare when your child has an allergy
If your child has a food allergy, you aren’t alone. Food allergies affect nearly 1 in every 13 children in the U.S. It is important to make others aware of the allergen and not to feel uncomfortable about bringing up your child’s needs. Food allergies aren’t a lifestyle choice, and having one is nothing to feel embarrassed about. By educating others about your child’s food allergies, you are showing your child that is its ok to speak up about their dietary needs as they get older.
Before taking your allergic child to a friend’s house, you can prepare by:
Alerting other parents about your child’s allergies
Be specific about all allergens and their derivatives to reduce the risk of an accidental exposure. Updated information on food allergies published by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) is available at https://www.foodallergy.org.
Asking if meals or food will be given during the playdate
It is important to remember that even when the food itself may be safe, in homes without allergies, cross-contamination is a possibility. You may want to consider sending your child with their own food or snacks.
Sharing how to use an epinephrine auto-injector or other emergency medications
If your child has been prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector or carries other emergency medications, take the time to educate other parents about when and how to use them. As an added precaution, it can be helpful to write down the warning signs of an attack and the steps on how to use emergency medications. Your allergist or pediatrician will develop an allergy action plan with you, which will outline this information.
Talking to your child about their allergies and coming up with a plan
Ensuring your child is aware of their allergens, establishing ways to avoid contact and developing an action plan empowers your child to take control of their health. Your child should feel comfortable declining food and speaking up about their allergies.
Leaving emergency contact information
Preparing to host a playdate with an allergy-sufferer
Preparing to host a playdate for your child and their friends doesn’t have to be stressful. You can ensure your home is allergy-proof and safe for everyone by:
Making a habit of asking about allergies
Asking about allergies not only keeps you informed, but it can make other parents feel more confident about leaving their allergic child in your home.
Asking for allergy-free snack ideas
If you are planning to provide a snack during the playdate, you can take the guess-work out by asking for safe snack recommendations. If you are planning on sending a snack to a playdate or classroom birthday party, websites like snacksafely.com are a great resource for allergy-friendly foods.
Removing any potential allergens before the playdate
Clean all surfaces where contamination may have occurred including your kitchen, bathrooms and play area. Throw out your garbage and put out clean hand towels in the bathrooms and kitchens. You should also clean your child’s hands and face before the playdate, as well as before and after any meals or snacks.
Teaching your children allergy-safe hygiene
Start educating your child early that food can make people sick and discourage them from sharing their food. Remind your child to practice good hygiene and to always wash their hands thoroughly before and after eating.
Making sure you feel informed and prepared
If one of your child’s friends has an allergy, make sure you know which allergens to be mindful of, the signs of an allergy attack and that you understand how to handle an attack, including administering any emergency medications if necessary. It can be helpful to write down instructions just in case.
Being open and proactive about a food allergy will keep your playdates as safe and stress-free as possible. For more information on our Allergy, Asthma & Immunology physicians or to make an appointment, visit dupagemedicalgroup.com/services/asthma-allergy/.