Is Your Child Allergic to Play Dates?
My son loves to have play dates. Most of his friends aren’t allergic to any foods or common things that kids encounter on play dates. He does have one friend that has a gluten allergy. The day he came over, I was never told about his allergy from his parents, and only hesitantly from the child (we will call him George).
My son eats anything he is given, especially when he is a guest at someone’s house. When it was time for dinner, I made sure that George wanted Mac and Cheese and Chicken Nuggets (our Friday night regular) and he said yes, he loved that. When it was time to eat, he only picked at his food. Then he told me he had a gluten allergy or something like that. He didn’t even know what it was. I took his plate away, shocked that I could have made him sick with what I fed him. I didn’t panic, I didn’t even call his mom. I waited until she came to pick him up.
When she arrived, I told her about George’s reluctance to eat and that he admitted to a food allergy. She said it was no big deal, he has been doing fine, and he can eat most things OK, blah, blah, blah. I just stared at her in disbelief. She then told me about his gluten intolerance, she called it. He had been trying to eat regular food, which is why she didn’t tell me about it. I thanked her for telling me but mentioned I would have liked to know that before I fed him. She agreed that in the future, she would mention it to other parents and stress to her son that he needs to speak up if he doesn’t think he should eat a certain food.
As a parent of a non-allergic child, here are some things that I would like to know before an allergic child eats at my home:
What is your child allergic to? This seems like an obvious question, but lots of times I have to ask the parents; they never offer the information.
What CAN your child eat? Are there certain foods he can eat without any problem? I did have one parent actually bring food that her son could eat. I don’t expect that anyone should do that. If I know beforehand, I can plan ahead. Educate your child about his allergy, so that he can learn to avoid foods that he is allergic to.
What will happen if he accidentally eats something he shouldn’t? Will he break out in a rash, get a stomach ache, will he wheeze, will his throat close up and could he go into anaphylactic shock? Again, educating your child to say “no thank you” to food that is unsafe for him is just as important as saying “yes please!” Remember to tell him to be careful not to share utensils, beverages or food that could cause allergies.
Does he carry an Epi Pen and know how to use it? Children with severe allergies should have an emergency kit with them (the parents should have one to leave with you) that includes an Epi Pen. If they are old enough, they should be able to either use it themselves or tell someone how to use it. Having an Epi Pen available could mean the difference between life and death!
Does he have an ID bracelet telling about his severe allergy (example: peanut allergy)? Just like diabetics wear Medic Alert bracelets, children with severe allergies should wear one too.
How can I make him feel included in meal time? If I am properly educated about his allergies, I can have him help make cookies, pizza or other fun treats. If he can only eat fruits, I can have him help arrange fruit into a shape like a smiley face.
Remember, communication and education is the key to happy and healthy play dates.
For more information on kids with food allergies: http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/
(Be sure to stop by Pam's blog, http://pmaynardwrites.blogspot.com/. Thanks Pam!)