Playdates with Food Allergies

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As an allergy mom, playdates are something I worry about quite a bit. Will the other parent appreciate the seriousness of his allergy? Will he/she be vigilant about cross contamination? Tough questions.

I often say that my son is generally safe within our own world, but when we step outside of our comfort zone, we need to be extra vigilant. Not gonna lie, playdates definitely freak me out, but I hate to rob him of the fun things of childhood, so I’ve developed some strategies.

Playdates with Food Allergies

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Meet up at a public place such as a playground, library or local museum

This is a good idea if you don’t know the other family. It gives you a chance to meet the other parent, and determine whether or not you’d feel comfortable with an in-home playdate. Bonus: no one has to clean up and maybe you’ll make a new friend.

Host the playdate at your house

The best way to keep an eye on my son’s food intake is to watch him myself. I prepare some of his favorite snacks, as well as a special game or craft to keep the kids busy.

If you’ve decided your child (and you) are ready for that playdate at a friend’s house, it’s time for a direct conversation with the other parent.

Be clear about the allergies and what to do in an emergency

Tell the other parent, “My son is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and direct egg. If he has a reaction, he might get hives around his mouth and his throat might get scratchy. In case of emergency, call 911. Administer the epi-pen. Call me.”

FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) offers materials to help children and their parents protect friends with food allergies. Check out their Protect a Life (PAL) program for helpful information. Also, check out Roo’s post on Food Allergy Awareness for more details.

Give simple, specific snack suggestions or send him with a snack 

If you are really worried about what the other parent might serve, send your child with a pre-packed snack with enough to share. Or tell the other parent, “My son’s perfect after school snack would be an apple or orange, goldfish crackers, and water or lemonade.” Keep it simple.

Don’t forget to send his emergency allergy kit (Auto-injector and Benadryl)

My son has epi-pens and Benadryl stored at school, camp and after school. I carry an extra kit in my purse, and my husband has one in the car. But if we don’t send our son with an extra kit in his backpack, he’s unprotected. Don’t forget!

I hope these tips will help you feel better about arranging a playdate. What are your favorite tips and strategies?


20 Comments to Playdates with Food Allergies

  1. Great tips! I like the idea of sending along a snack for them to share — makes it easy for the other parent, and would ease your mind!

    • Kate Petrov

      Thanks Heather!

  2. SL

    Roo gave me a crash course on how to use an Epi-pen the first time I watched her kids. Epi-pens can be really intimidating to the uninitiated, so I’d recommend showing other Moms how to use it before handing over the allergy kit. I’ve never had to use one, but its less scary now that I can picture what needs to be done in an emergency.

    • Kate Petrov

      Great idea! Thanks for sharing. Videos are available on both of the auto-injector brand websites we use. I’ll try that next time!

  3. Gila

    Good tips! What do you mean by “direct egg?” My daughter is also allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs. We are scheduled to do a baked egg challenge in a while.

    • Kate Petrov

      Thanks for your comment. My son can eat egg cooked into dishes such as pancakes, cookies, cakes, etc. He can’t eat scrambled egg, or touch raw egg. We keep him away from eggs and shells too. This year we stuck stickers onto plastic eggs for Easter. Much easier cleanup! Good luck with your baked egg challenge- I was terrified but it worked out for him.

      • Gila

        Thanks! I’m nervous but hopeful.

  4. Tiffany Self

    Kate! I love this. It’s so true, all of it. We host as often as we can to control the environment as much as possible. Great advice.

    • Kate Petrov

      Thanks Tiffany- we’re all doing the best we can!

  5. Lauren

    I’m the mom to a 9 month old- not many play dates yet, and as far as we have seen, no allergies yet. However, I am very much aware of how her lack of allergies could change and/or how I will have to deal with other kid’s allergies. I appreciate posts like this a lot! I think sending a snack is a great plan- especially if your kid has a sneaky allergy like soy (I say sneaky because Roo has clued me in to how many things it’s in!). I would be terrified to be responsible for snacks without explicit instructions. Personally, as a parent who doesn’t deal with allergies daily, more information is always helpful. Thanks again.

    • Kate Petrov

      Thanks Lauren!

  6. Emily

    My three year old has raw egg and peanut allergies…I would love to hear how you talk to your kiddo about allergies. I feel like I walk a fine line between making her realize the seriousness of the allergy and making her live in fear all the time. Any thoughts? Also, I love the idea of sending a special snack. I’m realizing how different things are with a food allergy child…my 5 year old has no allergies and I can just drop him off with no worries. Thanks for your great ideas!

    • Kate Petrov

      Thanks for your comment, Emily. We’ll be addressing this further in a future post. But for now, I’ve done some role play with my son to help him understand that can’t just eat anything he is given, he needs to ask if it contains his allergens. I always worry, but the other day he told me about how he asked the cafeteria lady to point out the nut-free snacks and he was able to make a safe choice. So proud!

  7. Tina

    Don’t keep your epi pens in the car they don’t do we’ll in extreme heat and can’t be frozen (if you live in colder climates)

    • Kate Petrov

      You’re right, thanks, I will keep that in mind.

  8. Katie

    Great tips on managing allergies and play dates. Please remove the epi-pens from the car! The extreme temperatures can damage the medicatication inside and may be ineffective in treating an allergic reaction.

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