Thursday, November 3, 2011

Guest Blog: Children with Food Allergies – Play Dates Encouraged, with Precautions

Guest Blog Post: from our friends at FAAN

Children with Food Allergies – Play Dates Encouraged, with Precautions
There’s no question about it -- children love to get together with friends, whether at the playground or at home. For the parents of children with food allergies, playgroups and play dates can be a source of concern, and that’s understandable. But these rites of passage are manageable – with some extra precautions.

Lessons learned from being around other children are important to a child’s social development. Balancing food allergy safety and social skills in a playgroup or play date environment takes planning.

Concerns that a child with a food allergy could have a reaction under the care of a classmate’s parents are valid. You don’t know whether they know how to recognize symptoms of an allergic reaction, whether they understand the seriousness of food allergies, how to read labels, or how to administer life-saving medication.

With advance planning, however, you can address each of these concerns and have successful play dates.
·        For younger children, consider hosting the play date at your house, so that you are better able to control the environment.

·        Plan for play dates to occur outside of mealtimes, or work with the play date host to plan “food free” playtime.

·        Teach a play date host about food allergies prior to a scheduled play date. Regardless if food is being served or not, the host should understand the symptoms of a food allergy reaction, how a reaction could occur (accidents happen!), and how to help your child if he or she has a reaction.

·        Pack a safe snack for your child so that you are not relying on the play date host to read food labels and determine what is safe to feed your child. Teach your child not to accept any foods that you have not approved.

·        Pack your child’s medication, including epinephrine auto-injectors, in a bag that also contains emergency information. Include a copy of your child’s Food Allergy Action Plan (see FAAN’s website for a free copy). Be sure the adult supervising the play date understands how to use all medication and the steps to follow should a reaction occur.
While it may seem easier to keep our children close to home, we have to remember the importance of balancing our child’s social needs with their emotional and physical development. 
The efforts on the part of parents of children without food allergies to keep our children safe are much appreciated.
FAAN staff member Nancy Gregory, whose 8-year-old son has a peanut allergy, says she has been lucky that parents have been so accommodating when it comes to hosting play dates.

“One mom went to the grocery store before my son’s play date to make sure she had safe snacks for him, even though I would have sent him something safe to eat,” Gregory said. “I was grateful that she took such genuine care to make sure he was safe.”

This post was contributed by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). FAAN is a nonprofit organization, supported in part by membership dues. For more information about food allergies, as well membership, contact FAAN at, or call (800) 929-4040.

Did you know that Achievement Products for Special Needs has a wide selection of allergen-free items? Check out the full list by clicking here.