Playdates and parties are exciting for children and really important for their development. But when your child has allergies invitations might make you feel a bit anxious or thrust you into planning overdrive.

Read on for top tips to help you navigate social events with allergies and to find out how our award-winning Me and My Allergy personalised videos can help you share vital information with anyone caring for your child.

If you are organising a party, or your child has a friend with allergies who is visiting, we hope you find these tips useful too.

kids sitting round playing pass the parcel

ME AND MY ALLERGY

Make a personalised video to help keep your child safe

Take things at your own pace

If this is your child’s first party of playdate, it’s unlikely you will be expected, or want, to drop them off and go. This means you can retain quite a lot of control of their environment and what they eat. If you feel particularly anxious about someone else catering for your child, consider taking things in small stages. For example, you might start by popping over to a friend’s house for an hour with your child but leave before mealtime. On another occasion you could stay for a meal but take your own food (perhaps offer to cater for the host’s child too, so the children eat the same snack or meal).

Understanding of food allergies varies

Some hosts will “get it”, others won’t. Food allergy is completely different to an intolerance or dietary choice but unless you live with an allergy at home it can be difficult to understand this. Find out how much your host understands about food allergy and take it from there, but don’t assume knowledge.

It is also important to remind people that sometimes food crops up when you are not eating. For example, during craft activities using packaging, playing with play-doh or in bird feeders.

Find your ‘allergy ally’

If you do find someone who really ‘gets’ allergy, it can feel like winning the lottery!

Finding your ‘allergy allies’ will really help when it comes to organising social events and they can be a great support for you too. 

YOU'RE NOT ALONE

Join our free online meet-up on Tuesday 9th July at 8pm to chat to other families living with allergies.

Talk to your host

Speak to your hosts about your child’s allergies well in advance of the event. It is not very helpful to ambush them with lots of information and details about medication in the hours before their event and this will leave everyone feeling flustered and increase anxiety.

If you can, speak to them in person and explain what your child is allergic to, where their allergens might appear in common foods eg. wheat in sausages, sesame in bread, or milk in cold meats. Explain the risk of cross-contamination and remind them that if they are in any doubt, not to feed the food to your child. You can put all this information in a personalised video using our new Me and My Allergy tool (see below).

It can help to tell hosts some foods (and brands of foods) that your child likes to eat, so they can buy products you know are safe.

If you are staying with your child, you probably do not need to explain the symptoms of an allergic reaction or run through how to give them their medication, but judge this depending on the situation.

Make a Me and My Allergy video about your child

The Allergy Team understands how challenging it can be to have to go through your child’s allergies, symptoms and medication again and again, every time they go to an event or start a new club or have a new babysitter. That’s why we have launched Me and My Allergy, a great bit of tech which makes a personalised videos all about your child and their allergies to share with others. It includes things like understanding allergies, avoiding cross contamination, medication and lots more. All you have to do is upload a photo of you child and a few details.  To get started you need to become a Family Member of The Allergy Team. Become a Family Member here.

Talk to your child

Explain to them what will happen during the party or playdate and when food might be served. Encourage them to double check with their host if they aren’t sure about something they are offered, and not to take something from a friend without the parent being aware.

If you are taking them food from home, explain why they cannot eat the same food as their friends to try and head off arguments later.

Remind your child not to share or swap food and talk to them about all the things they WILL be able to eat, rather than focusing on what they can’t.

It is ok to say ‘no’

The Allergy Team’s founder and CEO, Sarah Knight says: “I have been surprised by how many of my children’s friends’ parents really ‘get allergy’. My two boys have been on lots of successful playdates and to lots of parties – and sometimes it’s the parents I don’t really know who surprise me the most, understanding the nuances of ‘may contain’ labelling for example. But sometimes it just doesn’t work and no matter how much I try and advocate for my child about their allergies, I can’t seem to get through. When this happens and when I feel my children wouldn’t be safe I have either accompanied them to the playdate or party, or invited the child child here or, occasionally, just said a polite ‘no’ to the invitation. Living with food allergies requires constant risk assessment, which can be very tiring and time-consuming but if something does not feel right, it is ok to say no.”

LOOKING FOR MORE INFORMATION?

We have lots of resources to support you including:

WATCH Q&As about socialising with allergies and managing mealtimes.

MEET other families to share experiences and swap tips.

READ our first person article about reading food labels.

DISCOVER “Me and My Allergy” personalised videos

 

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