Play Dates with Food Allergic Friends

This link is to a great article written by our friend Paul Antico, founder of Allergy Eats~ and it addresses the concerns many non-allergic parents feel when faced with having an allergic child over for the play date!~ I know the parents of my son’s friends have been a bit apprehensive and nervous on those first play-dates. I could feel their anxiety as I demonstrated how to use the Epi-Pens, and went over the steps to take if something happened.~[Use the Epi-Pen, call 911, THEN call me!]  I do try to send food and snacks along especially on those first few visits,  as well as offering a list of the “forbidden ingredients” to avoid.

VolunteerSpot : Play Dates with Food-Allergic Friends

May 09, 2011

Play Dates with Food-Allergic Friends

Your child wants a play date with a food-allergic friend? 

Here’s how to make it happen!

By Paul Antico

It’s totally normal to feel some anxiety about hosting a food-allergic child if you’re not familiar with food allergy protocols.  However, with proper communication, precautionary measures and an emergency action plan, you will soon find that this is not as intimidating as it may first appear – and that the children will have a fun time together.

Food-allergic children shouldn’t miss out on the fun of socializing with their friends.  Here are some guidelines to make parents feel more comfortable about hosting a food-allergic child:

  • Take the child’s food allergies seriously… but don’t panic!  The effects of a food-allergic child coming into contact with a “trigger food” can be very serious, but with proper precaution, these events are rare.  You’ll also have a “backup plan” if exposure does occur.
  • Communicate openly.  This is the most obvious and important step.  Parents should clearly communicate to you the “trigger foods” that their child should avoid, and which foods are generally safe.  The child’s parents might prefer sending their own food with the child, which is especially common at birthday parties.  They should also explain how to handle a rare emergency situation and provide whatever you might need “just in case,” generally including an epinephrine auto-injector (commonly known as an Epi-Pen), and emergency contact information and instructions.
  • Eliminate potential dangers before the play date begins.  When a food-allergic child is visiting your house, keep offending foods away.  Proactively put out safe snacks for the kids.  Before the play date begins, thoroughly clean any surfaces that the child might touch.  You don’t want a child with a peanut allergy touching peanut butter remnants from an earlier meal.
  • Be careful serving food.  Carefully read ingredient labels to be sure food you’re serving doesn’t contain an offending allergen.  Ask for help if necessary to understand what to look out for (some allergy triggers have more than one name – e.g. casein is a milk derivative – though most labels have easy-to-read information for the 8 most common food allergies).  If you’re unsure about a particular item, call the child’s parents or just don’t serve that food.  Prevent cross-contamination – don’t allow a food-allergic child’s food to touch someone else’s.  (e.g. Don’t let the icing from a birthday cupcake touch the “special” cupcake brought by an egg allergic child).
  • Understand emergency procedures.  Ask the food-allergic child’s parents how to identify his or her allergic reaction.   Every child – and every reaction – is different.  Some allergic reactions may be severe and require an Epi-Pen shot and a trip to the ER.  (Note that many children have received Epi-Pen shots and ambulance rides to the hospital… and in virtually all cases, these children recover very quickly.)  Many reactions may be milder.  Some children may need a dose of Benedryl and be carefully monitored for a while.  Of course, you should always call the child’s parents, even in a “mild” case.

Children’s food allergies can be quite challenging – and even scary – for parents.  Knowing that contact with an offending allergen can cause severe physical reactions, including potentially life-threatening anaphylactic shock, can make social activities incredibly anxious experiences for the food-allergic child’s parents and the hosting parent. As a parent of three food-allergic children, I know your efforts to include the food-allergic child in play dates and birthday parties will be greatly appreciated. Food-allergic kids just want to fit in and be part of the group.


Allergy Eats LogoPaul Antico, the father of three food-allergic children, launched AllergyEats, a free, user-friendly website that provides valuable peer-based feedback about how well (or poorly) restaurants accommodate food-allergic customers.  AllergyEats lists well over 600,000 restaurants nationwide, which food allergic diners can rate.  The site also offers information on restaurants’ menus (including gluten-free menus), allergen lists, nutrition information, certifications, web links, directions and more.  For more information, visit, join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.