Playdates for Kids with Allergies

We all know how fun and socially stimulating playdates are for young children. But as an allergy mom (I think that’s what they call us), managing playdates for kids around children with severe food allergies can be extremely challenging.

My son, Jack, is allergic to nuts and eggs. We discovered this when Jack was just 6 months old. My husband kissed him after eating eggs for breakfast and Jack immediately broke out into hives. Shortly after this episode and a trip to the allergist, we came home with our own family stash of Benadryl and epi-pens. It felt like everything was about to change. And it did.

Since Jack’s allergy diagnosis, we’ve learned to approach social settings with caution. It’s not just about what’s for lunch at playdates, it’s about the fact that what’s for lunch is now all over the toy my child is about to stuff in his mouth.  This doesn’t mean we hermit ourselves and hide Jack from playtime; we’re simply smart about it.

So if you’re in the same boat, here are a few tips and tricks from this experienced allergy mom…

You can never be too prepared for your child’s safety. Whenever I leave Jack at a playdate with a mom I trust (only moms I trust), I have a serious conversation about his allergies and symptoms to watch for.  I leave her with an easy-to-read “how to use an epi-pen” photo diagram, the appropriate dosage of Benadryl ,and I go over how to act in an allergy emergency. Additionally, I keep a signed medical release form that includes full emergency contact and insurance details in his epi-pen bag.

Become the master chef you never thought you could be. OK, in my case I don’t think I will ever be a master chef. I’m actually a terrible cook. Nonetheless, I always pack food for Jack to eat and throw in extra for his playmates (poor kids!). And since desserts often carrying sneaky allergens, I usually offer to take care of dessert at parties. Safe snacks for all mean fewer accidents.

Offer to host playdates at your house.This is obviously the safest scenario and one that I opt for 90% of the time. By hosting playdates for kids at your own home, you can control the food and also give your local mom friends ideas for snacks to serve at their playdates. 

Be prepared as backup host. Whenever I am scheduled for a local playdate, I make sure my home is prepped for an unexpected last minute change of plans due to a massive peanut butter or egg catastrophe at a friend’s home. Right before I head over to a playdate, I always text the mom to make sure she is still comfortable hosting or if she would feel better coming to our place.

Read the other person before leaving. If you are planning on leaving your child at a playdate, read the host’s mood. If you sense any discomfort on their part, address them candidly about their concerns. Not everyone can handle this type of responsibility and that’s ok. If you sense that this is the case, hang around for the playdate.

It’s OK to panic a little inside, but try to keep calm around the kid. As women, we tend to wear our emotions on our sleeves. It’s definitely natural to feel uneasy about leaving your allergic child at playdates or even at school, but remember that they are watching us and will be impacted by how we manage our feelings. Especially as our children get older and approach independence, it’s really important that we do our best to foster an atmosphere of normalcy while instilling confidence in their ability to safely manage their allergies.

It’s a long road ahead for us allergy moms, but we are far from alone. I look forward to hearing from other allergy moms about how you manage safe playdates!

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