Question: My daughter made a new friend at camp, and she has severe food allergies. I’d like to invite her new friend over, but I’m concerned about keeping her safe.
It’s wonderful when our children reach out and make new friends. Sometimes that takes us outside our comfort zone, which is in my opinion a very good thing. It’s wonderful that you’re considering having this child over, and that you’re thinking ahead regarding any safety concerns.
Please don’t be afraid to host a child with food allergies. They’re normal healthy children who just need you to take a few precautions to keep them safe.
To get started, my suggestion is that when you call to invite the child over, you inquire about her allergies as part of the planning process. You could say “My daughter loves spending time with your daughter, and she’d love to have her over to play. She tells me she has food allergies. Could you tell me what she’s allergic to, so I can be sure to keep her safe?”
In our case, I would tell you that my son is severely allergic to peanuts and all other nuts. Coming in contact with them even in trace amounts could put his life in danger, but it’s very easy to keep him safe. I’d ask you not to serve anything containing peanut butter, peanuts, or nuts in your home the day he’s coming over. We then need to discuss what the kids will eat during the play date. This is essential because the wrong food is our child’s Kryptonite.
I used to send over a safe home baked treat for the kids to share, which took the responsibility to choose safe food off the hosting parent, but it felt awkward. When parents wanted to add something from their home, we would need to discuss what that would be. I now simply tell the parent that Jacob can only eat food from home and send him over with a snack. It’s simpler this way for everyone.
It’s also important to ask how to handle an allergic reaction, should one occur. Ideally, your daughter’s new friend will arrive at your home wearing an Epipen, which is her rescue medication. Invite her parent in for a moment to tell you what symptoms to watch for, what you should do if you suspect she’s reacting, and give you a phone number where the parent can be reached. Now, relax and enjoy watching the new friendship unfold.
Elizabeth Goldenberg is a lawyer and a food allergy expert. She speaks to legal and policy issues affecting allergic individuals though her blog OneSpotAllergy.com, her Facebook group www.facebook.com/OnespotAllergy, and frequent media appearances. She lives in London, Ontario with her husband and two sons, one of whom has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts and nuts.