With recent research showing that one in 25 U.S. children has a
food allergy, it's likely that one of your child's classmates will
be living with this potentially life-threatening condition.
Here are five tips for coping with food allergies in the
Ask for a list of "safe foods." A food list is a big help to
parents who plan class parties or events. Kids with allergies may
have specific brands or types of foods they can safely eat, so ask
the allergic family or teacher for a list at the start of the
school year. "Dealing with allergies can be complicated, so point
us in the direction of what kids can have and not just what they
can't," suggests Erika Joyner, a west suburban Girl Scout leader
and mom of four.
Count on the allergic families to contribute food. Fourth-grade
teacher Catherine Blake uses this approach. "I like it if parents
of the allergic child can provide treats. Those of us who don't
have to think about allergies on a daily basis aren't always
completely aware of what's best to eat for allergic kids," says
Blake. Allergic families are used to providing food for parties and
events, so don't hesitate to ask them to send safe treats.
Consider non-edible treats. Non-food treats are a safe,
worry-free and fun option for everyone. Items like inexpensive
toys, stickers, small notebooks and themed pencils can be a big
hit. Plus, they have the added bonus of being sugar-free as well as
Understand that food restrictions are sometimes necessary. If
you're being asked to avoid or minimize a food in your new
classroom, it's for good reason. Food residue (such as sticky
peanut butter) can be transferred to shared surfaces on computers,
desks and more. Cross-contact can trigger allergic reactions.
Don't be afraid to invite allergic classmates to a play date or
birthday party. Some parents are hesitant about hosting a
food-allergic child because they fear an allergic reaction. In most
cases, food allergies are very manageable. Depending on the
allergic child's level of independence and your level of comfort,
ask the parent to stay. Who knows? You might make a new friend,
Jenny Kales is a La Grange Park freelance writer and mother of
two girls. She writes about parenting with food allergies at "The
Nut-Free Mom Blog," www.nut-freemom.blogspot.com.
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