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Being an Allergy-Aware Parent

Nutrition, Allergies

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For parents whose children don’t have food allergies, it can be hard to understand how stressful it can be, and to know how to help. Whether you’re hosting a party, having your child’s friends over after school, making a dish for a potluck, or volunteering during a field trip, here are some tips for keeping kids safe.

Preventing an allergic reaction begins with an awareness of what you’re serving, and to whom.

  • Teach your kids to share books, toys, and games but not food.
  • Know what’s in the food you serve. Look at labels and keep track of recipes and ingredients, especially when nuts are involved.
  • Be aware of situations in which cross-contact might occur while preparing and storing food, like cutting a nut-containing brownie before cutting a nut-free brownie with the same knife.
  • Stop and think before you bring a food item into school. Pay particular attention to baked goods, granola bars, and candy bars, which frequently contain top allergens. If you do bring baked goods, be sure to bring an accurate recipe and ingredient list.
  • Ask about food allergies before hosting. Provide allergy-friendly alternatives. Quinoa, fruit, vegetables, meat, greens, tortilla chips, guacamole, tahini-free hummus, and salsa are usually good options.
  • Be patient if a parent or child is being very particular or demanding about food options. You may not be able to accommodate, but you can listen and acknowledge how scary it can be to make food choices.
  • Be forthcoming and admit if you’re unable to provide safe options due to budget, time, or space constraints. Most parents of students with food allergies will be glad to provide an alternative and know their kids are safe.
  • Clearly label foods at buffet tables—and in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, if you’re having a sleepover.
  • Pay attention to the kids around you. If they exhibit any signs of a reaction, call 911 and get help immediately. Listen to what they say about how they’re feeling, especially while they’re eating and immediately afterward.

A little extra effort may save the life of your child’s friend, neighbor, classmate, or teammate.

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