Entertaining kids with food allergies
More and more kids today have food allergies and sensitivities. While you can't eliminate every potential allergen from parties, you can avoid big mishaps. Learn how to make parties safer for kids with food allergies.
Getting ready to host a birthday party or children's gathering? Chances are, one of your little guests will have a food allergy. According to the American Academy of Asthma Allergy and Immunology, the prevalence of food allergies among children under the age of 18 increased 18 percent from 1997 to 2007. Food allergies aren't the same as sensitivities and can be deadly in children who experience a type of reaction called anaphylaxis. If you're serving food at your party, take steps to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction..
Learn about your guests' allergies
Depending on the size of your party, it might not be convenient to ask every parent if the child attending has food allergies. But if you can manage it, this may be your safest bet. Some parents add a note on invitations to let others know they're welcome to share special dietary needs or food allergies when RSVPing for a party. Ask your child if he is aware of food allergies in his class. Most kids, even in elementary school, quickly become aware if a classmate has a severe allergy.
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Avoid major allergens
When dealing with food allergies, it's a safe bet to avoid peanuts and tree nuts. These are fairly easy allergens to eliminate from your party menu. If you've learned that a child attending your party has an allergy to one of the other common allergens, such as milk, soy or wheat, it may require a little more effort. Fortunately, the FDA requires foods to clearly label ingredients that account for 90 percent of allergic reactions. If you purchase baked goods, be sure to ask the bakery or grocery store about cross contamination and ingredients. Most bakeries can use special equipment and processing areas to avoid nuts.
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Team up with other parents
Call or email the parents of kids with severe allergies. They'll be happy to share tips with you. If you're baking your own cake and you're up for substituting ingredients like milk or eggs, talk to other parents about recipe ideas or good substitutions. Parents of allergic children have plenty of tricks up their sleeves for dealing with these allergies. Many parents will offer to bring along a packed allergy-safe snack out of habit. Don't be offended. Sometimes it's simply easier to have a safe back up plan. If the child will be attending without a parent, make sure she's attending with an epinephrine autoinjector if necessary, and that you have an emergency contact number.
It may seem like a big deal because you're dealing with potentially scary allergic reactions, but ultimately, it doesn't take much work to limit the chances of an allergic reaction. According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, conventional cleaning methods are effective in removing the protein of a food allergen such as peanut. Wash your kitchen and cooking surfaces with good old-fashioned hot water and soap and encourage your young guests to wash hands in the bathroom before and after eating.