Monday, May 19, 2014

Food Allergies at a Birthday Party - Part 2

Last week my guest post from Paul Antico, founder of gave us great info on how to host a birthday party with a child with food allergies.  {CLICK HERE if you missed Part 1} He's got 3 kids with food allergies, so he's had a lot of experience in dealing with children and allergies.  Now we continue Part 2 of our Food Allergies and Birthday Parties series.  This time we are discussing tips on what to do if your child has the food allergies and is invited to a birthday or a playdate.  This is some awesome advice!!

Food Allergies at a Birthday Party: 
Part 2
Advice from a Food Allergy Parent & Advocate
by Paul Antico

If your food-allergic child is attending a birthday party or play date:

Communicate. Politely explain your child's food allergy (or allergies) to your host well in advance so they can prepare accordingly.  Clearly explain what your child can and can't eat, and answer the host's questions.  However, be respectful and don’t demand changes.  Rather, inform the host that you would be happy to send a separate, safe treat for your child if that would be easier and make them more comfortable.  Also, discuss what can happen if your child accidentally ingests a food allergen and what to do if a reaction occurs.
Be clear about emergency medications.   Make sure the host knows when and how to administer an Epi-Pen or your child's other medication.

Ask how you can help.  Recognize that many other parents are not familiar with food allergies and might be very scared to have your child’s life in their hands.  Be understanding.  Ask what you can do to help - such as sending food with your child, teaching the hosts how to administer an Epi-Pen, etc.  And if the host seems uncomfortable with this responsibility, politely offer to stay on-site to watch out for your child and help out with the party.

Empower your child.  Remind your child not to touch or eat anyone else’s food because it might not be safe for them - no exceptions.  Teach them to politely decline any foods they're not sure about or that you haven't approved for them.
Don't ask for special accommodations.  If you talk to the host parent in advance and learn that they're serving pizza, which your dairy-allergic child can't eat, don’t ask for changes.  Instead, send your child with his/her own safe food (and make your child feel that THIS is the really special food.)  If you know in advance what the host plans to serve and it contains your child’s allergens, consider making something similar (but allergy-friendly) for your child to enjoy at the party.

Call the restaurant in advance.  If the party is going to be at a restaurant or other facility serving food, call them in advance to see if they can make the necessary accommodations for your child.  If they seem unwilling or unable to accommodate your requests, send your own safe food instead.
Feed your child before the party.  If your child arrives ravenous, s/he may try foods they wouldn't otherwise eat.  Serve your child a healthy meal or snack pre-party so they won't be tempted to "experiment" with unknown foods because they're so hungry.

Thank your hosts. Be gracious and appreciative about the hosts' special accommodations for your child.

AllergyEats ( is a free, peer-based website, app and online community where people find and rate restaurants based solely on their ability to accommodate diners with food allergies.   AllergyEats lists more than 750,000 restaurants nationwide, as well as restaurant menus, web links, dining tips, etc.  The easy-to-use ratings and comment system allows users to share feedback about their restaurant experiences, helping other diners make more informed choices about where to dine - and which restaurants to avoid.


Paul Antico is the CEO and Founder of AllergyEats, the leading guide to finding allergy-friendly restaurants.  He is the father of five children - three of whom have food allergies.  As a passionate food allergy advocate, he serves on the Board of Directors for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), both nationally and for the New England chapter, and the National Peanut Board Food Allergy Education Advisory Council.

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