Pediatric HealthSource: Party Safety

David Stukus, M.D.

Q: My daughter is always excited for all her class parties, and there are usually lots of snacks. I worry because of my daughter's food allergies. What can I do to make sure she has a safe and fun celebration?

A: As the weather warms, parents and students are gearing up for springtime and end-of-year celebrations. Children are excited to get a break from schoolwork, but as food is brought into classrooms, parents of children with food allergies may feel anxious because their child could accidentally consume something they are allergic to.

To avoid this anxiety during school, parents can take the following steps:

1. Learn the rules. Become familiar with the school's food allergy policies regarding classroom snacks and events with food. Speak to staff to communicate your child's needs and inquire whether notices are sent home to parents regarding food allergies. Many parents find it helpful to receive notification about celebrations and send a safe snack for their child so they aren't excluded.

2. Create a plan. Consult with your child's allergist to create a Food Allergy Action Plan. This plan should outline the specific allergies your child has as well as treatment details. This plan is typically signed by the allergist, and the school will keep it on file for reference.

3. Educate everyone, including your child.Notify the school of your child's allergy and educate teachers and staff. Explain to them the severity of the allergy, possible symptoms and what could happen if accidental ingestion occurs. Explain your Food Allergy Action Plan and give them an opportunity to ask questions regarding your child's care.

Always consult your child's pediatrician concerning your child's health.

For more pediatric health news parents can use, visit our blog: 700childrens.nationwidechildrens.org.

David Stukus, M.D., is an allergy and immunology physician at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Tip of the Month

Epinephrine

If your son or daughter has a severe allergy, an allergist may prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector. If a child has such a device to use in case of an allergic reaction, parents and caregivers should know:

  • Allergic reactions happen fast. Severe reactions can occur within minutes of exposure to an allergen. Encourage your child to always have their epinephrine with them, and teach them when and how it's used. Most cases of severe allergic reactions are associated with not having epinephrine available or failing to use it promptly.
  • Don't wait too long. Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction that involves any combination of symptoms such as hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, vomiting or passing out. Epinephrine is the ONLY effective treatment for anaphylaxis and should be given as soon as possible once this reaction is identified. Epinephrine auto-injectors are safe to use and will not cause significant harm when used properly, even if not necessary. Therefore, when in doubt, epinephrine should always be given.
  • Practice. Children and caregivers should practice with a trainer device before an emergency. There are currently three different types of epinephrine auto-injectors available, and each one uses a different technique. Practicing proper technique will help increase comfort with the device. Allergic reactions are scary for everyone involved, and knowing how to properly inject epinephrine will increase the odds of successful treatment.