"Here is his lunchbox. He's allergic to dairy, egg, shellfish, and all nuts. Fruit and water are okay. If you're not sure, don't give it to him. Make sure he washes before eating. Here is his Epipen, Benadryl, eyedrops, and Cortisone cream. If he seems like he's having an allergic reaction, don't hesitate to give him Benadryl, or his Epipen if he's having trouble breathing. Oh, and...have a great time!"
Play dates are great. And play dates are nervewracking and can be a source of much anxiety for an allergy mom. After hearing what I have to say, parents are probably wondering why they invited Tristan over to their house in the first place (I'm only half kidding...). Here are some hints to help make your child's play date fun, safe, and a little less worrisome for all:
Pack Your Child a Lunch (and lots and lots of snacks)
The easiest and safest thing to do is to send your allergic child to a friend's house with his own lunch and enough snacks to stave off hunger for the duration of the play date (including one or two favorite treats) with specific instructions about whether or not your child can be served any other types of foods. I usually ask that they stick with whatever he's brought in his lunchbox, plus fruit or water if they're having that. This is also a big help for, um, selective--some might say, picky--eaters (ahem...).
Always label your child's lunchbox with his name, important phone numbers, allergies, and medications. I write it with a Sharpie directly on the inside cover.
Send your Child's Medications
Your child should never go out of the house without his allergy meds. I say never, though I find myself (on rare occasions, but it happens), out of the house with the kids and realize I am without them. Just the realization puts me in a semi-state of panic. So you can only imagine how stressful it would be for another child's parents to be ill-equipped to treat your child in case of an allergic reaction. If you're leaving your child in someone else's care, please PLEASE PLEASE send along his meds, too.
If your child carries an Epipen in case of anaphylaxis, do a quick demo with a trainer pen (it comes alongside the Epipen in the box), showing the other parent how to administer if need be. Also go over when he would need to administer it and that 911 should be called after it's given.
If you have a spare, leave the trainer with the parent; or better yet, bring an expired Epipen and let the other parent practice on an orange. (I'm not kidding--my allergist recommends this.)
For tech-savvy parents, there's MyEpiPenApp for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch, and includes a demonstration video and slideshow for administering the Epipen, and the ability to create personalized allergy profiles and to share them via email. If only I had an iPhone.
Play date Cards
Funny. My kid has a play date card and I don't even have a business card. Anyhoo...play date cards and mommy cards are the latest thing in the business card industry. And that means people are still trying to figure out if they really are the latest thing, and are giving them away cheap. Yay!
I got mine from Kodak Gallery because all my pics are stored there and it was super easy to insert Tristan's picture and add information, like his food allergies, meds, and my cell number. Okay, no offers right now but they usually have some kind of promotion going on. Another inexpensive option is Vistaprint. Or opt for fancier ones (yes, that means pricey too!) at Felix Doolittle and Tiny Prints. For more choices, search "mommy cards" or "play date cards."
Don't forget the bling
The Allerbling, or whatever jewelry your child is willing to wear that somehow lists his allergies. If he won't wear something, Jeeto's allergy patches and stickers are a cool way to liven up any lunchbox or backpack.
If your child has confirmed or suspected pet allergies, ask about whether pets are in the house and explain your rules for touching or being around the family's pets. Tristan is severely allergic to cats (as am I), so even stepping foot in any home with a cat (even if the cat isn't home), sets off a unstoppable string of sneezing and puffy itchy eyes that you may never have seen the likes of (nor do you want to). The fur left on the furniture of even the most spotless of homes will do it to me.
Keep your cell phone on during the play date and hope for the best, but expect the unexpected. And when it's your turn to host the play date for your child's food allergic friend, provide the same courtesy that others have provided you. Your child's gonna have a blast!