Play Date and Allergies?

Updated on August 12, 2013
A.F. asks from Strasburg, PA
13 answers

My daughter is 6 years old, has a tree nut allergy and starting to embrace the "play date." She has an epi-pen, and knows how to use it. How do you all handle play dates? When do you share that she has an allergy, before date set up or the day of? Do you assume the host parents need educated on how to use an epi-pen? I am very comfortable with the situation, but I know others may not be as comfortable. I don't want to scare people off from her inviting her, but I also want her to be safe. Any ideas or suggestions, or stories of what has worked for you, to put all parties at ease?

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answers from New York on

Both my grandsons have serious allergies. Their mom always told the other parents and would send over snacks and food if needed so the other mom didn't have to worry about what to feed my grandsons. The other parents should have this information not because you want to frighten them but because if something happens you don't want them to be confused and delay treatment for something that is life threatening.

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answers from Boston on

My kids have several friends with allergies, a few of which are life-threatening peanut or tree nut. Usually when the kids first reach out for a play date, I will have already heard from my child that his friend has an allergy because they talk about it a lot at school. But the parent will always bring it up during the first phone call to set up the play date. I wouldn't want to leave it to the day of in your case - I have a friend with a tree nut allergy who came over unexpectedly one day and broke out into hives because I had polished my mantle with a wood cleaner that has walnut oil in it, which I wouldn't have done if I knew she was coming over. If I knew I was having an allergic child over, I would be careful to check my cleaning products and soaps for allergens and would clean up the kitchen, move the peanut butter crackers from the snack cabinet, plan appropriate snacks, etc.

In K/1st grade, some parents have said that with their child's allergy, they are more comfortable having kids come to their house or would prefer to meet at the park. Other have approached it along the lines of "as you may know, Tommy has a life-threatening allergy to tree nuts. Would you be comfortable hosting him in your home and would you be comfortable with my leaving an epi-pen? I can show you how to use it if you are. If you're not comfortable hosting, I'd love to have Sam over to our house."

For me, it has never been an issue. I worked in the food service industry for many years so I am confident in my ability to clean my home and kitchen of peanuts and tree nuts. Additionally I have been friends with a woman for 20 years who has a lethal tree nut allergy and have seen her reaction in person and have helped out with the epi pen. I always have Benadryl on hand and the police and fire stations are literally 1/3 of a mile from my house so I know that in an emergency, I can get services here in a matter of minutes. Sharing that info with parents of kids with allergies usually sets their mind at ease that I take the issue seriously and know what to do in an emergency. But I can certainly see that for some parents who don't have experience with this, having an allergic child over could be nerve-wracking (or they might be unprepared on that day) so you would definitely want to discuss in advance.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

If you are sending her to someone else's home for the playdate, then I would let them know at the time you set it up (in case mom is planning snacks, she may need time to prepare nutless things or change her plans regarding snacks). It is easy enough to plan if you know IN ADVANCE.

Then, a quick reminder at drop off when you hand over the epi. Does your daughter know how to use it also?

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answers from Tulsa on

Always assume the host parents need education on how to use the epi-pen. I wouldn't leave her in the care of another adult unless I knew for sure that that adult knew when and how to use her specific pen. There are different brands, so even assuming another parent knows how to use an epi-pen doesn't mean they know how to use HER pen. Even though she knows how to use it, 6 is very young to be able to stay calm enough to use it independently in an emergency situation. Safety first, who cares about annoying or offending someone by making sure they know how to use it when it's your child's health on the line!

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answers from Washington DC on

my daughter has a wheat allergy. It's not as severe as a nut allergy but we do have an epi pen just incase. Her reaction is just a really horrible break out of hives all over her body that itch her so bad she has scars from scratching them. For playdates, I do let people know ahead of time when we set up the playdate. Her allergy is pretty easy in that she is just on a gluten free diet. Other parents usually just cut up fruit as a snack or cheese or go gurts. If they aren't sure, then I just pack a snack for her. Most are understanding and have no problem with me either packing or making a gluten free snack.

Just let the parents know ahead of time and if your daughters allergy is severe then pack her own snack just to be on the safe side.

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answers from Dover on

In my daughter's pre-k class, there were two kids with allergies. One was peanuts and the other was tree nuts. For all class parties, we would have some things that they could eat and some things they couldn't. If there was a special snack that we knew they couldn't have, we would try to make it similarly for them (such as leaving a certain decoration off). When they came to my daughter's birthday party, both had parents that stayed but I told the parents upfront "this is peanut/tree nut free" and this is not....if questionable, I let them decide.

I have never had someone else's kid with an allegy over (just by coincidence) but I always ask when someone's child is being left in my care.

I would hope that the parents would have told me ahead of time so I could try to accommodate.

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answers from Boston on

No you can't tell the mom the day of! You have to discuss this before the plans are set. What CoCoMom said is right - the mom goes and shops and prepares, and THEN finds out there's an issue and you have a list of requirements, including instructing her on the use of an epi-pen? That's not going to work. In fact, it's going to tell her that you are not considerate and that you expect her to adjust at the last minute.

You are putting all of the trust in your daughter to use her epi-pen in the throes of a reaction. That's a lot to expect. 6 year olds forget where they put their shoes and their backpacks. When I was teaching, all of the teachers and other staff were instructed by the nurse in the use of the epi-pen, and we practiced with a dummy pen made for this purpose (no needle but we still had to press it into the thigh, and we had to practice sitting the affected child on our lap, assuming the child would not be able to manage this, either because of the reaction or the panic). We did this every year because, frankly, people forget how to use epi-pens if a long time passes between initial training and actual use. (The same goes for refresher CPR courses.) I can't imagine any parent who is remotely familiar with this situation to be comfortable putting a guest child in charge of her own allergies. That parent is also not going to want or allow that epi-pen anywhere where her own child can get at it, and that includes being in your daughter's possession. 6 year olds cannot be in charge of regulating the behavior of other 6 year olds.

All of my friends whose children have allergies have hosted the first play date at their own homes, and they let the other parent know up front. That opens the door to finding out of the other family's child has a similar issue, and lets them know whether to send a snack or not depending on what everyone can eat. A good friend of mine whose child had pronounced but not life-threatening reactions to egg and soy would tell the other host parent that the child couldn't have those things. But the same child also had an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts, so much so that they put a sink in their front hall and all guests had to wash hands upon entering. So there were very strong requirements if she visited another home, and my friends just never left her alone. They've since gotten rid of her soy and egg allergies entirely so she can eat those foods, and they've reduced her peanut allergy to the point that she can go to places that serve them as long as she doesn't eat them herself, so the parents only have to tell the host parents that there's a peanut allergy, and if they hear any confusion they just say they'll send a snack along with their child.

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answers from Washington DC on

My DD doesn't need an epi pen, but I make sure that any playdate host knows she is allergic to apples, SHE knows she is allergic to them, and I often provide an alternate snack and drink for her. I usually mention it when I confirm that DD can go play. It hasn't scared people off and they appreciate us being pro-active. We have friends whose kids keep kosher, who can't have dairy, are vegan...I just do what I can to accommodate them and ask them if they'd rather send a snack. There was a time we kept veggie burgers for 2 of the sks' friends so that if they dropped in for dinner, there was always something there. It may become that good friends keep food for her.

And of course let them know about the epi pen, and when to call you and/or 911.


answers from San Diego on

When allergies are severe and life threatening I would mention it to the adult in charge. I don't think you need to make a big deal about it but it would be better to be safe than have an accident happen. It's hard to avoid all tree nuts if you're not used to doing it. I don't think they need to know how to use the epi-pen if your daughter knows how to use it.
It wouldn't scare me off from hosting a playdate. It would make me more aware of any food around your child, which is a good thing.



answers from Albuquerque on

CoMoMom said it perfectly. Host the first playdate at your house and take the time to explain the situation to the other mom. You can also provide the snacks for the playdate at someone else's house so you're not worried and they're not spending hours in the grocery store reading labels.



answers from Denver on

My daughter also has a tree nut allergy. She's been taught to say "no thank you" to ALL baked goods, just in case. She's a bit old for playdates now, but I used to tell the other parents about her allergy, make sure she had a meal before the playdate and tell the parent that she's fine and wouldn't need a snack. Or I'd send along her own snack to the playdate. In any case, I'd make it clear (in a nice way, of course) that my daughter was to avoid any food that didn't come from me. Sadly, her life depends on this...



answers from Oklahoma City on

I have never done a play date where I drop the kids off and leave them.

When we do a play date we stay and I mind my kids and the other mom's take care of theirs.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Maybe I'm too relaxed about playdates (or maybe my daughter's allergies just are not as severe?) Anyway, I will typically send a safe snack along with my daughter (enough to share) so that the hostess doesn't need to try to figure out what my daughter can and can not eat. As long as they don't deviate all should be fine.

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