The first time my daughter was invited to a birthday party after finding out she had a food allergy brought on many more questions than what to buy the birthday girl. She was 5 at the time, obviously not old enough to be responsible for her Epipen, much less to give herself an injection. Now that she’s 8, she still doesn’t like to even look at her Epipen, but we’ve gotten much more comfortable with parties.
At first, I always stayed with her at parties (more acceptable at 5 than 8, by the way). That way I knew if something happened, I was there to handle it. But then I realized this wasn’t always necessary and I began talking to the parents about dropping her off. The first time I did, I felt very comfortable, because the mom hosting was an elementary school teacher who had been trained in giving injections. The second time I left her, a friend was staying with her daughter who had a food allergy as well. Again, this made it a bit easier for me to wean myself away.
These experiences made dropping off my daughter less stressful as time went on. I became comfortable giving a quick lesson to the parents on her symptoms, precautions and what to do in case a reaction occurred. I usually got worried looks, but the parents were usually fine with it; if they weren’t, I stayed. I still have never left her without leaving my phone numbers, but I do that with my other daughter who has no allergies.
Some more ideas:
• If the party is at a facility where the employees or owner is running the party you have another option. Often times someone there is trained on allergy protocol and has experience with Epipens and allergies. Just ask and leave your medicine with them. Don’t forget to pick it up when the party is over, same for if you leave it with the parent.
• It’s also a good measure to ask the parent about the party food. Ask where the cake is from if that makes a difference and if any other food will be served. If you are uncomfortable about your child eating something unknown, send in a snack that he or she can have during cake time. Your child won’t stand out; it’s pretty normal these days.
• Talk with your child before the party. Make sure he knows how and when to ask if something is safe.
• Be there when the cake is being served. Ask the host when they will be eating and either stay if they are eating early or come back early for cake at the end of the party (they’ll probably even offer you some, too).
– Heather Legg