Allergy Etiquette

By Heather Legg

Here’s a scenario: You meet a new friend at a play group. Your kids get along great and you two have really hit it off. In fact, you get along so well that your new friend invites your family over to her house for dinner. The clincher is, your older child has some severe allergies. What’s the best way to go about this? You want to develop a new friendship, but you need to make sure your child is safe. How do you ask for accommodations when this family has never even met your other child?

You’ve got a few ways to go about this, and most importantly, you should not let the allergy come between you developing new friendships, especially when the whole family may benefit. But you also need to let them know that your child has a severe allergy and will need some accommodation, whether provided by you or the hostess. Also, if you don’t want certain foods around your child, you need to let her know. And the sooner the better.

Upon accepting, just tell her. Something like this, “We would love to come! Thanks so much for asking, it sounds like a lot of fun. However, my older child has a very severe allergy and we need to really be careful with what he eats and what other foods are around him. I know it’s a pain, but we have to do what we have to do.”

Then offer these suggestions up:

• You can offer to bring something that your child is safe to eat. In fact, that is always much better than relying on someone without food allergy knowledge to prepare food.
• Also bring something that everyone can eat, like an appetizer or dessert. It not only provides a safe option for your child, but also takes some of the work off the hostess.
• If there is something that you don’t want anyone eating, tell her. If he is allergic to nuts, tell her you’re not comfortable when people have nuts out at a party.
• Be gracious, polite, but firm. Don’t lighten the severity just because it can be hinderance. These days so many people have food issues that everyone is getting more and more used to working around restrictions.

If you say all this and your new friend balks, rethink going. Maybe you could meet for dinner at your family’s favorite safe restaurant.

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