8 Things Not to Say to a Parent of a Child with Severe Food Allergies

Image source: Thinkstock
Image source: Thinkstock

Whether or not your child has severe food allergies, it’s a touchy subject as to what’s appropriate to say to either side. Both parties want to be sensitive, and sometimes things can just come out the wrong way. Maybe one mom is trying to relate, while the other is just worried about one thing: her child’s safety.

I polled eight moms of kids with severe food allergies on some things they’d really like to stop hearing.

1. “I’m sorry, but I have a really picky eater and the only thing my child will eat for lunch is PB&J.”

“Nothing boils my blood more than when a parent brings up sending in peanut products to a classroom that has been designated nut-free, because my child and others have severe allergies. I’m sorry your child will only eat PB&J for lunch, but my child’s life is at risk from your child’s sandwich. I didn’t even make this rule — the school did.

Here’s what I suggest: Send PB&J in. It can be stored in the nurse’s office and your child can eat lunch in there. Or introduce your child to other foods, and explain she can’t and won’t always get her way. Or introduce compassion to your child and explain his friend could get very sick from his favorite food.” — Kelly R.

2. “I totally get it. My son has a stutter and has to go to speech class during the day.”

“Someone compared my daughter’s sadness of having to eat at the nut-free lunch table in the cafeteria — with kids from all grades — to her son’s speech impediment. I completely understand that no one likes to be singled out. But at least your child’s life isn’t at risk due to slurring his words and can select whatever he wants from the cafeteria line and sit with his best buddies at lunchtime, otherwise known as a fun, social period in school.” — Hannah J.

3. “He can work the epinephrine auto-injector, right?”

“A mom asked me this after she said there would be no nuts at the playdate. I explained that Jonathan,* who is only 5, actually doesn’t know how to inject himself in the thigh, but I’d be happy to show her with an epinephrine auto-injector trainer.

When I asked her about the snacks she was serving, she said maybe it was better if he didn’t come — or if I stayed. And I did stay, but man, did I want a little me-time. I feel like if I was hosting a party and a kid petrified of dogs was coming, I’d keep my no-threat poodle in my bedroom. I wish other parents got where I’m coming from.” — Kendra B.

4. “Why did you bring all this food to the party?”

“Birthday parties seem endless when you’re in grade school. Since I don’t want my child to miss out, I pack a non-dairy lunch and dessert, since most parties serve pizza and cupcakes. I’m not trying to be snooty or out-do the party mom who made an epic cake ball tower — I just have no other options. My child doesn’t mind eating apples and chicken I baked at home — and a homemade cupcake. Please don’t even bring it up in front of her.”  — Jennifer C.

5. “I have no idea how you do it.”

“Everyone says this to me because my child has severe allergies to so many foods, but you just do it. You know the foods your child can eat and what to avoid; you have a plan in place with caregivers for what to do if a severe reaction occurs; you keep meds and epinephrine auto-injectors stored at school, in the car, and in your purse. It’s our life and it’s just so routine that even though I worry, I’m used to it and I know how to respond. And my son who is 10 is pretty good at knowing his limitations and when to tell any adult he needs help.” — Lily K.

6. “I think these are nut-free.”

“When my sister-in-law came over with goodies from the bakery, she said that she thought they were nut-free because, well, there were no nuts in the cupcakes or pastries. ‘I made sure to tell the lady no nuts.’ I appreciate that she asked for items she thought my child could eat, but the problem with bakeries is that there’s no label for me to read, and I can’t be sure cross-contact didn’t occur.” — Christa P.

7. “He’ll grow out of it.”

“Noooooo — my son likely will not grow out of it. He’s had this allergy since he was 16 months old and he’s already 11. He’ll be going to college with his medications and a smart head on his shoulders, knowing what he can and cannot eat. His allergy is not something he does, like throw tantrums for no reason. He has a serious, diagnosed medical condition.” — Heather D.

8. “Have you tried re-testing him? Like giving him a little bit here and there.”

“What? A little dab of peanut butter will close my son’s airway. No, we don’t experiment on my child.” — Lorraine C.

*Names changed for privacy.

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