Spending time with friends

Information and advice for a parent or carer of a young adult living with allergy.

Parent of a 5 to 11 year old

Between ages five and 11, your child’s social calendar will explode. As the years pass, they will gradually start spending more time with their friends, without so much adult supervision. So it’s important to prepare them for this independence.

Birthday parties

For food allergic children, eating at parties or any social event can be difficult to navigate. For the younger ages, as a parent, you will probably RSVP and ask if they can accommodate your child’s allergies, or suggest you’ll bring along safe food from home. As they grow older, this might become more difficult as invites become less formal.

To prepare your child you can:

  • Support them on how to say no and not being afraid to speak up.
  • Make sure they understand to avoid any Food or drink item that they can’t check or are unsure of the ingredients.
  • At home, let them practise reading labels and identifying what they can and can’t eat.
  • Encourage them to ask for the packaging to check ingredients. Asking other members of their family at gatherings is a good first step.
  • Remind them to always take along their own safe treats, just in case.

If your child lives with hay fever and is attending a party outside during hay fever season:

  • Make sure they take their medication
  • Discuss with them the ways they can avoid pollen i.e. wearing wraparound sunglasses and a hat or cap with large brim.
  • Let them choose their protective accessories to take to the party.
  • Remind them that showering and changing clothes when they get home is a good way to remove any pollen from their hair, body and clothes.

Activities with friends or school  

Some physical activities such as swimming, ice skating, rollerblading etc. or even the excitement of going to a party or event, can be a trigger for allergies to worsen, especially eczema and asthma. Make sure your child has taken or applied their medications, and that they take rescue medications with them e.g. inhalers, antihistamines or emollients, just in case they experience a flare up on the day. Explain to the friends’ parent or caregiver what symptoms to look out for, so that they can remind your child to take action if symptoms start to appear.

Play dates and sleepovers

When visiting or sleeping over at a friend’s house, your child will be navigating new surroundings and be away from home for longer than usual.

It’s important that you explain your child’s condition to the friend’s parent/carers, what to do in the case of an emergency and risk of cross contamination (if your child has a food allergy). To give your child a sense of responsibility when visiting or staying over, you could:

  • Encourage your child to also speak to the parent about their condition and show them their medication.
  • Encourage them to pack their own bag and ask them what they need to take with them – remind them that they need enough medication for the day and night, and if they’re food allergic, they might want to take along some safe snacks, just in case.
  • If your child’s allergy is triggered by indoor allergens (house dust mite, pet dander, mould etc.) ask them if it might be a good idea to take their own anti-allergy bedding (some children prefer to take their own pillow when sleeping away from home anyway) and take antihistamines and/or their inhaler before and during their stay.

Days out

Your child might be invited to go along with their friend’s family for dinner or a day out. Always make sure the parents/carers are fully aware of your child’s condition and what to do in the case of an emergency. To encourage your child to think independently about their allergy, you could:

  • Remind your child that they need enough medication for the day, encourage them to pack their own bag, check their medication has been packed and take a copy of their allergy action plans.
  • If your child has a food allergy, it’s a good idea to find safe places for your child to practice eating out, give them plenty of opportunity to practise reading food menus and asking staff if food is safe. Remind them of this when they are setting out with friends to eat.
  • Support them on how to say no and not being afraid to speak up. Discuss with your child examples of places that are safe to eat, so they can offer alternatives or suggestions to friends if there is a problem. Reassure them that it’s okay to not eat if they are concerned something isn’t safe. Encourage them to pack snacks, just in case this happens.

Additional Resources

Eating out

Eating out

Tips for eating out safely when living with a food allergy.

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