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CHILDREN WITH FOOD ALLERGIES

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by Judy Antell

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When planning a birthday party for your child sometimes the needs of the guests can get lost in the shuffle. This is especially problematic for children who suffer from food allergies. Without the proper foods available for them these kids oftentimes feel left out or worse; end up getting sick because they ate something they shouldn't have. Yet there are many ways that parents can prepare food choices that are thoughtful of kids with allergies while also still being healthy and delicious. Thus all children can have their cake and eat it too.


    One out of every 25 kids has food allergies and an even larger number is undiagnosed. Growing up, I was one of the undiagnosed ones. I have an intolerance to wheat, and considering how many birthday parties I attended every year, all those cakes and cookies were actually doing harm. Yet neither my parents nor I noticed until much later in my life. The problem with some of the milder allergies like wheat intolerance is that the damage it is doing is not always obvious. Thus, it is important that parents remain hyper-vigilant of any symptoms that might crop up.

    Yet while it may be easy for a parent to spot symptoms in their own child it is much harder for parents to see signs in other people's children. I remember one birthday party, which occurred when I was about 8 years old that was indicative of this problem. It was an outdoor barbeque for over 30 children, and flounder was one of the food items being served. We were all running around and playing soccer but my friend Jason seemed sweatier and more flushed then the rest of us. No one really paid any attention to him, because it was just presumed that he was just tired from the game. However, he soon began to have trouble breathing, and the parents who were throwing the party realized something was wrong. A quick call to Jason's parents revealed that Jason was allergic to fish and was having a fairly severe allergic reaction. Jason ended up taking Benadryl and was fine but it could have been much worse. Clearly Jason's parents clearly should have warned the hosts about his allergy. Yet, in general it is better to be safe than sorry, and the hosts should have called all the children's parents to make sure serving fish was OK.

    To see what allergy-minded parents are doing these days I spoke with Cassie Atlas, who lives with her husband Peter and son David in Brooklyn. Cassie has thrown a number of health conscious birthday parties for David. She recommended having an allergy free area at the table and to put it front and center so kids don't miss it. She stocked up on all kinds of products for kids with the most common allergies like peanuts, soy, eggs, and milk. She said that the local health food store had some snacks and that "Whole Foods had loads of yummy stuff." And to be on the safe side she "called all the moms just to make sure none of the children had specific allergies that I should be aware of. " And it was a good thing she did because one little girl had Celiac disease, and Cassie was able to get some gluten-free scones just for her. Cassie says that "everyone had a great time and there were no issues whatsoever."

   Food allergies are a real burden on a lot of people's lives, and they are especially prevalent among children. Yet through diligence and thoughtful preparation parents can make sure children are able to partake in all aspects of a birthday celebration.


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