As winter break nears, many classrooms are gearing up for treat-filled holiday parties.
But, for the 5.6 million U.S. kids who suffer from food allergies, school parties with treats can be more frustrating than fun.
Sandra Hong, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, said it’s important for parents of children with food allergies to make sure their child knows what’s safe to eat and what isn’t.
“The parties at school are usually focused around foods,” she said. “It’s really important to make sure that your child doesn’t eat anything that is home-baked, because it’s extremely difficult to know what’s put into those foods.”
Hong said, ideally, school parties should have non-food items for all kids to enjoy, as statistics show that as many as two kids per classroom could have a food allergy.
But if there is food at the party, she encourages parents to make sure there are safe treats for their child to partake in.
And while there are varying degrees of the types of reactions that a child can have from a food allergy, Hong said it’s never safe to assume that a child’s allergic reaction to a food won’t be life-threatening.
For the child who has food allergies and their family, school parties can be scary and stress-inducing. And sadly, Hong said many kids with severe food allergies are bullied because of what they can’t eat.
“Studies have actually shown that up to 25 percent of children have been bullied at some point in time,” she said. “Kids will say things like, ‘We can’t have a party because Jimmy has a peanut allergy,’ or, ‘We can’t do that because of food allergies,’ and it doesn’t have to be like that.”
Hong encourages parents and teachers to keep in mind the importance of both safety and being inclusive to all students when organizing school holiday parties.