Moms with children who have fatal food allergies can decipher a label faster than you can say "processed with peanuts." It's a world I do not know personally, only by proximity. My children do not have food allergies, but many of their friends do. When these friends are in my home, I try my best to make sure they are safe. But I realized that to really understand what it takes to be considerate of a child with food allergies, I needed to go to the guru: The Mom Who Knows

I reached out to my friend whose son lives with many food allergies, mostly related to nuts. Here is what she wants other parents to know about children with food allergies.

1. Don't Stress About Play Dates

Even though a snack may not contain actual nuts, it could have been processed in a facility with nuts or may contain traces of nuts. Many foods that may appear to be safe, are actually cross-contaminated; pasta sauce, ice cream, pretzels, plain M&Ms, most granola bars, and even some store brand "Oreos" are just a few examples of food that seem innocent but can be harmful to a person with a nut allergy. Bottom line: Please ask parents for the green light before giving their child a snack. 

2. It's Not Personal

Don't be offended if The Mom Who Knows asks to check the label with her own eyes. If she's not around, take a picture of the label and text it to her. Food allergy moms have years of experience checking these suckers and need to see with their own eyes that the food is safe. 

3. Labels Can Be Tricky

The ingredients list may be in a large print, yet underneath that list may be tiny writing (or a different font) that warns: "item may contain nuts." 

True story from The Mom Who Knows: My child once ate a plain sugar cookie that didn't contain nuts but had been processed in a facility with nuts. I thought it was safe. Wrong! Because of this cross-contaminated cookie, my child was covered in hives! Of course results differ with the severity of each child's allergy... my child's allergy just happens to be very sensitive. 

4. No Nuts Around My Child, PLEASE!

Please don't allow your child to eat peanut butter or trail mix when my child is at your house (and please do not bring it to my house). As long as my child is not eating or touching the items, he'll be safe. But if his friend is eating nuts near him, he will be a nervous wreck. My son knows his allergy is life threatening and being in close proximity to peanuts makes him extremely anxious. In order to make him feel comfortable, please save that PB&J for another day. Better yet, we can have a play date that doesn't involve food. 

5. Homemade Food Doesn't Equal Safe

Even though a baked good is homemade, it still can be dangerous for my child to eat. All those ingredients used had labels that need to be checked (See #3) and it's just too risky to assume a food is safe because it was not made in a factory. Again, please ask. 

6. I Have Birthday Parties Covered

My child would love to come to your child's birthday party! Please do not worry about having a separate snack for him or if your birthday cake is allergy friendly. It is not your job to worry about that. Just let me know and I will either bring him his own sweet treat or he can go without cake. No, really. It is totally fine if he doesn't have any. He is used to not eating what everyone else is and it doesn't even bother him anymore. So don't feel bad! 

7. It's Okay if You Don't Understand, Please Just Be Thoughtful

Someone once told me they understood food allergies because "milk hurts [their] stomach." While this is no doubt unfortunate, a tummy ache is very different from a child not being able to breath and possibly dying from something they eat. Please be sensitive to those who have children with a life-threatening allergy. 

8. Always Double Check

Even if my child tells you "I've eaten that before" it does not mean he can eat it without asking me. Although my child is trustworthy, he may have had a different brand or similar item. Labels always need to be checked! When he is older he will take the responsibility into his own hands, but for now, adults should decide. 

9. Be Prepared

If I leave my child in your care, I will leave you with his Benadryl and epi pen. These items must always be around when my child is around – even if the kids are not planning on eating while he is there. It could be the difference between life and death. I need you to respect that. 

10. Consider the Big Picture

Please do not complain about your child not being able to bring PB&J to the pre-school classroom because "that's all they will eat." If peanut butter touches my child, he will break out in a horrible blistering rash and be covered in hives. If it gets in his mouth, it could be fatal. I'm sure that you can find something else to pack your child in that Spider-Man lunch box.

Children with food allergies need the adults around them to be respectful and responsible. Please remember how serious things can get for these chlidren, and when they are in your care, make sure to discuss protocol with their parents. Being understanding and considerate of a child's food allergies will make them feel safe and welcome in your home.