Playing sports is a fun and productive activity that all children should get to enjoy. Children with food allergies can have a great time playing sports as well, but extra precautions should be taken to ensure their safety.
On the field, a child with food allergies is almost certainly safe, but off the field, food allergy dangers lurk. From soccer games to volleyball tournaments, sporting events often have concession stands or bake sales for hungry athletes and spectators. After games and after practice, the team also often shares snacks for an energy boost. Refueling after playing sports is important, but this can pose a health threat to a player with food allergies. Fortunately, there are steps that the child and his or her parents can take to help ensure a safer environment.
A Team Effort
Both spots and food allergies have one thing in common: they require a team effort. Your child likely already understands the foods he or she needs to avoid, but it’s important that the rest of the team is made aware, including the coaches, organizers and other parents. Clearly communicating your child’s needs during sign-up will prevent confusion later on and will give the coach or school officials time to make any announcements and accommodations necessary to make sure your child can participate safely.
Track meets, baseball games and swimming tournaments all have two things in common: lots of people and game-day food. Whether the games are hosted by the school or another organization, concession stands and snack bars are the norm. For children with peanut allergies, stadiums can seem especially daunting. Peanut butter is a popular refueling snack, and peanuts are still often eaten at baseball games. Fortunately, some stadiums are enacting a no-peanut section to protect fans and players with food allergies, but that isn’t always the case and doesn’t protect everyone.
Sport camps are a little more complicated. Usually held over the weekend or for several days or more, football camps and other fun sport camps involve a wider community of youth and are a great place for children to learn new skills and make new friends. But there are more people involved, and a wider community that, unlike the school team, is not aware of your child’s food allergy. In addition, children spend the night at these camps with counselors and coaches, not their parents. It’s understandable that many food allergy parents find the risks to be too great, but thanks to greater awareness, it is safer than ever for children with food allergies to attend certain youth sport camps. As always, clear and early communication is key.
Before the game and whenever your child plays at a new location, take the following precautions to minimize risk of exposure:
- – Arrive early and walk through the players’ area to make sure leftover sandwiches, snack wrappers, etc. are all removed.
- – Locate the venue’s medical tent, and consider speaking with the staff or volunteers there. If something were to happen, they would be the first on scene, so it’s important that they are made aware of your child’s food allergies.
- – Wipe down benches, rails and anything else your child may come in contact with.
- – Bring your own allergy-safe snacks. Even if the sports venue serves allergy-friendly food, there’s always the danger of cross-contamination.
- – If you are traveling far to get to a game, make sure you make hotel and dinner reservations well in advance. Many of these places are happy to accommodate guests with food allergies, but they do need plenty of notice.
- – As always, it’s important to bring your child’s medication, including his or her EpiPen, just in case.
Sport tournaments, camps and games can be stressful for concerned parents of children with food allergies, but remember to relax and have fun too. With only a few extra precautions, it’s possible to create a safe and exciting environment, so that you can enjoy watching your young athlete just enjoy being a kid.