Teen Tip Tuesday (by Kelly M)-Party Planning for Teens with Allergies

30 May

Have you ever been to a birthday party without a cake to eat?  Of course not. Why? Nobody goes to a party without expecting food to be served. Come on, it’s party etiquette. Unfortunately, those with allergies and intolerances may feel left out despite the best intentions of others. Party planning for teens with allergies so everyone has fun.

Let Them Eat Cake!

How to Make Party Planning Fun for Allergic Teens on Helicopter Mom and Just Plane Dad


Allergies and intolerances may include, though certainly not limited to:

  • Seasonal – hay fever
  • Insect – bee stings and mosquitoes
  • Plants – pollen, specific plants, poison oak/ivy/sumac
  • Animals – cats, dogs, sheep, birds, or horses
  • Food – peanuts, dairy, gluten, soy, corn, bananas, or artificial food colors
  • Latex – balloons, food service and medical exam gloves, first aid supplies (like Band-Aids and medical tape)
  • Migraine triggers – certain foods (nightshades, chocolate, or artificial sweeteners), strobe lights, scents (perfumes or candles), or bright lights


Allergy versus Intolerance

For those who do not understand the differences between allergies and intolerances, please allow me to explain:


Once an allergen is ingested, it triggers a histamine response that can vary both in severity (how bad it is) and in time before symptoms are shown.

Many allergic responses can be countered by an antihistamine, such as Benadryl®, or similar medication. Allergic responses can be as annoying as itchy skin or as life-threatening as anaphylactic shock (which can require a dose of epinephrine from an EpiPen®.


An intolerance is when your body responds negatively to certain foods. People with intolerances may have similar reactions to those with allergies. Lactose Intolerance, for example, is caused by low levels of the enzyme lactase, which helps break down the lactose in milk.

See The Mayo Clinic website for more information on allergies and intolerances.

*Food allergic in this post refers to those with food allergies as well as those who have other allergies, intolerances, or other dietary restrictions.


A Birthday Party

Let us call on Bob, who is allergic to dairy. Bob receives an invitation to a friend’s birthday party, which he attends. Bob is having fun playing party games when the call for cake goes out.

Then Bob finds out at the party that the cake is an ice cream cake.  Bob informs his friend about his disappointment with the lack of communication about the plan for dessert. This party will not be as much fun for Bob because he cannot eat the cake.

Maybe next time, Bob’s friend will ask him before the party – during the planning stage – what type of refreshments Bob can eat without getting sick. Perhaps Bob’s friend will choose a cake next time with ice cream on the side or no dairy at all.


How to Make Party Planning Fun for Allergic Teens

To keep what happened to Bob from happening to someone you plan a party for, follow these simple five steps:

1.Menu Planning

Planning a menu is an essential skill in everyday life. You do not just decide what you are going to serve your guests ten minutes before they arrive. You have an idea for the food. Now what?

When sending out invites, include a request to be told of any allergy, intolerance, or dietary food restrictions for your guests. Dietary restrictions could be your guest is vegan, eats kosher, limits their sugar intake (due to diabetes), or just cannot stomach liver and onions.

When you find out, ask your guest about their typical response to each allergen or trigger. This way, you will know if the guest goes from experiencing an annoying symptom (like itchy eyes) to a life-threatening response which will require immediate medical attention.

When speaking with your guest, let them know what you have planned for the menu. Ask for menu suggestions more appropriate to meet their needs. Restructure your menu accordingly.


2.Shopping Strategy

Shopping is fun, so why not go with your friends? Go ahead and invite your food allergic friends to join you when you go to the store!

See which stores nearby stores sell friendly food. (Keep this information for future reference.)

They can help shop for the event by selecting the brands and foods which are safe. Ask them to demonstrate how they determine if a food is free from their do-not-eat list.

Learn to read food labels, especially the MAY CONTAIN and ALLERGEN sections. This will help you for the current party as well as when planning future events.



Those same food allergic friends can help prep the food, too! Encourage them to guide you through safe preparation methods so everyone can enjoy the party. These methods may include:

Regular hand washing (you need to being doing that anyway)

Separation of safe and not-safe food

Let your guests with allergies get their food first, or

Have a separate area specifically dedicated to serving those with allergies


4.Stand Up

If one of your food allergic friends is being bullied, report the incident to the proper authorities. Let your friends know that you will not tease or bully these friends, and encourage them not to as well.

Bullying towards those with food allergies is rude and can hurt feelings.  It can become dangerous when people decide to “test” an allergy or intolerance. This behavior can lead to hospitalization or even death.

According to a family law attorney, those who “test” a teen’s allergy can be criminally charged and prosecuted for child abuse, child endangerment, and assault. Receiving a guilty verdict can lead to prison.

If you had a life-threatening allergy or intolerance, would you want someone to play Russian roulette with your life? They may not believe the diagnosis, but they must respect it.


5.Just Ask

Now enabled by your food allergic friends, go out apply these lessons whenever the opportunity arises. Next time you become involved in event planning, ask each guest about any food allergies or intolerances.


Looking Forward to the Party You Helped Plan

I encourage you to apply these skills the next time you have an event to plan. Now that you know how to make party planning fun for allergic teens, you can make parties more fun for everyone involved. Those with allergies and intolerances are just like everyone else. They are people with lives to live.

Make today a better day, not just for yourself, but for those around you.


Kelly the Gluten Free EagleTeen Expert: Kelly H. Milligan is The Gluten Free Eagle.  A Gluten Free, Amateur “Ham” Operator, Eagle Scout, small-scale miner, and writer.  He can be found blogging at www.GlutenFreePreppers.com and www.KellyHMilligan.com (a work in progress).

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