I recently read an article on ABC News about a new range of “Don’t Feed Me” t-shirts, on which parents could tick off the foods to which their child is allergic. The t-shirts are aimed at children under five, who aren’t yet able to communicate their allergies or to read. By wearing the t-shirt, for example to nursery, a party or with a new babysitter, the child’s carers will be reminded about which foods are off limits.
It seems that many allergy parents are fans of these types of t-shirts. However, the jury is still out on this in our house. My son (D) is now 2 1/2 and hasn’t yet started going to playdates or parties by himself. He is either cared for by his dad and I, nursery or his grandmothers, all of whom are fully aware of his allergy and the foods to be avoided. He won’t be going to a playdate or party by himself unless (1) we were confident that the parents hosting were aware of his allergy and knew how to keep him safe and (2) ideally also that D can communicate for himself that he cannot eat nuts.
Dr Wayne Shreffler voices the concern in the ABC article that the t-shirts could act as “bully magnets” and, once the children are old enough to read, I think this is a fair point.
So, at the moment, I’m unconvinced. However, I may well change my tune over the next couple of years, and if I do, I will certainly keep you posted. In the meantime, if you are thinking of giving allergy t-shirts a go, here are some websites I have come across which you may find useful:
- Always Read The Label (UK site, selling allergy t-shirts, bibs, badges and stickers).
- “Don’t Feed Me” t-shirts (US site, so would need to check whether they ship to the UK).
- Love, Linda (US site, so would need to check whether they ship to the UK).
- Olli Lolli (Canadian company which ships to the UK).
- “Getting Rid of the Food Allergy Fear Factor” by Dr Ruchi Gupta (Huffington Post, 5 April 2013). This article aims to take the fear out of an allergic child going on a playdate (both for the parent dropping off the allergic child, and for the parent hosting). Includes a bullet point list for the host, setting out what to do if you think the child might be having a reaction.
- “Hiring a New Baby Sitter for Your Food Allergic Child” by Linda Marienhoff Coss (Kids With Food Allergies, November 2005). Handy checklist of things to talk through with the babysitter beforehand.
- “Food Allergy Bullying: How to protect your child from harassment” by Eve Becker (“Living Without” magazine, Dec/Jan 2013 Issue).