Saturday, August 17, 2013

Back to School Idea for Kids with Food Allergies

Hard to believe that summer is almost over with. That means kids are going back to school, and if you have a child with Celiac Disease (or other food allergies), then I'm sure you're pretty concerned about your child accidentally getting "gluten'd".

I don't have a child yet, but because my husband has Celiac Disease, my future child has a 50% chance of having Celiac. That means I have a 50% chance of becoming a crazy, overprotective, go-everywhere, don't-feed-my-child-anything-without-asking-me-first, did-I-mention-crazy mother.

But that's where AllerMates comes in. A few months ago, I was sent a press release about AllerMates products and asked if I would like to receive free samples for review. Eager to find out more and see the products in person, I said, "Yes! Sign me up!"

AllerMates was created by a mom, Iris Shamus, whose son had developed allergies to nuts, fish, eggs, and sesame products. Iris had been able to protect her son from allergen exposures when he was a toddler, but what was she to do once her son went off to school? She also wanted to keep thing light and positive for her son instead of creating products that singled him out and made him feel different from the other kids. So Iris created funny little characters with names such as P. Nutty, Nutso, Pint, and Eggie and wrote fun poems and stories about these characters. She turned those characters into allergy awareness dog tags and latex-free wristbands for her son to wear when he was out and about. Her young son loved the characters, and wearing the dog tags and wristbands reminded others of his allergies.

AllerMates products have expanded from dog tags and wristbands. Now the company makes stickers and labels, charms and charm bracelets, medicine cases and bags, lunch and snack bags, and more. And you can purchase these products for a variety of health concerns, including asthma, bee sting, cat allergy, Celiac, dairy allergy, dairy free, diabetes, dog allergy, egg allergy, fish allergy, food dye allergy, insect bite allergy, latex allergy, nut allergy, peanut allergy, penicillin allergy, pollen allergy, sesame allergy, shellfish allergy, soy allergy, tree nut allergy, vegan, and wheat/gluten-free.

I was sent a few of the wristbands, a dog tag, and a wheat/gluten-free snack bag. The wristbands and the dog tags are great for younger kids to wear because they easily serve as a reminder to teachers, daycare workers, camp counselors, and other parents that your child has this allergy. There are even wristbands that let you write your child's name, his or her health concern, and an emergency contact number in case something happens.

The snack bag is cute, too, and is reusable. However, you can only wipe it with a damp cloth. It is not machine-washable. But it still makes a great addition to your child's lunchbox (especially an AllerMates lunchbox) or as a way for your child to bring an allergy-free snack/dessert when going to a
birthday party or sleepover.

The AllerMates website also has a "kids" section with kid-friendly information on the health concerns, online puzzles and activities, games, and more. Parents can print out information booklets and school/camp forms and signs to let teachers/counselors know what to do in case of an emergency and designate certain tables or areas allergy-free.

Obviously, AllerMates is geared toward daycare-, preschool-, and elementary school-aged children. Those will be the kids who find these characters cute. Middle schoolers and certainly high schoolers will not want to go around wearing a dog tag with a picture of Professor Wheatley (the wheat/gluten-free character) on it. But hopefully, through wearing these wristbands and using these products as young kids, it will help these children not feel weird about their allergy, come to accept their allergy as part of who they are, and, most importantly, speak up for themselves. Kids (and adults) with allergies and other health concerns should never feel ashamed to be their own advocate.

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