This post is sponsored by CVS, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board.
We all know how hard it is to ignore the Valentine’s sweets displayed in our local grocery stores. As an adult, I’m tempted by the array of Lindt chocolates every time I walk past them (and may have already taken a bag home). Imagine a toddler who has no solid concept of what isn’t safe for them in a classroom full of Valentine’s treats. Colorful, sweet-smelling, and delightfully appetizing… who wouldn’t sneak a bite? But, so many Valentine’s candies and chocolates are not allergy-friendly and put kids with allergies at risk for potentially serious reactions. This is an unfortunate scenario our family has encountered since my son was an infant.
We’ve been navigating the minefield of food allergies with my son for three years now and it’s only gotten more difficult since he started school. We first realized he was allergic to nuts shortly after he started solids and tried almond butter for the first time. I hadn’t realized how common it is for children to have food allergies nor how important it is to be knowledgeable regarding potential risks until then. Especially during holidays like Valentine’s Day that so heavily focus on the gifting of food. There have been multiple occurrences when well-intended friends, family, or classmates offer my son something that triggers his allergies. It’ll always be a fear for us.
Thankfully, there are great resource centers like FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) who provide us with expert insight on just how important it is to thoughtfully approach scenarios in which food allergies are a factor to be considered. FARE’s Senior Director of Education and Support Programs Dr. Kelly Cleary, who oversees their national education efforts and maintains a variety of programs and resources for those with food allergies, their families, and caregivers, offered us both real statistics and educated input on just how important it is to always be mindful of how food allergies can affect us all.
And this year, in partnership with CVS, the team at FARE is making it much easier to be mindful this Valentine’s Day. Here are some important takeaways courtesy of Dr. Cleary to keep in mind this V-Day season, and that I as an allergy mom myself hold near and dear:
Food allergies look different for every kid
In conversation with Dr. Cleary and the FARE team, they emphasize the reality that food allergies and reactions come in countless different forms: “At FARE, we recognize that holidays don’t look the same for all families. School celebrations can be a source of stress for parents of kids with food allergies. Imagine if the wrong Valentine’s Day gift could send your child to the ER.” Personally, I’m fortunate that my son didn’t experience a super scary reaction like anaphylaxis after the first few times he ate nuts. Anaphylaxis is severe, potentially life-threatening, and affects several areas of the body, including breathing and blood circulation. His reactions were localized to his skin with itchy red hives around his mouth and cheeks. This also happened anytime a family member ate nuts and then touched or kissed him. His breathing has never been affected but he’s also never been exposed to nuts in larger quantities. We also recently learned that he has the same reaction to kiwis so it’s something else we have to be mindful about. Reactions to allergens look different for every kid and the list of possible allergens is longer than you may realize.
Not only is the list of possible allergens much longer than most people know, but like likeliness of a child you know having some type of food allergy is very high as well, making the decision to provide a non-food item for classroom festivities even more crucial. According to FARE and Dr. Cleary, “1 in 13 kids has a food allergy—that’s almost 2 children in every classroom!” Learning this was a huge shock to me even as an allergy parent. While nuts, milk, egg, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, and sesame are some of the most common food allergens, they are not the only ones by far. Even foods most people don’t consider dangerous like apples and pears could be allergens. My son’s preschool is a nut-free environment, but that doesn’t minimize the risk for other children with different allergies. All-in-all, the chance of gifting kids Valentine’s treats that could be harmful is a lot greater than many parents realize. So, how can we avoid the dangers altogether?
Mindful alternatives are essential
In order to be considerate of children with food allergies, we have to find allergy-friendly alternatives that are safe for everyone. in order to protect both their physical and mental health. “1 in 3 kids with food allergies reports being bullied because of their allergies,” says Dr. Cleary and the FARE team. “This Valentine’s Day, parents of kids without food allergies can help teach empathy for everyone by sharing non-food treats that all kids can enjoy.” Even if your child doesn’t have a food allergy themselves, it’s important to teach them that everyone should have the opportunity to feel included in the fun. Dr. Cleary sums up this lesson seamlessly when sharing her own family’s experiences with food allergies: “Though my son may never be able to have the cupcakes or the donuts or the ice cream shared at school celebrations, we have found that sometimes the littlest things that other families do can make him feel included. A small gesture like bringing in a non-food item for the Valentine’s Day exchange recognizes that holidays don’t look the same for all kids—but can still put a smile on every kid’s face.”
Luckily, CVS has totally simplified the search by offering a wide range of non-food-related Valentine’s Day products. As FARE partners, CVS understands the importance of having options all children can enjoy. Health and convenience are always their top priorities so naturally, CVS is our go-to resource this holiday. They have a huge selection of cute and affordable gifts like putty, finger puppets, stickers and so much more. Plus, you can order online and pick up in-store if you’re in a pinch. No kiddo should have to miss out on the celebration of love and friendship so we rounded up our fave Valentine’s Day picks from CVS that are perfectly safe for sharing!
This post is sponsored by CVS, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board. We only recommend products we genuinely love.