The Valentine’s Day Gift That No Kid Wants

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Ah, Valentine’s Day: is there any other holiday besides Halloween more closely linked with candy, dessert, flowers and jewelry? Read on for some tips to make this holiday a safe one for those you love the most, both at home and at school.

How to Have a Valentine’s Day at School

Exchanging Valentines has been a fun tradition in schools for many years. Because Valentine’s Day is also associated with chocolate and sweets, it is important to have a plan to ensure that children with food allergies can safely take part in the holiday festivities. If your child’s school celebrates Valentine’s Day, here are some tips for ensuring that it is safe and fun for everyone.

Parents, talk with the teacher in advance about having a safe and inclusive celebration. Start this conversation early and with a written plan. Talk with your child and remind them of what they cannot eat. Helpful rules include having your child check with you or her teacher  before eating any food and not sharing foods.

Teachers, please do not allow children with food allergies to share food. Foods from others may be a source of unintended allergen exposure. The CDC recommends the use of non-food rewards when possible. The easiest way to ensure all children are safely included at school is to keep Valentine celebrations food-free. This promotes inclusiveness in the classroom while also descreasing the risk that a student could be exposed to an allergen.

Celebrating without sugary, high-fat food and sweets is also healthier and consistent with the wellness policies in place in many schools.

Other Valentine rewards, crafts and activities:

  • Exchange Valentine-themed pencils, stickers, pencil sharpeners and other trinkets.
  • Allow children to design and create handmade Valentines for classmates, teachers and family using construction paper, glitter, glue, stickers, lace and other craft materials.
  • Make paper flowers from tissue paper and pipe cleaners.
  • Cut out paper hearts and attach to string to make garland for the classroom.
  • Allow children to decorate a mailbox or paper bag to use to collect their Valentines.
  • Have the class work together to decorate a bulletin board or the room door for Valentine’s Day.
  • Make friendship bracelets for classmates to share.
  • Create thumb or hand print Valentines. 

How to Have a Safe Valentine’s Day at Home

Valentine’s Day is the perfect reason to make time to be together and to show your loved ones how much you care for them.  

Yum! But wait. Most people know that those with peanut allergies can have severe allergic reactions to anything that nuts touch. But the most common food allergens also include eggs, milk, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. If you’re baking or cooking for February 14th, make sure your sweetheart is okay with the ingredients. Remember to check all labels to ensure foods are safe for your child. Be aware that holiday candy may be manufactured in a different facility than their regular-sized versions or may use different ingredients.

If you’ll be dining out at a special restaurant—especially one you’ve never been to before—call ahead to make sure food allergies can be accommodated by the kitchen. You’ll be a romantic hero for the night.

Pass on the perfume. Some people have a response to strong fragrances—think grandma’s perfume and your old uncle’s cologne. It is generally a reaction to odors created by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can cause headaches, sneezing, watery eyes and runny noses. If your loved one doesn’t wear perfume, it’s probably for a reason, and maybe that’s a gift you should avoid this year.

A Red Rose. How romantic! Nothing says Valentine’s Day like red roses. And for those allergic to plant pollen, it turns out that roses and some other plants produce very little or no pollen. Other “allergy-friendly” plants include begonia, cactus, clematis, columbine, crocus, daffodil and geraniums.

You shouldn’t have! Really. Make sure your sweetheart isn’t allergic to the metals contained in some jewelry, particularly nickel. Nickel is found in many metal products, such as jewelry, zippers and buttons. Even chrome-plated objects and 14K and 18K gold contain nickel that can irritate the skin if the gold gets moist.

Pucker up with care. Believe it or not, there’s something called a “kissing allergy,” most commonly found in people who have food or medication allergies. Symptoms include swelling of the lips or throat, rash, hives, itching and wheezing. So what’s a lovebird to do? Allergists recommend that the non-allergic partner brush his or her teeth, rinse his or her mouth and avoid the offending food for 16 to 24 hours before smooching.

Whatever your choices for wooing your loved one or celebrating your little one this Valentine’s Day, make sure it’s a gift that’s safe and allergy-free.

Dr. Patel is an allergist in Pasadena California. She is board-certified in Allergy-Clinical Immunology and Pediatrics. She is the co-author of The Mommy MD guides to Twins Triplets and More! She understands that parenting is the hardest and most fulfilling job you can have. You can find her @TMommyMD.

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