Monday, March 8, 2010

Backstage with Nut Allergies

My daughters' dance recital was this weekend and it got me thinking that many of you may be facing dance recitals, variety shows and school plays as we enter the spring season.

Despite the fact that many of these shows prohibit food backstage, it does tend to be everywhere, mainly because kids get hungry during long rehearsals. Also, I've found that parent volunteers tend to bring snacks to appease the kiddos. At a previous dance recital, I remember being told that no food was allowed backstage, only to find out from my daughter that she was being offered food right and left. In shows, as with life in general with a nut allergy, it pays to assume that there will always be food to deal with.

Even though you'll be super busy getting kids in costume, at the rehearsals on time and with all of their lines and/or dance steps memorized, you can't leave food allergies to chance. Here are a few things I've found to be helpful during "show time."

1. Make sure that key people (teachers, parents, whoever is helping out with your child's group) knows about your child's allergies. Take the time to introduce yourself at rehearsals and ask them not to give your child any food backstage unless it's been approved by you. You should also provide your cell-phone number in case of emergency.

2. Provide a safe snack and drink for you child, clearly labeled and marked with their full name. Oliver's Labels are a great choice because they also will say "No Nuts" in addition to your child's name. This will prevent water bottle mix ups and such that often occur during the chaos of practices and performances.

3. Depending on your child's age and ability to communicate about their allergy, consider a "safety tattoo." Available from One Step Ahead these will not interfere with your child's costume (like a medical I.D. tag) and will alert bystanders and helpers to your child's food allergy.

4. Pack Epi Pen, Benadryl and clear, easy-to-read usage instructions with your child. You will also want to list symptoms of an allergy in case an emergency occurs.

5. Volunteer to help if you can (especially for younger children.) I've done this in the past and never regretted it, even if I've had to miss some parts of the show. Dance performances and plays are notoriously chaotic backstage.

6. Ask to see the labels of any makeup and hair products that will be used on your child before the performance or during rehearsals. Some cosmetics and hair products contain nut oils that can be absorbed through the skin.

And remember, once you've taken your precautions, enjoy the show! It's rewarding to see your child get up there in front of an audience and there is no reason why they can't. Just be cautious, do your homework and then get ready for applause!


Mary Beth said...

Such a helpful post! My peanut allergic daughter is only 4, but we have already encountered this problem. At her dance recital (which involved hundreds of kids of all ages), there were signs clearly stating "no food" and yet there was food everywhere. It was chaotic, just like you said. I volunteered backstage the second night of the performance and couldn't believe the craziness and the food - I felt very lucky that she escaped the first night without any problems without me backstage. I will definitely use stickers next time and I think I will place a sticker right on her chest clearly stating her allergy and that she may not have any food - I will tell her instructor to simply remove it as she walks on stage. Thanks for the good tips@!

Jane Anne said...

I don't have a performer but these are great reminders for me. These tips are useful for all kinds of events. Thanks. (Also, glad you included so many great links.)

Hodgepodgemom said...

Wonderful info! We have all sorts of events these printable labels will be good for. Appreciate it.