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Safely celebrating Valentine's Day for kids with food allergies

Posted February 10

Valentine's Day is one of those holidays closely tied to chocolates and candies. But if your child has food allergies this holiday may give you hives.

Little 5-year-old Calvin Lavin knows what he can and can't eat. He's allergic to over 30 food items due to a rare disease. Allergic reactions have sent him to the ER twice.

His mother, Megan Lavin, said, "You sit there and pray and pray that it's (medication), is going to stop the reaction and they're going to be able to open the airways and not have heart failure," "It's just really scary, nothing like it and I think I still have PTSD to be honest."

Megan Lavin's little 2-year old also has an allergy to tree nuts and peanuts, so holidays like Valentine's Day make her nervous.

Shopping for Valentine's is a time-consuming ordeal, but worth it, said Megan Lavin if you're including all kids and keeping them all healthy. You just have to find replacements for the typical Valentine's candy.

"Ring Pops are good. Almost all suckers (are good), because it's just hard sugar," she said. "Sometimes Sweet Tarts are, depends on the packaging and that's what's tricky. Not ony do you need to read the ingredients, but you need to look for, 'May contain or processed in a facility and if it's processed in a facility with nuts,' you just have to assume it's not safe."

Even conversational hearts, which are mostly sugar, may not be safe because they are sometimes packaged in a food plant with other allergens. Lavin said she's got really good at reading labels. "Grocery shopping takes longer. You have to turn over everything," she said.

Intermountain otolaryngologist Dr. Glen Porter advised parents to stay away from the top eight allergens, because those eight foods account for 80 to 90 percent of all food allergies. Those are: milk, soy, egg, wheat, oat, corn, tree nuts and peanuts.

Reading the nutrition labels is key. However, "you have to be careful because sometimes things that have been safe in the past will change," said Porter.

The key said Lavin and Porter is communication between all the parents and schools. Also, a little empathy goes a long way. "If you saw someone with a more obvious medical problem you would want to help them and you wouldn't want to put them into danger. Same is true for food allergies, it's just not as obvious," said Porter.

"When people go above and beyond to include my child, it means the world to me and people don't even understand. Just taking an extra second to ask or to bring something else it just makes me tear up and it shows real compassion," said Lavin.

Lavin also suggested choosing a nonfood item and focusing on the sentiment of the card instead of the treat.

Calvin Lavin has grasped that idea and chose an Avengers Valentine to share with his preschool classmates.

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