Food Allergy Safety at the Movie Theater: What You Need to Know

It seems like every kid I know is talking about Toy Story 3 so chances are that your child is begging to go see it. However, a trip to the movie theater is a bit more complicated for a child with food allergies. Today we’ll go over some tips for having a safe and enjoyable movie theater experience.

The Movie Theater Concession Stand

If your child’s food allergies occur from ingesting food allergens, it’s much easier to control what they are exposed to. Your main obstacle will be the concession stand. Of course, we should all avoid this kind of food as much as possible but for a special occasion like going to the movies, it is fun to indulge a little.

Make sure you call ahead to inquire about any foods or ingredients that you are unsure about. For example, some movie theaters serve buttered popcorn that contains dairy while others are dairy-free. Use your discretion; if they can’t guarantee its safe, don’t risk it.

With prepackaged candies, its easier to identify ingredients and any potential allergens. Check the ingredients ahead of time to see what is safe for your little one! Some candies may be made of mostly sugar so although not healthy, they may be a safe special treat. For example, below are the ingredients for Sweet Tarts and Sour Patch Kids, both of which are free of the 8 major allergens.

  • Sweet Tarts: Dextrose, Maltodextrin, Malic Acid, and Less than 2% of Calcium Stearate, Artificial Flavors, Blue 1 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake.
  • Sour Patch Kids: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Citric Acid*, Tartaric Acid, Natural and Artificial flavors, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, Blue 1.

*Keep in mind, some kids can be sensitive to Citric Acid and certain food dyes.

Allergies to Airborne Particles

If your child reacts to airborne particles, such as with peanut allergies, it’s more difficult to prevent exposure but there are various ways to keep the risk to a minimum. Here are some ideas:

  • Try to see the movie at a time when the theater is not too crowded. This way, you can separate yourself from other viewers who may be eating unsafe snacks.
  • Bring a seatcover. Not only are they great for when your little one with allergies is traveling, they can do double duty as a movie theater sheet!
  • Bring Clorox wipes to clean the arm rests.
  • There is often candy and other snacks dropped in the aisle, so if your child reacts on contact, dress him/her in pants vs. shorts and closed-toe shoes vs. sandals.

No matter how safe you are, it can be difficult to 100% eliminate the risk for an allergic reaction so be sure to pack your epinephrine auto-injector if a doctor has prescribed one.

Alternatives To Help Avoid Allergens

  • Bring Your Own Snacks: Although this is no-no most of the time, try calling the movie theater and explaining your situation. If they don’t offer any foods safe for your child, they will probably allow you to bring your own.
  • Drive-in Movie Theater: Believe it or not, there are still some of these around! The great thing about the Drive-ins is that you can bring your own snacks and seats, plus you can control how far you sit from other people and their snacks.
  • Bring the Movie Theater Home: With features like On-Demand, you can get movies still in theaters right in your home. Invite some friends over and prepare some allergy-friendly snacks.

Have you picked up any tips or precautions for taking a child with food allergies to the movies?

– Mallory West

Published: 06/24/2010
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