Wear your allergy on your sleeve

While researching gluten free recipes, I stumbled across a children’s clothing trend that definitely did not exist when I was in primary school.

These t-shirts are a really interesting way of negotating the fact that most infants with food allergies probably do not completely understand their condition. Parents can monitor what their children eat when it comes to home-cooked meals and packed lunches, but at school or friend’s places this is out of their control. By alerting other adults that their son or daughter cannot eat certain food products (such as dairy, wheat, eggs or peanuts) parents can reduce the risk of a severe allergic reaction. This is a great idea in theory, as it helps to avoid miscommunication and potential disasters. However, I can’t help but question  the practicality of this strategy. In order for the allergy awareness t-shirts to be effective, a child would technically need to wear it on a daily basis. This is particuarly unrealistic in Australia, where most students are required to wear a uniform to school. However, most parents would have already alerted the school about any allergies their child suffers from- meaning the shirt could be useful in other circumstances where they are away from the home.

What do you think? Would you purchase one of these shirts if your child had a food allergy, or do you think it is impractical?


5 responses

  1. I think it’s a great idea, in theory. Apart from the problem of having to wear these t-shirts all the time, I’m not sure kids should be “labelled” in a such a way. But, anything that helps allergy kids or people around them to be aware of potential food issues can’t be too bad.

  2. Luis Charalambous | Reply

    I think there is a very interesting issue here. Are these shirts helping those children who wear it and other’s around them more aware about special food and dietary requirements in a positive manner, OR, are they merely exclusive and hence isolating children from others? Could it lead to segregation and bullying?

    These shirts aren’t bad, they are creative and innovative. I personally think they are nifty and are meant for positive outcome. I think some people might overreact to them and blow them out of proportion unneccessarily.

  3. That’s a really interesting point you both make, Jess and Luis. I’m not sure that a child who wears an allergy awareness shirt would find much acceptance amongst peers, considering it would single them out on the basis of what is ‘wrong’ with them. In many instances it probably would lead to isolation and harrasment, but I suspect that there are also plenty of instances where the shirts have saved someone’s life. Perhaps there is a more subtle way that parents could inform other adults about their child’s condition, such as allergy announcement cards or even just a simple group email.


  4. The purpose and intentions of these while seem good may have a negative effect as all children prefer to be the same than different. When being in school is all about fitting in, I feel that it may isolate some children and cause bullying to happen. I guess, for these shirts to work, the people around them need to be educated about what they are. I am a person who suffers from hard of hearing and although I am not ashamed of it I don’t think I’d like label, it’s still a little be hard to wear my heraing aids and thats in university :L

  5. I think this is such a great idea in THEORY. Reason being is that yes, sure it’s going to alert individuals about the conditions of the child but are they really going to want to wear it every day? I think that in order for this to be as effective as they want it to be they should really focus on having a awareness day say a couple of times a year, that way it can raise awareness and work in a practical manner, and in a sense can take away this ‘segregation’ and can teach kids to work together which will help them create lifelong skills

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