Kids' Food Allergy Temporary Tattoos Shouldn't Be a First Line of Defense

According to the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), one in 13 children in the United States has a potentially deadly food allergy. That's about two kids in every classroom who can't tolerate a particular food -- usually milk, peanuts, eggs, soy, or wheat -- and reactions can run the spectrum from tummy distress to anaphylactic shock. Lately, parents tasked with raising awareness about their child's health situation are turning to an unconventional solution: temporary tattoos.

Temporary tattoos printed with allergy information are sort of the modern equivalent of a medical bracelet, and brands like SafetyTat are offering stick-on tattoos that can be personalized to indicate a child’s food restrictions. It sounds like a great idea ... except for one major downfall.


For birthday parties, field trips, sleepovers, and other social situations, temporary tattoos are being used as a way to communicate information about a child's dietary restrictions. Some of the older options didn't particularly look like something a kid would want on their arm:

(Seriously, that looks like a warning sign at the zoo. He's a kid who can't have peanuts, not a Gremlin.)

SafetyTat has improved the concept with bright colors, illustrations, and a place to write in an emergency phone number or instructions for what should happen should the child come into contact with an allergen. Their Allergy Alert tattoos are water-resistant and are designed to last for three days.

Like I said, it's a great idea. It's just that, well, I've never encountered a temporary tattoo that my kids couldn't turn into an indecipherable smear within a few hours.

Admittedly, I haven't personally tried this brand of tattoo, so it may be hardier than the usual stick-on designs. SafetyTat does recommend that you strategize the placement for longevity:

Also, if you feel your child might pick or rub his or her SafetyTat, consider applying it on a place on the arm that's out of his/her sight, like the outside of the arm below the elbow. "Out of sight, out of mind!"

Assuming the text stays readable and it isn't stuck somewhere an adult wouldn't immediately spot, these tattoos seem as useful as a medical alert bracelet -- and it's possible a kid would tolerate a stick-on design more than a piece of jewelry.

Still, it seems like this should be used only as a backup plan. I don't have an allergic kid, but I imagine that it's mission-critical to actually inform any parents, teachers, or chaperones about food restrictions rather than counting on the fact that they'll see a tattoo.

What do you think about these food allergy tattoos? Do you think it's reasonable to assume an adult will see it and act accordingly?

Image via SafetyTat

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