Holidays and food allergies

As an asthma/allergist and the mom of a child with food allergies, I know that for people with food allergies, celebrating holidays can be difficult. I’ve found that clear communication and a little planning will help you and your family enjoy the holidays worry-free.

Whether you’re home or traveling, try these tips:

Inform your guests

  • If you’re hosting a party, it’s important to make sure guests know about your family’s food allergies.
  • If guests are bringing food, you may need to ask about ingredients or suggest safe items like fruit to serve with dessert.
  • If guests are staying for long visits and helping with grocery shopping, it’s OK to give them a quick lesson on the importance of reading labels.

Be a good guest

  • When you’re invited to a party, inform the host immediately about your family’s food allergies.
  • Educate the host about the danger of cross-contamination, such as trigger foods coming in contact with storage containers, baking sheets and utensils.
  • If your child has food allergies, ask that no one feed him or her without talking to you first. Remind family and friends that even one little bite can hurt.

Eat in advance

  • If you’re attending a party and you’re not sure safe food will be served, give your child a snack at home before you leave. It’s a good idea to pack a snack for later, too.

Travel safely and be prepared

  • Remind your child never to accept food unless you know it’s safe, and consider bringing along your own safe snacks if you’ll be away from home for a long period of time.
  • If your child’s food allergies are severe, be ready for emergencies. Carry and know how to use injectible epinephrine and antihistamines to treat unexpected reactions.

Severe allergic reactions

  • Eating certain foods can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
  • Anyone with symptoms of anaphylaxis needs emergency treatment immediately.

Allergy-free holiday recipes are available from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

– Asriani Chiu, MD, allergist/immunologist, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

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