Ah, the holiday season. Most people look forward to the hustle bustle of family get-togethers, and the food and feasting that go along with it; although families that have food allergies to consider must take a more precautionary approach.
Even though there are 15 million people who suffer with food allergies, it can still feel like an uphill, lonely battle at times, as though friends and family simply don’t seem to fully understand the seriousness of food allergies. Well-meaning relatives who, either don’t take food allergy seriously or simply don’t know, think it is okay for a food-allergic child to have “just a taste” of a potentially life-threatening food.
When food is everywhere you go during the holidays, from Grandmother’s house to Aunt Martha’s Thanksgiving dinner, it’s nearly impossible to guarantee an ‘allergen-free’ meal. And, all too often, it is the “hidden ingredients" like seafood or nuts in stuffing and cranberry relish that are the culprits.
As a parent of a food-allergic child, you know the importance of reading labels to avoid hidden ingredients in foods. Since there are numerous alternate names for hidden foods, being familiar with them will help you know what to look for when reading labels. It’s good to share this knowledge with your food allergic child as well as family, friends and caregivers who may take care of your child in your absence.
Be informed and aware without giving way to undue anxiety. Stress over food allergies is not the answer. It can affect the well-being of everyone in your family. There are things you can do, starting with education. Educate yourself, others in your life, and your children when they are old enough to understand. This will reduce the risk of a dangerous reaction and also alleviate some of the stress.
Here are some helpful tips to avoid food allergies during the holidays or anytime:
- Call Grandma or Aunt Martha, whoever is hosting the holiday feast and ask specifically about the menu so that you have advance warning and can alert your child.
- If the traditional family menu uses a problem food, offer to prepare a similar addition that can go on the table and that you know will be safe. If you have a great relationship with the host/hostess, you can offer to make a substitute but be careful about this suggestion.
- Try to anticipate, based on past experience, which guest is likely to offer a problematic food and, if your child is old enough to understand, alert him/her.
- Speak privately to any family members who cause you concern to avoid public discomfort but still get your point across.
- Regain your confidence by finding safe foods and recipes. For great allergen-free recipes, check out Kids with Food Allergies "Safe Eats" recipes.
- Communicate your child’s needs to others, especially teachers, neighbors, relatives and others who will be part of her everyday life. This will reduce the risk of a reaction and put you more at ease.
- Work with your pediatric allergist to develop and write down an emergency treatment plan. Make sure you have emergency medicines on hand at all times.