8 Tips for Allergy-Proof Holiday Celebrationsby Gina Clowes Patient Advocate
Communication and planning are the keys to safe, allergy-free holiday celebrations.
Food allergies can be a challenge at family gatherings and holiday celebrations. Potential allergens are in many of our traditional holiday foods and even in seasonal decorations. Communication and planning are the keys to safe celebrations so read through the following tips and enjoy a safe and joyful holiday season.
The dreaded candy dish
If your child is young, teach him or her that they are never to help themselves from a candy dish without your approval. My son bit into a candy that he thought was safe, only to find out it was filled with peanut butter. Surprisingly, even candy canes can contain unexpected ingredients like milk or traces of nuts. Better to bring your own safe stash of candy to pass out as needed.
The even more dreaded nut bowl. If you see one, even in a good friends home, don't be offended. There are a million things to do to prepare for the holidays and if someone has always set out a bowl of nuts, they may have purchased them on autopilot or even gotten them as a gift. If you have a small one toddling around, ask if you can set them up high somewhere out of the little ones reach. Nuts are a choking hazard for little ones anyway.
When the dinner bell rings, it's too late to arrange a safe meal for your child. Make sure that you call ahead and ask your hostess if you can bring a safe dish to share. If the hostess is a friend, you might ask her to save labels from various foods or ingredients so that you can decide if a food is safe for your child. And ask to serve your child first before the utensils are cross-contaminated.
Desserts in particular are high risk foods as they are often cross contaminated (think spatulas, mixing bowls) and most contain some of the major allergens. Bring a special dessert to share so that your child is included. To most kids, the desserts are the most important part of the meal.
Gimme a break!
At a bustling holiday party, it's always a good idea to tag team with your spouse or trusted friend. You follow around your toddler for an hour and then it's his turn.
If you're a fan of "real" Christmas trees, be aware that these trees may contain mold and pollen. Your best bet is to cut down a live tree (Douglas Fir or Scotch Pine are safe bets) and then rinse it off completely before bringing it into your home. You might also want to limit the amount of time that you keep it in your home.
Let it faux
If you choose an artificial tree (as we do) you should take care to store in an airtight bag to keep it free from dust and mold throughout the year.
Scented candles and fireplaces can be asthma triggers. Try flameless candles; they're beautiful, less messy and are a safe and clean alternative even around children.
ACE - Just in case!
And last but certainly not least, teach your child to be an ACE and Always Carry Epi! (epinephrine aka an Epi-Pen or Twinject autoinjector) Accidents are never planned. And in the rare event that you would actually need epinephrine, you will be very grateful to have it!