Holiday gatherings can trigger serious food allergies

DENVER, CO. — Holiday gatherings can trigger serious food allergies, and with Thanksgiving around the corner you won’t want to put anyone’s health needs on the back burner. ABC 10’s Sarah Mac has more on how to make it through the upcoming holidays healthy and happy.

The holidays can be a stressful time for anybody, but for parents of kids with food allergies it can be especially nerve racking. Eleven year old Zach Churchill has severe allergies and has to be on the ball even when his parents aren’t around, like at school. You can probably imagine that he isn’t the only one, Food Allergy Research and Education says that an average of six million kids in the US have food allergies. That means an average of about two kids per classroom.

Zach says, “When I’m there, I have to like read everything, dig through the trash and be like, ‘Oh, is this ok?’ and go dumpster diving for ingredients and all that to see if it was ok.”

If your child has food allergies, National Jewish Health has provided a few tips to make the holidays a little easier on everybody.

Starting with the most important:

Number one: If you don’t have epinephrine, don’t eat.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Director of the Pediatric Food Allergy Program at National Jewish Health in Denver, CO., BJ Lanser, MD says, “It is the only lifesaving medicine we have for anaphylaxis, and so anytime we could come in contact with something we’re allergic to, we need to have the epinephrine available.”

Number two: RSVP – ASAP!

If you are invited to a party, inform your host of any food restrictions right away.

Or you could try tip number three: host the party yourself. You can focus on the food, and have your guests help with the rest.

“Askng guests to bring paper goods, or, you know,’ Lanser added, “games, or craft projects instead of bringing the foods so that you can control what the children with food allergies might eat.”

Tip three has a Part B, provide all the labels and keep the original packaging. Whether you are hosting or attending a party with those with food allergies, this tip will help everyone feel comfortable.

“Our patients and their parents become very good at reading labels,” Lanser says, “and looking for those details. Keeping it in the original packaging and keeping the original labeling is a good idea so that they can review it.”

Here is the full list of tips from National Jewish Health:

  • No epinephrine, don’t eat – The most important tip is to never go anywhere without epinephrine.
  • Stock up on epinephrine – Dr. Lanser suggests keeping two doses of epinephrine on hand. During the holidays, parents should also check expiration dates on their epinephrine and stock up on a fresh supply, particularly if you are heading out of town for the holidays.
  • RSVP, A.S.A.P. –  If your child is invited to a party this holiday season, get in touch with the host or hostess early on to let them know about your child’s food restrictions. Even if your child doesn’t eat the food that’s being served, it’s important to let the host know that the mere presence of certain foods may be an issue.
  • Pre-pack a similar snack – To make sure your child feels included, pre-pack a safe snack similar to those being served at the party. Lanser suggests talking to the host to see what kinds of foods are being served, then sending your child with allergy-safe cookies or bake-and-take pizza, for example, so they don’t stand out or feel left out.
  • Play host – The safest way to control what’s on the menu is to host the party yourself. Be sure to include information on the party invitation, however, that there will be allergy restrictions that need to be observed.
  • Keep all original packaging – Whether you’re hosting or attending a party with those who have food allergies, be sure all the original packaging in which foods were purchased is available. That may help with the party atmosphere, but it can cause a lot of concern for those with food allergies.