The holiday season is a joyful time of year, especially for children eagerly anticipating special treats like sweets and toys. For parents of children with food allergies, however, it can also be an anxious time. Those same treats that kids look forward to can be life-threatening dangers to children with food allergies. The threat may seem obscure to some who don’t have kids with food allergies. In fact, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), food allergies affect 6 million children in the U.S., a full 8 percent of the population. This means that food allergies should be on everyone’s mind when preparing food for holiday gatherings. With proper preparation and raised awareness, the holidays can be less worrisome for parents and safer for children.
One of the first tasks toward a safer holiday season is to respond quickly to party invitations. As soon as the invitation arrives, it is important to contact the host with information about the child’s allergies. A swift RSVP is also a courteous gesture to the host, giving him or her time to plan a safe food environment.
If holiday plans involve long-distance travel, allergy-safe food should be shipped in advance. This way, the focus can be on visiting rather than last-minute shopping for appropriate food.
Also something to take care of in advance of the holidays is to ensure that a child with allergies has a medical alert bracelet. It is important to check that a child has medical jewelry that he or she will wear to holiday parties well ahead of the events.
The holiday season is a great opportunity to start a trend of providing a list of ingredients to accompany food brought to events and parties. Parents can get creative and make blank holiday-themed ingredients cards to send to guests in advance of gatherings. Another option is for parents simply to provide their own, filled-out card as an example. For every ingredient added to a recipe, the package should be checked for potential allergens. These should also be listed on the cards. It is essential to check all packages because the allergens are often contributed through cross-contamination that occurs in modern food production. The cards are a fantastic way to raise food allergy awareness.
On the day of the party, prepare by packing a kit of allergy essentials. Be sure to include some back-up food. It is essential to travel with epinephrine autoinjectors (commonly known as EpiPens) and liquid diphenhydramine (aka Benadryl) in the case of an allergic reaction. Also essential is for children (and adults) with allergies to be wearing a medical alert bracelet. Medical ID tags ensure prompt and proper treatment by medical personnel in the case of a medical emergency.
Educating a child about their specific allergies is just as important as educating the people around him or her. Rehearsing the child’s allergy or allergies with them on the way to an event is a good habit to maintain. Reminding them of the importance of keeping their medical ID jewelry on at all times is also crucial.
If parents make these steps an instinctual part of the holiday season, much of the anxiety over food allergies can be relieved. Holiday parties can be a time for fun by planning ahead and being prepared with medicine and a children’s medical alert bracelet. The holidays can be safer and happier still when everyone becomes aware of and educated about food allergies in children.