Over the past three decades, there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of food allergy. Over 15 million Americans are now affected by food allergy, and roughly 1% of Americans have a peanut or tree nut allergy. Although the vast majority of these individuals do very well with the avoidance of their food allergen, serious and unexpected reactions can occur. Just over this past Thanksgiving holiday, an 11 year-old Florida boy died after eating a dessert that unknowingly contained walnuts.
The holidays can be a particularly challenging time for both children and adults with food allergies. Many attend parties and family get-togethers, eating homemade meals and desserts. Here are some important tips to remember to stay safe with food allergies this holiday season:
- When preparing foods, always carefully read labels for food allergens.
- Modify holiday-favorite foods with allergen-free ingredients
- If eating at a restaurant, inform the server about your food allergy. Make sure the restaurant is comfortable serving patrons with food allergies.
- If visiting family and friends, communicate ahead of time regarding your food allergies.
- Offer to help prepare meals and desserts that do not contain your food allergen.
- Bring pre-prepared snacks, meals, and desserts when visiting others that you know are safe to consume.
- Always question you hosts about what ingredients are in meals and desserts.
- When in doubt, avoid the food. No matter how tasty it may be, no food is worth the risk of a food allergy reaction.
- ALWAYS carry epinephrine. Accidental ingestions happen, and epinephrine remains the treatment of choice for any significant food allergy reaction.
The holidays should be a great time for all individuals, even children and adults with food allergies. A little extra planning and preparation will go a long ways towards keeping everyone safe and happy!
Whether you are a parent of child with allergies, or hosting guests who have a food allergy, a little preparation and extra planning could ensure a safe holiday season for everyone at the dinner table.