The festive season can be a challenging time for parents of children with food allergies. Typically, we love to indulge, and most celebrations involve dining away from home, plenty of seasonal foods and an abundance of parties – all of which increase the chances of patients accidentally eating – or being tempted by – foods they are allergic to.
Managing food allergies
The main treatment for food allergies is to avoid the offending food. In order to make avoiding the food easier, it is essential patients communicate their allergies to friends and family and ask about ingredients in meals and dessert.
The following tips should hopefully help your patients make this festive season allergy and stress free:
- Contact the host in advance, and gently remind them of you or your child’s dietary needs or offer to prepare food.
- If people ask what they can bring or make, try and be specific. Specify brand names and where these products can be purchased.
- Ask friends or relatives to save the labels of food ingredients, then you can check the ingredient list.
- Make a list of the food that you or your child isnot able to eat OR alternatively, make a list of your child’s top 10 favourite foods that they can happily eat.
- If relatives are staying at your home, label and name food for your child. Also have a labelled gluten free toaster so that nobody puts normal (gluten containing) bread into this toaster and labelled margarine so that it doesn’t get contaminated with a knife with gluten bread crumbs or butter/peanut butter.
- Label food that is being brought into your home by relatives/friends as ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’.
- Get to know your favourite restaurant and che Speak to the waiter/waitress/chef on arrival to inform them of any allergies.
- Ask friends and relatives to check with you (Mum or Dad) before giving your child anythingto eat or drink – even if they THINK the food/drink is safe for the child, have them ask first.
- Be aware of the increased risk of cross contamination at buffets.
- Teach your child to simply say ‘no thank you’ and to only accept food/drink from Mum or Dad.
- If possible, confine food to the kitchen/patio/dining room and ask that food isn’t allowed into the lounge room or where the children will be playing. That way, you will be able to better monitor food intake.
- Buy a colourful “party” plate or lunch box and teach your child to only eat out of that container. Put a selection of “safe” foods on the plate for your child. That way they will know their plate and not get mixed up with other’s plates when others have the same.
- Always have spare food on hand (nothing fancy- but just in case). People may have the best of intentions to provide for your child, but sometimes they overlook the sauce (like mayonnaise) or don’t realise other names for common allergens (i.e. albumen means it contains egg).
- ALWAYS remember the allergy medication – antihistamines and/or adrenaline auto injector e.g. Epipen. Have a written action plan.
- Bring a big pack of baby wipes where ever you go. If there is allergenic food, ask people to wash (or wipe) their hands and mouths before contact with your child. It won’t get rid of all traces, but should reduce the risk.
- Remind friends and relatives that it is important that they wash their hands before touching your child in case they have touched a food allergen, this is particularly important for children with peanut or seafood allergy as just having traces of this food on skin can cause a serious reaction.
- Be cautious of relatives and friends giving your child kisses!Ask relatives to kiss your child on the top of his/her head or give them a hug instead, just in case they have eaten anything that could be a food allergen to your child.
Have a merry allergen free Christmas!