Hidden Allergens at Christmas and Holidays
Everywhere you go during the holiday season, you’ll find hidden allergens lurking: in the food at Christmas parties, in edible decorations, special, traditional foods with milk, egg and/or nuts! And of course the well-meaning, yet uninformed relatives who simply ‘do not know’ the dangers of food allergies are a challenge of unique proportions.
Traveling to the homes of friends and families also means the unavoidable encounter of pet dander exposure and dust mite contamination. For people suffering with allergies, food or otherwise, it can seem like a daunting experience to get through the holidays. However, understanding the challenges helps you to better prepare.
Here are some solid tips for making your holiday festivities more fun and free from hidden allergens.
- Call relatives who are hosting the holiday feast and ask specifically about the menu so that you have advance warning.
- If the traditional family menu uses a problem food, offer to prepare a similar addition that can go on the table and that you know will be safe. If you have a great relationship with the host/hostess, you can offer to make a substitute, but be careful not to offend.
- Try to anticipate, based on past experience, which guest is likely to offer a problematic food and, if your child is old enough to understand, alert him/her.
- Speak privately to any family members who cause you concern to avoid public discomfort, but still get your point across.
- Regain your confidence by finding safe foods and recipes. For great allergen-free recipes, check out Kids with Food Allergies “Safe Eats” recipe database.
- Work with your pediatric allergist to develop and write down an emergency treatment plan. Make sure you have emergency medicines on hand at all times.
Dust mites and pet dander contain hidden (invisible) allergens that should be on your watch list especially during the holidays. When you travel, take along your own allergen-proof pillow cases and try to avoid visiting homes where pets live inside the house. It may be a difficult conversation but if visiting Mom and Dad and their cats always triggers your child’s asthma, stay at a friend’s house or a motel. And it goes without saying to avoid those adorable gifts for your asthmatic child: a puppy or a kitten. Pet dander is a significant asthma/allergy trigger.
Planning ahead and understanding situations can help you avoid an atmosphere of worry and anxiety. Our FAST doctors can answer questions you may have as the holiday season grows near. Stay informed about hidden allergens and you and your family will have a jolly holiday.