Halloween candy and the Thanksgiving feast are just some of the tasty traditions that make fall holidays fun. But for the 12 million people in the U.S. with food allergies, these treats can mean trouble.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and its allergist members, doctors who are experts at diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma, know that food allergies don’t have to stop holiday fun and offer the following tips if you, your child or holiday guests are at risk:
1. Tricks and treats: Purchase treats that your child can enjoy safely, and swap them for treats with allergens after trick-or-treating. Send candy your child can consume to school parties or send non-food goodies such as Halloween stickers.
2. Be the class baker: Volunteer to provide the snacks for holiday parties at school to ensure there will be foods available your child can enjoy.
3. Inform your guests: Let guests know that you or your child have dietary restrictions, and offer to let them bring holiday themed plates, cups or napkins, rather than food.
4. Give your host a heads-up: If you’ll be attending holiday festivities away from home, let your host know about your food allergy. Offer to bring safe foods for you and others to enjoy.
5. Don’t overlook the turkey: Basted or self-basting turkeys can include common allergens such as soy, wheat and dairy. Your safest bet is choosing a turkey labeled “natural,” which by law must be minimally processed, and should contain nothing but turkey and, perhaps, water.
6. Hang on to food labels: If you are the host of a holiday feast, keep the ingredient labels from the food you are serving for allergic guests to review before digging in.
7. Carry medications: Always have emergency medications on hand just in case unrecognized food allergens are hiding in holiday treats.
8. Discuss strategies with your allergist: An allergist can help you prepare for the holiday season and suggest allergy avoidance techniques to keep you or your child safe. Your allergist also can help you and your child become “label detectives” so you both know what ingredients to watch out for.