Top 5 Tips for Celebrating the Holidays Free of Food Allergy Fears
Since holiday celebrations can put children with food allergies at risk of food allergic reactions, it is important to plan to reduce these risks and, in the process, minimize stress and anxiety for everyone.
Our simple strategies below can help you identify ways to manage food allergies during the holidays so that your family can focus on the joy of the season.
1. Prepare for Celebrations Away from Home
Talking with friends and family about your child’s food allergies can be challenging but it is important to share your concerns to reduce any conflict or frustration. It is important to be direct and clear when sharing the risks presented by problem foods, as well as safeguards to protect your child. Having this conversation before the event allows everyone time to plan and take action, which can help minimize stress during the celebration.
Remember that friends and relatives may not know how to avoid certain foods such as nut and nut extracts in baked goods, or they may forget that butter is made from milk. They also may not be in the habit of reading labels.
Cross-contact could also be a potential issue if they do not know how to avoid potential exposure to other foods being prepared in the kitchen. Cross-contact can occur when food comes into contact with another food and their proteins mix. Even though there may only be small amounts of proteins that mix, children with food allergies can be affected and could experience a food allergic reaction if exposed to problem foods.
For these reasons and more, you may want to be in the kitchen when food is being prepared so you can help out and also explain safe practices that can help prevent allergic reactions as this could be helpful to them in the future.
You can also offer to help plan the menu or bring safe foods for your child. You may also choose to bring or provide a list of packaged foods that are safe for your child.
You may also want to ask your hostess if your child can be served first so that you do not worry about cross-contact. Teaching your child what they can and cannot have at a gathering, and how to politely say no to unapproved foods can also help reduce the risk of allergic reactions.
2. Offer to Host
Hosting celebrations in your own home can help you control which foods are served. Based on your comfort level, you can provide recipe suggestions to friends and family or let guests know what they can bring. If you choose to allow foods that contain your child’s allergens, consider designating specific areas for certain foods to prevent cross-contact. For school activities, volunteer to plan and coordinate activities focusing on allergen-free foods and traditions.
If you are not comfortable with allowing guests to bring food, you can let them know that they do not need to bring anything but ask them to let you know if they plan on sharing a dish in advance so that you can prepare and talk to them if you have any concerns.
You also should never feel obligated to serve food gifts such as nut rolls or cheese logs. Discreetly put the item away and explain your concerns clearly and directly while also expressing gratitude for the gesture.
Finally, asking friends and family to monitor your child while you are not present can allow you to enjoy your meal or talk to friends and family.
3. Adopt New Traditions
Traditional holiday recipes may be adapted with safe ingredients. Cambrooke offers fun holiday recipes that you can incorporate either of our hypoallergenic formulas into for an exciting holiday spin on otherwise simple formula mixtures. If you are unable to adapt traditional holiday food recipes, you can develop your special recipes or create fun traditions that do not include food.
Traditions such as reading a holiday story, playing holiday-themed games, working on a craft project, and volunteering are often more fun than common traditions involving food.
When discussing the holidays with your child, it can be helpful to focus on the meaning and importance of holiday traditions that do not involve food by sharing stories from previous holidays while emphasizing their role in creating new memories.
4. Learn How to Say “No” Like a Pro
Perhaps more than any other time of year, the holidays make most of us feel like we have to accept invites just so we do not miss out on joyous celebrations. But if your child has food allergies, you should carefully weigh the risks and rewards.
One way to plan and make sure that you do not over-commit, particularly to any events that could present risks of allergic reactions for your child, is to identify ways to politely decline offers and invites and get in the habit of saying no.
Emphasizing the kindness or generosity of the ask can help to soften the blow of the decline but will make you more comfortable with the decision and over the long term. It will get easier with practice! You can also consider offering an invitation to an event in an environment where you would feel more comfortable to those from who you received an initial invite. This may help them better understand that you do want to spend time together and celebrate the holidays in a way that meets the comfort level for you and your child.
Allergic Living magazine offers 12 Ways to Say No to holiday activities that you may want to check out.
5. Prepare for a Reaction
Always take antihistamines and injectable epinephrine with you on your holiday outing. Talk to your child about how to identify potential problems and how to handle these situations so that they know steps to take if they start feeling symptoms. Before leaving home, review the plan provided by your doctor on when you should use these medications.
You may also want to talk to family and friends about potential signs, and how to handle emergencies if you are not present or available.
Consider Trying an Amino Acid-Based Formula
A hypoallergenic amino acid-based formula such as Ajinomoto Cambrooke’s EquaCare Jr. or Essential Care Jr. can be a safe nutritional option for your child with food allergies. There are many safe holiday flavoring strategies for amino acid formulas to change up the taste. Both for children over 1 year of age, EquaCare Jr. provides an affordable option e and Essential Care Jr. provides value-added ingredients that may support healthy ingestion. Try a free sample today or learn more about each of these beneficial products by visiting us online today or calling 1-833-377-2773.
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. (2019). My Life With Food Allergy: Parent Survey Report https://aafa.org/foodallergylife