Christmas is a season that is filled with delightful surprise for most kids. But, along with the holiday gift surprise, can come an unexpected encounter with a potentially harmful food for the food allergic child. Uncovering hidden hazards will require some investigation, and time. In addition to the holiday fare, many holiday decorations may contain common allergens. Holiday wreaths often contain nuts, gingerbread houses will most likely contain wheat, egg, dairy, soy and corn., holiday potpourri and pomanders may contain a variety of spices and citrus fruits, etc… Natural Christmas trees, floral decorations and wreaths are frequently a problem for those with environmental allergens, too. In some instances, the natural greenery may even be
poisonous. The list is endless, and since each child’s allergens, degree of sensitivity and age will vary, so will the risks. It is important to be prepared to intervene promptly and effectively in the unfortunate event a reaction does occur. Toddlers are typically at the greatest risk, because exploring hands may find their way into a bowl or a glass that has been left sitting on a table. Crumbs may pose a threat, too, as toddlers have a tendency to pick things up from the floor and sample them. If visiting someone with a pet, it is important to remember that the pet food bowl may harbor many common allergens. Even the well-meaning lick from the pet dog may result in a reaction for some highly allergic individuals.
Holiday festivities at school and church are often centered around foods and food oriented crafts. Contact the school or church several weeks in advance of holiday activities, so that you can offer safe alternative items that will allow your child to participate. If your child has a history of skin contact reactions, make arrangements to personally screen all craft items prior to your child having contact with them. If possible, offer to assist with school or church holiday parties, so that you can carefully monitor your child and prevent accidents from occurring. If you are hosting family celebratory events, you may find it easier to provide only safe foods and decorations. But, this does not ensure a reaction will not occur. Guests may bring a food
gift or decoration that contains a hidden allergen. Whether or not you are the host or will be visiting a friend or relatives, several weeks in advance it is a good idea to review the menu, contact guests and discuss allergy concerns, review your emergency plans and medicine bag. If traveling by plane, contact the airline and request an allergen free flight and discuss boarding the plane first to allow adequate time to clean any surfaces that your child may contact. Even if the airline agrees not serve an allergic item, another passenger may bring a snack on board. Therefore, it is important to have access to your medical kit at all times.
Holiday foods and decorations are often derived from common allergens. And, many manufacturers produce special holiday fare using different manufacturing protocol than their normal products. For example, holiday cookies may be produced on lines that are shared with other allergen containing cookies, etc… It is crucial to call and verify the safety of all holiday food products, even if they appear safe. If you will be eating foods from a party, use caution, as someone may transfer an allergic residues into an otherwise safe dish.
Advance preparation, and thoroughly investigation of holiday items will help to ensure your family has a safe and allergen free holiday.