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Holiday Eating with Food Allergies

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This information was reviewed and approved by Bruce J. Lanser, MD, MPH (8/1/2015).

All during the year, the possibility exists for people with respiratory problems to suffer from allergy attacks. During the holiday season, more hidden dangers to health exist. Here are some tips for everyone - especially those suffering from asthma, allergies and other respiratory diseases - to stay healthy during the holiday season.

  • 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. Or, provide the teacher with a box of safe snacks just for your child so they don't feel left out.

  • Inform your guests: Let guests know that you or your child has dietary restrictions, and offer to let them bring holiday themed plates, cups or napkins, rather than food. Show recipes or packages to guests who have food allergies.

  • 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 allergen-safe foods for you and others to enjoy.

  • Avoid cross-contamination: Wash hands before handling, cooking and eating foods. Don’t eat or drink while cooking. Use one cutting board for each food group. Sanitize dishes and utensils after each use. More tips here.

  • 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.

  • Watch sauces, spreads and dips (including vegan or dairy-free): These often are hiding fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy, tree nuts, legumes and soy.

  • 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.

  • Wash hands: Everyone should wash hands with soap and water before and after meals.

  • Carry medications: Have emergency medications (epinephrine auto-injector) with you at all times.  “No epi,  no eating!”

  • 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.

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