The holidays are here. Cookies and pies are being baked and mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, turkey stuffing and a variety of other delicious, but heavy dishes are being whipped up.
Thanksgiving Day should be fun, but it can also be very stressful for people with food allergies. As many as 15 million people in the U.S. have food allergies, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health.
“The biggies are soy, milk, wheat, egg and nuts,” said Dr. Paul Hartfield, chief of pediatrics at the Temecula Kaiser Permanente. “These are the most common and they’re in all the moms’ kitchens out there baking for the holidays.”
Classroom feasts or treat days have been taking place in schools throughout the region in preparation for Thanksgiving Day and parent volunteers will continue bringing goodies to class as Christmas approaches.
Many schools have no-nut policies in place that ask parents or caregivers to bring only nut-free treats to school.
“The biggest or most serious allergy is typically nut allergies,” Hartfield said. “About 1 percent of kids have nut allergies, peanuts being the biggest, but they can be walnuts, almonds, pistachios or others and these tend to be in a lot of cookies, brownies and other treats made around the holidays.”
Many schools also require only pre-packaged foods for snack days, so parents and educators can carefully check the ingredients label to be sure the foods are nut-free.
For adults, the key to enjoying the holidays with food allergies is pre-planning, said Liberty Remington of Menifee.
Remington is allergic to wheat.
“I do most of the cooking so that I know what is safe and what is not,” she said about holiday meals. “No one wants to get sick around the holidays.”
When attending a potluck or a meal at a friend’s home, Remington usually brings an appetizer and a filling side dish. She eats the foods she brings, fearing another dish might make her sick.
“I like to fly below the radar,” she said. “I don’t like to draw attention or questions about my diet. I just try to bring my own food to blend in.”
Kim Larson of Canyon Lake also does most of her own cooking, but many of her friends and family members are aware of her allergy to wheat and they are sure to include dishes she can eat.
To avoid adverse food allergy reactions this season, be sure to ask friends, family and teachers if there are any intolerances or allergies to be aware of when cooking or baking for others. Check ingredients labels to be sure trigger foods aren’t included and when preparing dishes, use different utensils to avoid cross contamination.
“Most of my friends know about my allergy,” Larson said. “They’ll let me know if there is flour or wheat in what they made.”
Symptoms of Food Allergies include:
- Tingling in the mouth
- Swelling in the tongue and throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal cramps
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Eczema or rash
- Coughing or wheezing
- Loss of consciousness
- Anaphylaxis – severe, potentially life threatening reaction, includes rapid pulse, skin rash, nausea and vomiting
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
As for dining heartily, but safely this holiday, consider the following tips:
- Let party hosts know about food allergies in advance and offer to bring a dish you’ve prepared.
- If hosting, ask guests about any food allergies in advance.
- Ask the party host for recipes and review ingredients used to prepare dinner.
- If hosting, offer food sensitive guests the ingredient list for review.
- Communicate with friends and family about your allergy or your child’s allergy and explain what to do in an emergency.
- Bring your child’s EpiPen in case of emergency.
Jennifer Dean is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.