Navigating the Holiday Season with Food Allergies

Board-Certified Allergist Katie Marks-Cogan, M.D. shares tips to help families with food allergic children safely navigate the holiday season.

The holiday season is centered around a joyous abundance of food and drinks at holiday parties and dinners, but for families with food allergic children, the holiday season can be particularly stressful as one accidental exposure can have life-threatening consequences. Food allergies shouldn’t diminish the joy and enthusiasm that this season brings, especially for children.

Here are some tips that Board Certified Allergist Katie Marks-Cogan, M.D. offers to food allergic families to help them navigate the holidays safely:

  1. At school, always provide a supply of safe “treats” for teachers to have on-hand for holiday celebrations. This is also a great tip for classroom birthday parties.
  2. At the start of the holiday season, offer to host an upcoming holiday celebration. If that’s not an option, prepare a few of your child’s favorite dishes to bring with you that you know they can enjoy safely as part of the meal.
  3. Talk to other parents hosting celebrations for your child and educate them on your child’s food allergy and the risk of cross-contamination.
  4. Always ask for the list of ingredients in every dish. If that’s not available, avoid that dish altogether.
  5. Have a discussion with your child about your family’s plan to stay safe through the holidays.
  6. Lastly, and as part of your ongoing Food Allergy Emergency Care Plan, keep 2 auto-injectable epi-pens available at all times.

Food Allergies Today

The rate of food allergies continues to rise as 1 in 12 children suffer from a food allergy today. Not only are food allergies reaching epidemic-level proportions, but they are also serious as reactions can be life-threatening. Another troubling trend is that the rate of ER visits due to anaphylaxis in children has increased by 150% in recent years (source: Blue Cross Blue Shield). In addition, food allergies can leave children feeling isolated and excluded at school, birthday parties and holiday celebrations.

Common Allergens

Peanut, egg, and milk represent over 80% of the common childhood food allergies. While peanut is most often associated with severe reactions like anaphylaxis, egg and milk are the most difficult to avoid and therefore can cause a significant impact on a child’s quality of life. The “Major 8” or the top 8 allergens that comprise 90% of childhood food allergies are: egg, milk, peanut, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, soy, and wheat. But it’s important for parents and family members to remember that: any allergenic food has the potential to cause anaphylaxis.

Introduce Allergens Safely and Easily with Ready. Set. Food!

All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  If your infant has severe eczema, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.