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Child holding out his plate for more food during Thanksgiving

Managing Food Allergies During the Holidays

By: Dr. Kelly Maples, Allergy and Immunology at CHKD

The focus on food and eating during the holidays can be especially difficult for families of children with food allergies. But with a bit of planning, you can protect your children’s health and ensure they don’t miss out on the deliciousness of the holiday season. The following tips may help:

Talk to the Host of the Party

If you plan to attend festivities outside the home, talk to the host, and others who may be attending, about your child’s food allergies before arriving. This will give them time to prepare a safe meal for your child.

Be sure to explain to the host and others what foods trigger your child’s allergy and the risk of cross-contamination. Know what the host plans on serving and offer ways to prepare those foods without them being a health risk to your child. It’s also a good idea to bring safe alternatives to any holiday gathering and don’t be afraid to request a food-free area where your child can safely play without the risk of triggering a food allergy.

Talk to Your Child

Don’t forget, it’s just as important to talk to your child as it is the host of the party. If you know what foods are being served, talk to your child about which foods are safe to eat and which should be avoided. Remind your child that it’s okay to say “No, thank you” to foods that are unsafe for them. You may also want to consider giving your child an allergen-free snack before leaving home.

Stay Vigilant

Always, always stay vigilant. Consider bringing special stickers to mark safe and unsafe foods. Make sure each dish has a dedicated serving spoon and ask to serve your child first to avoid cross-contamination. Younger children in particular are likely to be curious about the foods being served and may want to try everything. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t try anything unsafe.

Be Prepared for an Emergency

Know the signs of an allergic reaction and how to respond. And, be prepared to act. Always be sure to bring two doses of your child's epinephrine auto-injector and their food allergy action plan to holiday get-togethers in case of accidental exposure. Also, make sure that another adult knows what to do, in case you need to leave your child for a moment.

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About Children's Specialty Group

About Children's  Specialty Group Children's Specialty Group is the only pediatric multi-specialty practice serving southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The physicians of Children's Specialty Group base their practices at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and serve as faculty in the Department of Pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Learn more about our specialists here.