Christmas can be a difficult time of the year for those of us with food allergies. Typically Australians love to indulge and most Christmas celebrations are centred on food. Christmas also can be difficult with family members and friends suggesting that your child should be able to have a “treat” in the form of a high-risk allergy food. Please find below some suggestions of how to best manage the stress of food allergy this festive season.

  • Contact the host in advance, and gently remind them of your child’s dietary needs. It might be helpful to first think and make a note of what you will say to family and friends before having the conversation;
  • Offer to prepare food for your child;
  • If people ask what they can bring or make for your child, try and be specific. Specify brand names and where these products can be purchased. If you suggest fruit you should be specific which fruits exactly can be included or perhaps email a favourite recipe that specifies brands;
  • Ask relatives to save the labels of food ingredients, then you can check the ingredient list and determine if food is safe for your child;
  • Make a list of the food that your child is not able to eat OR alternatively, make a list of your child’s top 10 favourite foods that they can happily eat;
  • If you are attending a BBQ take along a BBQ liner for your child’s food to be cooked on;
  • If relatives are staying at your home, label and name food for your child. Also have a labelled gluten free toaster so that nobody puts normal (gluten) bread into this toaster and labelled margarine (e.g. Nuttelex) so that it doesn’t get contaminated with a knife with gluten bread crumbs or butter/peanut butter etc;
  • Label food that is being brought into your home by relatives/friends as ‘safe’ or ‘non safe’ for your child;
  • Have a written action plan for your child;
  • If there will be other family members or friends attending events ask your relative to ensure they are aware of your child’s food allergies;
  • Ask friends and relatives to check with you (Mum or Dad) before giving your child anything to eat or drink – even if they THINK the food/drink is safe for the child, have them ask first;
  • Teach your child to simply say ‘no thank you’ and to only accept food/drink from Mum or Dad;
  • It can be helpful to wear young infants in slings to prevent well-meaning “sharing”;
  • If possible confine food to the kitchen/verandah/dining room and ask that food isn’t allowed into the lounge room or where the children will be playing. That way, you will be able to better monitor food intake;
  • Order “Allergy Alert” stickers, t-shirt or wristband. A few websites that have products are: Star Allergy Alerts, Allergy Kids Ware or Stuck on You (where part of the proceeds go to RISA!);
  • Buy a colourful “party” plate or lunch box and train your child to only eat out of that container. Put a selection of “safe” food on the plate for your child. That way they will know their plate and not get mixed up with other’s plates when others have the same;
  • Always have spare food on hand (nothing fancy- but just in case). People may have the best of intentions to provide for your child, but sometimes they overlook the sauce (like mayonnaise) or don’t realise other names for common allergens (ie. albumen means it contains egg);
  • ALWAYS remember your allergy medication, Epipen etc;
  • Bring a big pack of baby wipes where ever you go. If there is allergenic food, ask people to wash (or wipe) their hands and mouths before contact with your child. It won’t get rid of all traces, but should reduce the risk;
  • Always try to keep your child dressed as much as possible, especially over their trunk. This will help to eliminate possible skin exposure for children allergic to eggs or nuts etc, by friends or relatives who have touched the food allergen and then hold or cuddle your child;
  • Remind friends and relatives that it is important that they wash their hands before touching your child in case they have touched a food allergen, this is particularly important for children with peanut or seafood allergy as just having traces of this food on skin can cause a serious reaction;
  • Be cautious of relatives and friends giving your child kisses! Ask relatives to kiss your child on the top of his/her head or give them a hug or an “air kiss”, just in case they have eaten anything that could be a food allergen to your child.

Information sourced from The Complete Australian Guide For Parents – Managing Your Child’s Food Allergies (2009, written by Alison Orman with Dr Preeti Joshi). This book is available for borrowing by RISA members from the RISA library.

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