Christmas parties, meals out with friends and family, stockings full of candy, chestnuts roasting on the open fire…
While all this sounds like great fun, there’s a risk that more people than usual will be accidentally exposed to foods they are allergic too. Food allergies are common. An estimated 9 million, or 4%, of adults and nearly 6 million or 8% of children have food allergies with young children being those most affected.
Although childhood allergies to milk, egg, wheat and soy generally resolve in childhood, they appear to be resolving more slowly than in previous decades, with many children still allergic beyond age 5 years. And allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, or shellfish are generally lifelong.
If you’re one of those affected by food allergy, what can you do to avoid accidental exposure this holiday season?
Remind people! Sure you might once have told your hosts that you have an allergy, but a gentle reminder is always helpful, especially at Christmas when things get busy and the alcohol starts flowing!
Just say ‘no’ – if you don’t know what’s in it, don’t eat it. And even if you do, can you really be sure there was no cross-contamination in the kitchen.
Bring snacks, rather than rely on your hosts to have food you can eat…or
Stay home. Host the party yourself – then you know it’s safe.
Bring your epinephrine auto-injector with you –and keep it close to hand! Make sure somebody else at the party knows you have food allergies, where your auto-injector is and how to use it.
Know the Symptoms – within minutes, an allergic reaction may turn into a life-threatening severe allergic reaction. Sometimes the reaction can occur in two phases, with another reaction occurring up to 48 hours after the initial reaction.
Use epinephrine immediately after you have been exposed to your allergy trigger – it may prove to be life-saving. If you are even thinking should I give myself epinephrine, the answer is almost certainly yes!
After giving epinephrine, seek emergency medical attention – call or have someone else call 9-1-1 or your local emergency medical services. In most individuals, epinephrine is effective after one injection. However, symptoms may recur and further injections may be required to control the reaction. Epinephrine can be re-injected every 5 to 15 minutes until the severe allergic reaction stops completely.
Do you have your anaphylaxis Action Plan ready? If not, make it part of your holiday preparations. It could be the best Christmas present you give yourself this year.