During this time of year, it’s common for children to attend holiday celebrations with family and friends. For parents whose children have severe food allergies, it can be very challenging to manage food allergies during the holidays.

Being knowledgeable and doing research plays a big role in helping educate friends and family about food allergies. Allergies are the result of a reaction that starts in the immune system when coming into contact with a food allergen. Allergies can cause great harm or death in severe cases, not only at family homes but when kids visit friends who are not aware of the child’s condition.

Common food allergies and substitutes

The most common food allergies are dairy, egg, soy, wheat, peanut, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. When considering food/ingredient substitutes as you prepare dishes for your family, try using allergen-free recipes.

Awareness and education is key to managing food allergies

It’s very important to read labels for ingredients in store bought foods. For homemade foods, ask the person who made the food what ingredients were used. If there is a doubt, it’s better to avoid the food. Don’t forget to be aware of cross-contamination during food preparation.

It’s a good idea to prepare a safe snack for your child to take to a party, and don’t forget to make enough to share in case other family members want to try!

Management tips for parents

Others suggestions for parents of kids with food allergies include:

  • Closely monitor your child and have injectable epinephrine available at all times.
  • Carry your child’s food allergy action plan, provided by their allergist to tell you when and for what symptoms to give the epinephrine.
  • Don’t delay giving the epinephrine because it’s a life-saving medication with few side effects.
  • Take along an antihistamine used to treat allergies in case reaction is very mild. Again, follow the food allergy action plan.


Darlene Mansoor, MD, is the allergy and immunology medical director at Pediatric Specialists of Virginia.

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