Allergies and special occasions can be quite a minefield, for both the allergy sufferer and for everyone around them.
This Christmas, I encourage everyone to step back and consider how they can help make sure that allergy kids are included and safe throughout every celebration.
So much of how we celebrate is connected to food. And so often, children like mine with food allergies are left out, or made unsafe during celebrations.
Here are my top tips for including allergy kids safely during special occasions.
Foster open communication
Asking questions and sharing information is the best way to foster inclusion and safety.
Allergy parents often feel like they are inconveniencing people by asking about food and ingredients. But this is totally necessary.
Family and friends organizing food and celebrations often feel like they should know how to keep the allergy child safe and feel embarrassed to have to ask questions about what is and isn’t safe and how they can accommodate the allergies in their planning and cooking.
Reading labels can be such a difficult task too, with a myriad of words meaning the same ingredient.
Communicating well is essential, and being open to questions and answers, without judgment is very helpful when it comes to facilitating allergies during special occasions.
Most allergy families are used to sharing information and providing safe food for their child. So if in doubt, be honest about your concerns. It is better for us to have to bring along some safe treats than to have our child left out of the celebration or ending up in an ambulance.
Cross-contamination between foods can pose a real threat in a crowd of people, and when there is unsafe food served around safe food. Careful hand washing and food service help to lower any risks of this. Allergy families are always willing to share information about this aspect of the preparation and serving of food also.
Take the food out of it
There are lots of amazing ways to celebrate that don’t include food. Things like small toys instead of lollies, for example, can really help to make sure allergy kids are safe but still included. If there is a way to create an alternative, take the opportunity. This will help to lower everyone’s anxiety about something happening and allow everyone to enjoy the moment together.
Be prepared for an emergency
As careful as everyone may be, there is still always the possibility of something going wrong, and someone suffering an allergic reaction.
Make sure to always keep allergy medications and action plans nearby, especially when out and about. Ensure that everyone responsible for the allergy child is trained in first aid and knows how to use the emergency medications when needed.
Teaching your child with allergies to advocate for herself and watch out for unsafe food is the absolute best way to empower them to keep themselves safe. Doing this from a young age is important in helping them to understand their situation, and also to explain it to others.
Working together to keep allergy children safe, but included ensures that they feel part of every special occasion. It is never difficult to be inclusive, but sometimes just needs an environment of open communication and a little ingenuity.
For a great allergy friendly Christmas recipe, check out Caroline’s egg-free pavlova on the blog now!