15 Ways to Keep Allergic Loved Ones Safe on Thanksgiving — And Always!
A Guide for the Family of the Food Allergic
If you have family coming for the holidays, there are always a lot of things to do. Is accommodating food allergies one of them? Food-allergic families are thankful for every safe meal–read below for 15 tips to make sure yours is something to be thankful for!
- Verify all allergies, to make sure you remember them. Sometimes people develop allergies to new foods. It’s also possible for kids to grow out of them. Maybe neither has happened, but you want the most updated information (but don’t say “Haven’t you outgrown that yet?“)
- Ask how comfortable they are with having some allergens at the table. If they aren’t, please make a genuine effort to eliminate those allergens. If you feel you absolutely can’t, take the precautions below to make sure you do it safely.
- Read ALL ingredient labels. Allergens aren’t just a problem in their obvious form. The egg in mayo can cause just as serious of a reaction as the deviled eggs.
- If there’s a dish you want to make that normally isn’t safe, ask for their help in adapting it. You can also consult Google–there are decent substitutes for just about everything!
- Consider the age of the person/people with allergies. Impulsive toddlers are more likely to grab food without asking, but older kids may have more anxiety when their allergens are nearby. In both cases, keep allergens out of casual reach.
- Consider Cross Contamination. It’s dangerous for allergens to even TOUCH safe foods–they can leave enough residue to cause a major reaction. If there will be allergenic foods, keep them well separated from safe foods, make sure each dish has its own serving utensils, and make sure everybody knows not to spill things on the safe foods or to let them touch. This applies to when you’re preparing foods, too! Even if the whole meal will be safe, make sure all surfaces and cookware are clean before preparing food, especially if you regularly have those allergens in your house.
- Wash hands thoroughly after eating if allergens are present, and wash lips/mouth before kissing those adorable cheeks!
- Keep foods at the table–don’t eat all over the house!
- If you get frustrated, take a short break or ask for help. Please don’t accuse anyone of being difficult, complain about all the extra work you’re doing, declare that things would be better without them, say someone isn’t worth it, or say anything that places blame on the allergic person or their parents. Believe me when I say no one would choose to have food allergies. No one wants to flaunt death or watch their child turn blue because of food. Food allergies are no one’s fault. But before you lament how much easier it would be without allergic house guests, consider that what you’re doing for one meal is what this family has to do Every. Day. In fact, if you can safely feed them, you’re giving them a wonderful gift!
- Don’t get offended if they ask to read the labels or ask a ton of questions–it’s not that they don’t trust you, they just feel better when they verify that everything was done right. Answer all questions fully and patiently.
- In that vein, don’t throw out labels, so they can double check. You could even text pictures of food labels while you’re shopping to verify as you go!
- Be patient. You may think their requests are overkill (and you may even be right), but if you support them without complaint you’ll build a great trust that can last for years! In fact, if they someday learn that they can relax some of their safety requests, they’ll feel more comfortable telling you if they aren’t worried that you’ll say, “I told you so!”
- If you make a mistake, correct it as soon as you notice and apologize. Remember that this is serious, but you’re human. Do your best, own any mistakes, and do better as you move on.
- Remember that not being careful could land someone in the hospital or worse, and I’m sure you don’t want that for your loved ones–and especially on a holiday! So be careful and vigilant!
- And most importantly, remember why you want these people at your Thanksgiving table. Love them, cherish them, and enjoy their company so they can enjoy yours!
What else would you add to this list? Comment below, and please share with any family or friends who need to see this!