With the holiday season in full swing, your calendar is likely loaded with social gatherings and year-end programming ranging from dinners with extended family to school concerts. As an allergy family, you know some of these adventures can include elevated risk for your allergic loved ones. Whether this is your first season jumping into the fray applying an allergy-aware lens to the festivities or you’re an old pro, taking a moment to assess risks and make a game plan is key to getting through the season with your holly-jolly intact. The following tips and tricks should help.
Be Okay with “No”
Your neighbor is a lovely human. You appreciate the opportunities to chat with her and she’s been a tremendous advocate for your allergic daughter when it comes to school parties and playdates. She’s just invited you to her annual cookie exchange and you’re really torn. An afternoon of hanging out with other adults sampling baked goods sounds fun, right? First, know that it’s okay to go and indulge in all those sweets that you don’t get to splurge on readily at home with your family’s list of allergens. Bringing a plate of them home, however, can present a challenge.
It’s okay to decline to take your share of the baked goods. It’s also okay to pass on the event altogether if that’s your choice. And this isn’t just about allergies or cookie exchanges. We hereby grant you permission to say “No. Thank you it sounds lovely but I’ll pass this time,” to anything you don’t want to attend. Your time is limited and you don’t have to fill it with anything you’re not excited about this holiday season. Seriously.
Focus on The Fun Not The Food
Food is such a big part of the way we express our culture and the way we celebrate from holidays to life’s milestones. This can be a challenge for allergic folk. Let’s be clear: just because a plate of cookies and a mug of hot chocolate is being offered doesn’t mean you need to take it in order to participate in the caroling party your friend is hosting. Whether you’re avoiding allergens or you just don’t want to make food the centerpiece of your holiday expressions, you can choose to place your focus on the other aspects of the gatherings you attend.
When you place your focus on the festivities and the people, the food becomes less of a factor. You can bring along your own safe substitutes. You can eat before you go (or when you get home) or you can make smart, informed decisions to identify safe options from the foods offered. When food isn’t the focal point, it’s easier to adapt and not feel like you’re missing out. Are you an allergic parent? Here’s the good news: if you introduce and embrace this concept yourself, your children will also embrace it.
Be Aware of Hidden Risk
Allergic risk can pop up in unexpected places. Don’t let your guard down. Keep doing all the things you’re in the habit of doing to safely manage your family’s allergic needs. Read labels. Don’t eat things you can’t verify the ingredients for. Carry an autoinjector of epinephrine if one has been prescribed by your doctor and be prepared to use it if the allergic individual begins to react. Remember that allergens can be in non-food items, also, so read the label on that body lotion Aunt Joy just gifted you before you apply it. Before you hand off that fancy canine-friendly treat to your puppy, check if it contains any of your daughter’s allergens. Remember, that sweet puppy that just gobbled down a peanut butter cookie is going to want to lick your daughter’s face with its peanut-butter-laced tongue and that could be a problem.
Enjoy The Moment
The holidays can be a stressful stretch of time for any of us. Layer on the added worry of managing food allergies in a season where food is part of celebration after celebration and it can amp up the worry and overwhelm. Take a deep breath and carve out space to relax and enjoy the season. Make sure you are creating spaces safe for your food-allergic family to enjoy time together and the season.