Managing the festive season with your child’s food allergies
Whilst the Christmas festive season is often full of joy and celebrations with families and friends it can be a very stressful and challenging time if your child has food allergies. To help you head into the festive season feeling more confident and prepared I have put together some of my favourite tips for how you can keep your child safe this festive season.
- Speak to the host in advance if you have been invited to celebrations at family or friend’s homes. Advise them of your child’s food allergy/allergies and offer to bring foods which your child can eat. If they refuse your offer still bring something for your child to eat just in case. It can also be very helpful to offer to sit down with them and plan the menu together.
- If family or friends are wanting to provide foods for your child be specific about what foods they can provide. If they are making a dish ask them to provide you with the ingredients, including any brands so that you can check they are suitable. Before your child eats ensure no changes have been made to the dish.
- If food is being prepared by family or friends ensure you have discussed with them the importance of avoiding cross contamination with allergens.
- Ensure other family members and friends at social gatherings are aware of your child’s food allergies and ask them not to give your child any food without first checking with yourself. Also chat to your child depending on their age about not accepting food from others and how to stay safe with their food allergy.
- If you are feeling anxious going to family or friends homes for celebrations offer to host the celebrations. Plan the menu around foods you know are safe for your child. If family or friends are bringing food you can politely request they only bring allergy free foods or if you are comfortable with some allergen containing dishes ensure you have safety precautions in place. These should include keeping allergen containing foods separate from allergy free foods, placing allergen foods away from your child at the table, separate utensils for serving each dish, everyone washing hands after handling food or eating, foods only allowed to be eaten at the table to avoid crumbs being dropped everywhere and the table wiped down thoroughly after eating.
- Barbeques can be a source of cross contamination. If having a BBQ use a sheet of foil or BBQ liner to cook your child’s food and cook their food first prior to cooking the other foods.
- If you are eating out at a restaurant make sure to contact the restaurant in advance to check that they can cater for your child’s allergies and that they have procedures in place to prevent cross contamination risk.
- Ensure you have your child’s ASCIA Action Plan for Anaphylaxis, Epipen and any other medication before leaving home.
- If you are away from home ensure you are familiar with where the nearest hospital is in case of emergency.
I hope you find these tips helpful and can enjoy a lovely and safe festive season. If you would like more support on managing the festive season with your child’s allergies please get in touch.
Melinda is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and founder of Lifestyle Nutrition, a paediatric practice based in Melbourne. She has completed further post graduate training in paediatrics including her Certificate in Paediatric Nutrition and Dietetics with the Royal Children’s Hospital.
As a paediatric dietitian Melinda has a special interest in food allergies and intolerances. Melinda understands how challenging and upsetting it can be for parents trying to navigate the complexities of food allergies and intolerances. She enjoys being able to help these families identify food triggers, relieve distressing symptoms and feel confident feeding their baby or child.