Caution! Food allergies ahead

We are entering a time of year in which food allergy frequently becomes more problematic. This difficult season begins with Halloween and continues through the Holidays. It is a time in which we should be alert to the potential for food allergen exposure.

As mentioned above, this difficult season begins with Halloween. During the Halloween season, there is frequent use of highly allergenic ingredients, especially peanuts and tree nuts, in many holiday treats. It is important to remain vigilant by reading ingredient lists. If an ingredient list is not available, sometimes it is best to simply skip a potentially problematic food. While most candies are labeled in such a way that the ingredients are easy to find, sometimes food products that are “not labeled for individual sale” may not contain a full ingredient list. When examining your child’s trick or treat candy, be aware of foods that may contain problematic ingredients. If those ingredients are not completely clear, it is best that such candy should be avoided. It may be helpful to have some extra treats on hand that can serve as replacements for your child’s trick or treat candy that you have to confiscate because it isn’t completely safe.

It is also important to be extra careful at Halloween parties, done at school, church or within the community. Again be aware of potential hidden allergens in the foods that are being served. If you or your child has a history of food allergy, it is often safest to take your own food to eat as a snack or treat in order to avoid foods with unknown ingredients. One of the quickest and worst ways to ruin a party is by having an episode of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction). It’s just not worth the risk.

Of course, shortly after Halloween, come the Holidays. That is another time full of potentially dangerous food exposures for people with food allergy. Even when family members are aware of a food allergy, they will often overlook this when offering Holiday food for consumption. Be very careful. Always ask about ingredients, even with relatives. If unsure about a food, skip it. Again, one of the quickest ways to ruin the Holidays is an anaphylactic reaction.

If you have a history of severe food allergy (anaphylaxis), it is important that you always have an injectable epinephrine device such as EpiPen. If you have a history of food allergy/anaphylaxis and do not have an EpiPen or similar device, you should talk with your doctor about this right away. If you are unsure about whether you have a food allergy, or unsure about your current food allergy status, talk with your allergist without delay.

Work with your allergist in order to diagnose your food allergy problem. Have an action plan worked out so you know what to do in case of a severe allergic reaction due to accidental food allergen exposure. Let’s be safe this Halloween and during the upcoming Holiday season.