Make Holiday Meals Safe for Kids With Food Allergies

Expert offers tips for changing recipes and keeping potentially harmful foods separate

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MONDAY, Dec. 24 (HealthDay News) -- All the tasty foods available over the holidays can pose a potential risk for children with food allergies, an expert warns.

"During the holidays it can be easy to be tempted by all the wonderful goodies that everyone else is eating. And so often it can be difficult to decipher what contains allergens and what does not," Dr. Joyce Rabbat, a pediatric allergist at the Loyola University Health System, said in a Loyola news release.

"Food allergies are especially dangerous because even small exposure to a food allergen can be devastating," she added.

Rabbat offered the following tips for parents of children with food allergies.

First, try to avoid using the allergen when preparing foods. "There are lots of alternatives that can be substituted into favorite holiday recipes," Rabbat said.

If you can't alter a recipe, make sure you first prepare all foods that do not contain the allergen. This will limit the risk of cross-contamination.

After you've prepared the food with the allergen, be sure to thoroughly clean all utensils that you used and the surface areas that were exposed to the allergen.

When serving the meal, set aside an allergy-free area to reduce a child's risk of accidental exposure to the allergen.

"If food with an allergen is spilled on the table and the child touches it and/or ingests it, the child could have a serious reaction. Having allergen-free serving areas helps minimize the chance that serving utensils are used in both allergen-containing dishes and allergen-free dishes," Rabbat said.

Everyone who comes into contact with the allergen must wash their hands and face before interacting with the child with the food allergy, she advised.

"Parents need to understand that no matter how hard someone tries to keep the festivities allergen-free, there is always a possibility of exposure, so come prepared with medications," Rabbat said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about food allergy.

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