8 Surprising Allergy Facts for the Holidays
FOOD & DRINK
6. Think: What’s in That Drink?
When uncle pulls out his coveted single malt Scotch, surprisingly those in the room with celiac disease can also hoist a glass. While Scotch and rye whiskeys are derived from fermented grains, the gluten is thoroughly removed during the thorough distillation process of whiskeys. Wines and ports are grape-based and also generally gluten-free. (See more on gluten-free drinks here.)
The nut-allergic also have to be mindful around alcohol (though wine is generally safe). Oddly, despite its name, the liqueur Amaretto usually does not contain almonds, but check with a manufacturer to be certain of a specific brand is safe.
Advice: Be on the lookout for mixed drinks. Celiacs and the allergic alike must watch out for gluten or allergens in drink blends. When it comes to alcohol, the tree-nut allergic have to be mindful since some liqueurs (e.g. Frangelico and Kahana Royale) and brands of gin can contain nuts. And did you know that Southern Comfort contains nut derivatives?
7. Frosty Around the Food
It’s no secret that those with food allergies and celiac disease have to keep their guard up over the holidays. But even if you’ve explained your allergies and the concept of cross-contamination – remember that a favorite auntie doesn’t live with these restrictions daily and may mess up. Ingratiate yourself into the kitchen, ask to read labels and ask what’s in a favorite recipe..
Advice: here are a few suspect foods to be on the lookout for this time of year:
* pre-basted turkey – ingredients can include soy or gluten or milk. (Speak to the hosts about label-reading soonest.)
* stuffing: gluten and nut alert!
* gravy: If the hostess is at all hazy on her many ingredients, take a pass.
* Hanukkah menus can be tricky to navigate. Latkes usually contain egg and wheat and often dairy (cheese latkes are popular). Consider contributing our allergy-friendly, gluten-free latkes.
* Hanukkah gelt ingredients can include dairy and nuts. Best to provide allergy-friendly gelt.
* dessert: the wisest course is to offer to bring it, since desserts are potential minefield of nuts, gluten, dairy or egg. If store-bought, soy is often an ingredient, used as an emulsifier.
8. Holiday Stress
We all “think” we’re having fun over the holidays, but sometimes all the preparations, travel or entertaining, plus late nights can add up to a lot of stress. And that, warns the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, can have a detrimental impact on your immune system. The AAAAI also notes the risk for asthmatics because as family gathers, so does the likelihood that someone is there spreading viral illness.
Advice: Watch that you’re getting a little decompress time, make sure in the chaos of a busy house that you or your child is taking your usual asthma or allergy medications.
Holiday Food Allergy Tips
by Laurie Harada,
Executive director of Food Allergy Canada
• Teach young children to say “no thanks” to unapproved foods. ’Tis the season of sharing and well-meaning adults and children, who will offer food without consulting the parent. Through role play, teach your child to say “no thanks” politely to anything that you have not approved.
• Bring goodies so your child doesn’t feel left out. Involve him in selecting or making a really special (read “junky”) treat. A pack of raisins won’t measure up when all the other kids get Santa Claus holiday cupcakes.
• Be careful of what others don’t know. Friends and relatives may know how to avoid obvious allergens such as peanuts and nuts in baked goods, while they may forget about nut extracts or that butter is, in fact, made from milk. They might not be aware of the risks of cross-contamination through shared utensils. They also may not be label savvy, and not understand the importance of “may contain” warnings.
• Be a role model; children learn from our behavior. Though I’ve instinctively wanted to remove all shrimp rings and nut trays, I came to realize that my son had to learn how to avoid food allergens as they will be around him in everyday life, not just during the holidays. We’ve taught him to avoid buffets, scrutinize food labels, and wash his hands regularly. Since he’s now in his teens, he knows to make his own inquiries.
• Offer to bring a dish which is safe for your child and can be enjoyed by others. At our neighborhood New Year’s Eve potluck, my family takes care of the kids’ and teens’ meal – pizza, veggies, and potato chips – a popular treat.