Safety • Dec 20, 2022

Holidays and Anaphylaxis Watch

Holidays are here and so are the festive holiday parties! With all the homemade treats and dips, casseroles and cookies spread out on the table without any ingredients list, it can get overwhelming trying to navigate food allergies and ensure that your child has a happy and healthy holiday season.

Food allergies during the holidays

Most serious allergic reactions like anaphylaxis are caused by food ingredients. And most holiday foods contain at least one of the eight foods that account for the majority of food allergy reactions: milk, egg, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. Today, an estimated 10% of children have some sort of food allergy!

The holiday season is a good time to check in with the hosts and remind them of any allergies in your family prior to the get-togethers. If your child has multiple food allergies, it might be better to “bring your own dish” to the parties to avoid the risk of exposure. The holiday season is also an excellent time to ensure that all your allergy medications including the EpiPen auto-injectors and any other rescue medications such as Benadryl and asthma inhalers are up-to-date and refilled. People who have both asthma and a food allergy are at greater risk for anaphylaxis.

Food allergies can manifest with many symptoms. These range from minor hives to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis can lead to a potentially fatal condition known as anaphylactic shock. Common substances that the body reacts to include food, insect bites, venom and medication.

Vital facts about anaphylaxis:

  • It can cause breathing problems with severe airway narrowing and lowered blood pressure leading to anaphylactic shock and death.
  • The only way to prevent anaphylaxis is to completely avoid the problem food.
  • Anaphylaxis is a pretty common outcome from food allergies. In the United States, anaphylactic reaction to food is responsible for one emergency room visit every three minutes, especially in teenagers and young adults.
  • Epinephrine can reverse the severe symptoms of anaphylaxis. It is available as a self-injectable shot, also known as an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen).
  • Ask your physician and familiarize yourself about how to correctly administer the EpiPen. There are many instructional videos available online from medical sources.
  • For epinephrine to become effective and work as intended, you must administer it promptly. Delays can result in death in as little as 30 minutes.
  • Once you administer epinephrine, even if the symptoms feel better, take your child to the nearest emergency room right away. More medications and prolonged observation may be needed to effectively treat the allergic reaction.
  • Always check the expiration date on your EpiPen and renew your prescription in time. You need to have it available and ready for use. Allergists generally recommend that if you have an anaphylactic reaction and your epinephrine has expired, you should use the auto-injector anyway and call 911 for help immediately.

Food allergies do not have to dampen the spirit of the holidays. Taking some extra care about how to avoid the allergenic food ingredients, knowing the signs and symptoms of allergies, and staying prepared by refilling all necessary medications, most importantly, the EpiPen, can help you stay prepared and ease your mind.