Of all the holiday feasts our family has each year, Christmas is my absolute favorite. Sure the turkey and stuffing are wonderful during Thanksgiving, but nothing can beat the wonderful sweets that are available during Christmas season. Chocolate-dipped pretzels, sugar cookies with icing and sprinkles, peppermint bark, homemade fudge… Chocolate chip cookies are a staple at our house during the holidays. We keep some around in case of a chocolate emergency (Quick! I need a cookie!), or if my Uncle Scott and his family come over. Uncle Scott loves my Mom’s cookies; they taste terrific and are guaranteed to be nut-free.
Uncle Scott is one of nearly 7 million Americans that suffer from a true food allergy, and one of 3 million who are allergic to peanuts and treat nuts.
While many people often have gas, bloating or another unpleasant reaction to something they eat, this is not an allergic response, it’s considered a food intolerance.
In people suffering from food allergies, some foods can cause severe illness and, in some cases, a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) that can constrict airways in the lungs, severely lower blood pressure, and cause suffocation by the swelling of the tongue or throat.
The most common foods to cause allergies in adults are shrimp, lobster, crab, and other shellfish; walnuts and other tree nuts; fish; and eggs. In children, eggs, milk, peanuts, soy and wheat are the main culprits. Children typically outgrow their allergies to milk, egg, soy and wheat, while allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shrimp usually are not outgrown.
Uncle Scott is allergic to tree nuts, so he is extra careful to avoid certain homemade Christmas treats that typically have nuts in them. He also has the lucky ability to tell if something has nuts in it within the first few seconds he puts it in his mouth, which allows more time to get the Benadryl. Not everyone is so lucky, many don’t know if the food was contaminated with allergens until their throat starts to close up or they break out into hives.
If you or someone you know suffers from food allergies, there are a few different steps you can take to help them enjoy the holidays worry-free. First, knowing what allergen to avoid allows a host/hostess to prepare a special side dish or treat for the allergic individual so be sure to let your host know of any allergies. Cross-contamination must be taken into account when preparing the allergen-free dish. Preparation surfaces and tools should be cleaned thoroughly to remove germs and also any trace of the allergen. For example, it’s not a good idea to prepare sugar cookie dough in the same place that walnut cookie dough was prepared. It often doesn’t take much of the allergen to affect an individual.
Enjoy those holiday treats, just prepare them safely and make sure allergic individuals are aware of the contents. For some food-allergy-friendly recipes, you can visit the websites below:
Food Allergy-Free Holiday Recipes from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
Food Allergy Recipes and Special Diets from About.com Home Cooking