Writing about food allergies from a pediatric allergist's perspective

Food Allergies and Holiday Memories

Written by Michael Pistiner MD, MMSc

“I want my kids to have similar memories to mine.  I want their memories to be safe and sweet.  I want them to remember the excitement and the kisses.  This is an achievable goal that my wife and I are determined to deliver while managing our family’s food allergies.”

Holidays (before kids and before food allergies)

IMG_20131128_112654_728My childhood memories of our Holiday gatherings are simple and happy.  Close to two dozen people were packed in a single apartment.   We were multiple generations, separated by several hours of highway and busy schedules, now all unified with a common mission: eat, relax, catch up.  Folding tables and chairs were all over the place.  Kisses, sometimes unsolicited and unwanted were plenty. Kids were spoiled, rules were relaxed, bedtimes pushed back. Those memories are safe and sweet. It was totally awesome.

Holidays and Kids (with or without food allergies)

Now fast forward thirty years.  When my kids get more presents than we can fit in the minivan, when “Oh it’s fine!  Just don’t tell your parents!” is the mantra, and the boys don’t get to bed until 10:45pm, it’s a safe bet that there will be hell to pay for at least 72 hours following the holiday for me and my wife.  Not such a safe and sweet memory anymore.  Awesome?

Holidays, Kids, and Food Allergies

Now here’s the kicker: my oldest boy has food allergies. There are certain things that we always need to do to keep him safe and to manage his food allergies.  We need to prevent accidental exposure to the foods that he is allergic to and we must be prepared to deal with an allergic emergency (anaphylaxis) at all times and in all circumstances.  To complicate matters I have eosinophilic esophagitis and a pretty restricted diet and my wife can’t eat dairy. We wind up bringing food that we know is safe and coordinate with whoever is hosting. Now, events like this are a tactical challenge that takes planning, communication, and patience. While other friends and family come together with their common mission to eat, relax, and catch up, our family focus must be modified.  Safety cannot be compromised.

Constant Food Allergy Management is Key

pillars of food allergy managementPrevention of allergic reactions and preparedness for allergic emergencies (Basic Food Allergy Management) is critical, especially when the daily routine is changed because of the holidays.  Having clear and open communication is key. Equally important is passing an awareness and understanding of the constant and critical need for food allergy management  to our friends and relatives. This has established an environment where our immediate family can come close to the common mission and we can eat safely, relax (sometimes), and catch up.

Holidays for My Kids

I want my kiHappy Holiday Memoriesds to have similar memories to mine.  I want their memories to be safe and sweet.  I want them to remember the excitement and the kisses.  This is an achievable goal that my wife and I are determined to deliver while managing our family’s food allergies.  Have a happy and safe holiday.

For more on managing food allergies during the holidays see:

Hosting Holiday Guests With Food Allergies (share this with those that will be hosting guests with food allergies)

Navigating The Holidays With Food Allergies (Kids With Food Allergies Foundation Free Webinar)

  1. This is very similar to what we try to do as well. I have always been a big fan of walking into a house with the smells of a holiday. We always make sure that menus are discussed beforehand and I do my best to make an allergy-friendly version (if not entire dish) so that my son doesn’t feel he missed out on anything. Thankfully, our family understands and helps out with being careful as well. Everyone wants good memories, safe memories and not a memory that reminds them of a negative experience.

  2. Two boys with food allergies forced us to pay closer attention to our holiday traditions. Thankfully, we we’ve been blessed with a very supportive family and we’ve all worked together over the past fifteen years to be sure that all family members have memorable (and safe) holidays. I just asked our 13-year-old son (who is allergic to peanuts & tree nuts) his thoughts on our family’s holiday traditions. Thankfully, he has wonderful memories. We have a large, extended family and found that renting a local hall was the best route to accommodate the five generations that celebrate Thanksgiving together. Everyone pitches in and utilizing the commercial kitchen allows us to bring in safe food for those with allergies, provides plenty of space for everyone and nobody is left with a messy house at the end of the day.
    We usually celebrate Christmas at home with about a dozen family members. Our son’s memories are of family being together and the fun times with cousins and grandparents. The only food tradition he mentioned is our family punch, served on Christmas day. We have family punch bowls that have been passed down and we try out various recipes each year…we’ve found that punch is something special, but safe for everyone in our family.
    We’ve spent much time and energy over the years making sure that holiday gatherings were both safe and fun, so it was heartwarming to hear my son chat about his holiday memories and not mention anything about food allergies.

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