The holiday season is a festive time of year highlighted by family dinners and get-togethers with friends. But if you have a child with food allergies it can also be challenging. Here are some tips from Food Allergy Canada to help make your holidays easier to manage and ensure your child stays safe.

➊ Plan ahead

If you are going to someone’s home, talk to them in advance about your child’s allergies. Discuss the menu, ingredients, and safe food preparation. Offer to bring your own food or snacks if you’re unsure. Talk to your child about what to expect and what options are safe for them.  Also, ensure you bring your child’s epinephrine auto-injectors with you and that they are up-to-date.

➋ Be a host

Sometimes it’s preferable to be the host, especially for a large gathering. Although it can take a lot of work, there are a few ways to make it easier. Communicate clearly with guests in advance. If you prefer to make all the food, suggest that guests bring drinks instead. If guests are bringing food, let them know beforehand of any allergies and ask them not to bring or use these items in their dishes.

➌ Have a strategy for the day

Talk to your child about managing their allergies, what the meal plan is, and how to say “no” politely, if they need to. Let them know what foods are safe and to come to you with any questions. And remind them not to share any snacks, utensils, or plates with others. Many parents of young children take turns watching their child in shifts, so that responsibilities are clear (and each parent gets a break). Things can get messy at parties, especially in a big group with many small children. Hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent cross-contamination. If a holiday tradition is not allergy-friendly, work with your family and friends to find one that is so that everyone can participate.

➍ Review your emergency plan

Review your emergency plan and read up on the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and what to do in an emergency. Also, remind your child that they should let you and others know immediately if they are feeling unwell or if they think they may be having a reaction.

➎ Empower your child

You can help prepare your child ahead of time by practising how to ask questions about ingredients and menu items. Encourage them to speak for themselves — and praise them for being thoughtful and managing their food allergies. And always let them know you’re there to help.