Proactive doctors can ensure a safe Halloween for families with food allergies
October 15, 2021
3 minutes to read
Ghosts and elves may be imaginary, but families with food allergies face real dangers this Halloween. Doctors can be proactive in educating families and the community about the risks of exposure to allergens, ensuring that all children can safely have fun.
Healio spoke with an allergist Neeta Ogden, MD, director of the Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Center in Edison, NJ, for more. Ogden is also a member of the Medical Scientific Council of the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, as well as a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Healio: What are the top treats families with allergies should avoid or minimize?
Ogden: Families should focus, of course, on what their child is allergic to. When looking at the top food allergens in children, parents may especially want to avoid tree nut, peanut, milk, soy and sesame treats. Parents should also be aware of the hidden sources of their child’s culprit food allergens and other names they may have in ingredient lists.
Healio: What dangers do these treats present?
Ogden: Treats are dangerous for children with food allergies because they can cause allergic reactions ranging from mild to severe, including fatal anaphylaxis.
Healio: How can physicians better communicate these dangers to the families they treat?
Ogden: Every doctor treating a child with a food allergy should review a food allergy action plan on how to treat each phase and manifestation of a food allergy. Likewise, as mentioned above, it’s important to share that not all allergens are always spelled out, so make sure parents research the ingredient warnings. They need to know which products may contain hidden allergens or allergens that are not always clearly stated.
Healio: Are there any resources that you can recommend that physicians use to help with these educational efforts?
Ogden: Yes. I think foodallergy.org is a useful website, as well as snacksafely.com. ACAAI.org is another great place that can provide education and materials.
Healio: Even if families practice caution, exposures are still possible. How can doctors help families prepare for potential exposures?
Ogden: Parents of children with food allergies are well prepared and educated on what to avoid and how to treat mild reactions. Again, doctors can help families by always going over a food allergy action plan to prepare for exposure and always making sure they know how to use the food allergy action plan medications. food allergies, including reviewing the technique and use of an EpiPen and ensuring that they actually have more than one EpiPen and that it is not expired. It is also important to teach children as early as possible to talk about their allergies and to get help if they are not feeling well and may have an allergic reaction, especially if they are not with their parents. .
Healio: Are allergists seeing an increase in the number of cases during this time of year? If so, how can practices prepare for them?
Ogden: It is possible, but as I said above, parents of children with food allergies tend to be more vigilant at this time of year. Practices can help by revising the food allergy action plan as often as possible, well in advance of this season so that reactions are less frequent. Also, giving families more time before the school year is a great way to revisit things, including the Food Allergy Action Plan and Asthma Action Plan, as the seasons change. and cold can also cause asthma.
Healio: Halloween is just the start of the holiday season. Is there anything different families should do to prepare for the other celebrations to come?
Ogden: The holiday season introduces many variables that are not part of our normal routines, including food and travel, as well as staying in different places. For food-related parties, if there is a food allergy, notify your host beforehand. Make sure you always travel with more than one EpiPen and other allergy medications. Make sure the EpiPens are not expired and are stored correctly, not in extreme temperatures. If you are very concerned about food exposure, you can even bring or prepare your own. If you are allergic to allergens that might exist in another home, always have allergy medications such as antihistamines and your asthma inhaler on hand.
Healio: Is there anything different doctors should do to prepare for these celebrations?
Ogden: Doctors can check in with their patients and remind them that the holidays in particular are an opportunity to be more vigilant than ever, especially when it comes to food allergies.
Healio: Awareness is essential not only among the families that physicians treat, but also in the community as a whole. What can physicians do to promote allergy awareness in their communities?
Ogden: It is essential to keep the discussion alive and ongoing. Consider talking to schools and local media to keep the community educated. For example, FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project is a great way to bring attention to food allergies in the community around Halloween with allergy-free homes displaying a teal pumpkin on their doorsteps.
Healio: Do you have anything else you would like to add on how families and communities can ensure a safe and fun Halloween season?
Ogden: Never be complacent. Allergies, asthma, and eczema are very serious conditions that can be triggered instantly by culpable foods, allergens, and other environmental stimuli. Constant education and discussion to maintain awareness is really an important part of allergy treatment and allergy prevention.
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Neeta Ogden, MD, can be reached on Twitter @DrNeetaOgdenMD.