How to Host a Holiday Party for Guests That Have Food Allergies

Tips for hosting a bash that's food-allergy friendly
Holiday party with friends and lots of foods

No holiday season is complete without a festive gathering. Egg nog? Check! Christmas cookies? Check! Ugly sweater? Check!

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But hosting a holiday bash can be a challenge if you have guests with food allergies.

According to emergency room specialist Baruch Fertel, MD, partygoers often come into the ER during the holiday season because they’ve unknowingly eaten something they’re allergic to.

At these larger gatherings, sometimes we find that people put an ingredient in, that they thought was innocuous, and as it turns out, someone else there had an allergy.

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“We do see a little bit of an uptick in food allergies around this time of year from those different dishes and foods that people are not necessarily used to,” Dr. Fertel says.

3 tips to avoid food allergy problems

  1. Bringing a dish to share? Dr. Fertel said you may want to avoid some of the most common allergens, which include fish – especially shellfish – and different types of nuts. And if you’re making a recipe that has different items mixed in, which may not be obvious at first sight, be sure to mention it to the host.
  2. If your guest has a reaction? It’s possible for people to not know they have a food allergy, if they try something they’ve never had before, Dr. Fertel says. But if a guest eats something and develops hives or a rash, chest tightness, trouble breathing or vomiting, they could be having an allergic reaction. For a simple rash, he says an over-the-counter antihistamine can be taken to relieve symptoms. However, any symptoms related to breathing, such as wheezing or tightening in the chest, should be checked out by a physician right away.
  3. When you’re the one with the food allergy. If you have a food allergy, don’t be afraid to let others know up front. “Tell them, ‘Hey, I’m coming, but I’m allergic to nuts; can you let me know if any dish has nuts or anything like that?’ Be up front about it, because it’s a lot better than not saying something, and winding up with anaphylaxis or a severe allergic reaction.” And it’s a good idea to carry an epinephrine auto-injector at all times, just in case.

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