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Safer summer activities: Five tips to help make managing food allergies a breeze

Summer is here! And with it comes a host of new seasonal activities to enjoy, either on your own, or with your family and friends.

We’ve posted some general travel tips for you to take a look at, which apply all year round. And for those of you sending your children to summer camp, you can find specially tailored tips here and here.

But that’s not all. Here are five more food allergy tips to help you navigate common summer activities:

Barbeque season

Your grill is most likely free of your allergens. But what if you’re a visitor to someone else’s home or want to enjoy a community or camp barbeque? In that case, you’ll need to do a bit of advance legwork before digging in. There are several reasons for concern. The first is the grill itself. For example, have products containing your allergens been cooked on it? Many vegetarian burgers and hotdogs may have one or more of the priority allergens, such as sesame, peanut, and tree nut, and residue may persist on the grill well after cooking. Another concern is cross-contamination with allergens on shared cooking and serving utensils, or by splatter from allergenic foods being cooked in close proximity to foods that may be  safe to eat. There are a few ways to work with these situations. For example, you might bring your own small grill (e.g., a hibachi) and utensils. Another possibility is bringing your own meal along with you, and simply enjoying the social event. The choice is yours to make.

Time for icy treats

In many neighbourhoods, with the rising temperatures comes that inevitable sound – the musical tones of the ice cream truck. It’s also a time when the ice cream shop is all but irresistible. Unfortunately, not all vendors of ices and ice cream are allergy-aware, so here’s where a bit of advance research comes in handy to ensure that neither you nor the little ones you love feel left out. If the vendors or shops you visit serve your allergens or those of your children, and you aren’t comfortable with their handling procedures, why not take an advance trip to the supermarket and look for products that are free of the allergens you and/or your child need to avoid. Remember to always read the full ingredient list and not rely solely on any specific claims made on the front of the package (e.g. peanut- free). Keep the treats on hand in the freezer during the summer and bring them out for everyone to enjoy when you hear the ice cream truck coming – or any time at all.

Enjoy safer mixed drinks and coolers

Savouring an icy beverage is a delicious and fun way to beat the heat, and mixers are popular. But it’s important to know exactly what’s in your drink and how it’s been served before you take that first sip. For example, have any pre-packaged powdered mixes been used, and is the ingredient label available to read? And for the adults among us, exactly which alcoholic beverages have been used in the mixture? Certain brands of alcohol contain allergens—for example, Irish Cream liqueurs may contain dairy, and other types of liquor such as gin and certain whiskeys may be processed with tree nuts. As well, certain wines are processed using fining agents that may include fish or eggs, and they may not be required to be listed as ingredients on the label, but the allergens may still be present in the product. Beer aficionados might also be surprised to learn that there are peanut ales on the market, which could lead to cross-contamination on shared manufacturing lines. Another point to keep in mind is how your drink was mixed. If it was shaken in a mixing container, it’s important to know what drinks were previously mixed in that same shaker to avoid cross-contamination of your drink with your allergen/s. When in doubt, ask for your drink to be re-made in a fresh, clean mixer. Better yet, ask if you can supervise.

Prime time for oral allergy syndrome

If you have seasonal allergies, you might find that your throat becomes itchy when you eat raw fruits or vegetables. This may be oral allergy syndrome (OAS), also known as pollen-food syndrome. You might find that these symptoms flare a bit more during allergy season, when pollen is elevated and circulating in the air. If you notice this, speak with your allergist to find out what your options are, and whether it is safe for you to consume the fruit or vegetable in question when cooked. Check out this article on OAS from Allergic Living.

Read your sunscreen label

But wait? Sunscreen isn’t edible. No, but many contain common allergens such as sweet almond, sesame, or wheat germ oils, so read those labels carefully to avoid an allergic reaction. And be sure to learn the scientific, Latin names of your allergens, which may be listed instead of their common names. (For example, sweet almond is prunus dulcis, and sesame is sesamum indicum.)

It’s said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And by taking a bit of time to plan before you jump into summer activities, you can then focus on the most important thing of all – having fun!