If You’re a Host
Be Allergy Aware. Ask your guests about food allergies in advance. Being able to discuss it and plan ahead will make it possible for everyone to enjoy the party.
Have it at your place. Consider offering to host family events. Even though it’s more work, it can ultimately be more relaxing and a great opportunity to educate friends and family about all the healthy and delicious options that don’t include your allergens!
Plan ahead. Torontonian Roger King, who has a peanut allergy, hosts a party for his clients each December. “We use a caterer, and I go through the menu ahead of time and tell the caterer ‘no nuts and no peanuts’,” he says. “We order appetizers and entrees, but we don’t order a dessert tray since so many Christmas desserts have nuts.”
“I used to think all this was just for me,” he adds. “But last year a longtime client told me she had a nut allergy. You never really know unless you ask.”
If You’re a Guest
Be prepared. Carry your epinephrine auto-injector and wear your medical identification jewellery. Let your host know about your allergies well in advance and offer to help with the menu. If the event is in a public space (such as a pub), call ahead at off-peak hours and arrive early to speak to the manager about your allergies.
Strategize. Parents of young children face specific challenges…like keeping an eagle-eye on their toddlers while attempting to be social with other adults. “It’s a balancing act,” says Leah, whose 3-year-old daughter has a milk allergy. “My husband and I plan in advance to take ‘shifts’ at a party,” she says, “so we know that one of us is always close to her. That gives us each time to relax and visit more. And we always know who’s in charge, so it keeps her safer, too.”
If You Have a Reaction
Take action. If you are having a reaction (or your child is having a reaction), use the auto-injector immediately – never try to wait or tough it out – and call 9-1-1. Get to hospital by ambulance. Don’t try to drive yourself, especially if you’re the one having a reaction.
Follow up. Make an appointment to see your allergist if you have any concerns or questions following the reaction. When you have the time, follow up with your host as well.
Whether you are a host or a guest, the post-holiday season is a great time for reflection: what went well and what could be done differently next year. Take stock of your allergy plan. And while you’re at it, check your auto-injector’s expiry date. If it is close to expiring, get a new one. It’s the best gift you could ever give yourself.