By Andrew MacGinnitie, MD, PhD, associate clinical director of the Division of Immunology at Children’s Hospital Boston
The holidays are a lot of fun for children and adults alike, but for those with allergies and asthma the season can be a little difficult at times. Homemade treats, seasonal decorations and visiting friends and family can all be potential allergy and/or asthma triggers. Here are a few easy ways to avoid some of the more common offenders this winter.
Holiday celebrations are often filled with new and different foods. From plates of cookies to potlucks where everyone brings their favorite dish, this time of year presents plenty of opportunities for people with food allergies to be exposed to foods that could cause reactions. Peanuts and tree nuts in baked goods are the most obvious risks, but these same treats may also contain eggs or milk―common triggers for people with food allergies, especially younger children. …
For children with food allergies Halloween can be very frightening. Not only could there be allergens lurking in their trick-or-treat bags, but they may also dread feeling left out of some of the season’s food-related festivities. Here are some things you can do to make sure your child with food allergies has a fun and safe Halloween:
- Teach your child which candy is safe. These days, most people give out pre-wrapped, name-brand candy, which means kids with food allergies can quickly recognize safe foods. Teach your child to recognize and avoid problem treats so he or she can pass on them without drawing attention to the issue. This is particularly important if they are going out on their own and may sneak a treat or two before coming home.
- Encourage trading for allergy-safe candy. If your child receives allergy-triggering candy, set up a trading circle with his friends, siblings or yourself so he can swap the treats for safer ones. It’s a good way to keep him safe and prevent him from feeling like his allergy is causing him to miss out.
- Engage the neighbors. If your child has severe food allergies, you may feel safer going to a few neighboring houses beforehand with allergy-safe treats the homeowner can give to your child when she trick-or-treats at their door. Let the neighbors know in advance what your child will be dressed as to avoid confusion, and allow them to distribute the allergy-safe treats discreetly.
- Help plan school functions. Being left out of a public activity because of a food allergy can be very hard on children. By volunteering to help with a school Halloween party you can ensure that there are allergen-free treats available and that it’s a safe environment for your child.
- Celebrate the spirit of the season. Candy is great, but there are lots of Halloween activities that are fun and have nothing to do with food. Carving pumpkins, decorating the house or creating the perfect costume are all great ways to celebrate Halloween. Emphasize the spirit of the season over the sweets to make sure your child with food allergies can enjoy the holiday as much as everyone else.
With the right planning, you can avert both allergic reactions and hurt feelings this Halloween—making sure the night is frightfully fun for everybody.
For more on this topic, watch this interview with Andrew MacGinnitie, MD, PhD, associate clinical director of the Division of Immunology at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Did you see WCBV’s 11 O’clock news last night? If so you met Cameron Ledin, a patient at Boston Children’s Hospital.
We were so impressed with the Ledins we had Cameron’s mother, Kim, write a blog post about what it’s like raising a child with severe food allergy.
By Kim Ledin
Cameron is a smart, energetic 8-year-old boy. These are the words I use to describe him, even though some people might define him by the medical condition that has shaped his young life. Cam was recently diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an allergic condition that causes his throat to seize up when he eats. When a person with EoE eats, his body mistakes food as an invader. With every bite white blood cells attack the throat, causing it to tighten up while often creating terrible stomach, head and joint pain. …
Written by Joshua Feblowitz
One hundred years ago, a British scientist by the name of Leonard Noon attempted to treat hay fever by injecting patients with of small amounts of grass pollen. Inspired by successful vaccines for diseases like smallpox, Noon hoped to cure patients of their allergy by helping them build up an “active immunity” to the pollen.
In his laboratory at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, Noon carefully prepared “pollen extracts” to test his theory. To study patients’ reactions to pollen, he sprinkled the extract directly into their eyes – undoubtedly a very unpleasant experience, as anyone with seasonal allergies can imagine. Finally, he injected patients with the extract over several weeks in increasing amounts, successfully reducing their sensitivity to the pollen.
Noon’s 1911 study represents the first successful example of allergen immunotherapy, a treatment that involves gradually exposing an allergic person to an allergen to coax their immune system into tolerating the substance. Although Noon never uses the word “allergy” in his original paper – at the time the term was just 4 years old—his discovery marked the beginning of a new era for allergy research and treatment. Today, allergen immunotherapy continues to be employed by innovative researchers around the world, including right here at Children’s Hospital Boston. …