Let’s talk allergies, but first some statistics:
An allergy is an autoimmunity reaction the body has to a particular food or substance, 1 in 4 people in UK suffers from at least one allergy reaction (NHS, 2018).
More than 150 million Europeans suffer from chronic allergic diseases and the current prediction is that by 2025 half of the entire EU population will be affected (EAACI, 2016). Sadly, the UK has some of the highest prevalence rates of allergic conditions in the world, with over 20% of the population affected by one or more allergic disorder.
In the UK, it is estimated that the prevalence of food allergy is 7.1% in breast-fed infants, with 1 in 40 developing peanut allergy and 1 in 20 developing egg allergies (Lifschitz C, 2015).
An allergic reaction can be as soft as hay fever or a fatal allergic reaction known as an anaphylactic reaction. This is a life-threatening condition that needs urgent medical attention. I can’t express enough how serious this is.
As a host, it is your responsibility to provide a safe environment for your guests, taking special attention to children. Some parents might not even know that their child is allergic to something, an allergic reaction only occurs when exposed to the substance that the body is allergic to. So, if the child was never exposed to peanuts, and you have peanut butter sandwiches at your party, he might have an allergic reaction to it as soon as he eats it or touches it.
As soon as you sort out the planning of your child’s party, have decided on the menu and cake, and you are ready to send invitations out, I advise you to attach on the invitations the menu for the celebration, this menu should include every food, desert and drinks that will be available at the party. You should include the ingredients that each dish is cooked with. You should also put a disclaimer and encouraging parents to contact you if worried about the menu due to allergies or dietary needs for their child and for themselves.
If a parent comes forward, you should willingly try to accommodate their request to change ingredients or consider changing the dish. The best option is to change the dish and serve something that the parent is happy to feed their child. The last thing you want is to make your guests singled out or uncomfortable.
You might be thinking, well, if the child is allergic the parent should not let the child eat that particular dish. This is something difficult to prevent, especially if it is a desert, a child will always want to have a taste. Even if the parent doesn’t give the food to the child, there are ways that the child could still have access to it. As my dear mother always says, “children know our blind spots”. It is quite difficult to control a child in a party environment where things can become chaotic very quickly, food everywhere, kids running and playing. It's quite impossible to control what they eat and drink every second.
So, to avoid regretful situations, I extremely recommend changing the dish. Besides the allergic reaction that can occur, kids are usually picky eaters so parents can also alert you of the eating habits of their child beforehand and offer suggestions over which food is more child friendly. This way you can ensure the party food is a hit with the guests and an overall success.
Serving a dish that an allergic child cannot eat will seem unfair to them and most probably result in them not coming over to any parties in the future. It is bad enough that they are allergic, so, making them feel included with the other children will be appreciated by all.
An allergic reaction can occur directly or indirectly by being exposed to the food item as well. This is due to cross-contamination. To reduce significantly this risk is to prevent cross-contamination, you can do this by:
Not allowing self-serving, guests might mix up the spoons because they are not aware of the potential danger of cross-contamination.
Everyone dealing with the food must have food hygiene training, must have an awareness of food cross-contamination and allergic reactions.
People preparing the food should effectively communicate the allergies, read labels on all items used and know any hidden ingredients in a certain dish.
Those who handle or serve the food should prevent cross-contamination and use proper cleaning techniques.
Common Symptoms you should look out for:
Breathing difficulties (fast or shallow breath)
Check pulse for fast heartbeat
Clammy skin, sweating
You might notice swelling (lips and tongue) this requires emergency medical assistance
During an allergic reaction, even if unsure if the person or child is having an anaphylactic reaction you should:
Call an ambulance for urgent medical assistance
Use an adrenaline auto-injector if the person has one (be sure you know how to use it first, if the child has this, the parent will know what to do)
Remove what triggered the reaction if possible (the child might still be holding the peanut butter sandwich, take it from him).
Lie the child flat (Unless struggling to breathe or unconscious)
Wait for 5 to 15 minutes and give another injection if available and if symptoms have not improved.
Even if symptoms have improved, the child should still wait for the ambulance and go to the nearest A&E hospital.
Remember, this is supposed to be a happy moment for your family, your guests and especially for your child. Do not take your chances on this, it is better to be safe than sorry.
EAACI. (2016, March). Tackling the allergy crisis in Europe - Concerted policy action needed. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/all.13393 Accessed on 05/01/2021
NHS, (2019) Anaphylaxis https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/anaphylaxis/ Accessed on 10/01/2021
Allergies, (2018) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/allergies/ Accessed on 10/01/2021
Lifschitz C, S. H. (2015). Cow’s milk allergy: evidence-based diagnosis and management for the practitioner. European Journal of Paediatrics, 174, 141-150 http://europepmc.org/article/PMC/4298661 Accessed on 10/01/2021
Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor, therefore you should not quote me on the above information. This post is only for awareness purposes and sharing information that I thing it my benefit you with your event planning. You should always do your own research regarding allergies. In case of a medical emergency call 999 or if in doubt please CONTACT YOU MEDICAL POVIDER.