By Natasha Persaud
Spread the love this Valentine’s day. But if you or a loved one has allergies, also keep a lookout for potential allergy triggers that lurk in popular goodies and gifts. Use these savvy tips for an allergy-free holiday, culled from information from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).
1. Allergy-Free Treats
Does your loved one have food allergies? Read the ingredient label before you buy gifts of chocolate, cookies, candies or desserts. Many treats—including those you wouldn’t suspect—contain food allergens, such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat and/or soy. “You may not recognize the names of some ingredients made from these foods; for example, ovalbumin from egg,” says Rebecca G. Piltch, M.D., an allergist/immunologist in San Rafael, CA. “Teach yourself to recognize offending ingredients by reviewing the lists on the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network web site.” “Food boxes and baskets may not carry labels; so when in doubt about the ingredients, don’t eat from them.”
Did you know? Smaller sizes of popular candies may contain different ingredients than the regular size; they also may be processed in different facilities, where exposure to allergens like peanuts is possible, so be especially vigilant: Check the label for notes such as “Made on equipment that processes peanuts.” “Although any given batch of the food may or may not include the allergens listed, think of these as additional ingredients to avoid,” says Dr. Piltch.
2. School Party Rules
Before the class Valentine’s Day party, remind the teacher that your child with food allergies can’t eat certain treats. “Make sure the teacher understands that a food allergy is involved, which foods need to be avoided and what may happen if those foods are eaten,” says Dr. Piltch. “Don’t be shy: If a life-threatening reaction is possible, tell the teacher outright. You probably discussed these precautions with the teacher at the beginning of the school year. Now is a good time to remind the teacher of your instructions and the emergency action plan. To help your child celebrate the holiday safely, send along an allergy-free dessert."
3. Less Allergenic Flowers
If you’re allergic to pollen, Valentine’s Day flowers may bring on sneezing and watery eyes, not smiles. What provokes an allergic reaction differs from person to person. “Thankfully, plants with large, colorful flowers are less likely to have pollens that cause allergic reactions,” says Dr. Piltch. You may want to choose among these flowers and plants instead because they're less likely to cause an allergic reaction:
4. Common "Scents" Advice
Perfumes, colognes and scented products (e.g., candles, bath and beauty items, lingerie, teddy bears, etc.) may trigger reactions or asthma attacks in people who are sensitive. If that’s you, be sure to tell your honey to cross those items off the gift list.
When you go shopping, beware that perfumed products may appear in unusual locations for Valentine’s day—such as near the cash register—not just in the perfume section. To stay on the safe side, bring along your rescue medication.
5. Better Bling
Jewelry is a girl’s best friend, except if you have nickel allergies. Even some gold jewelry contains traces of nickel, so it pays to be wary. Before you try anything on, make sure it won’t irritate your skin.
Before You Wine and Dine with Food Allergies…
- Think twice before you toast. Some wines and champagnes contain sulfites which can trigger a reaction in someone who’s allergic to them.
- Chat with the restaurant chef. If you’ll be eating out, call ahead to the restaurant to discuss your dietary restrictions. The best time to reach the chef is around two in the afternoon, between the lunch and dinner rush. Discuss how the food will be prepared to avoid cross-contamination.
- Scrutinize the menu. Are dinner reservations a surprise? Some restaurant menus list potential allergens in the ingredient list or note when something is, say, wheat-free. If you have further questions about the ingredients in a dish or how it’s being prepared, ask the chef.
Armed with these tips and the right management strategies, you can enjoy Valentine's Day allergy-free.