How to welcome food, latex allergic guests for holidays

Published 1:45 pm Friday, December 18, 2015


This is the time of year when friends and families gather to celebrate the holidays with long-standing traditions, creating memories that last a lifetime.

Allergy & Asthma Network urges people to be aware of family members and friends with food and latex allergies this holiday season. (Contributed)

Allergy & Asthma Network urges people to be aware of family members and friends with food and latex allergies this holiday season. (Contributed)

To help ensure a safe and fun-filled holiday season for all, Allergy & Asthma Network encourages people to be aware of family members and friends with food and latex allergies.

“Knowing the facts about life-threatening allergies and understanding the need for awareness are the first steps to becoming an inclusive host,” said Tonya Winders, president and CEO of Allergy & Asthma Network, the leading allergy and asthma patient education, advocacy and outreach organization. “For people with life-threatening allergies, awareness begins with understanding what they are allergic to and how to recognize that allergen. It continues with avoiding potential opportunities for exposure.”

Strategies for hosting holiday parties:

•Understand the seriousness of food and latex allergies. If guests say they are unable to eat something, it is a necessity, not a choice.

•Ask your guests about allergies when you invite them. Share your menu, including ingredients. Ask them for preparation and serving suggestions.

•Prevent cross-contact of allergens from one dish to another when preparing or serving foods. Learn more at

•If serving a buffet, encourage those with food allergies to serve themselves first. Also, be sure to label all ingredients and have a separate serving spoon for each dish.

•If a guest has a latex allergy, be mindful of household and celebratory products that have latex in them, such as balloons, adhesive bandages and gloves for food prep. In addition, some latex allergic people have cross-reactions to food such as bananas, avocados, chestnuts and kiwi.

Part of being aware of life-threatening allergies is being prepared for the unexpected.

“If a guest ends up having a life-threatening reaction, it is essential to administer their epinephrine auto-injector immediately and call 911,” said Ann Marie Liskey, an Anaphylaxis Community Expert (ACE) in Birmingham. “Epinephrine is the first line treatment of choice for anaphylaxis. People with life-threatening allergies need to carry two epinephrine auto-injectors with them everywhere, at all times. They must know when and how to use it and should ask their healthcare providers for an anaphylaxis emergency care plan.

“If guests experience a severe allergic reaction, they should be encouraged to follow their emergency care plan and use their epinephrine. In addition, someone should call an ambulance because the person may need further management or experience a second wave of anaphylaxis.”

Liskey, a Meadow Brook resident, is independently working with the AANMA.

“I have been managing food allergies and asthma for my son for the past 10 years,” Liskey wrote in an email. “I have been advocating in the community during this time and became involved with the ACE program a couple of years ago providing materials to area organizations and families. We would love to build an ACE Team here in the area. We would be able to present training on anaphylaxis to area schools, businesses, and the community.”

Accidental exposures happen, but by implementing the strategies listed above, people can reduce the potential for accidental exposures and make all their guests feel welcome and that their needs are supported.

To learn more about the ACE program or request an ACE team presentation, email Brenda Silvia-Torma, ACE Program Manager, at