Food Allergies This Holiday Season

Image includes holiday foods that may contain allergens and the text reads "Holiday Food Safety" and "Avoiding food allergies this holiday season.".

Published December 8, 2020

While this time of year is usually filled with cheer, good tidings and lots of holiday goodies, it can be a dangerous time of year for those with food allergies.

While holiday gatherings with those outside of your household may not be happening this year, it’s still important to keep your guard up for you and your family. From trying new dishes to family and friends dropping off treats while social distancing, concern for those with food allergies is always present, especially if you have little ones to watch out for.

“There are some things you can do to plan ahead that will help to keep your child safe,” says Allison Freeman, MD of the Division of Allergy/Immunology at UBMD Pediatrics. To avoid any allergy accidents this time of year, follow these suggestions to safely navigate the holiday season.

Food preparation

“You have to look at these labels and look at these warnings every time. ”
Assistant Professor

If you’re not preparing the food, make sure the person cooking and preparing the meal knows your child’s food allergies in advance.

Out of sight, out of mind. Make sure prepared food is put up high, especially tempting items like desserts, so they are out of reach of small children. This gives you time to ensure the safety of the food in advance.

Pack your own food if you can. If you’re not dining at home, be prepared with snacks or a meal that’s safe for you in case your requests haven’t been followed. Preparing as much of your child’s or your own meal as you can may provide an extra level of comfort.

Checking it twice

Photo of Butter Toffee Pretzel packaging.

Check every package. “You’ll be amazed what you will find in baked goods. And sometimes in a busy holiday day, a cook might forget every item.”

Secret allergens. 

Names of products can be deceiving and include more ingredients and allergens than you’d expect.

“For instance, these Butter Toffee Pretzels, which we would expect to include some milk products, have labels that include major allergens like peanut, tree nuts and egg,” Dr. Freeman said. “So you have to look at these labels and look at these warnings every time.”

Photo of pretzel ingredient list containing allergens.

See the packaging. Do not eat anything unless you can see the package for yourself! Ask the person preparing the meal to keep boxes and packaging for items like cakes, cookies, dressings, etc.

Plan ahead

If your child has food allergies, teach them which foods they must avoid and what these foods look like. Role-play with your child so that he or she understands how to respond if a well-meaning person offers food or drink that hasn’t been checked.


If you feel symptoms while eating something,


If you need emergency help, call 9-1-1.

With holiday dishes in abundance, follow these tips to keep safe this season.

For more information, check out Dr. Freeman’s Wellness Wednesday on food allergy safety.