Almost all social gatherings and celebrations across cultures have one thing in common: food.
For people who need to manage severe food allergies, life is a constant balancing act between maintaining safety with familiar and controlled surroundings, and experiencing new adventures that may come with risks. Attending social gatherings can be a source of much stress and anxiety, especially when you don't have control over the menu, and many of the guests may not be fully educated on how dangerous food allergies can be.
Of course it's always easier to politely decline invitations and avoid risks altogether, but allowing fear to hold you captive will prevent you and your family from experiencing life. Here are some things you can do to help make all social gatherings you attend a success.
Your main goal is to take control of a situation that you have absolutely no control over, and the best way to accomplish that is through clear and honest communication with the host.
- Call your host in advance and remind them about yours or your child's allergies. The host will know all the people who are invited, and can help spread the message about your child's allergies to the other guests who may not be aware. You can also request that certain dishes be placed in an area that is out of reach from small children.
- Don't expect the host to change their menu to accommodate your allergies. In most cases there would be a risk of cross-contact and you wouldn't be able to safely consume the food they've prepared anyway, so explaining this to them in advance would save much hassle and hurt feelings.
- If it is appropriate, offer to bring an allergen-free dish to share with the rest of the guests. Remember to put aside a serving for the person who is allergic before you place the dish out with the rest of the food to reduce the risk of cross-contact.
- Consider attending the party before or after the main meal has been served. Attend for hors d'oeuvres, cocktails or dessert. Notify the host in advance that you will not stay for the entire party in case it is a seated meal. This will save them from setting a place for you at a table and will also avoid any awkward moments that may arise.
- Eat before attending the party so that your spirits are high and you are not tempted to eat something that is potentially unsafe.
- If you are staying for the main meal, find out what's on the menu and bring an allergen-free equivalent. This can also help make the other guests feel at ease because your plate will resemble theirs.
- People are sometimes uncomfortable if they are eating while you aren't, so holding a drink in your hand while chatting can sometimes help relieve any tension.
- If you have a young child with allergies and are attending the event with your partner or another trusted adult, take turns keeping an eye on your child, so that at any given time one of you can mingle and feel at ease that your child is safe.
Most importantly, don't forget to enjoy yourself!
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