Saturday, October 17, 2009

Allergic Guests Coming to Stay

Do you have guests coming with allergies? No one in your family is allergic. What do you do?

When friends are coming to stay, you will need to know if they have any allergies. Serious allergies can be dangerous and you need to be sure that the allergen is not in your home, in any form. For example, you use a knife to make a peanut butter sandwich, then lightly wipe it and use it to spread margarine on another sandwich; there could be enough allergen on the knife to cause an allergic reaction. For the most part, allergic people are well aware of which food is causing the symptoms and can help you keep these foods out of reach and sight. However, to make your guests feel at home, there are a few basics you need to understand:

If a guest is pregnant or breastfeeding and they have allergies in their family, they may choose to eat less allergenic foods. A study with nursing women (April 4, 2001, Journal of the American Medical Association) found peanut protein in their breast milk within two hours of eating peanuts. That’s how quick allergens travel in the body.

If a child is allergic, you will need to make the environment as safe as possible. If the child is accompanying your children to school or events, those in charge need to know of the allergies. In a recent study, researchers contacted parents of children with food allergies and found that almost 6 in 10 had experienced food allergic reactions in the past 2 years and 18% percent had a reaction while in school. Implicated foods included milk, peanuts, egg, tree nuts, soy, wheat, celery, mango and garlic. While most reactions were limited to skin, there were a small number of serious reactions (July 2001 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine).

With gluten allergy, the guests are sure to bring their own gluten-free bread and other foods. You wouldn’t have the right ingredients in your home.

Ask the parents what you should look for in allergic reactions, and be sure the child has medication and instructions with him or her at all times.

Food in Your Home

How do you know what your allergic guest can eat? Do you understand foods labels? Some foods seem “safe” but may have food allergens in the label as the food industry is not too accurate (JACI of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology). You will need to be aware of problems such as cross-contamination, non disclosure of content; ambiguous terms ("spices," "natural flavors"), milk in products labeled "Pareve" and labels in English placed over a foreign language label.

Allergic foods can be obvious, but sometimes they can appear in places you cannot imagine. Here are examples of allergies and unusual foods where they can be found. This is not a complete list, just examples.

Allergy Unusual Foods and Beverages

Wheat: gin, bran, ice cream, salad dressings, meatballs, pastas, cream soups, chocolate, soy sauce, semolina
Corn: dextrin, baking powder, sorbitol, vinegar, grape juice, instant coffee, soy milk, vodka, wine, ice cream, salad dressings, gelatin, sandwich spreads, vitamin capsules
Soy: beer, wine, chocolate, hamburger rolls, biscuits, margarine, vegetable oil sprays, textured vegetable protein, potato chips, bouillon cubes, candies, Worcestershire sauce
Eggs: wine, baking powder, albumin, ovoglobulin, consommé, candy, pastas
Milk: bread, cereals, margarine, salad dressings, meatloaf, cold cuts, nougats, casein, lactalbumin
Gluten: canned vegetables, chocolate milk, flavored instant coffee, herbal teas, salad dressings, cold cuts, canned pork and beans, texturized vegetable protein, tuna, sweets, soy sauce, chewing gum

In future, if researchers have their way, these recommendations will be followed:
* Simple language will be used on the labels (e.g. the term milk should be used in place of whey or casein).
* Allergens will be delineated when they are present in spices and natural flavors, precautionary statements such as "May contain..." not be used unless it is clear that there are no viable methods of preventing contamination despite good manufacturing practices.
* Implementation of allergen prevention plans for industry to reduce the introduction of unintended allergens and to ensure accurate and easily understandable labeling.
* Continued education regarding careful label reading.

If you want to be really serious about your facts, go to the many good websites; just don’t get carried away by those with exaggerations and superlatives.

It’s tough when your guests have an allergy, but with care and awareness, you should do fine. Enjoy the visit.