Hidden Holiday Food Allergy Dangers

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Thanksgiving should be a fun day, but it can be very stressful for millions of people with food allergies, due to the hidden risks of eating away from home.

Holly Robinson Peete knows that all too well.

The actress and co-host of the CBS daytime show "The Talk" is the mother of four children, and all suffer from different food allergies.

Keeping track of their allergies is a challenge -- in fact, her son had a Thanksgiving medical emergency after eating some of his grandmother's stuffing, which contained peanuts.

On "The Early Show" Friday, she told how she keeps her kids ping her kids away from foods they need to avoid at holiday feasts. She had pointers on being a food-sensitive guest or host.

The most frightening thing, she says, is when she's not around: She can't have control when they're own their own. But when she's there, she can let people know and see what food is coming for the holidays and at potlucks. "I feel much more comfortable when I'm there. It's not when I'm NOT there -- at school, sleepovers and the like, that I worry."

Peete told CBS News of the time her son had the medical emergency, and other aspects of living with family members who have food allergies:

I had Thanksgiving dinner at my mom's house -- it was a potluck -- there were peanuts in the stuffing, and I'd forgotten my auto-injector EpiPen (which dispenses emergency allergy antidotes). That's the one time I didn't have it on me. But, since my mom lived so close, I was able to drive to my house and injected him right through his jeans. That was the first time I've done it. It was so scary; he had a look in his face, like, "Do it, Mom!! My throat is closing up!" We had a happy ending, but a lot of people don't.

The big takeaway is that it's all about communication. The big key: If you have people over and people are bringing dishes, call the people ahead and let them know about the allergens.

Knowing what your kids can and cannot eat is important. Most parents have to have them allergy-tested -- you need to get the child to a doctor. It's a very easy test to get. Then you have a template.

WHAT ARE SOME SYMPTOMS OF FOOD ALLERGIES?

The biggest thing is - with severe allergic reactions - your throat will start to close. That's deadly, and you can have major problems. With mild allergic reactions, there's often itching and hives.

HOE MUCH MORE STRESSFUL ARE THE HOLIDAYS ANT THEIR INCREASED FOCUS ON FOOD?

The holidays aren't stressful for me anymore -- I'm Crazy Allergy Mama now. Everyone gets a pat-down and I go through all the dishes and I'm good now. My goal is to communicate. Even using utensils being used on foods that you're allergic to can be as bad as eating the food. People don't realize it. It can even be airborne element. There are a lot of ways to be exposed. It's about communication and having conversations ahead of time. People don't even know sometimes -- they might have bought something at a store and don't know what the ingredient are. This is no joke -- nothing to play with.

TIPS FOR OTHER FAMILIES

- Let the host know about your allergy in advance and offer to bring a dish you've prepared.
- Ask the host for the recipes and/or review packaging from ingredients used to prepare dinner.
- Always wash your hands before eating and be careful of hand soaps or lotions that may contain oils and shells of nuts.
- Communicate with friends and family about you or your child's allergy and what to do in an emergency.
- Find out if an EpiPen should be part of your or your child's emergency treatment plan.

TIPS IF YOU INVITE FOOD-SENSITIVE GUESTS?

- Ask your guests about any food related allergies in advance
- Offer recipe cards to all guests and keep packaging if guests would like to review ingredients
- Use one utensil per dish while preparing and serving food to reduce cross-contamination
  • CBSNews

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