Holiday treats are my favorite part of the season! My family makes these absolutely sinful scotcheroos for holiday parties and I always have at least five pieces. But my son has a peanut allergy, so those treats are off-limits for him. Being on-guard about his allergy takes a little fun out of our celebrations. Especially because peanuts - and the rest of the top eight allergens - can be hiding in places you’d never suspect! Research soothes me, so when my son was diagnosed with a food allergy, I looked up everything I could get my hands on. Read along for the most helpful pointers on how to avoid those allergens - even if they’re inconspicuously hidden in plain sight!
What Are The Top 8 Allergens?
Doctors have identified the most common and serious food allergies; they’re called the top eight allergens. Kids can outgrow some allergies if they’re lucky!
How To Read Food Labels For Allergies
A note on labeling: basically, if a product says that “it may contain” it is safer than a competitor brand that does NOT say “it may contain”. This is because the labeled product generally meets a more stringent level of quality control in production. Of course, cross-contamination is still a risk! Depending on reaction severity, you might decide to avoid those labeled foods altogether.
Food labels aren’t as regulated as you might think! Since there’s a lack of regulation, parents have to be on the lookout for alternate wordings. Some manufacturers use different names for the common allergens. It’s not really that they’re trying to hide them - they’re trying to be really accurate. Instead of saying “egg” they’re going to say “albumin” (the technical word for the protein in egg white). So keep an eye out for these words on food labels!
- Casein, Curds, Ghee, Whey, Galactose, Lactic Yeast - Dairy
- Vegetable Protein - Soy
- Albumin, Globulin, Lysozyme - Egg
- Arachic Oil, Nutmeat - Peanut
Hidden Allergens In Non-Food Items
Some people with allergies are so sensitive they react even if they don’t ingest the allergen. One of my coworkers had such a severe case of Celiac’s, she couldn’t be in the same room if someone sprayed hairspray. External or skin exposure might trigger a reaction more easily in little kids as their allergen threshold can be lower. In that case, be sure to read labels of non-food items, too! Be wary of the following household items and foods.
- Body products like lotions or soaps. Tree nuts are sometimes used to add oils, so read the label! Many have gluten (hairspray included), so be wary for Celiac sufferers.
- Allergy medicines (like Claritin) can contain whey and lactose. This means dairy-allergic kids should avoid them and try other options to manage seasonal allergies.
- Even modeling clay can contain wheat! Wheat allergies can be outgrown and usually require ingestion to trigger a reaction. Still, little kids eat modeling clay all the time. Parents beware!
- I can’t believe it’s not butter - and yet margarine still commonly contains dairy.
- Egg substitutes can contain dairy - so “eggs” might be totally out if your little has both allergies.
- Sausages and processed meats can also contain dairy - stick with prepackaged options where you can read the label!
- Shellfish can hide in a wide variety of places, too! Be careful of marshmallows, bagged soil or fertilizer, and lip gloss. Who would have guessed?
Having a child with a food allergy doesn’t mean they have to miss out on all the fun! It does mean it’s your job as the parent in charge to reduce their exposure to what can make them ill. While keeping my toddler out of the scotcheroos is easy enough for one day, reading labels on my potting soil never even crossed my mind! Avoid those top eight allergens and stay healthy, friends!
Have you found a weird hidden allergen by accident? Give me a heads up on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3 with #HiddenAllergen so I can avoid it!