(NEW YORK) — Hunting for eggs this weekend? Easter festivities can be fun for the whole family, but hidden allergens can quickly turn the holiday into a nightmare.
“Holidays can be a challenge because of the focus on food,” said Dr. Michael Pistiner, a pediatric allergist with Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Boston. “Everybody loves to give treats, so it’s really important to train kids with food allergies to say, ‘No, thank you so much, but I can’t.'”
Easter candy and homemade treats aren’t the only allergy triggers. Brightly-dyed eggs and relatives’ pets can cause miserable reactions in kids and adults alike. And let’s not forget about spring pollen wreaking havoc on sinuses.
Here is a list of Easter allergy triggers and tips to stay out of harm’s way:
It can be hard to resist the molded chocolates and spongy sweets of Easter. But the tempting treats can contain traces of nuts, milk, wheat and eggs. “You really need to read the label every time,” said Pistiner, noting that companies can change their manufacturing processes or ingredient lists without notice. “If you can’t read it, don’t eat it.”
While packaged candies come with a list of ingredients, homemade goodies can contain just about anything. “It’s tricky. You’re really putting your trust in the skills and knowledge of someone else,” said Pistiner. Even the best-intentioned baker can accidentally let traces of allergens sneak into the mix.
Easter crafts can also trigger allergies. Dying eggs in food coloring can cause skin reactions in people with sensitivities. And eggs themselves are one of the most common food allergens, according to Pistiner. “If someone has skin contact with a food they’re allergic to, they can have local rash. It can turn into a more severe allergic reaction if there’s exposure to the eyes, nose or mouth,” he said.
Warmer weather means tree pollen — spring’s most ubiquitous allergen. “It can cause sneezing, runny noses, nasal congestion, itchy, watery eyes, coughing, and can trigger asthma,” said Pistiner. You might be tempted to open the windows for some fresh air this weekend, but keeping them closed can prevent pollen from polluting the Easter party.
Bunnies and Pets
Dander and saliva from dogs, cats and, yes, even bunnies, can cause allergic reactions on par with pollen. So when visiting relatives with pets, be sure to go prepared.
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