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Ask the experts: Guests with allergies

Q: "Help! I have one of my children's friends staying with me and he has a food allergy. What should I do and how do I supervise him to make sure he doesn't come into contact with an allergen?"

Name not supplied

A: We asked Sara-Jane Murison from Allergy New Zealand to answer this. She responds:

"The first thing to understand is that if someone has a food allergy, it needs to be taken seriously. He needs to totally avoid the problem food, so every step of the way – from the supermarket to the time food is served – care and detective work is needed to make sure none of the offending food has made its way into his meal. Ask him and/or his caregiver for advice. They are both likely to have a good level of knowledge and skills to help you prepare safe food.

Food allergy is most common in young children and as we all know they can be fussy, messy eaters. If you are preparing and serving food for a young child with a food allergy, there are some other risks that need to be considered:

  • Supervise children eating together as youngsters like to share food!

  • Children should wash their hands before and after eating as food residue can be transferred to toys and play equipment.

  • Avoid the use of egg cartons, yoghurt containers and peanut shells for craft materials as allergenic residue can remain on them.

Adolescents and young adults are the age group most at risk of fatal food allergy reactions. Having left the close supervision of their parents, they are more inclined to take risks and may downplay a food allergy when out with friends.

If your guest is a teenager, ask him directly what foods he is allergic to and discuss menu choices with him. Ask whether he has an EpiPen® or other medication with him and where it is."

First published: Jan 2007



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