Summer Socializing: Reduce Food Allergy Stress


by Caroline Moassessi, FAACT Vice President of Community Relations

Who can resist friends and family mixed with summer fun, picnics, cookouts, and the great outdoors? However, summer activities can get tricky and feel burdensome when your family is managing food allergies. FAACT is here with tips to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy while not missing out on the fun!

One rule that always stays the same is to pack at least two epinephrine devices and an emergency action plan plus medical insurance cards. Accidents can happen anywhere and anytime, so be prepared!

Just Say Yes or No?!

Kick-off all social dates and event planning by deciding if the activity and food situation is right for your family. Will a trip to a petting zoo work if your child is allergic to ingredients in specific animal foods? Will a cookout featuring shrimp be a safe choice for managing your shellfish allergy? If not, consider graciously declining and/or offering to work with the host to create a safe environment. Feeling good about saying no to an invitation can feel overwhelming. Listen to FAACT’s Roundtable Podcast, “Our Teal Voices: No Means No,” to learn how to confidently and graciously decline an invitation.

Cookout Strategies

If you’ve been invited to someone’s home for a meal, strategize safe eating with your host as soon as you receive the invitation. Ask about food to be served and if dishes can be managed to suit your family’s allergen avoidance needs. Be creative and flexible! If appropriate, offer to help with label reading or finding delicious recipe ideas that will work for all guests. How can you be part of the solution? Check out FAACT’s Pinterest Page for ideas.

Consider offering to make a tasty, allergen-friendly dish that is within your budget and can travel easily. Food presentation matters and helps bust myths that allergen-friendly foods taste bad! Dish up items in festive cupcake cups, add themed party picks, or cut fruits and veggies into fun shapes with small cookie cutters. Don’t forget to make a little sign indicating the ingredients in your dish to help others on a special diet. Hobby stores sell tiny chalkboard signs just for this purpose!

If the event is large or cooking is not feasible, ask the host if they mind you bringing food for your family members. Ask whether you can reheat or keep food cool, and pack foods in appropriate containers. Invest in a sturdy, easy-to-carry cooler bag to carry meals to events, and don’t forget to pack a small cutting board, knife, or other accessories you may need.

Lastly, pack hand wipes and remind everyone of family eating out rules, such as eating only food from home, reading labels, and discussing food prep and ingredients with the host.

Picnics, Hikes, and Beach Trips

Day trips are memory makers, and taking food allergy safety on the road doesn’t need to be stressful when you plan ahead.

Explore packing and maintaining a summer outing bag containing allergen-safe sunblock, bug repellent, lip balm, shelf-stable snacks, water, beverages, cutlery, napkins, and hand wipes. Create a list of safe restaurants for roadside stops. Print out directions in case Wi-Fi connections are bad. Don’t forget the power of picking up fresh items, such as luncheon meats, yogurts, or cheeses from grocery stores. One idea is to pack a whole roasted chicken, packets of condiments, safe bread, and pre-made salads.

Keep medications safe and cool by storing them in a small cooler, and keep car keys in a secure, consistent location (e.g., always in the front pocket). Make sure family and friends know where to find emergency medications and do a quick review of how to handle emergencies while away from home. Pay attention to your location if you need to call 911 for any reason—not just food allergies. If you are traveling to a remote area, consider using a satellite radio or watch in case of emergencies.

Checklists are great tools for organizing everyone when heading out for summer fun with friends. Get creative and design checklist templates for day trips or lists of fun and easy recipes for cookouts and parties.

Planning and communicating with your hosts, family, and friends are keys to staying safe while enjoying summer socializing! Your FAACT family wishes you the best of times this summer.