Picnic without the Panic this summer for Allergy Sufferers

The summer is finally here, the temperatures are up, the rain seems to be staying away (for the most part), and schools will be finishing up soon.

It’s the season for holidays, gardening, graduation ceremonies, barbeques and reunions, and that means outdoor parties and picnics.

Most people are excited by the thought of eating al-fresco, and enjoying everything the summer has to offer, but for families with allergy sufferers; from hay fever to food allergies; picnics can cause stress, worry and panic.

This Monday, (June 17th) will mark the start of National Picnic Week, and we like to think that with the correct planning and preparation, everyone should be able to get out, and enjoy everything associated with outdoor dining, and not have to miss out on family reunions, romantic outings, and all other great variations of spending time in the great outdoors!

Here is our list of tips to navigate your way through picnic season safely for hay fever and food allergy sufferers.

For Food Allergies:

  • If attending someone else’s party, make sure to check with the host beforehand, to see what they plan on serving. Ask if they can keep a portion separate, which has been prepared with no added ingredients, and no sauces, e.g. no cheese for their burger, or marinade on their meat.
  • Offer to bring the side dishes, therefore you can ensure that they will be allergy-free.
  • Sausages are best to be avoided, as many have added ingredients, unless the host can be sure of what is in them.
  • Grilled foods is one of the easiest ways to keep foods allergy-free, but be sure to have any portions cooked first, to avoid them being contaminated by others, or if not possible, place foods within tin foil to keep them separated.
  • Always ask your invited party if anyone suffers from any allergies.  Most sufferers will be happy to give tips, or special requirements they may have for food preparation.
  • Avoid pre-packaged foods, and opt to make things yourself.  Pre-packaged foods from the shop may be quick and easy, but they may also contain allergy triggers which are hidden.  This includes and sauces, marinades and dressings, as they often include wheat, and nuts etc.  Making your own salads and sauces means you can be assured that your food is allergy-free, and you may even surprise yourself on how much better they can taste!
  • Keep things simple – Many of us tend to over pack when it comes to picnics and end up with a lot of wasted food. But reducing the amount we take, and simplifying the amount of ingredients means there is less chance of an allergic reaction.
  • Always take a clean tablecloth with you for picnic tables and benches.  The table may look clean and tidy, but the party there before you may have left traces of food and germs which can trigger allergies.
  • If meeting with a large group of people, it can often be arranged in a “you bring the salad, and I’ll bring the sandwiches” fashion. It is best to avoid this scenario, and instead bring enough food for you separately, that only includes allergy friendly items.
  • Bring your own serving utensils, and assign each utensil to a different item, so no foods are mixed.
  • Containment. Making sure your food is packed separately, using sealed containers, or separate baskets/coolers for those with and without allergies.
  • Bring anti-bacterial hand wipes or gels for everyone to use before and after eating.
  • Fruit Salad is always a great option for dessert, it’s healthy, easy, and as you can ensure where everything comes from it will have no added ingredients.
  • Sachets of ketchup, mayonnaise etc are much better than shared bottles, as cross-contamination of non allergy-friendly foods can occur.
  • Always best to prepare for worst case scenarios.  Ensure the place you are going to has phone reception (particularly if you are in a remote location); in case the emergency services need to be contacted.
  • Ensure that emergency medication is always to hand.

For Hay Fever sufferers:

  • Bring anti-bacterial hand wipes or gels for everyone to use before and after eating.
  • Ensure that all medications are taken before going outside, and are brought along with you during the day.
  • As an extra food, bring local honey with you.  Not only will it be a welcomed treat, but can be used to help treat hay fever symptoms.
  • HayMax is great to have on hand, as the small pot can be applied often to the nostrils to block pollen from entering your system.
  • Drinking plenty of water can greatly reduce the side effects of hay fever, so make sure to bring plenty with you.
  • Pop up tents take up very little room, and can be brought to bring a welcome respite from being outside if your symptoms flare up.
  • Bringing sunglasses works as an extra barrier for your eyes against pollen.
  • Where at all possible, avoid being outside during the early afternoons, as pollen counts tend to be at their highest. Try to schedule parties and picnics for later on in the afternoon.
  • Always have a supply of tissues nearby to catch any sneezes, or relieve your eyes.
  • Nasal sprays can bring instant relief to a blocked or runny nose, and can easily be carried in a pocket or handbag.

Having allergies can be a nightmare, and often mean that you have to miss out on events.  Summertime picnics and parties needn’t be the case, as by planning beforehand and simple preparation can mean you and your family can enjoy them as much as anyone!


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