The holidays are supposed to be a celebratory time with family. However, this year will look different for many families. While food allergies are usually the main concern around the holidays, Thanksgiving is also impacted by the pandemic this year. Larger families must take extra precautions to stay safe from COVID-19 and allergies this year. This risk of catching COVID or having an allergic reaction increases around large gatherings.
The CDC recommends replacing usual holiday traditions with virtual ones to avoid exposure to the virus. However, we understand that this may not be possible for all families. So, the allergists at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers have some tips on staying safe from both COVID and allergies this Thanksgiving.
Avoid Air Travel to Reduce Exposure to COVID and Allergens
Close contact with others increases your risk of getting COVID. So, you should avoid air travel if possible. While some airlines are limiting capacity on flights and keeping seats open, many are booking to full capacity and seating guests close to each other. Not only does this leave you vulnerable of catching the virus, it also increases the risk of having an allergic reaction onboard. Many people with food allergies experience a reaction just from exposure to the food. An airplane allows for airborne allergies to thrive.
If you must fly, try searching for an airline that is still booking limited capacity. Be sure to also check new airline policies. Some policies require you to quarantine for 14 days after your flight or get tested for COVID before departing and returning. If you suffer from food allergies, let your airline know ahead of time so that they can restrict certain foods from the flight.
Get Tested For COVID Before Family Gatherings
Before having a family gathering, it may be necessary to have all family members get tested for COVID. This is especially important if you have vulnerable individuals in the family like the elderly and people with underlying conditions. NY Allergy & Sinus Centers offers COVID testing in Manhattan, Queens, and Long Island. Although we offer same-day appointments, we recommend booking with us early so you are fully prepared for the holidays.
Sanitize Surfaces to Get Rid of Allergens and Other Germs
Did you know that just wiping down surfaces does not get rid of germs and allergens? You must clean and sanitize with soap and water or all-purpose cleaning agents and sanitizers that meet state and local food safety regulations. One study provided by FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) found that liquid soap, bar soap and commercial wipes were very effective at removing allergens from hands. Disinfect frequently touched surfaces throughout the day to minimize the risk of transmitting germs and allergens.
Consider Outdoor Gatherings to Remain Safe From COVID
The CDC considers small outdoor gatherings lower risk than indoor gatherings as the virus is more difficult to transmit outdoors. For colder weather, consider building a small fire pit or use a kerosene heater to keep warm. The CDC also recommends that families do not share objects/food, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county). Limiting close contact and interaction is an important way to prevent the virus’s spread.
Prepare Allergy-Friendly Meals
You can still enjoy Thanksgiving if you have food allergies. Ask family members to prepare allergy-friendly meals for dinner. If this is not possible, use separate utensils for serving to prevent cross-contamination. Also, rather than passing plates or lining up for self-serve buffets, have one masked person serve all the food to prevent multiple people from handling serving utensils.
Be sure to have emergency allergy medication like epinephrine close by in case an allergic reaction pursues. Do not forget to check the expiration date of your epinephrine auto injector to ensure it will work properly when you need it. For any refills and new medications, contact NY Allergy & Sinus Centers for your personalized treatment plan. Call (212) 686-6321 today or book your appointment online.