It is that time of the year again when families and friends gather together for the highly anticipated Thanksgiving Day holiday.  Most people do not think about how Thanksgiving may affect one’s allergies, however, the holiday is full of potential triggers for many individuals prone to various allergies.

How common are food allergies?

Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.9 million children under age 18. About 30 percent of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food.

The most obvious allergies in relationship to Thanksgiving would be food allergies.  This relationship stems from the fact that when the average person thinks of Thanksgiving, they immediately associate the holiday with food and gluttony.  There are individuals who are allergic to turkey, the staple food of Thanksgiving, but turkey allergy is not very common.  More commonly, many individuals will experience sleepiness after eating turkey meat.  This phenomenon is explained due to the fact that turkey contains higher levels of the amino acid “L-tryptophan.”  L-tryptophan will enter the bloodstream from the digestive tract and travel to the brain where it gets converted to the chemical “serotonin.”  It is the serotonin that is responsible for causing this sleepiness.  

In addition to turkey which helps fill the plates on a Thanksgiving Day dinner, there are lots of other foods that accompany this holiday favorite.  Common food allergens such as wheat, soy, egg, milk, nuts, and peanuts are often found around the table.  Gravy used for turkey and mashed potatoes frequently contains soy, wheat, and/or dairy.  Nuts are commonly found on string beans and in some types of stuffing.  Nuts and peanuts are common in many desserts such as pecan pie and brownies.  Eggs and milk (dairy) are also used in many baked goods.  Although pumpkin allergies are not common, pumpkin pie may contain an array of ingredients that may trigger a food allergy in susceptible individuals. If someone has a serious food allergy, it is advisable for that person to bring their own food.

In addition to food allergies, other irritants that can cause allergic-like symptoms at a Thanksgiving Day event may include perfumes, colognes, cigarette smoke, smoke from a fireplace or wood-burning oven, and cleaning fluids.  Unfamiliar soaps may cause contact dermatitis to individuals with eczema (i.e., atopic dermatitis) and sensitive skin.

Thanksgiving is a festive time and loved by almost everyone.  It is a time to congregate with family and friends and an excuse to eat too much!  Given the positives about the Thanksgiving holiday, it is crucial to remember that there can be potentially serious complications from this seemly innocuous occasion.  With this in mind, the Premier Allergy team wish you a very happy Thanksgiving!