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Planning the Perfect, Allergy-friendly Picnic

We’ve all seen a classic stock photo of a picnic: a fancy spread of food laid across a blanket, friends passing dishes back and forth, perhaps even a loose baguette peeking out of a picnic basket. But this scenario isn’t exactly ideal for people with severe food allergies, as the risk for cross-contamination is high when sharing food. However, people with food allergies can still enjoy a perfect picnic without sacrificing their health! These tips will help you create the perfect allergy-friendly picnic for your family, friends, or significant other.

First and foremost, ditch the picnic basket—go lunchbox style! Have everyone in your group bring an insulated lunch box with their own meal. Not only does this eliminate the risk of cross-contamination by keeping your carefully chosen, safe food separate, but it satisfies everyone’s individual cravings. If your group wants to preserve the sharing spirit of a picnic, create a signup sheet with simple items for people to contribute, like prepackaged, individually wrapped snacks, bottled waters, or other drinks.

Eating outside decreases the chance of having an airborne allergic reaction due to greater air circulation (Sicherer). However, if you are lucky enough to find an available picnic table, wipe down the surface before eating or spread a piece of fabric out as a tablecloth. Otherwise, blankets and chairs can also be spaced as far apart as needed to additionally reduce the risk of exposure to allergens.

Bring plenty of hand-wipes, encouraging your companions to clean their hands after eating to reduce the transfer of allergens. If you are with friends, own your preparedness by dubbing yourself the “Mom” of the group. This is a great way to lighten things up and provides an opportunity to educate your friends about food allergies, explaining that by taking these precautions, you are just doing your job. Additionally, don’t forget to insulate your epi-pens in order to protect them from the heat.

Most importantly, what picnic is complete without dessert?! On a hot summer day, finish the meal by stocking a cooler with allergy-friendly frozen treats to hand out to your guests. Most popsicles are free from the top 8 allergens, but make sure to double-check for cross-contamination warnings with the company if none are present on the label.

Finally, picnics are a great way to shift the attention away from the food by creating a mealtime experience. While enjoying the beautiful scenery, sharing conversation, or looking around in alarm for a stray frisbee, your friends likely won’t pay attention to what you are eating. The joy is in treasuring each other’s company while soaking up the summer sun. Going lunchbox style, communicating with your group members, and being well-prepared will help you have the safest and most enjoyable picnic experience. Just remember to watch out for ants!


Sicherer, Scott. “When Is There a Risk of an Airborne Food Allergy Reaction?” Allergic

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