Passover Allergy Tips

Passover is a wonderful holiday, but food allergies need to be on the radar. Here are a few things that could easily save someone’s life.

  • If you have a corn allergy, Passover food might not be as safe as you think. Ingredients that are chemical or metabolic derivatives of corn are often not considered “corn” in the context of Passover. Be sure to check ingredients against a corn allergy ingredient list.
  • If you have a corn allergy you probably have already figured out that paper bowls and plates, disposable cups and plastic cutlery aren’t safe. I regularly line plates and bowls with one or two layers of foil to stay safe and enjoy the luxury of disposable dishes.
  • What is kosher for Passover doesn’t always mean it is kosher for people with food allergies. Many recommend not using the first and last few sheets of paper towel rolls to avoid the corn starch used as an adhesive. That didn’t work out so well for me. I have stayed safe by removing six or seven sheets from each end. It might sound wasteful, but it costs a lot less than new Epi-Pens.
  • Those who are ill can generally consume the medicines they need in order to get well on Passover. That makes looking at medication lists dangerous for people with corn allergies because the permissibility of the ingredients varies a great deal based on the the severity of illness and other factors. This may also be reasonably applied to baby products.
  • Passover is the season for baking with nuts. If you are allergic to nuts, pay very close attention to all of the tasty desserts being served up.
  • Those with a wheat allergy can safely expect many foods to contain or be cross-contaminated with matzoh or cake meal. With all of the emphasis on things being kosher for Passover, it is very easy for people to forget that wheat is still wheat, even if it was wet for less than 18 minutes.
  • If you have a wheat allergy, be very careful with spelt matzoh. Spelt matzoh is often cooked in the same oven as the wheat matzoh, and cross-contamination is a very real problem. If you are particularly sensitive to wheat, discuss this matter in great detail with your local orthodox rabbi well in advance of the seder night. The mitzvah of protecting your life is every bit as real as an allergic reaction.
  • Food allergies are deadly. Allergic reactions often appear with little to no warning, in varying levels of severity, and always when you least expect it. If someone is having an allergic reaction, dial 911.
  • About 20% of anaphylactic reactions are biphasic. Once the first reaction subsides, a second reaction can occur a number of hours later without warning. The second reaction can be far more severe than the first, and no allergen need be introduced to trigger it.
  • Antihistamines won’t keep you alive. Epinephrine is the ONLY known treatment for anaphylaxis.
  • Don’t wait to use the Epi-Pen. From my experience, it takes about 6 or 7 minutes before the epinephrine has enough time to make a substantial difference in a person’s condition. You do the math. Waiting too long might not be a great idea.
You have my permission to re-publish any of these tips, but please include some credit and a link to this blog post as a source reference. If I have my facts wrong or you have something to add, please leave a comment.
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