It was Thanksgiving 2009 and Holly Robinson Peete and her family gathered as they do every year, hardly knowing that their day would end in the emergency room as son RJ had an allergic reaction to Holly's grandmother's stuffing. Robinson Peete took it upon herself to get the word out to avoid an allergic reaction at Thanksgiving dinner for guests and hosts alike.
SheKnows: First, how would you recommend asking a host, if you're attending a Thanksgiving dinner, for the recipes to avoid allergic situations?
Holly Robinson Peete: I would simply start by briefly explaining the situation to them. Most people are very understanding these days about severe allergic reactions, but may have never hosted anyone who had them before. Be grateful and appreciative but ask them if there are any dishes that contain the ingredient to be avoided. You might also request to see the ingredients label of any packages or prepared foods being served. And if you find that there may be dishes with nuts in them, for example, make sure that utensils haven't contaminated other dishes and remain apart from the other dishes. And finally, thank them for their help in protecting your loved ones from what could be a very dangerous allergic reaction.
SheKnows: Do you think the dinner hosts out there also have a responsibility to find out food allergies of their guests ahead of time and how do you recommend dinner hosts go about that?
Holly Robinson Peete: It's actually fairly common these days for the guests to mention their allergies to hosts upon receiving an invitation, much like vegetarians have been doing for years. If you or a loved one have severe allergic reactions, speak up! But it's never a bad idea as a host to let guests know if something has nuts or shellfish, just to be sure.
SheKnows: When you had your emergency with RJ, what were the first signs you noticed that you were able to act so quickly?
Holly Robinson Peete: In RJ's case, his throat starting closing up, which was extremely frightening for both him and me. When that kind of reaction happens, you act fast and motherly instincts really kicked in. I realized we didn't have our EpiPen device with us and had to drive home, which thankfully was nearby. We were able to administer it to RJ and get him to the hospital. That Thanksgiving is a constant reminder of why it's so important to be prepared in case of an allergic emergency.
SheKnows: Do you think that food allergies are not discussed enough in the public consciousness and if so, what can we do to bring that discussion more to the forefront?
Holly Robinson Peete: I think that because allergic emergencies are on the rise, there is a greater public understanding of the need to be prepared at all times with antihistamines and devices like the EpiPen. I can't tell you how many mothers I talk to live with this every day and it's those mothers out there who are really spreading the word about food allergies and protecting their children from dangerous reactions. I'm really encouraged by the groundswell of awareness and action being taken to ensure families are aware and prepared.
SheKnows: What can parents do to ensure a successful, healthy and happy Thanksgiving for all those involved?
Holly Robinson Peete: I have a few common sense tips I love to share with families around the holiday season:
1. If you're attending a dinner outside of the home, let the host know about any allergies in your family.
2. Remember to ask the host to keep the packaging from all ingredients used to prepare dinner and arrive before dinner to allow yourself time to check the ingredients. Don't forget to thank your host profusely for helping to keep your family safe!
3. If you or your child carries an EpiPen auto-injector normally, be sure you have it with you and keep it within reach in case of emergency. And if they don't but have suffered a mild allergic reaction in the past, find out from your doctor if the EpiPen device should become a part of their allergic emergency treatment plan.
4. Watch out for table centerpieces, as they could contain chestnuts or other nuts as decorations.
5. Always wash your hands before eating, but be careful with hand soaps and lotions when visiting friends and relatives, as many contain oils and shells of nuts.
SheKnows: What traditions does your family have for Thanksgiving and the holidays and what does the day itself look like for your family?
Holly Robinson Peete: It's all about food, family and football at the Peete house!
SheKnows: Did you bring any Thanksgiving traditions from growing up into your family?
Holly Robinson Peete: My dad always had to have the biggest turkey and so no matter how hard I try I have to get the most giant one they have! I like fried turkeys too. Yummy! But not cooked in peanut oil!!
SheKnows: You and your husband, really, are in the public eye with your careers. Is this something you have noticed an interest in from your children and if so, what was your reaction to that? And if they haven't, what would your reaction be should they choose that life route?
Holly Robinson Peete: I'm all for school plays and musicals but, in general, I don't feel show biz is a healthy environment for minors!
SheKnows: How are things going on The Talk? Has the show been an inspiring move for you being able to discuss all these issues that are close to your heart?
Holly Robinson Peete: The Talk is a blast! Fun, entertaining, unpredictable, informative and full of passion and heart! I am loving it.
SheKnows: How has The Talk taping process been for you compared to what you expected? Are there any challenges for you personally to the talk show format?
Holly Robinson Peete: It's been a lot of work launching The Talk but I've learned so much and we seem to be resonating. At first I was petrified to go live, now I love it!
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