PM Pediatrics
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Dr. Christina Johns
Senior Medical Advisor, PM Pediatrics

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holiday food hazards

Holiday Food Hazards

Hi! How’s your holiday season going? Have you been to a bunch of parties? Are all of your gifts bought? The celebrations are fun, aren’t they.

I, for one, like the cookie exchanges (if people make homemade stuff and don’t just bring store bought cookies), and will admit that I mostly like the parties because of the food. Don’t get me wrong, the social part is fun and seeing people all joyous and full of holiday mirth is cool and all, but it can be tough to really talk to people at some parties, so I always resolve to enjoy the food aspect at a bare minimum. Not hard for me, since eating likely tops my list of “favorite things to do.”

Parties with adults and kids are fun, too, but they usually have a different vibe. Given that, I just want to highlight a few less frequently thought of food hazards that I’ve seen cause an unexpected trip or two to Urgent Care or the Emergency Department. And nothing kills holiday mirth like a medical visit. Trust me. Despite the fact that I wear my holiday pin to work all December.

Egg Nog

A few notes on this traditional drink that I can take about 7 sips of before I’m just done. First, egg nog has a bunch of dairy in it, so it can indeed go bad with bacterial contamination. Many people make it homemade, and if so, it can spoil even quicker since there are no preservatives in it. Make sure it gets stored at the back of the refrigerator in the coldest location.

Second, the sweet taste of egg nog can be attractive to kids, and it is really a shame if they think it’s delicious and accidentally drink the spiked nog. Accidental alcohol intoxication can and has happened in young children. So be alert at the party.

Fresh Eggnog with Cinnamon and Nutmeg at Christmas Time

Holiday Punch

Ditto above on the holiday punch, minus the spoilage. Many times alcoholic punch is sweet and brightly colored, so children are inclined to think it’s a “kid drink” and taste it. Or have several cups. If you’re having a party with a holiday punch, make sure there’s an adult monitor nearby.

A red punch bowl with cranberry punch is ready to serve with a silver ladle.  The punch is garnished with lemons, limes and cranberries.

Oysters

Personally, I can’t even with raw oysters, but lots of people like them. A few kids, even. In order for these to be “good” they need to be fresh, which means they can carry many bacteria from the water along with their freshness, which can result in a stomach bug a day later. Then it’s not so fresh. Solution? Cook them.

Fresh oysters in a white plate with ice and lemon on a wooden desk

Raw Cookie Dough

My kids and I are guilty of consuming this whenever we make cookies, and I’m mad at myself all over again because I KNOW BETTER. There are raw eggs and even uncooked flour in cookie dough, both of which can harbor bacteria and cause sickness, usually vomiting or diarrhea. My “do as I say, not as I do” advice? Don’t eat the cookie dough. Sometimes offering your child (who is old enough) a candy to eat while baking cookies can decrease the likelihood of the dough getting consumed. It’s worth a try, anyway.

A little girl licks a spoon while baking cookies

All the small appetizers. And cut up fruit. And oh my word peanuts.

Pigs in a blanket and fruit salad and lots of nuts are regulars at holiday parties. Remember that children can choke and die from trying to eat a grape or hot dog or cashew that is sized just small enough to get into the mouth but large enough to choke on and get caught in the airway. Cut up these already small bites into even smaller ones. Quick shout out to the kids with nut allergies as well, but this is something we all know about. Deserves a reminder, though.

Mini Hotdogs Wrapped in Bread Dough and Baked Served with ketchup-Photographed on Hasselblad H3D2-39mb Camera

I know there are more of these “less frequently thought of” food/party hazards that those listed here. Please share if you’ve got one to add to the list!

By bringing them up I don’t wish to be a party pooper; I just don’t want anyone to be pooping after a party. I want everyone to have a wonderful time celebrating and not be interrupted by a single thing in their pursuit of seasonal merriment. Joys of the holidays to you!

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