When you or your children have food allergies, the festivities of the holidays can seem more stressful than celebratory. But with some simple preparation, you can avoid unwanted health issues and still enjoy get-togethers with your family and friends this winter.

1. Let Your Host Know in Advance

If you’re invited to a holiday gathering with food involved, your host wants you to be comfortable and enjoy yourself–not putting you in harm’s way with exposure to potential allergens. Politely let the host know about any limitations you have when it comes to food, and offer to bring a safe dish to share with the group. In addition, RSVP and provide this information early so there’s ample time to prepare.

2. Always Carry Your Epinephrine Injector

As the only lifesaving medicine currently available for anaphylactic shock, you should always have it on hand when out and about at the holidays if you or your child has allergies. It’s not enough to just have the medication, though; make sure that you have a fresh supply this time of year, particularly if you’re traveling. And always have a backup in case anything goes wrong with the first injection.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

If the plans are unsafe for your family due to the potential for exposure or cross-contamination, don’t hesitate to say so (tactfully). You can suggest an alternate way to celebrate together, such as lunch at a restaurant with gluten-free options or a coffee date at your home.

4. Share Shifts with Your Partner

One of the most challenging things for parents coping with childhood allergies is the potential for toddlers and preschoolers to eat something they shouldn’t when in a large crowd where parents may be distracted. Take turns staying with your little one so that eyes are on her at all times, and so that both of you can have a chance to enjoy time with friends and loved ones.

5. Consider Hosting

If your family is affected by severe allergies, eating out during the holidays may not be worth the health risk, particularly at a party hosted by someone you don’t know well. An allergy-friendly celebration at your home could start a new tradition and help build awareness of this issue among those in your circle.