How to Avoid a Halloween Food Allergy Scare
Halloween is a time filled with spooky fun, but for children with food allergies and their families, there can be a true element of fear surrounding this holiday. Many Halloween candies and treats can be frightening to some families - and for good reason. Fortunately, with careful planning, communication, and education, you can reduce the risk of a food allergy scare accompanying your family’s Halloween experience.
What is so frightening about food allergies?
If a child eats a treat with a food allergy, there can be various reactions ranging from rashes, itching, and vomiting to a life-threatening reaction like anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can begin extremely quickly and start with symptoms such as a tightening of the throat, trouble breathing, or tingling feelings. The response to this should include the use of an epinephrine pen and calling 911.
What do I need to know about food allergies when buying Halloween treats?
The most common allergens found in Halloween treats include peanuts, tree nuts, cow’s milk, egg, and wheat. You can learn more about these allergens on the Healthy Children website. Generally, if you look at the list of ingredients on any food product, it will list all potential allergens in the last line of the ingredients.
Something especially important to keep in mind when you are considering allergens in your Halloween treat choices is that “fun size” treats sometimes contain different ingredients than the full-sized versions of the same candy. This means that you always need to check “fun size” treat ingredients very carefully.
Check here for a list of nut-free candies and for non-candy items to give out as your treats this year.
Trick or Treating Tips for Families with Food Allergies
- Never let your child with food allergies trick or treat alone. Whether you will be there or not, make sure all of the people accompanying your child - adults and children alike - are informed about exactly what the allergy is, which ingredients to look for, and what to do if your child has an allergic reaction. The more people informed, the better!
- Help your child practice saying no in a polite way to treats that may include allergens. This is especially true for homemade treats where you are unable to check the ingredients.
- Be sure your child has an epinephrine pen and/or allergy medicine with her at all times.
- Look for houses with teal pumpkins outside. These are houses participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project. This means that they are giving out non-food treats to make it a safer and more inclusive holiday for all.
- Have the Switch Witch visit your home! After trick or treating, it’s essential for you to carefully comb through all treats, to check the ingredients, and to remove any food items with potential allergens. Since your child is giving up treats, they can trade those treats in for a gift or bag of allergy-friendly goodies that the Switch Witch will have left at your house. This way, they still receive something extra special for Halloween.
You will want to get the treats with potential allergens out of your house right away, and a great way to do this is to donate it to Operation Gratitude. They will include the candy in care packages to our military troops around the world. A visit from the Switch Witch and a candy donation to Operation Gratitude is a win-win. It keeps your child safe and also allows her to feel good about helping others at the same time!
Food Allergy Tips for Attending Halloween Parties and School Events
- Make sure that everyone involved with hosting the event is aware of your child’s food allergy, what kinds of foods to avoid, and how to respond in case of an allergic reaction.
- Share the Teal Pumpkin Project’s resource page with the hosts. These resources are free and offer a clear way to label allergy-friendly treats as well as activities and signs that they can use at their event to make sure things are safe for your child but also to educate everyone attending about food allergies. There are fun coloring sheets and activities for kids included too.
- Encourage hosts to not have a focus on food and instead to focus on fun activities like costume contests, dance parties, and games.
- Set up a trading table where kids can trade with each other. They can exchange treats that they don’t want or food that include allergens for other fun and safe treats.
- Plan your own Halloween fun events that don’t revolve around food like times to watch scary movies or make costumes or go on scavenger hunts.
Take the real scare out of Halloween with the above tips, and remember that with a little creativity and education, your family can have a spooktacular holiday!
Looking for something fun and exciting to give trick-or-treaters this year that isn’t candy? Here are 10 Fun and Cheap Halloween Candy Alternatives.
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