Keep the Food Allergy Fears Out of Halloween
In this video, Registered Dietitian April Clark shares tips to prevent food allergy reactions this Halloween.
When preparing for Halloween, the scariest part for those living with food allergies is staying safe. Many treats and foods encountered at Halloween contain ingredients or cross contact from ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction.
With some preparation, you and your child can focus on the festivity of the holiday rather than the real fears of an allergic reaction.
Since most children enjoy dressing up for Halloween, emphasizing planning and potentially even making a costume together can help shift the focus away from treats. Consider organizing a photo session before trick-or-treating and inviting kids to participate so that Halloween starts on a high note!
Follow these additional steps to take the horror out of Halloween and help your child enjoy this fun holiday!
Look for the Teal Pumpkin
Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) has created the Teal Pumpkin Project to support families and make trick-or treating safer for children with food allergies.
Participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project raises food allergy awareness and makes it easy for families to identify homes that are providing non-food treats. A teal pumpkin on porches signals the availability of non-food trinkets and treats that are safe for children with food allergies.
New this year, you can add your home to a map on FARE’s website so that families can easily find non-food treats for their children.
Take a look at the Teal Pumpkin resources available on FARE’s website to find the map and other ways you can participate.
Ensure Safe Trick-or-Treating
A helpful tip for celebrating Halloween safely is to plan ahead and buy candy, treats and inexpensive trinkets that are safe for your child. Bring some of those safe treats on trick-or-treat outings so your child can indulge in a few safe pieces of candy during the fun. Place these “safe treats” in a separate bag or basket so they don’t get mixed in with other candy or treats that may not be safe.
You may also want to provide safe treats for neighbors and friends to give to your child when they come to trick-or-treat.
It is important to institute a no eating during trick-or-treating (unless from your “safe treats” container) until you have an opportunity to carefully consider whether treats are safe or could lead to an allergic reaction.
When you return home, allow your child to trade unsafe candy for the pre-purchased, safe candy or other safe items you have purchased as a candy alternative. You can also use this as an opportunity to talk to your child about hidden allergens and how to read labels, which you may have to look up online for single-serve treats without ingredients lists. Note that obtaining the ingredient information from the website may be higher risk since there is potential for choosing the wrong information or relying on outdated information.
Be Aware of Problem Treats
There are so many varieties of candy available on the market that it may be daunting to know what is safe and what could cause a potential allergic reaction.
It is important to have a basic understanding of what could present problems for your child. These candies below may be more likely to contain potential allergens:
- Licorice typically uses wheat as a binding ingredient so if your child has a wheat allergy, it may be safe to avoid licorice if there is not a label available to check the ingredient list.
- Candy corn can contain egg whites and/or sesame oil, and sesame currently does not need to be included on the food label allergen warnings. If your child has a sesame allergy, it is best to contact the manufacturer directly when you have concerns about ingredients such as spices or flavors that are not included in the Top 8 allergens. (Also note that some chocolates and candies may also contain sesame that is not included on the label. Based on recent legislation, sesame does not have to be declared until January 2023.)
- Some brands of dark chocolate can include small amounts of milk and may be unsafe for children with a milk allergy, particularly dark chocolate that has a milk advisory statement. In addition, most chocolate candy is also at high risk for cross contact with peanuts and tree nuts.
Keep in mind that since there are more than 200 reported allergens there is no such thing as “allergy free” candy so it is always best to be extremely diligent in your review of what is safe and what may include allergens.
Find Creative Alternatives
Offer things other than food or candy as Halloween treats. Fun items like stickers, pencils, glow bracelets, jewelry, novelty toys, and games are just as fun and healthier too. Check out these fun and safe ideas from Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE).
You may also want to consider making small treat bags in advance for neighbors to give to your child. Share with neighbors in advance and then encourage your child to visit their houses.
Another good option is hosting a party so that you can make safe treats yourself, including toys, games and party favors that can minimize the need for excessive candy and sugary treats. If you are connected to other families of children with food allergies, you could consider organizing it as a potluck and combining efforts with others who may be looking for ways to celebrate safely.
FARE has provided safe recipes for Fall, which you may want to check out here.
Read the Label
It is important to double-check every label to make sure each piece of candy is free of your child’s allergens. Always remember to read the label of every treat and avoid items without an ingredient list.
Remember that mini or fun sizes may contain different ingredients than full sizes, so it is critical to read labels carefully. Also keep in mind that product ingredients can change over time, so you should check labels periodically. In fact, candy made for special holidays may have different ingredients than the standard versions made during the rest of the year, so it is important to never make assumptions.
If you are unsure, you may want to contact the manufacturer directly. (See this video for more recommendations.)
Talk About Your Plan
Communicate to your child ahead of time about your plan for staying safe on Halloween. If your child knows that they will not be left out of the fun and will still get to indulge in tasty treats, they will be more willing to follow the rules and stay safe.
Prepare for Allergic Reactions
Always take antihistamines and injectable epinephrine with you on trick-or-treat outings or Halloween parties. Before leaving home, review the plan provided by your doctor on when you should use these medications.
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