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Halloween: Fight Food Allergies

One of the best parts about Halloween as a kid is laying out the candy you collected all night across the floor in your living room, marveling at all the different types of sweets you got and which ones you would trade with a sibling or best friend. For children with allergies, however, this trade looks much different. Instead of examining the sugary snacks in the order of which ones they prefer most, they create two piles: candies they can eat and candies they can’t eat. The latter often has a larger count of sweets, leaving many children feeling disappointed and defeated.

Most Halloween candies contain at least one or more of the top eight food allergens, which are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. But just because a child has to go the extra measure to have a safe holiday doesn’t mean they can’t have a fun one too. Here are some tips and tricks, with the aid of Kids With Food Allergies – a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, to help make Halloween a little less scary for your little one.

Teach Your Child

  • If you have a child with major allergies, be sure to teach them the importance of not eating food unless they know it is safe for them to enjoy. If they are old enough to read, make certain they know how to read the labels of food items they’re interested in before diving in. Especially around the holidays, ingredients and processing are subject to change. Particularly, seasonal candies are processed differently around Halloween and Christmas to achieve festive flavors. Some candies that may not contain nuts or milk at other times of the year may have those ingredients added in around the holidays to achieve a seasonal characteristic. Many of the fun-sized candies do not have labels with ingredients or warnings on the individual packaging, so if your child is unsure if it is safe, advise them that it’s better to just put it back.

Communicate With Adults In Charge

  • Halloween is known not only for trick-or-treating but the costume parties that come throughout the month of October. If your child has a major food allergy, the best way to make these parties less worrisome is to reach out to the parents or chaperones to let them know what those hypersensitivities are. Not only is it easier to have an extra set of eyes on a child at the snack table, but it’s also important that the adults understand how to recognize and treat anaphylaxis in the event of an emergency. Stress the dangers of cross-contamination and how important it is for them to know some of the major allergens in the food they spread out for everyone to enjoy. Preventative measures are the safest actions to take when it comes to a child’s health safety.

Secure Safe Snacks

  • If you know your child will be around treats at a Halloween party or while trick-or-treating, always have a snack on hand for them to eat that they know is safe. If you can’t be by their side, let them know that if they get hungry, the treat you put in their bag is perfect for them to eat. Advise them to not eat any candies collected until they are home so you can inspect them. Not only is it safer for them to have a verified treat on hand, but it will also make them feel better to snack on something while their friends are enjoying their candy.

Break Out Your Phone

  • NextDoor, an app that allows community members to connect with next-door neighbors, shows houses in your neighborhood that will participate in trick-or-treating. The good news for those who have allergies is it doesn’t stop there. A new feature allows users to share with their neighbors how they will be celebrating with four options that include “I’m giving out treats,” “I’m hosting a haunted house,” “I’m giving out allergy-free treats” and “Nothing this year.” A handy treat map also displays houses that have treats, allergy-free treats and a haunted house.

Know Your Candy

  • Although most candies contain at least one of the top eight allergens, there are brands that are safe from all eight. Some of these mainstream candies include Dots, Ring Pops, Skittles, Smarties, Sour Patch Kids, Starbursts and Swedish Fish. Although there are now brands that specialize in producing sweets that are allergen-free, they are either hard to come by or are not easily recognizable.

Get Creative And Toss The Treats

  • The Teal Pumpkin Project is an initiative led by Food Allergy Research and Education, which promotes safety, awareness and inclusion for those who struggle with allergies. To respect the children who have to be extra careful when trick-or-treating, the organization suggests getting creative and passing out non-food treats. Although there is a long list of suggestions on their website, some of the ideas include glow sticks, bubbles, Halloween-themed pencils and erasers, spider rings or noisemakers and painted pumpkins. Head to your local dollar store or convenience store to see what little goodies there are to offer the little ones who come up to your doorstep.

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