Food allergies can often cause children to feel left out of the fun their peers are experiencing, especially around food-centered holidays like Halloween. However, parents of children with allergies can take certain precautions to ensure that their child has a happy—and safe—Halloween.
Aaron Pinion, DO, an allergist with Fairview Health Services, offered several tips for helping children with allergies enjoy one of Halloween’s most beloved traditions—trick-or-treating—without putting them at risk.
- Get creative with costumes: Consider incorporating gloves into your child’s costume to ensure that he or she does not come into direct contact with food.
- Be selective: Participate in trick-or-treating only at the homes of family or friends who you know can provide allergen-free treats.
- BYOC: When trick-or-treating, bring your own bucket of treats that are allergen safe to give to your child.
- If needed, bring the EpiPen: If your child has life threatening food allergies, make sure you or your child has an injectable epinephrine device in case of accidental ingestion.
- Say no to homemade: Do not allow your child to take homemade treats or food from anyone’s home, as you may not know exactly what went into making it.
- Look for the teal pumpkin: The Teal Pumpkin Project was launched in 2014 as an international campaign by Food Allergy Research and Education to help ease the burden on children with food allergies around Halloween. A teal pumpkin on a doorstep indicates a house that is passing out fun, non-food items such as small toys or glow sticks.
- Read labels: Often times the miniature versions of candy bars may contain different ingredients than the larger versions, so check all the labels before allowing your child to eat his or her candy.
- Have a candy swap: When you get home from trick-or-treating, swap out allergen-containing foods for treats that your child can safely eat or non-food prizes.
- Ask your doctor: If you have questions or concerns about trick-or-treating, discuss with your doctor and develop a treatment plan in case of accidental exposure.
While Halloween can be an anxious time of year for parents of children with food allergies, Pinion stressed the importance of helping the child find ways to participate in the holiday.
“Children with food allergies often times feel isolated, as they may have to refrain from eating at birthday parties or have to sit at a different table at lunch,” Pinion said. “That’s why we try to keep Halloween a fun, positive and, most importantly, safe holiday.”
If your child’s allergies are too severe for trick-or-treating, Pinion said there are other activities parents can arrange. He recommended hosting a Halloween party where games and activities are at the center of the party as opposed to candy, attending Halloween parades where candy is not being passed out, or having the child dress up and pass out toys or non-food treats at home as opposed to trick-or-treating.