For kids, Halloween is all about costumes and candy. 1 in 13 children have food allergies and kids with food allergies have far fewer options as far as sweet treats go which can make Halloween a tricky time. The teal pumpkin project is working to help create a safer, happier Halloween for all kids.
Every child should be able to experience the joy and tradition of trick or treating on Halloween. Kids with food allergies are often left out of the fun since most candy is off limits. Obviously, a chocolate bar with peanuts is a no-no if you have a peanut allergy. But other candy can pose risks, too. Nut-free candy can be made on the same equipment as nutty sweets, making it guilty by association. Some candies such as licorice can contain wheat and other candy such as Laffy Taffy among others can contain eggs. A lot of the fun size chocolate bars may not be fully labeled.
"Even candy that may seem harmless, such as lollipops, can contain trace amounts of allergens," said allergist Richard Weber, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). "Seemingly allergy-free candy can be manufactured in the same facilities as peanuts, wheat and other allergens, causing cross-contamination."
Halloween safety tips:
Look for teal pumpkins. The Teal Pumpkin Project helps parents and kids to know which houses they can go to so they can ensure that their children will come home on Halloween night with something safe that they can enjoy.
B.Y.O.P (Bring your own pumpkin). Join the kids and carry your own jack-o-lantern. Fill it with snacks and candies which are safe for your little ones to eat. This can help them to avoid the urge to snack on candy which hasn't been checked yet by you to see if it's ok.
Be Prepared. Be sure to have emergency epinephrine on hand just in case your child eats something they shouldn't. Is asthma also a problem? Make sure to carry an inhaler as cold air, running door to door and kicking up moldy leaves can trigger asthma attacks.
Hold a candy swap When you get home from trick-or-treating, have a candy swap with your children. If you have children without allergies, have them trade their safe candy for candy your other child might not be able to eat. Or you can call upon the Switch Witch who your child can trade their candy for allergy-free candy and age appropriate items, such as a stuffed animal or coloring book, to exchange with your child.
Read Labels Carefully Just because a candy doesn't contain milk, soy, wheat, nuts or peanuts doesn't mean it's safe to eat. Hard candies may be manufactured at plants that have these airborne allergens. Gelatin and food additives can also spur reactions in those that are allergic. Even if you know a candy doesn't contain an allergen and isn't processed at a plant that contains allergens, it can be bagged with other candies that are.
Start new traditions. If trick-or-treating still has you worried, try starting a new tradition. Start a Halloween scavenger hunt around the neighborhood or stay in and play Halloween themed games. Host a Halloween party with safe snacks. Seeing a scary movie or going out to dinner can be a fun way to spend the evening as well.
Get creative with costumes. Search for a costume that might include the use of gloves to ensure your little one doesn't come in contact with certain foods. Have more than a food allergy? Many costume accessories, such as jewelry and swords, can contain allergy-causing nickel. Get creative and make pieces with cardboard or opt for plastic over nickel.
Staying home to hand out treats instead?
Being part of the Teal Pumpkin Project is easy to do. By having a teal pumpkin, you can show kids that you offer non-food treats as an alternative to candy. You can also register your home to show that you are participating by clicking here.
Some examples of some great non food treats are:
LED Finger Lights
Mini Stuffed Animals
Pirate Eye patches
And the list goes on! This can really help kids with allergies to still be able to participate and feel included in the fun of Halloween while staying safe and avoiding scary trips to the hospital.
Wishing you health and happiness,
The Allergic Nutritionist
Breanne Mifflin, R.H.N., NNCP
Registered Holistic Nutritionist
Natural Nutrition Clinical Practitioner