For parents of children with food allergies, one of the scariest parts of Halloween is the possibility of an allergic reaction to treats. But food allergies don't have to cramp your trick-or-treater's scary style.
"As an allergist, Halloween is always a scary day as the treat may play a trick," said John Oppenheimer, MD, a physician at Pulmonary and Allergy Associates, in an interview with dailyRx News.
If trick-or-treaters with food allergies come into contact with certain candies, their reaction could be painful or even deadly. Many children are allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, wheat and soy — all of which are common in Halloween treats, such as candy bars.
Common signs of an allergic reaction are hives, itching, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. Severe symptoms include trouble swallowing or breathing, chest pain and swelling. If your child has any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical care.
But parents and neighbors can take several steps to ensure that Halloween night doesn’t end with a stomach ache or a trip to the emergency room.
Look for Teal Pumpkins
Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), a nonprofit, hopes to start a tradition that would ease parents’ worries about allergens.
The Teal Pumpkin Project asks neighbors to paint pumpkins teal and display them outside to show that they have allergen-free treats.
“The Teal Pumpkin Project is designed to promote safety, inclusion and respect of individuals managing food allergies — and to keep Halloween a fun, positive experience for all,” FARE’s website explains.
FARE suggests that neighbors offer nonfood treats like glow sticks, bubbles, bouncy balls and mini slinkies to children with allergies.
Although you may see some teal pumpkins dotting your street, many neighbors may not be aware that some of their local trick-or-treaters have food allergies.
To ensure that children with food allergies have a safe, fun trick-or-treating experience, contact your neighbors to ask whether they will be offering an allergen-free treat.
If not, explain your child’s allergy to them. To ensure that your child has a safe treat, give your neighbors small toys, stickers or a piece of fruit to give to your child on Halloween night.
Also, some candy stores offer allergen-free candy. Always read the label to ensure candy is free of the correct allergens before giving it to a child.
"Another suggestion is to advise your child not to eat any candy until you review the labels with them," Dr. Oppenheimer explained. "Then you can trade any potentially allergenic candy with one that is safe that they enjoy. Many of my patients have made this a fun ritual."
Find Other Ways to Have Fun
Halloween doesn't have to be all about trick-or-treating. You and your child can have fun and avoid allergens by doing something else. For instance, invite friends to a Halloween party with crafts, games, toys and safe snacks.
Also, costume fashion shows, Halloween-themed scavenger hunts and sharing spooky ghost stories are all safe, exciting ways to celebrate without having to worry about allergies.
Parents shouldn’t have to choose between putting their child at risk and excluding them from Halloween fun. With enough preparation and a healthy dose of creativity, Halloween night can be safe and fun for both parents and kids with food allergies.