Dusty costumes and nut-filled candy seem obvious dangers, but allergy and asthma triggers can hide in other, unexpected places.
"Asthma and allergy triggers abound at Halloween but can be avoided."
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology encourage parents to be on the lookout for these six triggers to keep Halloween sneeze-, wheeze- and reaction-free.
- Tricky treats -- This candy-filled holiday has food allergy triggers aplenty, and they're not always coated in chocolate. An article published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows that gummy bears and other candies can contain gelatin, a potential allergen. Since not all individually wrapped candy lists the ingredients, have a food allergy treatment plan at the ready just in case your child is exposed to a food allergy trigger. Consider too giving out alternative treats, such as stickers or pencils.
- Bedeviled costume props -- From cowboy belts and pirate swords to tiaras and fairy wands, watch out for nickel in costume accessories. The metal is one of the most common causes of contact dermatitis, a type of skin rash that's often itchy and can spoil trick-or-treating fun.
- Ghosts of Halloween past -- If your child's Halloween costume has been stored away in a box for months, if you bought it at a thrift store or if it was given to you by a friend, it might be harboring dust mites, which trigger asthma and allergies. If you don't want your little superhero or princess sneezing or wheezing from house to house, wash the costumes in hot water or however specified on the fabric care label.
- Monstrous makeup – Cheaply made Halloween makeup may include preservatives that can cause allergic reactions. Instead, opt for regular cosmetics (the hypoallergenic kind if you know your child is allergic to certain cosmetic chemicals) or higher-quality theater makeup. Be sure to test the makeup on a small area of skin well in advance of Halloween to determine if your child is allergic to it, for a few days can pass before a rash, swelling or other reaction appears.
- Frightful fog -- Fog machines can add a spooky ambiance to your house (haunted or not), but real and man-made fog both can trigger asthma in some people with the condition.
- Perilous pumpkins -- Even the Great Pumpkin can be an allergy and asthma risk. Although rare, pumpkin allergies can cause everything from itching to chest tightness, so beware of pumpkin carving and pumpkin pie if you think you might be allergic. Be careful too of pumpkin patches, which can be moldy and dusty and no fun for asthma and allergy sufferers.
"When people think of Halloween-associated allergies, they focus on candy and often overlook many other potential triggers," says Myron Zitt, M.D., past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
"By planning ahead, you can ensure not only safe treats, but also safe costumes, make up, accessories and decorations."