Tips for a Healthy and Allergy Free Halloween

 My nephew celebrating Halloween

My nephew celebrating Halloween

Halloween marks the first holiday in a festive string of Fall events. This fun family evening is known for dressing up as your favorite alter ego and for kids in particular, collecting a slew of candy.  For some parents and kids, this night can be a nightmare of its own.  Worries of too much candy, blowing a diet or exercise routine, sugar highs, stranger danger, and even additional after-school time commitments are all valid.  More importantly, this holiday can be a true danger to kids’ health. 

 Gluten-free cupcakes

Gluten-free cupcakes

Children with food allergies can really struggle with Halloween.  While their friends are eating all the candy they want, they are stuck wondering what might make them sick and how bad the reaction might be.  Six of the eight top food allergies are in high circulation with the bounty of treats being passed out during this time. This is a real stress for parents and caregivers of children with an allergy to peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, and other foods that cause intolerances. Peanuts and tree nuts are present in loads of candy on the market today and are a common food allergy that causes anaphylactic shock, a reaction that can be deadly if not treated promptly and properly. But don’t panic! Here are a few tips to keep in mind that can help keep you and your kids Halloween safe.  With just a little planning and creativity you can have a Halloween full of treats without any dangerous tricks.

These are some very helpful and practical tips taken from Care.com:

Remember Basic Food Allergy Safety Rules

  • Always read the ingredient label of every piece of candy before your child eats it, even if it's a brand your child often eats. Recently, we discovered that allergy statements on candy bars within the same brand may differ according to the size of the candy bar!
  • If there is no label, then the candy is unsafe. Do not let your child eat it.
  • Make sure your child's medicine (such as an EpiPen) accompanies them wherever he or she goes. Check that the responsible adult knows how to administer the medication, can reach you with questions, and can access the local emergency system if necessary.
  • Have your child carry some hand wipes he or she can use in case of accidental contact with unsafe food.

Trick-or-Treat!

  My nephew and me packaging up treats to advertise for a local non-profit

My nephew and me packaging up treats to advertise for a local non-profit

  • Avoid the candy altogether! Go to the toy store and purchase a toy that your child can "buy" with their bag of collected candy. Or invent the "Halloween Fairy," who comes at night to take his or her bag of candy and leave a gift in its place.
  • Forget trying to read ingredient labels in the dark and bring safe snacks for your child.
  • Consider handing out non-food items like stickers or pencils at your house.
  • Don't let young children carry food to which they are allergic; they may not understand the danger and accidentally open a wrapper and take a bite. Older children are better able to understand what is safe or unsafe for them to eat; talk to them prior to trick-or-treating and parties.
  • Remind your child that they can say "No thanks" if they see unsafe candy being offered.

Create New Halloween Traditions

  Pumpkin carving contest - new tradition instead of candy

Pumpkin carving contest - new tradition instead of candy

  • Throw a Halloween party at your house and provide all the snacks; that way, you control the food.
  • Take advantage of local Halloween happenings that focus on more than food. Farms, zoos, museums and schools may offer haunted houses, movie nights or other spooky activities.
  • Get a group of families together and organize a food-free Halloween party. Book a crafts studio, bowling alley or gymnastics center. Don't forget to wear costumes!
  • Keep the fun at home instead of focusing on going out on Halloween. Dress up, decorate your entryway and open the door for trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood. Enjoy snacking on the safe candy your family hands out.                                                                        

In addition, I recently learned of the Teal Pumpkin Project which was started in 2012 by a mother that wanted to make Halloween less tricky for her children and others with allergies. Participation is simple: You just put a teal-colored pumpkin or sign outside your door and offer trick-or-treaters glow sticks, spider rings, Halloween stickers or other non-food goodies, along with or instead of the traditional candies. This year the organization wants to try and have one teal pumpkin on every block in the U.S. A lofty goal perhaps, but also a sign of the times we are living in.  I think it's great that this type of awareness is being brought to the surface for people and children in particular struggling with food allergies.  Some children are participating even though they don’t have problems with foods.  They just want to show kindness and empathy to their friends and others that they have witnessed tackling the ins and outs of managing food labels and saying “no” to a variety of foods that are not safe to eat. This year, maybe your new tradition can be educating your children on healthy eating habits as well as the dangers many face with food allergies and even having fun painting a teal pumpkin.

From costume parties to trick-or-treating, this holiday’s potential stress can be minimized by preplanning and vigilance.  There are a lot of things to look out for, but plenty of ways to keep Halloween safe for all kids! I would love to hear and share your tips and tricks for keeping Halloween safe and allergy free.