Don’t Let Allergies, Asthma Haunt Halloween Fun: Six Hidden Triggers to Avoid

Halloween can be a frightful time for parents of kids with allergies and asthma. Nut-filled candy isn’t the only bogeyman that can ruin the fun. Allergy and asthma triggers can hide in other, unexpected places, too, from dusty costumes to leering jack-o-lanterns.

“When people think of Halloween-associated allergies, they focus on candy and often overlook many other potential triggers,” said Dr. Steven McEldowney, of Allergy and Asthma Care of Blakeney. “By planning ahead, you can ensure not only safe treats, but also safe costumes, make up, accessories, and decorations.”

Dr. McEldowney suggests watching out for these six sneaky triggers to keep Halloween sneeze-, wheeze- and reaction-free.

  1. Tricky treats – Food allergy triggers abound on this candy-filled holiday, and it’s not just the usual suspects such as chocolate that can hide triggers. An article published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows gummy bears and other seemingly innocent candies may contain gelatin, a potential allergen which is a less common trigger. Your best bet? Consider taking your child to an allergist for allergy testing and help in developing a food allergy treatment plan.  For Halloween night, have some non-candy treats for your child such as stickers, pencils and small toys to swap for sweets.
  2. Devilish costume details – Watch out for nickel in costume accessories, from cowboy belts and pirate swords to tiaras and magic wands. Nickel is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis, which can make skin itchy and spoil trick-or-treating fun. 
  3. Haunted hand-me-downs – Halloween costumes packed away in a box for months can be laden with dust mites, which trigger asthma and allergies. So unless you want your little one sneezing or wheezing from house to house, wash the hand-me-down costumes in hot water. Or consider visiting the store for a new costume.
  4. Menacing makeup – Cheap Halloween makeup may include preservatives that can cause allergic reactions.  Instead, opt for higher quality theater makeup.  Because it can take a few days for a rash, swelling or other reaction to appear, test the makeup on a small area of skin well in advance of Halloween.
  5. Frightful fog – If you’re considering renting a fog machine to make your house extra spooky, think again.  Fog – real or man-made – can trigger asthma in some sufferers.
  6. Perilous pumpkins – Beware of pumpkin carving and pumpkin pie if you think you might be allergic. Pumpkin allergies, though rare, can cause everything from itching to chest tightness and can pop up quite suddenly, even if you haven’t had a problem before.  And keep in mind that pumpkin patches are often moldy and dusty, allergy and asthma triggers for some. Consider buying a pumpkin from a grocery or discount store.