Halloween survival involves more than dodging zombies and avoiding tummy aches – especially for little ghosts and goblins with allergies and asthma. But unlike eluding the walking dead, avoiding allergy and asthma triggers requires a strategy to ensure a fun and safe holiday.
“Steering clear of candy with peanuts is just a start,” said allergist Dr. Steven McEldowney, Allergy and Asthma Care of Blakeney. “There are several steps parents need to take to make sure Halloween is not a frightful experience for kids with allergies and asthma.”
Dr. McEldowney, a specialist in diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma, and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) suggest the following to side step (sometimes surprising!) triggers:
- Be wary of haunted houses – Creeping through a haunted house may be scary fun, but a visit can cause real-life fright if your child can’t breathe easily. Excitement and anxiety provoked by zombies, ghouls and goblins can sometimes trigger asthma if your child’s asthma isn’t properly controlled. Running from house to house in search of treats can also trigger symptoms. If your child has asthma or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) be sure they carry emergency medicine, such as a quick-relief inhaler, and use it regularly as prescribed to prevent symptoms.
- Menacing mold – While jumping through piles of leaves can be tempting for your little one as they are trick-or-treating, it can also be harmful. Molds, such as Alternaria, are commonly found on leaves this time of year and can cause severe asthma attacks. Running through leaves can cause mold to stir into the air, resulting in high exposure. Plan ahead and talk with your allergist about seasonal allergy and asthma triggers, and how they can be avoided.
- Watch out for more than nuts – Halloween is a tricky time if your kids have food allergies, especially to peanuts. But dairy, wheat and eggs are also common allergens found in different candies and other Halloween treats. Read product labels carefully before letting you child indulge in their sweets. Also, if you suspect your little one has a food allergy, make sure to see an allergist for testing to identify all of your child’s triggers far in advance of Halloween festivities.
- Derail dermatitis – Costumes can be more than a scary sight if you child has contact dermatitis. Their skin can be sensitive to certain irritants such as the preservatives in makeup. If your child insists on wearing makeup for the complete effect, test a patch of skin a few days before Halloween to see if there is an itchy rash or swelling. Or try hypoallergenic or theater makeup. Also beware of nickel that is often found in jewelry and costume accessories, which can lead to a rash. If you’re not sure what triggers your child’s allergies, see an allergist who can help pinpoint the problem.
- Carve carefully – Your jack-o-lantern might be scarier than you think if you have an allergy to pumpkin. Although pumpkin allergy is rare, it can develop at any time, according to research from the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Anything from carving a pumpkin or munching on seeds can cause an allergic reaction with symptoms that can include anything from chest tightness to hives to vomiting. If you experience symptoms, tell your allergist.
Take these precautions and make sure you and your child survive Halloween allergy- and asthma-related pitfalls.