Charlotte, NC – Between dodging vampires in haunted houses and listening to tales of terror, Halloween can be a scary time of make-believe. But for the four percent of children with food allergies, Halloween can be a real, horrifying experience.
Holiday treats can have many hidden allergens in them, causing a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
“Common candy ingredients, such as wheat, peanuts, dairy and egg, can be problematic for children with food allergies,” said allergist Dr. Steven McEldowney, MD. “Even candy that doesn’t contain allergens can spur allergy symptoms if it is manufactured in the same production plant as allergenic foods.”
Because the urge to snack on candy while trick-or-treating can be irresistible, while knowing the exact source of the candy can be impossible, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and Dr. McEldowney have put together the following Halloween safety tips.
1. B.Y.O.P. (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) – Join the kids and carry your own jack-o-lantern. Fill it with snacks and candy that are safe for your little one. Be sure to have emergency epinephrine on hand just in case your child eats something they shouldn’t. Is asthma also a problem? Carry an inhaler in your pumpkin since running door to door and kicking up moldy leaves can spur asthma attacks.
2. Hold a Candy Swap – When you get home from trick-or-treating, have a candy swap with your children. If you have children without allergies, have them trade their safe candy for candy your other child might not be able to eat. Or you can trade allergy-free candy and age appropriate items, such as a stuffed animal or coloring book, with your child.
3. Read Labels Carefully – Just because a candy doesn’t contain milk, soy, wheat, nuts or peanuts doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat. Hard candies may be manufactured at plants that have these airborne allergens. Gelatin and food additives can also spur reactions in those that are allergic. Even if you know a candy doesn’t contain an allergen and isn’t processed at a plant that contains allergens, it can be bagged with other candies that are.
4. Start New Traditions – If trick-or-treating still has you worried, try starting a new tradition. Start a Halloween scavenger hunt around the neighborhood or stay in and play Halloween themed games. Going to the movies or out to dinner can be a fun way to spend the evening as well.
5. Get Creative with Costumes – Search for a costume that might include the use of gloves to ensure your little one doesn’t come in contact with certain foods. More than a food allergy? Many costume accessories, such as jewelry and swords, can contain allergy-causing nickel. Get creative and make pieces with cardboard or opt for plastic over nickel.
Food intolerance can often mimic a food allergy, causing nausea and vomiting. Before you exclude a certain food from your child’s diet, be sure to have your child tested for food allergies by a board-certified allergist. Upon diagnosis, an allergist can prescribe life-saving treatment and teach you and your child avoidance measures.