Every year millions of children look forward to Halloween, but families with food allergies must approach this holiday with caution. Many candies and foods are off-limits to children with food allergies due to cross-contamination or because it contains an ingredient that can cause an allergic reaction. It is important to note that 8 percent of children under 18 (that’s 1 in 13 for every classroom) has at least one food allergy.
Keep this holiday focused on the fun more than the food and check out these tips to keep your family safe during trick-or-treating:
- Stock up on safe treats or toys to trade for any unsafe candy your child might get while trick or treating. Trade unsafe candy for allergen safe treats or non-food items once your children return home.
- Carry safe snacks with you while trick or treating.
- Sort through your child's candy and take the opportunity to teach them about hidden allergens and reading labels.
- It is best to discard anything you receive without food labels.
- Accompany your child while trick or treating, if he or she is old enough to go without an adult, make sure the friends they are with are aware of the food allergy.
- Give neighbors safe Halloween treats in advance to hand out to your food allergic child.
- And the most important safety tip - be sure your child carries his or her epinephrine auto-injector while trick-or-treating in the event of an accidental exposure.
If you feel like trick-or-treating is not an option, there are still plenty of fun Halloween activities for food allergy families. Gather your children and friends and watch age-appropriate Halloween movies, have a Halloween Costume party with safe treats, or organize a scavenger hunt.
For Halloween-season events, reach out to teachers and other parents involved in classroom parties or social gatherings so they are aware of your child’s allergies and how to respond in the event of an emergency. Or even better, volunteer to help at the event. You can provide safe treats and suggest safe activities like craft projects, pumpkin painting, or witches’ hat ring toss.
Try to keep the focus on the fun and not the food or your child’s restrictions. The Food Allergy Research and Education organization (FARE) encourages families with food allergy to go ‘teal.’ By displaying a teal pumpkin at your home, business, or event, you indicate that you are a ‘safe stop’ during the Halloween season, and you raise awareness for the 5.6 million children with food allergies. The goal of Teal Pumpkin Project is to promote inclusion for all during this food-focused holiday.