Managing Food Allergies on Halloween

Halloween is all about scary. Haunted houses, witches, ghosts and goblins are all the rage.

For most people, the least scary part of Halloween is the bag full of treats that is collected on Halloween night. Not so for parents of kids with food allergies. If your child has a peanut or tree nut allergy, trick-or-treating is an especially frightening activity. That's because so many candies have peanuts or tree nuts in them or are produced near nuts in the candy factory. For many peanut and tree nut allergic kids, even a trace of the allergen can cause a serious reaction. That's why we parents are so on edge on Halloween night.


How do we cope? Here are 5 things you can do to have a Happy Halloween with food allergies:

  1. Find allergy free Halloween events
    Check with your local food allergy support group for allergy free events taking place in your area. Many groups plan events that do not include food treats but offer other fun activities instead.
  2. Do a post-trick-or-treating swap
    If you want to go trick-or-treating but fear your child will not be able to eat any of the candy s/he collects, here's an idea. Put together a bag of "safe" treats at home. When your child arrives home with the treats collected while out trick-or-treating, swap them for the "safe" treats. I'd love to give suggestions of "safe" treats but "safe" is different for everyone. If you're looking for nut free chocolate, I have a list of candy makers specializing in that here. Also check out Allergy Grocer. My son loves gummi anything and those are usually safe for him (always check the label!)
  3. Trick-or-Treat for Food Allergy
    The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) has an annual fundraiser to raise awareness about food allergies and get kids involved. Rather than trick-or-treating for candy, kids go to doors with a box, provided by FAAN, and ask for coins instead of treats. On their website, FAAN says that they raised $20,000 last year, all of which goes towards their mission of raising awareness, education, advocacy and research. You can find out more about this here.
  4. Go with your child trick-or-treating
    Sure, this is a no-brainer for those of us with young children but many older kids go out in groups and may, or may not, stay close to home. If this is the case, you might offer to walk along or drive the group to different neighborhoods. This way, you don't have to sit at home worrying that your child has decided test a treat s/he believes to be "safe" only to have a reaction. If your child thinks that's a drag, let them dress you up in a goofy costume to wear on your outing. Nothing could be more fun than wrapping "mummy" in toilet paper, right?!
  5. Lead by example
    Instead of giving out treats to trick-or-treaters visiting your home, why not give out non-food items? Stickers, seasonal pencils, pens, and glow bracelets are some of the items I have seen sold in bulk. You can get these things for about the same cost as candy bars and not only will you be raising awareness about food allergies, your dentist will thank you!

Happy Halloween!

For a delicious Halloween dessert, check out the Pumpkin Bars recipe in the Recipe Index.

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