It’s that time of year again: Americans all over the country are settling into fall. For many, this means sipping on a pumpkin spice latte while Googling unique patterns to carve into pumpkins and deciding where to hang fake spider webs.
For American children it means picking out a costume and practicing telling neighbors to smell their feet and give them something good to eat. Unfortunately, the “give me something good to eat” part can present a problem for the 1 in every 13 children with food allergies.
You may be worrying about how to handle Halloween if your child has food allergies or sensitivities, but rest assured that there are ways to celebrate this wickedly fun holiday safely and without triggering an allergic reaction. Here are our six tips for celebrating Halloween with allergies:
Be careful with costume makeup.
Many costumes include an element of makeup, such as painting your child’s face a solid color or painting on fake scars or wounds. Remember to be cautious when using Halloween makeup, as it may cause an allergic reaction. Be sure you are using high-quality makeup and do a test of the makeup on a small patch of skin a few days before Halloween to see if a reaction is triggered.
Before leaving the house on Halloween, do a quick check to make sure you are bringing along all essential items your child needs for their allergies or asthma, such as inhalers, medications, or an EpiPen. Also be sure that another responsible person has been educated on the use of your child’s EpiPen and knows what to do in case of an emergency.
Teach children how to read ingredient labels.
It’s critical that your child understands which foods and ingredients are off-limits to them before they go trick-or-treating or attend a party. Food labels are a key source of information for those with food allergies, particularly with regard to hidden allergens, so it’s important to teach your children how to properly read them and recognize hidden allergens. For safety, children should be taught that “may contain” on ingredient labels should be read as “likely contains.”
Find an alternative to trick-or-treating.
You may decide that it’s best to skip trick-or-treating altogether. If you make this decision, there are plenty of other non-food related activities that you can do with your child to stay in the spirit of Halloween, such as a scary movie marathon, visiting a haunted house, or carving pumpkins. If you do decide to go trick-or-treating…
Look for teal pumpkins.
The Food Allergy Research & Education organization hopes people “go teal” for Halloween. FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project promotes an allergy-friendly Halloween by encouraging people to offer non-food treats to trick-or-treaters, such as crayons, small toys, stickers, bubbles, and other items. Anyone participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project will be displaying either a teal pumpkin or a sign noting that they are participating. For the nearly 6 million children in the US with food allergies, the Teal Pumpkin Project is a wonderful initiative that allows them to join in on the holiday fun.
Swap candy for other treats.
When you and your child return home from trick or treating, sit down and sort through the candy they have collected. You can read ingredient labels together and remove anything that could cause an allergic reaction. Depending on your child’s allergy there may not be much left that they are able to eat (or perhaps anything at all). Plan ahead for this possibility and buy allergy-safe treats in advance. On Halloween night you can swap the candy that your child has collected for the allergy-safe toys and treats.
It’s easy to see why nearly two-thirds of American children say that Halloween is their favorite holiday. Thankfully it is still possible for children with allergies to enjoy the holiday safely – it just requires a little preparation.
If you believe you have food allergies or have questions about resources available to people with allergies, give us a call. Or, if you are looking for an allergist, we’d love to meet you. We can be reached at 212-729-1283 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.