This article is re-posted from www.kidswithfoodallergies.org.
How to take the tricks out of treats when your child has food allergies
Halloween can be a tricky time for a growing number of children who have food allergies. Today, one in 12 children, or six to eight million kids, are affected by allergies to foods such as milk, peanuts and tree nuts, ingredients commonly found in candy. Often the most life-threatening, peanut allergy, for example, has doubled in the last five years.
“Children with food allergies can enjoy Halloween just as much as other kids but it takes planning and vigilance,” notes Lynda Mitchell, president of Kids With Food Allergies. “When my son was a toddler, he had a severe reaction on Halloween because I unknowingly allowed him to carry a treat that included ingredients he was allergic to, not realizing that he would try to bite right through the paper wrapper while we were walking. I learned firsthand the importance of preparing in advance – such as supplying neighbors with safe candy for my son – and closely watching him as he trick-or-treated.”
As the number of food-allergic children continues to rise, more and more parents are challenged with keeping their kids and neighbor children safe this Halloween.
How you can make Halloween safer for allergic children:
- Purchase a variety of candy, including some that do not include any milk, soy, peanuts or tree nuts. Read labels carefully as some ingredients may be hidden.
- Let children pick out the candy that’s suited for them.
- Consider having non-food items on hand, including stickers, fun pencils, small toys or even coins for the child’s piggy bank.
Tips for parents of food allergic children:
- Plan an alternate activity, such as going to the movies, hosting a slumber party, or having a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood for safe treats or other items.
- When trick-or-treating, carry your child’s emergency medicines.
- Let the kids dress up and run house to house, while you carry a safe snack in case they want one. Bring wipes to clean the little hands first! [Idea courtesy of Jason]
- Give neighbors safe Halloween treats in advance to hand out to your food allergic child.
- Prepare a container filled with safe treats in advance, and then swap it for the treats collected.
- Try a variation of the Tooth Fairy: Sort through unsafe candy, then leave it in a safe spot for a “Sugar Sprite” or “Candy Fairy” who exchanges it for a small gift, toy, or money. [Idea courtesy of Rachel]
- Trade unsafe candy for allergen-safe treats or age-appropriate non-food items once your children return home. Non-food ideas include coloring books, storybooks, pencils, stickers, stuffed animals, toys, cash and play dough.
- If permissible, donate leftover candy to children who may not be able to go out and trick or treat. [Idea courtesy of Rhonda]
- Check all ingredients. Remember that treat-size candy may have different ingredients or may be made on different machinery than the same regular-size candy.