Halloween is one of the trickiest days of the year for children with food allergies. Kids often haul home pounds of treats, and even small amounts of an ingredient they are allergic to can cause a potentially life-threatening reaction.
Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help ensure Halloween's frights stay festive and don't involve a medical emergency.
Reading before Eating
Always read the ingredient label on any treat your child receives. Many popular Halloween candies contain some of the most common allergens, such as peanuts or tree nuts, milk, egg, soy or wheat.
If the ingredients aren't listed, arrange for a treat "exchange" with classmates or friends. Or, bag up the goodies your child can't eat because of an allergy and leave them with a note asking the "Treat Fairy" to swap them for a prize.
Be aware that even if they are not listed on the ingredient label, candies (both chocolate and non-chocolate) are at high risk of containing trace amounts of common allergy triggers, because factories often produce many different products. Also, "fun size" or miniature candies may have different ingredients or be made on different equipment than the regular size candies, meaning that brands your child previously ate without problems could cause a reaction.
Teach your child to politely turn down home-baked items such as cupcakes and brownies, and never to taste or share another child's food.
Offer non-edible goodies to trick-or-treaters and classmates. Food Allergy Research & Education's Teal Pumpkin Project, which promotes safe trick-or-treating options for food-allergic children, suggests items such as glow sticks, spider rings, vampire fangs, pencils, bubbles, bouncy balls, finger puppets, whistles, bookmarks, stickers and stencils. Consider supplying some to neighbors whose homes your child will visit.
Plan alternatives to trick-or-treating, such as slumber parties or get-togethers to watch age-appropriate creepy movies.
Center parties around festive activities such as costume parades, pumpkin decorating contests, Halloween themed games, crafts and scavenger hunts or spooky storybooks.
Don't Keep Others in the Dark
Don't let your child trick-or-treat alone, and make sure they have an epinephrine auto-injector with them. Anyone with a cell phone should fully charge it before heading out.
Explain symptoms of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, such as shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, swelling of lips or tongue and dizziness. See Create an Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan: AAP Report Explained.
Even if epinephrine is administered right away and anaphylaxis symptoms seem to stop, the child treated always should be taken to the emergency room.