Emmy's Food Allergy Journey
How to Help Kids with Food Allergies Enjoy Halloween
Halloween is supposed to be fun. But for kids with food allergies, it can be their least favorite holiday. It is important to protect your child by finding places with allergen-free treats and alerting neighbors that your child has a food allergy. This will allow them to locate an allergen-free treat for your child, if possible. Once you get home, check all the food labels and separate the treats into those your child can eat and those they cannot eat. If your child gets some treats that have no label, then err on the side of caution and set those treats aside as well. Another option is to skip trick-or-treating altogether and find other ways for your child to enjoy Halloween. Halloween-themed parties, zoo tours, and museum walks, for instance, can provide spooky thrills for kids of all ages.
Locate allergy-friendly homes.The Teal Pumpkin Project (TPP) has an online map of homes that offer alternative Halloween treats. These treats will be free of common allergens, and your child is more likely to find something they enjoy when visiting these homes.
- You can visit the TPP database at .
- Some homes might also place a teal pumpkin or teal jack-o-lantern outside their home to indicate they offer treats that are amenable to kids with common food allergies.
Insist that your child takes an emergency treatment for allergies everywhere.If your child has severe food allergies, he/she should always have two auto-injectors filled with epinephrine (such as EpiPen). If your child accidentally consumes a treat to which they are allergic, and has an anaphylactic reaction, you’ll be able to treat them immediately.
- Younger children, especially, might not understand how their food allergy works and how serious the effects of their allergy can be. This is why it is so important for an adult who knows how to use an EpiPen to be with your child at all times. You can also use the opportunity of Halloween to get them in the habit of taking their food allergies more seriously.
- Watch your child carefully while they are trick-or-treating and ensure they do not consume foods to which they are allergic.
Remind your child not to eat candy while trick-or-treating.If your child waits until they are home, you will be better able to sort through the candy with them and determine what is and is not appropriate. Offer reminders to wait until consuming the candy throughout the night. Preface your reminder with a friendly question like, “What did you get from that house?” After your child replies, say, “Oh, you will enjoy eating that later” if the treat is edible or “Oh, we can trade something good for that later” if the treat is inedible.
- These reminders will keep your child aware of the fact that they need to refrain from snacking on the candy until they get home.
Trade your child an allergen-free candy as you go.The easiest way to ensure your child still gets a boatload of sweet treats after Halloween is to trade them a “safe” treat for an “unsafe” one after they complete their Halloween rounds. But if your child is especially impatient or fussy, you might want to make a trade on the spot.
- Pack a large variety bag of allergen-free treats and accompany your child on their trick-or-treating.
- After your child receives candy from a given house, help them check the ingredients list. (Make sure to bring a flashlight so you can see!) If it contains an allergen that they cannot consume, swap it out for one from the bag you packed.
- Remind your child that they should still not consume their candy while trick-or-treating. Not only will this cut into trick-or-treating time, but it’s important to double check the candy after coming home to ensure candies with allergens didn’t accidentally end up in your child’s loot.
Give homeowners allergen-free candies ahead of time.With younger children who you are accompanying on their trick-or-treating, you could give the treat distributors an allergen-free candy or treat and ask them to them to pass it to your child. With slightly older kids, or kids who you are not personally accompanying on their Halloween rounds, you could connect with treat distributors in advance of the holiday and provide a handful of treats specifically meant for your child.
- Be sure neighbors know your child and their costume if you intend to leave a special allergen-free snack or treat with them.
Communicate with treat givers.If you’re going trick-or-treating with your child, you should tell the people distributing treats that your child has a food allergy. They might be able to locate a treat free of the allergens which affect your child. If you are not accompanying your child, hang a small label around your child’s neck reading, “Hello, I have an allergy to [name of allergen]. Please provide me with treats free of this ingredient.” That way, treat distributors will know not to give your child foods that they are allergic to.
- You can make a simple label by punching a hole in either end of a notecard and tying a string through either end.
- Keep in mind that because so many candy products are manufactured in facilities that are not free of common food allergens, many people won't have candy available that is allergen-free (and they may not even know how to check), so it is still very important to check every piece of candy your child receives after trick-or-treating.
Checking the Loot
Read all the labels.Depending on the severity of the allergy, your child could become sick or even die if they eat a food they are allergic to. Therefore, it is important to monitor what they eat. You can best do this by examining their collection of Halloween treats at the end of the night. Look at the back of each snack for a small printed section that lists all the ingredients. Identify snacks that they can and cannot eat.
- If there is no ingredients label on the food, consider it unsafe for your child.
- Be wary of cross-contamination as well. Check the labels for information about the facility that the treat was produced in to determine if it is safe for your child to eat.
Separate the candy.As you’re reading the labels, separate the candy into two large bowls or baskets. One bowl can hold candies and snacks your child cannot eat. The other bowl or basket should hold the remaining snacks and treats (the ones that are safe for your child to consume)
Give your child the snacks they are not allergic to.With your child’s Halloween snacks divided into two bowls, hold onto the bowl with snacks your child is allergic to. Do not allow your child to consume these treats. Return the other treats to your child and encourage them to consume a few in moderate amounts.
- Too many sweet goods can give your child a stomach ache and contribute to poor dental health. Limit their candy intake.
Trade the rest of your kid’s candy for an alternative.Depending on your child’s food allergy, it’s possible that most of the candy your child receives will be inedible due to their condition. To prevent your child from being disappointed about being unable to enjoy their candy collection, obtain candies that your child is not allergic to and trade them to your child in exchange for the candies and treats they are allergic to. Alternatively, offer your child the opportunity to trade their candy in for several small toys (or one big toy).
- You could also invite your child’s peers to the candy trade to allow your child access to other allergen-free treats and sweets. Even kids who don’t have food allergies might enjoy the opportunity to trade candies they dislike for others they prefer.
- The size and cost of the toy you provide your child in exchange for the candy is up to you. Negotiate with your child about what they want and find a toy that is both affordable for you, appropriate in relation to the amount of trick-or-treating your child did, and of interest to your child.
- Distribute the candy you received from your child to other children who do not have food allergies, or snack on it yourself. Whatever you choose to do, keep it out of your child’s reach.
Helping Kids as a Halloween Treat Distributor
Offer toys.Halloween treats aren’t limited to candies and snacks. Kids also enjoy getting small toys and trinkets. For instance, you could offer spider rings, vampire rings, stickers, bouncy balls, or whistles.
- Many kids appreciate getting neat school supplies, too. Have some mini notepads, pencils, crayons, or markers available for trick-or-treaters with food allergies.
Pass out alternative treats.If you offer just one candy for Halloween, or several treats that all have an ingredient (or ingredients) that are commonly associated with allergies, a child with food allergies will be unable to enjoy the snacks you provide. Try to have at least one treat that is free of the most common allergens (nuts, soy, wheat, eggs, fish, shellfish, and dairy).
- Kids love apple slices, bananas, and other fruits.
- Other sweets and candies that you might consider offering include bubble gum, licorice, and gum drops.
- Check the Safe Snack Guide at for a list of snacks free of various allergens.
- Post a sign in your window to explain that if a child has allergies, they can ask you for a special alternative.
Place a teal pumpkin on your porch.The teal pumpkin is a universal symbol of an allergy-friendly trick-or-treat opportunity. You should also register your house on the Teal Pumpkin Project’s online map of homes that offer alternative Halloween treats. Visit the TPP database at .
- If you don’t have a porch, place your teal pumpkin on the stairs leading to your home, or in a window where it will be visible to trick-or-treaters.
- Decorative teal pumpkins are available from many arts and crafts stores, or you could paint a regular pumpkin teal.
Enjoying Halloween Activities
Visit a corn maze.A corn maze is a path carved through tall fields of corn. The corn reaches a height above which most people, and certainly most children, cannot see. Escaping the corn maze is a fun challenge and a non-traditional Halloween adventure. Your food-allergic child and their friends will have a great time navigating the corn maze.
Take your child to a haunted house.Kid-friendly haunted houses are a great way to spend Halloween. Instruct your child to invite a friend, or group of friends. They can still dress up and admire each other’s costumes, but instead of going trick-or-treating, they will get to visit the haunted house for some spooky chills and thrills.
Host a Halloween party.A Halloween party gives your kid the chance to enjoy Halloween in the comfort of their own home. With you (and, if you choose, other parents) controlling the food, your child will definitely avoid foods to which they are allergic. Your party could feature any number of fun activities for your child and their friends, including:
- Reading a scary story.
- Watching a scary or Halloween-themed movie.
- Knocking about a piñata filled with allergen-free treats.
- Coloring pictures of ghosts, witches, and monsters.
Look for Halloween activities in your area.Many municipalities offer special Halloween activities that have nothing to do with trick-or-treating or eating food which may or may not cause an allergic reaction in your child. Check your community calendar for Halloween-themed events including:
- Zoo tours.
- Artistic events.
- Haunted museums.
- Plays or dramatic performances.
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