Make Halloween Safe for Kids with Food Allergies
Halloween is upon us. The trick-or-treaters are full of excitement about their costume choices and the treats they will find. Homes have already transformed into “haunted mansions”. Lawns are filled with scarecrows, spider webs, skeletons, and more. There are pumpkins lining the streets in anticipation of Halloween night.
But for children with food allergies or dietary restrictions, Halloween can be anything but fun.
Even a tiny amount of an allergen – or something just near an allergen – has the potential to cause a severe reaction that may send someone to the hospital. Many popular Halloween treats contain common food allergens, such as nuts, milk, egg, soy, and wheat. The symptoms of an allergic reaction to food can range from mild (itchy mouth, a few hives) to severe (throat tightening, difficulty breathing). Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that is sudden in onset and can cause death.
Food allergies are a life-threatening condition, and a growing public health issue that affect one in 13 kids in the United States. The most recent studies estimate a prevalence of 7.6% of food allergies in the pediatric population.
Peanut (2.2%) and milk (1.9%) allergies remain among the most common food-specific allergy. It’s followed by shellfish (1.3%), tree nut (1.2%), egg (0.9%), and sesame (0.23%).
Of note, most recently, sesame was added to the top allergy list, now making it to number 9.
Among these children with food allergies, 42% have been treated in the emergency department for a severe allergic reaction.
Between the years 2007 and 2016, those diagnosed with an anaphylactic food reaction increased by an astounding 377%.
For spooked out parents and trick-or-treaters some tips for avoiding any of your child’s allergies:
- Make sure to sort through your child’s candy before eating and remove any that have a known allergy.
- Most candies come in mini or “fun size” these candies may contain different ingredients than its larger counterparts. Check the ingredients on the mini candies for safety and if in doubt – don’t consume.
- If the candy does not have any clear label to identify what it is, you may want to trade.
- Buy ahead allergy-free safe treats or toys for your child so that you can trade if they receive a candy that contains their allergen.
- Manufacturers do change their ingredients from time to time, just because last year the candy was safe, that may not mean that it is safe this year. Read the label every year.
- Due to sesame not requiring labeling yet, keep in mind that candy corn and some chocolates may contain this ingredient. To check if the item is safe for your child, reach out to the manufacturers of major companies ahead of time.
- If your child has an allergy to a food that is not part of the top 9 allergens, contact the manufacturer for clarification if this allergen is in the food.
Place a teal pumpkin on your doorstep to let trick-or-treaters know that you have non-food and allergen-free treats available.
The Teal Pumpkin Project was inspired by the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee (FACET) and is in partnership with Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). Teal has been the color of food allergy awareness for 20 years. Now teal pumpkins have taken on this theme to show inclusivity for all children.
The Teal Pumpkin Project raises awareness about food allergies and how to make Halloween a safe celebration for all children.
To register your own home as “food-allergy friendly”, place a teal pumpkin outside your home.
Visit the Teal Pumpkin Project map on the FARE website. There, you can indicate that your home has allergen-friendly treats and prizes available for Halloween.
Some creative ideas include:
- glow sticks
- coloring tools
- Halloween-themed erasers/pencils
- slinkies, whistles and noisemakers
- bouncy balls
- mini pop-it toys
You can also find some FAQs and helpful printable signs to make handing out treats as seamless as possible.
Help make this Halloween the perfect celebration for every child. Get involved and make Teal the new Orange.
Updated by Christy Gardner, M.S., RD, LD/N, pediatric gastroenterologist. Authors: Dr. Lorena Frontado Morales and Dr. Tara Govcovich, pediatric residents at the University of Miami Health System.
Originally published on: October 29, 2019