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How to help with scary food allergies this Halloween

Parents of a kid with food allergies are usually vigilant about what goes into their child’s mouth. They know that the severity of the allergic reaction can vary from the first episode to the next, and that a single bite of a food can be enough to cause breathing problems. Kids themselves learn from an early age what they can eat and what they have to avoid. But being constantly on guard can be exhausting for families.

As a holiday, Halloween can be particularly trying because there are more goodies in the classroom and an endless supply of potentially unsafe candy from a night of full trick-or-treating. So what can friends, neighbors, and families do to ease the burden for the one in 13 kids with a food allergy? Here are some ideas:

  1. Stock your Halloween bowl with small toys. Erasers, sticky hands, bouncy balls, glow sticks, necklaces, and other trinkets are a fun alternative to candy. Aim for wheat- and latex-free items.
  2. Serve allergen-free candy. Many suckers and gummy candies are free from some of the biggest allergens—peanuts, tree nuts, egg, milk, soy, fish, shellfish, and wheat. Check both the ingredient list and the manufacturing details to be sure.
  3. Keep candy separate. Keep candy containing allergens in a different bowl than the toys. That way kids with allergies don’t grab the wrong thing or get exposed should an item become unwrapped.
  4. Join the Teal Pumpkin Project. The project raises awareness of food allergies and promotes the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters. To join, plan some non-food treats, place a teal pumpkin in front of your home, and add your house to the Teal Pumpkin Project Map so families can easily find you. If you don’t have time to paint a pumpkin, just put a sign on your door.

Food allergies are life altering and sometimes life threatening. However, with a little support from their community, families managing allergies can have a safer and happier Halloween.

Dr. Carrie Caruthers is an Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Department specialist at Vancouver Clinic. She cares for patients of all ages, working with them to create an individualized care plan that allows them to function without limitations.