Halloween may be particularly frightening for kids, teens, and adults with food allergies and sensitivities. Allergic reactions can be bothersome or even downright dangerous, causing sufferers anything from sniffles and rashes to shortness of breath to potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. Halloween can be especially dangerous to food-sensitive children and others, as treats are freely distributed.
What are the most common food allergies?
According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, 90 percent of all food allergies may be traced to eight basic foods: egg, fish, milk, peanuts (including peanut oil), shellfish, soy, tree nut (such as cashews and walnuts) and wheat. In many cases, wheat allergies may be related to gluten intolerance.
Many individuals are adversely affected by aspartame (artificial sweetener) and monosodium glutamate (MSG), although these may be sensitivities, rather than allergies. Still, these substances can be dangerous to those who are susceptible.
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10 food allergy safety tips for Halloween
How can you protect susceptible individuals from suffering potentially dangerous allergic reactions to foods and treats at Halloween? Food allergies may easily be triggered by Halloween candy, which may contain milk, nuts, nut oils, and other allergens. Chocolate and licorice candies may contain gluten, to which many people are sensitive. Other treats may include strawberries or other fruits that may cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.
Try these 10 tips, including five allergy-free pointers for Halloween trick or treating and five more for Halloween parties at school.
1. Offer allergy-free items.
Plenty of people choose to offer allergy-safe goodies to Halloween trick or treaters. In lots of communities, residents who distribute non-allergenic treats (such as pencils, stickers, and inexpensive toys) mark their homes by displaying teal-painted pumpkins on Halloween.
2. Host a family treat swap.
Children with food allergies might be offered the opportunity to swap offending items with other family members, or even with the family Halloween treat distribution bowl. Why not pass out those peanut candies to trick or treaters without allergies to them?
In lots of families, children enjoy sorting through their trick-or-treat candy stashes and trading with one another for their personal favorites as well.
3. Tag kids with allergies.
Parents can affix allergy warning labels on the Halloween costumes or candy totes of children with special dietary concerns. A simple label on a trick or treat bucket might be enough to remind children and generous neighbors and Halloween party hosts to select allergen-free treats for those youngsters.
4. Supervise trick or treating.
Smart parents accompany children on their door-to-door visits on Halloween. By doing so, moms and dads can alert treat givers of special needs and supervise children’s receipt and consumption of trick or treat goodies. Food allergies often run in families, and parents quickly become experts on spotting treats that may contain allergens.
5. Check Halloween goodies.
Parents must become careful label readers, inspecting their own kids’ Halloween treats and instructing children to do so as well before indulging. Offending items need to be tossed out or passed along to others without allergies or food sensitivities.
A similar level of caution is warranted at school, club, and other group parties during the Halloween season.
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6. Volunteer for class parties.
Parents who offer to chaperone children’s Halloween parties can watch closely to protect food-sensitive children from succumbing to allergy dangers. An informed parent’s presence at such a celebration can be a real lifesaver for children with severe allergies.
7. Offer Halloween recipe ideas for party foods.
Families with food allergies tend to be considerably more informed than others about ingredients that might pose threats. By coordinating the menu for a school party, a parent might even suggest allergy-safe recipes for the food donation roster.
8. Provide alternate snacks and treats.
Often, a Halloween party buffet will include treats a child with food allergies dares not touch. By sending individual snacks with a food-sensitive child, a parent may greatly reduce the potential dangers of food allergies.
For example, an allergen-free cupcake might be included for a susceptible child to enjoy, while classmates consume peanut butter cookies or another allergen-rich snack. A juice box could be a safer bet than a cup of hot chocolate. Rice or corn cakes may replace seasoned chips or pretzels. A lollipop might be a safe alternative to coconut chocolate bar for an allergic child.
9. Clean up carefully at Halloween events.
Children with severe food allergies can be affected by skin contact with an allergen covered surface. Smeared peanut butter, strawberry jam, or chocolate are prime examples of this. Cleaning dining tables and other surfaces thoroughly with bleach and water can prevent plenty of serious allergic effects.
10. Check take-home Halloween party treats for possible allergens.
As with trick or treat candy, Halloween party bags must be painstakingly inspected. Parents should read candy and treat labels carefully and toss out offending items. Moms and dads might discard Halloween trail mixes, unless they made them personally or are certain of the ingredients.
Food allergies can be scary.
Particularly at Halloween, prevention is the best precaution. Parent involvement in Halloween trick or treating can make a huge difference, preventing possible problems with food allergies. In-school, after-school, and neighborhood Halloween parties can be lots of fun, so long as no child suffers a dangerous food allergy attack.