Taking the Food Allergy Fear out of Halloween

Halloween can be a frightening time for a growing number of families who deal with food allergies. One in 12 children are affected by allergies to foods. Many Halloween candies contain common allergens such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk and eggs.

National Jewish Health pediatric allergist David Fleischer, MD offers the following tips to help make this Halloween a little less scary:

Be prepared. Make sure to carry your child’s emergency medication and Anaphylaxis Action Plan with you while trick-or-treating.

Avoid the unknown and have a safe alternative. Kids will want to eat the candy immediately. Tell your child to come home first so that you can check the ingredients. Perhaps slip a few safe snacks into children's trick-or-treat bags to help them avoid eating food that hasn't been checked by parents.

Check all labels. Once a child has brought the candy home, closely examine the food for any signs of tampering and the labels for any ingredients that might cause an allergic reaction. Allergies to peanut and/or tree nuts, such as walnuts, almonds and cashews, affect about 3 million Americans, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). Physically smaller candy labels often don't have room for an ingredients list. If you don't have a label you can read, either toss it or exchange it for known safe candies that you may have at home. Let children with food allergies eat only candy that has a clearly marked ingredient list.

Sizes can make a difference in candy. The smaller-sized candy may have different ingredients or be manufactured on different machines than their full-sized counterparts. It is important to check all labels on all candy.

Look into trick-or-treating alternatives. Check with food allergy support groups for Halloween events taking place near you. There are many groups that plan events without candy but offer other fun Halloween activities.

National Jewish Health is the leading respiratory hospital in the nation. Founded 114 years ago as a nonprofit hospital, National Jewish Health today is the only facility in the world dedicated exclusively to groundbreaking medical research and treatment of patients with respiratory, cardiac, immune and related disorders. Patients and families come to National Jewish Health from around the world to receive cutting-edge, comprehensive, coordinated care. To learn more, visit www.njhealth.org.

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