As the holidays approach, many allergic children, especially those with allergies, experience seasonal respiratory flare ups, but food allergies can also be a major source of concern. For parents with a child who has allergies, many holidays can pose allergy-related concerns, but Halloween can be particularly worrisome. Trick-or-treating can be an activity built upon weeks of anticipation in kids and apprehension in adults.
However, it doesn't have to be so stressful. Learn how to make it fun and worry-free for everyone involved by avoiding certain costume materials, unlabeled candy, and following other allergy-conscious tips.
Separating 'Tricks' from 'Treats' on Halloween
On Halloween, separating the "tricks" from the "treats" can sometimes be difficult for parents of children with asthma and allergies, and even for parents of kids who don't have either disease. Face paints, candy and other foods all may pose potential health hazards for kids with allergies and asthma.
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.
No label, no eat
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 more than 3 million Americans, according to American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). Smaller candy labels often don't have room for an ingredients list. If you don't have a label you can read, toss it, unless you can look up the specific candy's ingredient list online. Children with food allergies should only eat candy where the ingredients have been verified. As always, children with food allergies must have their epinephrine autoinjectors with them in case there is a systemic allergic reaction.
Grease or face paints can be problematic for a child whose skin is easily irritated. Hypoallergenic face paints are the best option to combat this. Also, make sure that the paints wash off easily. If the child has eczema, chronic red and itchy skin, avoid face and grease paint altogether.
With colored hair spray, make sure you don't spray toward the face and use it in a well-ventilated area because it can be very irritating for the eyes and respiratory tract.
Consider pretreatment for asthma
As the night of Halloween approaches and children become excited, those with asthma may begin to show symptoms. Emotions, such as excitement, can actually trigger an asthma attack in some children. Other triggers are cool air and dust that could be kicked up if it's a windy night. Check with a child's doctor about pre-treating with asthma medication before trick-or-treating if these weather and emotional conditions arise.
If you want to limit candy consumption
Here are some ways to let them eat candy without going overboard:
Allow children to each one or two pieces a day for a week (toss the remaining candy).
Let children eat one piece of candy a day for a month.
Have your children pick out 10 pieces of candy to keep and eat over the next several weeks, then trade in the rest of the candy for a small toy ($5 to $10).
Let the child eat as much candy as he/she wants on Halloween night only.
Ideas for the Treat Basket
Here is a list of treats as a reference for food-allergic children that includes food and non-food items. Non-food items are the safest for children with food allergies. We encourage you have nut-free, milk-free and egg-free options.
Please read labels and be aware of the ingredients in case a trick or treater (or parent) asks about the candy.
Non Food Treats
Glow in the dark necklaces, rings, etc.
Air Heads - W
Blow pops *
Double Bubble Gum
Jolly Ranchers candies
Laffy Taffy - S
Marshmallows by Kraft
Mike & Ike’s - à
Milk Duds – D, S
Nerds / Nerds Rope ‡
Peeps - à
Pixie Sticks - à
Pop Rocks - L
Red Vines - W
Rolos – D, S
Sixlets – D, S
Sour Patch Kids - S
Spree - E
Tootsie Pops D, S
Tootsie Rolls – D, S
Twizzlers licorice –S, W (black)
Whoppers – D, S, W
York Peppermint Candy – D, E, S
Zours - à
D = Dairy
E = Egg
L = Lactose
S = Soy
W = Wheat
* incidental dairy, egg may be present
‡ = processed in a facility that may process or package, dairy, egg or wheat
à Check packaging for allergy statement