5 Tips for Allergy-Friendly Trick-or-Treating

Halloween is fast approaching, and parents of children with food allergies may be feeling looming anxiety regarding how to keep their child safe while enjoying Halloween rituals involving candy from “strangers.” The notion of engaging in Halloween trick-or-treat activities in today’s world is no doubt a source of stress for any parent; essentially allowing children to accept candy and other food items from people who are not well known by parents, even though they might be neighbors. We’ve all heard horror stories of “razor blades” and other such nefarious items tucked away within seemingly harmless treats. As a result, parents have gone to great lengths to ensure trick-or-treating in 2014 is a safe and fun activity for all children involved. Schools host Halloween “carnivals” to control the safety and quality of food items given to children. Parents have collaborated with each other to form trick-or-treat groups where the children visit only the homes of other participants in the group. Parents often have better familiarity with other participating families and can feel more at ease allowing their children to eat the gifted food items.

However, despite the energy and diligence parents spend creating a safe environment for their children, parents of children with food allergies must expend even more energy to ensure their kids are not accidentally exposed to a potentially life-threatening allergen.

The following 5 tips can help parents, and children suffering from food allergy, enjoy Halloween activities safely.

It Takes a Village

People tend to be more willing to make adjustments and compromises for people they know than for those they do not know. If you have not already had the opportunity to get to know your neighbors, now is as good a time as any. Introduce yourself and your child and discuss your child’s particular allergy issue. Ask your neighbors if they will be giving out any food items that appear on your “approved foods” list and if they would mind only giving your child choices from that list. The tone and quality of the conversation should allow you to determine if the household in question is one that will likely be safe, or one you should skip during the festivities.

Empower Your Kids

Trick-or-treating with younger children can be easier since parents often accompany them to the door and can approve foods in the moment. For older children who are more independent, try to teach them to self-advocate. Talk with your children and explain what their allergy is and why it is important to avoid eating food and snack treats that can harm them. Let them know what foods can harm them but try to focus on the foods and treats they can eat. If kids are more excited about the items they can eat than those they can’t, they are more likely to “follow the rules” and not “sneak” candy before you’ve had a chance to inspect the label.

Recruit Community 

Try to enlist school officials, churches, clubs and other organizations to commit to food-free Halloween activities or allergen-free Halloween treats. If the organization is unable to accommodate your child’s needs, you may opt to skip the event, or alternatively bring your own substitutions of your child’s favorite treats.

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In any event, it is invaluable to develop partnerships with key people in your child’s life including friends and family members, your child’s friends, other parents, sitters, daycare providers, school staff and club leadership. Each contact is important as each plays a role in your child’s food allergy management on a daily basis and during special events.

Create a Safety Net

As a parent committed to creating a food safe environment for your child, you’ve no doubt met other parents who are also managing their children’s food allergies, or who are amenable to creating an allergen-free environment for all kids regardless of their child’s situation. Try to partner with this group of parents to create a safe trick-or-treating scenario for your family and other families in your community who are equally concerned with food allergies. The group can restrict treat handouts to those on an approved, allergen-free list, and families can take turns trick-or-treating at those homes within the group. This can create an exciting event for participating children without deviating from traditional Halloween activities.

Check the Goodie Bag

15460139_sSo, you’ve been able to successfully navigate the night and engage your child in several safe Halloween activities, events and neighborhood trick-or-treating. It’s now time to survey the bounty while many a child simultaneously jumps for joy and salivates, as many do, over the treasure. To control the fallout and ensure no treats are tasted before they have been tested, try the following steps:

  • Remind kids to never open or eat any treat before it has been approved a parent.
  • Restrict candy consumption to a specific time, either during the Halloween festivities or after Halloween has ended, so there is no confusion about when and where treats may be consumed.
  • Ensure kids wash hands before and after eating Halloween treats.
  • Ensure there are no homemade or unwrapped foods to avoid possible cross-contamination issues.
  • Swap out any unsafe food items for approved items.

As always, if you should have any questions about the safety of a particular food item, be sure to consult with your child’s doctor.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!


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