October 5, 2023
Dealing With Food Allergies During Halloween
Halloween is a holiday celebrated by children and adults alike, filled with spooky costumes, haunted houses, and, of course, delicious treats. However, for the millions of individuals living with food allergies, Halloween can be a time of heightened anxiety and potential danger. In this blog, we'll delve into the challenges that food allergies pose during Halloween, what candies to look out for, steps parents can take to mitigate risks, and even more tips and tricks for those with food allergies.
Understanding food allergies
Food allergies are a growing concern worldwide. They occur when the body's immune system mistakenly identifies certain proteins in food as harmful invaders, leading to an immune response that can range from mild symptoms like hives to severe, life-threatening reactions known as anaphylaxis. Food allergies can affect people of all ages, but they are most prevalent in children. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), approximately 32 million Americans have food allergies, with 5.6 million being children under the age of 18. The most common food allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, and sesame.
What is the Teal Pumpkin Project?
The Teal Pumpkin Project is an initiative aimed at making Halloween more inclusive for children with food allergies and other dietary restrictions. The concept is simple but impactful: instead of offering only traditional Halloween treats, individuals or households can participate by placing a teal-colored pumpkin or a Teal Pumpkin Project sign outside their homes. This teal pumpkin serves as a symbol to signify that non-food treats are available for trick-or-treaters, creating a safe and inclusive environment for children with food allergies. Those interested in getting involved can start by painting a pumpkin teal or printing a Teal Pumpkin Project sign from the FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) website. You can also stock up on non-food items like stickers, glow sticks, or small toys to distribute on Halloween night. By participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project, individuals can help ensure that all children, regardless of their dietary restrictions, can enjoy the Halloween festivities safely and with a smile.
Food allergies found in common candies
During Halloween, the presence of food allergens is nearly everywhere. Some of the common allergens encountered include:
Peanuts: Peanut butter cups, candy bars, and trail mix often contain peanuts.
Tree Nuts: Almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts can be found in various candies.
Dairy: Milk chocolate is a staple in many Halloween candies.
Soy: Soy lecithin is commonly used as an emulsifier in chocolate products.
Wheat: Many candies and treats contain wheat-based ingredients.
Egg: Some chocolate candies may contain traces of egg products.
Sesame: Candy corn can be made with sesame oil, which does not have to be included on the label, so be sure to check with the manufacturer.
Halloween and food allergies at school
Food allergies in schools can manifest in various settings, making it crucial for both educators and parents to remain vigilant. Food allergies may become apparent during classroom celebrations, where students often share snacks or treats that may contain allergens. Additionally, school cafeterias can pose a risk, as cross-contamination or mislabeling of food products can occur. To prepare for Halloween at school while managing food allergies, consider the following tips:
Communication is key. Ensure that teachers and school staff are aware of your child's food allergies. Effective communication with the school can help them plan safe alternatives and notify other parents about potential allergen-free options.
Safe snacks and treats: Encourage your child's teacher and classmates to opt for non-food treats during classroom celebrations, like Halloween stickers, pencils, or small toys. This minimizes the risk of allergen exposure.
Emergency plan: Develop and share an emergency action plan with the school, detailing the steps to take in case of an allergic reaction. Make sure your child carries their epinephrine auto-injector and that school personnel are trained to administer it if necessary.
Non-food treats to offer during Halloween
Encourage non-food treats at Halloween parties or in your own candy bowl.
- Stickers: Kids love colorful stickers featuring their favorite characters or themes.
- Glow Sticks or Bracelets: These can add a fun, glowing element to a child's Halloween costume.
- Temporary Tattoos: Halloween-themed tattoos can be a hit with kids.
- Bouncy Balls: Small rubber balls in various designs and colors.
- Pencils and Erasers: Halloween-themed pencils or cute erasers can be both fun and useful for school.
- Miniature Toys: Small toys like figurines, mini cars, or action figures.
- Coloring Books: Halloween-themed coloring books with crayons or colored pencils.
- Slime or Putty: Fun and slightly spooky slime or putty for sensory play.
- Spider Rings: Plastic spider rings are a classic Halloween treat.
- Mini Flashlights: Practical and useful, especially for nighttime trick-or-treating.
- Bookmarks: Halloween-themed bookmarks can encourage reading.
- Bubbles: Small bubble bottles with wands for outdoor fun.
- Rubber Ducks: Miniature rubber ducks in costume or spooky designs
- Silly Straws: Crazy or colorful straws can make drinking more fun.
- Puzzle Pieces: Give out puzzle pieces, and kids can collect them to complete a puzzle.
- Bracelets or Wristbands: Fun, themed wristbands can be worn as accessories.
- Mini Notepads: Small notepads with Halloween designs.
- Keychains: Halloween-themed keychains can be attached to backpacks.
- Yo-Yos: Mini Yo-Yos for some classic toy fun.
- Finger Puppets: Small puppets that kids can play with.
- Magnets: Halloween-themed magnets for decorating the fridge.
Halloween candies that are allergy-free
Here are some brand-name candies that are allergy-free that are safe to hand out. These are free from the top nine most common allergens, but always be sure to double check the labels before letting your child consume.
- Annie’s gummies
- Surf Sweets
- Swedish Fish
- Enjoy Life Chocolate
- Amanda’s Own
- No Whey Chocolate
Tips for those with food allergies
Educate Your Child: Teach your child about their food allergies, what they can and cannot eat, and how to recognize potential allergens. Review an emergency action plan with your child, including the signs of an allergic reaction and what to do. If your child is young, accompany them during trick-or-treating to closely monitor what they receive.
Carry Medication: Always carry prescribed epinephrine auto-injectors (e.g., EpiPen) and make sure your child knows how to use them.
Plan Ahead: Go trick-or-treating during daylight hours to ensure better visibility when checking labels. Create a trick-or-treating route that includes the homes of friends or neighbors who are aware of your child's allergies and can provide safe treats. Be sure to inform neighbors and friends in advance about your child's allergies so they can prepare safe treats or non-food items.
Teal Pumpkin Homes: Look for homes displaying a teal pumpkin or Teal Pumpkin Project sign, which indicates they offer non-food treats for children with allergies.
Inspect Treats: Examine all collected treats before allowing your child to eat anything. Look for allergen warnings and cross-contamination risks. Remember that mini or fun-sized treats can contain different ingredients, so always read those labels, even if you know the candy is safe.
Pack Allergy-Safe Snacks: Carry a bag of safe treats for your child, so they have options if they receive something unsafe. Discourage your child from consuming homemade treats from unknown sources, as they may not have ingredient labels.
Set Rules: Establish clear rules with your child about eating treats while out and about, emphasizing the importance of checking with you first.
Party Precautions: If attending Halloween parties, communicate with the host and bring allergy-safe treats for your child. You can also celebrate safely by hosting your own allergy-friendly Halloween party to ensure a completely safe celebration.
Dispose of Unsafe Treats: If necessary, discard any treats that are not safe for your child to prevent accidental ingestion. Some find it helpful to not even bring the treats inside your home but to instead sort the candy outdoors and dispose of it there.
By following these tips, parents of children with food allergies can help make Halloween a fun and safe experience, allowing their children to join in the festivities while avoiding allergen-related risks.
Treating allergies with Aspire Allergy & Sinus
For individuals with food allergies, seeking food allergy treatment is easier than it's ever been. At Aspire Allergy & Sinus we offer food allergy testing, personalized diagnosis and treatment options including oral immunotherapy and food allergy drops. Our expert allergists can help you or your child build tolerance to allergens over time, reducing the risk of severe reactions and enhancing your quality of life.
How oral immunotherapy can help treat food allergies
Oral immunotherapy (OIT) is a groundbreaking treatment that offers hope to those living with food allergies. It involves the controlled, gradual introduction of tiny amounts of the allergen under medical supervision, allowing the immune system to build tolerance over time. OIT has shown remarkable success in desensitizing individuals to allergens like peanuts, tree nuts, and more. If you or a loved one struggles with food allergies, don't wait any longer to take the first step towards a safer and more enjoyable life. Booking an appointment with an allergist could be the transformative step you need. Don't let food allergies hold you back from a future with fewer restrictions and greater peace of mind.
Halloween should be a time of joy and fun for everyone, regardless of food allergies. By understanding the challenges posed by food allergies during this holiday and taking proactive measures to mitigate risks, parents, caregivers, and individuals with allergies can ensure a safe and enjoyable Halloween experience!