It wan't that long ago when parents thought Halloween candy could be deadly, that someone might slip a razor blade into a candy bar or some other treat. Those terrible things rarely (if ever) happened, but many parents have a more likely reason to fear Halloween candy now: food allergies. The rise of food allergies has made candy that commonly contains ingredients like nuts, dairy and wheat a real threat to many children's lives.
One in 12 children is now born with a food allergy, according to End Allergies Together (EAT). There are 90,000 cases of anaphylaxis each year, and every three minutes someone goes to the emergency room because of an allergic reaction to food. Anaphylaxis can occur within minutes of digesting (and sometimes even just coming in contact with) an allergen, so it's easy to see why Halloween can be a big concern for the growing number of children with food allergies.
Here are some tips for parents of children with food allergies, courtesy of Sun Cups, a nut- and gluten-free treat. It takes a little planning ahead, but parents can create a safer trick-or-treating experience for their children.
- Pre-position safe candy at family, friends and neighbors’ houses.
- Surprise your child with a special present or other non-food items in exchange for the bag of candy once you return home from trick-or-treating.
- Check all ingredients. Remember that treat-sized candy may have different ingredients or be manufactured on different machinery than their full-sized counterparts.
- Be sure to carry your child’s emergency medicines with you while trick-or-treating or have them fully prepared if kids are old enough to go on their own.
- Carry your child’s favorite allergy-safe treat with you while trick-or-treating and trade them for unsafe candy.
- Bake other treats for that night, like spooky snacks or seasonal baked goods
- Consider planning an alternative activity, such as going to the movies or having a scavenger hunt for safe treats.
For those of us on the other side of the door, the ones handing out candy to children who may have food allergies, what can we do to make sure we have safe treats when we don't know who will come knocking? We can take part in the Teal Pumpkin Project. By placing a pumpkin that's been painted teal on your doorstep or a printout of a teal pumpkin on your door, you can let families know that you have some allergy-safe choices like temporary tattoos, bubbles or fun pencils. You can choose to hand out only food allergy-safe treats or give them in addition to candy. However, keep the non-food treats in a completely separate basket from the food treats because for some children, even coming into contact with the dust of a food they're allergic too can cause severe harm.