This is a guest post from April Clark. April Clark, RD, CSP, LD serves as the dietitian for the Food Allergy Center at Children’s Medical Center Dallas. She received her nutrition degree from UT Southwestern School of Health Professions. She worked as a clinical dietitian at UT Southwestern University Hospital - St Paul and UT Southwestern University Hospital – Zale Lipshy before leaving to fulfill her passion to work in pediatrics. She is currently a member of the medical advisory board for The FPIES Foundation. Her interests include educating patients and families, developing and participating in programs that improve quality of life, and raising food allergy awareness in the community.
Like many holiday celebrations, Halloween is a food centric holiday filled with the possibility of a life threatening reaction. So, while most parents await Halloween with excitement, parents of children with food allergies are often cautious in approaching such occasions. Instead of hiding from the impending doom, use these tips to manage your anxieties and turn Halloween into a holiday filled with treats, not tricks.
Create a SAFE Treat Bag – Buy candy and treats which are safe for your child ahead of time. Bring some of those safe treats on your trick-or-treat outing so your child can indulge in a few safe pieces of candy during the fun. When you return home, allow your child to trade unsafe candy for the pre-purchased, safe candy and allow them to enjoy. You may also want to provide safe treats for neighbors and friends to give to your child when they come to trick-or-treat.
Some kids prefer a buy back system where they receive money or points for each piece of unsafe candy. The money or points can then be used to purchase a toy they’ve had their eye on.
Take Charge – Offer to host a spooky gathering or head up the party at your child’s school. By doing so, you have more control over the safety of the foods offered. You can even switch the focus off of food and onto games, activities, costume contests, or haunted houses.
Think Outside the Box – Offer things other than food as Halloween treats. Fun items like stickers, pencils, glow bracelets, jewelry, novelty toys, and games are just as fun and healthier too! You can even offer tickets to a movie, sporting event, or museum. The possibilities are endless.
Read the label – Double check every label to make sure each piece of candy is free of your child’s allergens. Candy made for special holidays may have different ingredients than the same version made the rest of the year, so NEVER MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. Read the label of every treat and do not allow your child to eat items without an ingredient list. Prior to the day, do a little investigating on websites to identify safe products or potential hazards. There are many allergy friendly companies who offer specialty treats.
Talk About Your Plan – Communicate to your child ahead of time about your plan for staying safe on Halloween. If your child knows they will not be left out of the fun and will still get to indulge in tasty treats, they will be more willing to follow the rules and keep themselves safe!
Be Prepared –Always take antihistamines and injectable epinephrine with you on your trick-or-treat outing. Before leaving home, review the plan provided by your doctor on when you should use these medications.
With a little time and imagination, you can make sure the only scary part of Halloween is the ghosts and ghouls.