Halloween can be a challenging holiday for families with food allergies. Most Halloween candy options contain tree nuts, peanuts, milk, egg, soy or wheat – 6 of the most common allergens. Adding to the challenge of finding allergy-friendly treats is the complexities around food labels. At times, miniature or fun-size versions of candy items contain different ingredients than their full-size counterparts. Plus, some miniature candy items may not have labels! This makes it harder to determine if they are safe for those with with food allergies or not. With all these barriers, how do you safely celebrate Halloween with food allergies?
With some advanced planning you can ensure that your child enjoys holiday festivities. Here are some items to think about as you get ready:
- Serve allergy friendly treats. You can make your own safe treats or buy them from allergy-conscious companies that manufacture dairy- and/or nut-free candies and chocolates.
- Fill your children’s Halloween bags with fun alternatives to candy. Instead of candies and other edible treats that might cause a food allergy issue, look for fun trinkets and toys your children will enjoy. Kids love temporary tattoos, plastic jewelry, bouncy balls and fun stickers. (Be sure to watch out for hidden allergens!)
- Plan your trick-or-treating route ahead of time. Depending on where you live, you may be able to give your neighbors safe treats to give your child ahead of time. Another great way to make sure your little one only gets safe candies is to prepare a container of safe treats ahead of time and swap it out as soon as you get home.
- Focus on other Halloween-themed activities. Instead of trick-or-treating, host a party that focuses on costumes, pumpkin carving, games and other Halloween-themed fun. This way your child can enjoy the holiday and you won’t have to worry about any accidental exposure to allergens.
- Create an emergency plan (just in case). Have a set plan in place that all participating people know about before the activities begin.
- Be sure to talk with teachers/other parents about what needs to be done to ensure your child’s safety at any Halloween parties or school activities.
- Remember, even a little bit of a food allergen can cause a reaction. Talk with your child and help them understand the dangers of taking just a small taste of a food he/she might be allergic to.
- If prescribed, always have Epinephrine on hand in case of a severe reaction to one of the food allergens.
The biggest movement to date to help raise awareness for food allergies and drive inclusion for all is Food Allergy Research & Education’s (FARE) Teal Pumpkin Project. Teal Pumpkin Project acknowledges food allergies and creates awareness by promoting non-food items Halloween treats.
The Teal Pumpkin Project was inspired by a local awareness activity run by the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee (FACET) and launched as a national campaign by FARE in 2014. We are happy to hear that now FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project is a worldwide movement!
Teal Pumpkin Project Basics:
- Why Teal? Teal is the color of food allergy awareness. It has been used to raise awareness about this serious medical condition for nearly 20 years.
- How to participate in Teal Pumpkin Project? The good news is that it really doesn’t take a lot to participate in this initiative. To start you will need a teal pumpkin and allergy-friendly treats or non-food items. Then, place a Teal Pumpkin, or the printable teal pumpkin picture from FARE, in your window to let neighbors and community members know you are a safe house for food allergies and can offer non-food related treats for children who come to your house to trick-or-treat.
- Where do you find a teal pumpkin? One fun option is to make your own! Grab a pumpkin, some teal paint or a spray can and have some fun. If painting or spray painting a regular pumpkin teal isn’t for you, now a lot of bigger craft stores are starting to sell plastic and/or foam versions you can purchase. Aside from the pumpkin color, there are no other requirements around decorating your Teal Pumpkin. Let your creativity shine!
- Where do you find signs to show that you are a TEAL Pumpkin Project participant? Kick up your participation to the next level by helping to spread awareness by hanging posters and posting social media updates about your activities. The team at FARE even created free printable signs, flyers, and materials to help you make the most of these efforts. View available Teal Pumpkin Project printables.
- How do you get yourself listed as a participant for trick or treaters in your area? FARE is also providing a Teal Pumpkin Project Participation Map that allows people participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project to add their home address, street or neighborhood. Adding your household to the map shows your support and allows you to connect with other families in your area who are participating.
What do you use as non-food items for treats? You can pick up some inexpensive toys: think out of the candy aisle. Here are some ideas for non-food treats just to help with your brainstorming and planning:
- Glow sticks, bracelets, or necklaces
- Pencils, pens, crayons or markers
- Halloween erasers or pencil toppers
- Mini Slinkies
- Whistles, kazoos, or noisemakers
- Bouncy balls
- Finger puppets or novelty toys
- Spider rings
- Vampire fangs
- Mini notepads
- Playing cards
How to incorporate Neocate into your Halloween festivities?
Some kid’s food allergies are so severe they rely on a hypoallergenic formula like Neocate®—which means they either can’t have any food at all or can eat limited food amounts and types. In these special cases, you can put their formula in a festive cup or mix it with ice for a fun slushy. Be sure to check-out our recipes pages for fun ideas you can mix.
What about school Halloween parties? Kudos to you for thinking of school events! What a wonderful opportunity to educate families and community members about food allergies and the Teal Pumpkin Project! You can initiate these discussions by:
- Offering to bring in non-food items for the party
- Print and pass out copies of the free printable posters
- Get the kids involved! Have them paint pumpkins as a party activity!
General Safety Tips
- Make sure your child knows not to eat any candy until they get home, where you both can sit down and inspect them
- If your child is younger, go trick-or-treating with them to monitor what goodies they receive
- If your child is okay with it, use an “allergy-free” bag for trick-or-treating
- Research trick-or-treat locations in your area. Some malls and libraries offer candy-free trick-or-treat nights (including the Teal Pumpkin Project map we mentioned above)
- If your child is contact allergic, make them a costume that covers them from head to toe
- For children with feeding tubes, make Halloween-themed ice cubes
Halloween can be fun for all with just a bit of extra awareness and planning. Are you bringing teal into your holiday activities? We’d love to hear from you, what are you doing to celebrate Halloween “teal pumpkin style” and see pictures of your little trick or treaters. Comment with a picture, or post to our Neocate Facebook page!