If you have a child with food allergies, or if you have food allergies yourself, you know. Halloween can be scary — and not just because of that drooling zombie guy popping out at you in the haunted house (although that’s enough to make me never set foot inside a haunted house again!). Allergic reactions lurk around every corner, and we have to be on top of our game.
To keep your little one safe at Halloween, it takes preparation, communication and an intense watchful eye.
1. Pack accordingly
Always bring your child’s medicine with you – EpiPen, antihistamine, puffer (if he has one). It is SO easy for little ones to pop something in their mouths without you knowing or being able to check it first. You DON’T want to be caught without their medicine!
Bring a flashlight with you. In addition to being safe in the dark, it will help you easily identify safe candy or read ingredients while you’re out.
It’s also a good idea to pack wipes for little hands, in case they want a treat on the road (and who doesn’t?!). You’ll want to make sure their hands are free of any other allergens they might have touched. And if your child is touch-sensitive, like mine, keep a close eye on her when reaching into those bowls. She may need an immediate wipe-off after coming in contact with an unwrapped candy.
2. Communicate before & after
Talk to your child about what candy is safe and what might not be. My daughter is now old enough to know which candy she can eat, so if there’s something safe in the bowl, she’ll pick it out on her own. Younger kids need help with that.
Make sure they know NOT to eat ANYTHING unless it has been approved by you! If your child is very small, it might be best to carry the goody bag yourself, so they’re not tempted to sneak a piece without asking.
3. Get your neighbors involved
When Jillian was very little, we only went to a few houses – four or five was plenty. And to make it really easy, I would buy some safe snacks ahead of time and pass them out to those neighbors. We were assured a good time and a safe night. Easy!
4. Trade in candy!
One of the best tips I’ve seen floating around, and one that we’ve used ourselves for many years, is the candy swap. At the end of the night, after you’ve gone through all the goodies and separated safe from not-safe, let your little Ghoul or Goblin trade in the not-safe candy for something special — a new toy, money to go shopping with, a DVD, video game, books, a coupon for some one-on-one time with Mom or Dad… you get the idea. Jillian just asked me this morning what she’s going to get to swap her candy for. Honestly, I’m not sure yet. We’ll have to sit down and have a chat to see what she’d like this year.
What do you do with the extra candy? Donate it! (After you sneak a few pieces for yourself, of course). Each year my kids’ school collects leftover candy to send to the troops so they can have a little treat. And with all the candy each kid collects from Trick-or-Treating, plus anything they get from school parties, plus the extra candy that you buy but doesn’t get handed out… there’s a LOT of candy leftover! Get it out of the house… I don’t need it tempting me anyway.
(If you’re not sure where to send your candy, Google “donate Halloween candy.” There are a lot of ways to get rid of it!)
5. Teal Pumpkin Project
This is the third year for the Teal Pumpkin Project, and I’m so excited! I am in LOVE with this idea, and I really, really hope it catches on! Families are encouraged to give out non-food items, like stickers, bubbles, rings, glow sticks, slinkies, bouncy balls, finger puppets, etc. instead of candy. If you participate, you place a teal-colored pumpkin outside your house so food allergy families know your house is safe. I mean, come on, this is fantastic! Not just for allergy sufferers, but for everyone! How unhealthy is all this candy? Wouldn’t you rather your kid get a cool set of vampire teeth?! I would! We don’t get Trick-or-Treaters on our street, but if we did, I’d be out painting my pumpkin teal right now!
If you do decide to stick with candy (or even candy AND non-food items), here’s a great list of vegan candy that should be safe for milk and egg allergies, at least… maybe more, but you’ll have to check ingredients for any other allergies.
Here’s wishing you a SAFE and FUN Halloween!
The TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT and the Teal Pumpkin Image are trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).