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If your kids have food allergies, you know what it takes to ensure they’re never accidentally exposed to unsafe foods. You have to plan meals, read labels and ask questions, especially when you go out to eat, attend a birthday party or go trick or treating on Halloween.
When my daughter was an infant, she was diagnosed with several food allergies. At that time, it was much easier to control what she ate because I cooked and packed all of her meals, whether she was at daycare or with me at a friend’s house. When she started school however, everything changed.
In preschool, she accidentally ingested a food she was allergic to while the class was working on a craft project. Then this year within a week of starting school, she once again had an accidental exposure in the cafeteria. I was grateful she was fine and only required Benadryl, but it’s stressful nonetheless.
At Halloween, there will be trick or treating, parties and events and plenty of candy and treats. With a bit of planning and some simple strategies, your kids can have a fun and safe Halloween despite their food allergies.
Do your homework
Your child’s teacher is probably already aware of his food allergies but other parents may not be. And if they have a party at school, there may be foods your kid is allergic too. If parents don’t have children with food allergies, they might avoid bringing an obvious allergenic food but they’re not likely to read labels. And besides, we shouldn’t expect them to.
When my daughter had a Halloween party in preschool, the teacher told all of the parents about the food allergies in the class. It was a good thing I was there because one of the snacks contained a food she was allergic to.
If you’re able to attend the party, it’s a good way to prevent an accidental exposure. If you can’t however, ask the teacher to give you a list of the snacks that were brought in or take photos of the ingredients label so you can check the snacks before the party. For homemade foods like cookies and cupcakes, it’s wise to have your kid avoid them altogether.
Divide and conquer
When your kid comes home from school or trick or treating, sort all of the candy to determine what’s safe and what’s not. You might think certain types of candy are OK because they were safe to eat in the past, but ingredients can differ between fun size and regular size, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
If a piece of candy doesn’t have the ingredients on the label, check the nutrition label on the brand’s website to make sure your kid doesn’t ingest something that will cause an allergic reaction.
Look for teal pumpkins
In 2014, the Teal Pumpkin Project® launched to keep kids with food allergies safe on Halloween. Homes that have a teal-colored pumpkin on the doorstep signal to kids that they’ll receive a fun, non-food treat. To find Teal Pumpkin Project homes in your area, check out their participation map.
If your kid is invited to a party, talk to the parents beforehand about the foods they plan to serve and if you’ll need to bring a safe replacement. If you won’t be attending, make sure the parents know what foods your kid is allergic to. Make sure they also have your phone number and his medications and know what to do if he accidently ingests something.
Empower your child
Whenever we go to a friend’s house, someone’s party or eat out at a restaurant, my daughter asks if the food she’s thinking about eating is something she’s allergic to. She’s still quite young but it’s a habit I instilled in her early on.
If you have young kids, consider having them wear a food allergy bracelet. Older kids can practice asking what’s in a food and saying “no thank you, I’m allergic.” Teaching them how to advocate for themselves now is important and something they’ll need to do throughout their lives.
Host your own party
If another mom usually throws a Halloween party, offer to have it at your house so you’ll have full control over the food and the treats.
Tell the neighbors
If you’re friendly with your neighbors, you can tell them before Halloween what your kids are allergic to and offer to provide them with safe candy they can hand out instead.
Don’t let them trick or treat alone
If your kids are old enough to trick or treat with friends, tag along anyway. Your kids might be tempted to eat a piece of candy along the route that could cause an allergic reaction and you don’t want to take that chance.