Each year I counsel my very own patients on the risks and potential hazards with exposure to suspect food allergens, if they indeed have a bona fide food allergy. The focus is generally spent on learning to “de-code” ingredient contents and become a “label detective”. This can make the difference between a fun-filled evening with your kids or a trip to the ER.
Here are some tips and strategies that may help to reduce the risks during Halloween if you have children and adolescents with food allergies and/or asthma:
- Discard foods, candies, sweets that have been prepared in neighbor’s or friends homes.
- If food and/or candy are not wrapped with labels, and in doubt, throw it out!
- Always best to remove small items such as hard candies, small toys, to prevent choking hazards for the “little ones”.
- Remember many chocolate candies may say: “may contain peanut or nuts”, take it seriously and avoid these foods!
- Before the Halloween holiday consider pre-giving “safe” snacks to your friends and neighbors ahead of time, for your child. This will help you and your child feel more comfortable and at ease.
- Instead of giving out only food and candies, consider having an alternate themes, games, pumpkin carving and use of costumes.
- Did you know that smaller sized candy for Halloween may contain different ingredients than their regular sized counter parts?
- Teach your child to politely say “no” to home baked cakes, cookies, especially when the ingredients cannot be 100% confirmed.
- Look for “flame resistant” costumes.
- Don’t forget to read costume labels, check for products that may contain latex rubber, if an allergy exists.
- Egg may be used to provide a “shiny” coating in a variety of baked foods as well as in bagels, pretzels.
- Try and avoid “tight fitting” masks that can be smothering, especially if you have a child with asthma.
- Avoid harsh “face paints” that may cause a rash, especially if your child has “sensitive” skin, like eczema. It is recommended to have a simple allergy test performed if your child will be wearing face paint for Halloween, to avoid unexpected allergic reactions. Try a “loose fitting” mask that does not impair vision, instead.
- Kids during the “trick or treating” night can be a target for bicycles and cars. There is an increased risk of accidents on Halloween evening. Keep them on the sidewalk and use reflective tape on their clothes, jackets and bags for enhanced visibility and safety.
- Have an early pre-Halloween dinner for your child with a food allergy. This may help to reduce temptation to try “unknown” or un-labeled foods.
- Keep safe snacks on hand and with you.
- Go to www.foodallergy.org and create a customized “chef card” when eating outside of your home (parties, restaurants, etc). This will serve to have written information about your specific food allergies that will enhance communication and reduce unexpected reactions.
- Bring emergency medications such as asthma inhalers or an EPI-PEN if prescribed, during trick or treating events. Remember, asthma can be a risk for more severe reactions to food allergens. Have an asthma action plan in place for optimal control now, and throughout the year.
- Use non food items such as stickers in lieu of food and candies.
- For more information about how to have a safe Halloween and holiday season visit our educational site at www.allergyepidemic.com.
To locate an allergist near you, for expert care, and evaluation/management of a food allergy go to ACAAI at www.allergyandasthmarelief.org.