Halloween is ‘scariest holiday of the year’ for those with food allergies
Halloween should be filled with fun and the kind of scares that result in giggles, not tears. For children with food allergies, that can be a challenge.
Emmanuel Sarmiento, an allergist with Allergic Disease and Asthma Center, said food allergies are very common, with 1 in 13 kids having some type of food allergy. Reactions can range from hives and itching to anaphylaxis, which can be fatal.
“It’s the scariest holiday of the year – not only people in costumes, but for people with food allergies,” Sarmiento said. “Ninety percent of the time, it’s to common foods: milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.”
Sarmiento said some children also have a reaction to yellow and red food dyes.
While reactions can range from mild to severe, Sarmiento said it is best to plan ahead.
“I’m a Boy Scout, so I always say, ‘Be prepared,’” he said.
Start with having the diagnosis confirmed by an allergist. This is critical for knowing what to avoid.
But accidents can happen.
“Part of being prepared is to prepare for the worst-case scenario,” Sarmiento said. “Have life-saving epinephrine ready.”
Children with food allergies should have ready access to an epinephrine auto-injector, like EpiPen or AUVI-Q. Oral antihistamines may also be recommended.
Sarmiento said parents should check and double check food labels before children eat that Halloween candy.
“Always accompany your child during trick-or-treat,” he said. “I’d rather be safe than sorry. Check labels. Even if it says ‘may contain,’ stay away from it.”
Sarmiento also recommends having children eat dinner before going out to trick-or-treat so it will help cut those candy cravings a bit.
“It’s simple, but it works,” he said.
Sarmiento recommends families and neighborhoods adopt the Teal Pumpkin Project by display a painted or printed teal pumpkin as a sign that allergy-free treats are available, such as stickers or glow sticks. It can keep children safe and help them feel a part of the celebration.
“It includes the child who is allergic,” he said.
Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) promotes the Teal Pumpkin Project.
FARE recommends families managing food allergies keep the following safety tips in mind:
• Enforce a “no eating while trick-or-treating” rule, so that you have time to review all food labels.
• Avoid candy and treats that do not have an ingredient label.
• Always have an epinephrine auto-injector available, if prescribed.
• Keep in mind that the mini-size, fun-size or bite-size version of candy may contain different ingredients than their full-size counterparts. Make no assumptions and read all labels carefully.
• Keep the emphasis on the fun, rather than the candy.
• Remember that a candy that has been safe for your child in the past may now have different ingredients. Read the label every time.
To join the Teal Pumpkin Project:
• Provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters
• Paint a pumpkin teal, buy a reusable teal pumpkin or print a free sign from www.tealpumpkinproject.org.
• Place your teal pumpkin or sign in front of your home to indicate non-food treats are available.