For the 6 million children with food allergies, haunted houses and spooky costumes aren’t the only scary parts of Halloween. An allergic reaction from sweet treats can be rather frightening for kids and their parents alike. That’s because food allergies are on the rise, and traditional Halloween candy often contains peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, egg, and soy. These are all common triggers of a serious reaction known medically as “anaphylaxis.”
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says symptoms can include: flushed skin, rash, swelling of the tongue, lips or throat, chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath, , nausea, abdominal cramps and dizziness. These reactions are often rapid in onset. If untreated, a severe anaphylaxis can result in death.
For many kids, ingesting or even touching treats containing certain foods can prompt a frantic trip to the emergency room. Fortunately, a lightweight and portable device called an epinephrine auto-injector can reverse the symptoms of anaphylaxis within minutes. Anyone with a diagnosed food allergy should always carry epinephrine.
It’s essential that parents and kids take a number of precautions to ensure a safe and happy Halloween when it comes to food allergies. Here are a few tips:
- Before your area’s designated trick-or-treating evening, consider distributing safe snacks to neighbors and ask that they be handed out to your child.
- Teach your child to politely refuse offers of homemade items like cookies or cupcakes.
- Enforce a strict no eating while trick-or treating rule. If possible, talk to your child’s friends in advance and also encourage them to refrain from eating any candies until a trusted adult can check the ingredient label.
- Avoid candies with a precautionary statement (i.e., “May contain”) if your child’s allergen is listed.
- Even if the full-sized version of a treat is allergen-free, don’t assume the “fun-size” is safe, too. Mini versions can sometimes contain different ingredients
- Remember: even if candy doesn’t appear to contain nuts, there is always the chance it was manufactured in the same facility as another candy that was made with nuts.
- Speak to your child’s teacher about a school party involving non-edible prizes, such as stickers or toys. Or, prepare treats from home that the whole class can enjoy.
- A food allergic child should be prepared and carry an epinephrine auto-injector when out trick-or-treating.
- Visit acaai.org for more information on food allergies.
Safety is the key to a fun Halloween for all children, but most especially those with food allergies.
Dr. Doug Lotz is a physician with Family Allergy & Asthma in Louisville.