A child having a dangerous physical reaction to something they’ve eaten, drank, or touched can be a parent’s worst nightmare. It’s even scarier when they know that their kid has allergies to foods, or an issue with sugar, as a result of diabetes. That’s a fear at any time of the year, but it can creep in like a monster when Halloween rolls around.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), about two percent of adults and five percent of infants and young children in the U.S. suffer with food allergies. They cite that roughly 30,000 people end up in emergency rooms. About 150 die each year, all resulting from deadly allergic reactions to certain foods.
Below are some tips for parents to help kids enjoy trick or treating without dread:
If Your Kids Have Food Allergies . . .
- Know what your child is allergic to now, but be wary if you’re unsure or have any concerns. Talk to your child’s doctor.
- Remind kids to ask, “Is it safe?” before eating anything! Teach them why they must be careful.
- Pay attention to candy and other food labels on treats that your child brings home. Show your kids what to look for, too. Check all treats for gluten (proteins in grains like barley, wheat, and rye). Ditto eggs or milk. Check, too, for fish or shellfish, plus tree nuts (like almonds, pecans, or walnuts). Look for peanuts, sesame, soybeans, or nut butters, like almond or peanut butter. These can all cause serious reactions if your child is allergic.
- Be ready to swap out candy that kids received door-to-door, with the kind they can eat. That way they won’t feel deprived, or somehow punished.
- Watch for signs that something’s wrong if they eat something they shouldn’t. From shortness of breath, swelling of the tongue or lips, or tightening in the throat, to dizziness, fainting, hives, vomiting, or worse, have injectable epinephrine medicine ready if needed, and call 9-1-1!
If Your Kids Have Diabetes . . .
- Talk with your kids’ doctor and your kids about how much candy they can eat safely.
- Set aside some select treats to space out over several weeks.
- Stick to candy with 15 g of carbs (like a small “fun-size” chocolate bar, or 11 pieces of candy corn.)
- Trade some candy for a toy, or a movie night!
- Include fun, fall craft activities in the mix of fun. Take focus away from eating unsafe sweets.
Generally, parents can also avoid uncertainty about their kids’ Halloween treats by hosting or co-hosting a holiday party. This can help control food and drinks. The Teal Pumpkin Project by Food Allergy Research & Education raises awareness about food allergies. Participating parents can signal that they give out safe, non-food treats (like friendship bracelets or glow sticks), by placing a teal-colored pumpkin near their door or in the window.
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano