Trick or treatment: keeping Halloween safe for children with food allergies and dietary restrictions

For children with food allergies Halloween can be very frightening. Not only could there be allergens lurking in their trick-or-treat bags, but they may also dread feeling left out of some of the season’s food-related festivities. Here are some things you can do to make sure your child with food allergies has a fun and safe Halloween:

  • Teach your child which candy is safe. These days, most people give out pre-wrapped, name-brand candy, which means kids with food allergies can quickly recognize safe foods. Teach your child to recognize and avoid problem treats so he or she can pass on them without drawing attention to the issue. This is particularly important if they are going out on their own and may sneak a treat or two before coming home.
  • Encourage trading for allergy-safe candy. If your child receives allergy-triggering candy, set up a trading circle with his friends, siblings or yourself so he can swap the treats for safer ones. It’s a good way to keep him safe and prevent him from feeling like his allergy is causing him to miss out.
  • Engage the neighbors. If your child has severe food allergies, you may feel safer going to a few neighboring houses beforehand with allergy-safe treats the homeowner can give to your child when she trick-or-treats at their door. Let the neighbors know in advance what your child will be dressed as to avoid confusion, and allow them to distribute the allergy-safe treats discreetly.
  • Help plan school functions. Being left out of a public activity because of a food allergy can be very hard on children. By volunteering to help with a school Halloween party you can ensure that there are allergen-free treats available and that it’s a safe environment for your child.
  • Celebrate the spirit of the season. Candy is great, but there are lots of Halloween activities that are fun and have nothing to do with food. Carving pumpkins, decorating the house or creating the perfect costume are all great ways to celebrate Halloween. Emphasize the spirit of the season over the sweets to make sure your child with food allergies can enjoy the holiday as much as everyone else.

With the right planning, you can avert both allergic reactions and hurt feelings this Halloween—making sure the night is frightfully fun for everybody.

For more on this topic, watch this interview with Andrew MacGinnitie, MD, PhD, associate clinical director of the Division of Immunology at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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