Food Allergies and Trick-or-Treating

Halloween treats come in all shapes and sizes, and all forms and flavors. With such a range of goodies out there, how can parents protect their children with food allergies from suffering an attack?

Some parents whose children suffer from allergies may opt to skip the trick-or-treating and instead host a Halloween party. “Parents with a highly allergic child probably shouldn’t go trick-or-treating,” said Marianne Frieri, M.D., Ph.D., director of Allergy/Immunology at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, N.Y.

Dr. Michelle Lierl, associate professor of clinical pediatrics in the Pulmonary Medicine, Allergy and Clinical Immunology Division at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, agrees. “The problem can be so severe for some kids, that parents don’t allow their kids to trick-or-treat at all,” she said.

Trick-or-treating with a food-allergic child is still possible, according to the Food Allergy Network, but it takes diligence on the part of the parents. “Strict avoidance of the offending food is the only way a severe allergic reaction to food can be prevented,” said Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder and president of The Food Allergy Network.

Make sure your child knows that he or she will get some treats that cannot be eaten. Lierl says to instruct your children not to eat any candy or other goodies without running them by you first. “Forbid them to open up or eat any candy until they get home,” she said. “There are very few candies that you can be sure don’t have peanuts or peanut products in them.”

Lierl notes that children with peanut allergies are at the greatest risk at Halloween because peanuts can cause the most severe reaction.

“Manufacturers tend to make candies on the same equipment,” Lierl said. “They may not knowingly put peanuts in while making a candy, but traces can end up in there anyway.”

The Food Allergy Network suggests emphasizing treats other than candy and food. For example, provide nonedible treats, such as stickers, pencils, crayons, coloring books, whistles, small toys, miniature cars, packages of baseball cards, and plastic animals.

Of course, parents should always check everything their children get for Halloween, not just the candy. As Frieri says, “Parents should be really aware if they have an allergic child.”

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