Food allergies can be dangerous, causing sufferers anything from sniffles and rashes to shortness of breath to potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. Halloween can be particularly dangerous to food sensitive children and others, as treats are freely distributed.
What are the most common food allergies?
According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, 90 percent of all food allergies may be traced to eight basic foods: egg, fish, milk, peanuts (including peanut oil), shellfish, soy, tree nut (such as cashews and walnuts) and wheat. In many cases, wheat allergies may be related to an intolerance to gluten.
Many individuals are adversely affected by aspartame (artificial sweetener) and monosodium glutamate (MSG), although these may be sensitivities, rather than allergies. Still, these substances can be dangerous to those who are susceptible.
How can you protect susceptible children from suffering potentially dangerous allergic reactions to foods and treats at Halloween? Try these ten tips, including five allergy-free pointers for Halloween trick or treating and five more for Halloween parties at school.
Avoiding Food Allergies at Halloween: Trick or Treating
Parent involvement in Halloween trick or treating can make a huge difference, preventing possible problems with food allergies.
Check Halloween goodies. Parents must become careful label readers, inspecting all Halloween treats and instructing children to do so as well before indulging. Food allergies may easily be triggered by Halloween candy, which may contain milk, nuts, nut oils and other allergens. Chocolate and licorice candies may contain gluten as well. Offending items need to be tossed out or passed along to others without allergies or food sensitivities.
Offer allergy-free items. Food allergies often run in families. Homes with one or more food-sensitive individual may choose to offer allergy-safe goodies to Halloween trick or treaters.
Host a family treat swap. Children with food allergies might be offered the opportunity to swap offending items with other family members, or even with the family Halloween treat distribution bowl. Why not pass out those peanut candies to trick or treaters without allergies to them?
Tag kids with allergies. Parents can affix allergy warning labels on the Halloween costumes or candy totes of children with special dietary concerns. A simple label on a trick or treat bucket might be enough to remind children and generous neighbors to select allergen-free treats for those youngsters.
Supervise trick or treating. Smart parents accompany children on their door-to-door visits on Halloween. By doing so, moms and dads can alert treat givers of special needs and supervise children’s receipt and consumption of trick or treat goodies.
Avoiding Food Allergies at Halloween: School Parties
In-school, after-school and neighborhood Halloween parties can be lots of fun, so long as no child suffers a dangerous food allergy attack.
Volunteer for class parties. Parents who offer to chaperone children’s Halloween parties can protect food-sensitive children from succumbing to allergy dangers.
Offer recipe ideas for party foods. Families with food allergies tend to be considerably more informed than others about ingredients that might pose threats. By coordinating the menu for a school party, a parent might even suggest allergy-safe recipes for the food donation roster.
Provide alternate snacks. Often, a Halloween party buffet will include treats a child with food allergies dares not touch. By sending individual snacks with a food-sensitive child, a parent may greatly reduce the potential dangers of food allergies. For example, an allergen-free cupcake might be included for a susceptible child to enjoy, while classmates consume peanut butter cookies or another allergen-rich snack. Rice or corn cakes might replace seasoned chips or pretzels.
Clean up carefully. Children with severe food allergies can be affected by skin contact with an allergen covered surface. Cleaning dining tables and other surfaces thoroughly with bleach and water can prevent plenty of serious allergic effects.
Check take-home treats. As with trick or treat candy, Halloween party bags must be painstakingly inspected. Parents should read candy and treat labels carefully and toss out offending items. Moms and dads might discard Halloween trail mixes, unless they made them or are certain of the ingredients.
Food allergies can be scary. Particularly at Halloween, prevention is the best precaution.