For most kids, Halloween is a chance to dress up as a favorite character, experience chills and thrills, and, of course, fill up on candy and other snacks. But trick-or-treating can be challenging — even dangerous — when food allergies and Halloween candy mix.
A bowl of candy may appear innocent, but what’s lurking inside those wrappers could trigger a serious reaction in a child with food allergies.
Kids at Risk: Food Allergies During Halloween Season
Allergic reactions can vary. Some allergies and sensitivities, such as those to lactose (in milk and dairy products) and gluten (in wheat products), can lead to stomach pain and other signs of gastrointestinal distress. Mild food allergies may cause an itchy rash.
Other allergic reactions can be more severe. In kids with peanut allergies, for example, exposure to the allergen can trigger a serious and sometimes life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.
Symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction can include hives, swelling of the throat or tongue, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and a drop in blood pressure.
Kids with an allergy severe enough to cause an anaphylactic reaction need to carry two injections of epinephrine, the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis.
Treats Without Tricks
Halloween can be a tricky time for kids with food allergies and their parents. Whether you’re checking your child’s haul of goodies or want to hand out safe food options to treat-or-treaters, it’s possible to find healthy (and tasty) goodies.
Look for allergy-friendly Halloween treats like those listed below, and always read labels to make sure a snack is safe. When in doubt, ask your child’s doctor or dietitian for more information.
- Lollipops. Some brands are allergen-free and come in a range of flavors.
- Fruit chews. Rainbow-colored fruit chews tend to be free of peanuts, soy, and other allergens.
- Gummy candies. Many brands of these candies also tend to be free of peanuts, soy, and other allergens.
- Fruit. Kids might not be excited about an apple or orange, but these snacks are naturally allergen-free.
- Organic/allergen-free brands. You can better ensure kids’ safety by choosing brands specifically labeled to be free of allergens. Look for them online or in natural food stores.
- Toys. Small, Halloween-themed toys (such as vampire fangs, fidget spinners, plastic spiders, etc.) are good options.
- Other Ideas. Unconventional treats like bags of pretzels, cans of soda, or bottled water.
By choosing allergy-friendly Halloween treats, you can help make trick-or-treating fun and safe for every kid.