Monday, October 25, 2010

Trick-or-Treating Safely with Food Allergies

by Kelley Lindberg

That ghouly, ghostly holiday every kid loves is just around the corner. So it's time for my annual posting of Halloween tips...

For us parents of food allergic kids, Halloween can be stressful. Should we let them go trick-or-treating? Should we have a party instead? Should we stay home, lock the doors, and turn out the lights? What about that giant bag of unsafe candy?!!

In our family, we’ve discovered that the candy is really the least important part of the holiday. The adventure is the best part. Candy seems like the goal (“I’m going to fill this WHOLE bucket!”), but it’s really just the excuse for dressing up, running around the neighborhood in the dark squealing with flashlights, and getting together with friends.

Focus on the adventure, and create your Halloween traditions around the parts of the holiday your kids love best. If they like to trick-or-treat, don’t be afraid of that. There are plenty of things you can do with unsafe candy afterwards, and if the kids know about the rules ahead of time, it will be surprisingly easy to keep them safe while doing it.

Here are some tips for safe trick-or-treating:

Tip #1: No one eats anything until everyone gets home and the parent reads the label on every piece of candy. That way, no one is eating unidentified foods and having a reaction while you’re out in the dark a block away from home. Make sure the kids agree, understand, and agree again. No one sneaks anything (not even Dad).

Tip #2: If you child is super-sensitive to an ingredient, you might have them wear gloves with their costume, so that any allergenic candy that touches their hand on the way into the bag doesn’t cause a skin reaction. Toss the glove in the wash or in the trash when you get home.

Tip #3: Unlabeled candy is assumed to be unsafe. Period. The only exceptions are brand-name candies that you are already familiar with and know are safe. (For example, I know Starbursts and Skittles are okay for my son, so I’ll let him keep those.) If there is a type of candy that he’s particularly interested in, I might promise to look for it at the store the next day, and read the ingredients there. But it goes into a separate container until we’ve seen it at the store and verified its safety.

Tip #4: Before you head out on your adventure, talk about what you’re going to do with any candy when the night is over. Here are some ideas:

1) Go trick-or-treating with a friend, and at the end of the night, dump both kids’ candy together, then make two piles – a “safe” pile for the allergic kid, and the other pile for the non-allergic kid. If they both know about this plan beforehand, they are usually more than willing to do this.

2) Buy a bag of safe candy ahead of time, and at the end of the night, let your child “trade” you for all the unsafe candy he brought home.

3) “Buy” the unsafe candy from your child – but establish a price ahead of time, such as a nickel a piece, a dollar a pound, or the whole kit and caboodle for a new DVD, a small toy, a trip to the movies, a night out with Dad, a visit to the dollar store, or other such treat.

4) Look for a dentist or other business in your area that buys candy from kids on the day after Halloween. There’s at least one dentist in Layton that does. The kids get money, and the dentist donates the candy to a children’s hospital, I think.

5) Let the child “donate” the unsafe candy to Mom or Dad, so they can take it to work and share it with their coworkers.

6) Let the child donate the unsafe candy to a local women’s shelter, food bank, homeless shelter, or family of a soldier – the soldiers always seem to appreciate candy that they can share with friends or give to children in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Don’t let Halloween spook you. There are plenty of ways to celebrate safely – have a party at your house, go trick-or-treating with a plan for replacing the unsafe candy, visit a haunted house or Lagoon’s Frightmares, plan some “safe” houses ahead of time for your little ones to visit where you’ve prearranged for safe candy to be available for them, or rent The Nightmare Before Christmas and snuggle up together in the dark.

And don’t forget UFAN’s annual FOOD-FREE Halloween party this Friday, Oct. 29, 2010, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Carmen B. Pingree School (780 S. Guardsman Way, SLC). See the Utah Food Allergy Network’s website,, for directions.

Whatever your family Halloween tradition becomes, I hope it’s spooktacular!

No comments: