Last week I talked about ten ways to celebrate Halloween even if you have food allergies. One of those ways is trick-or-treating, which may surprise some people. But you really can make trick-or-treating safer, so this week, I’ll offer some tips for doing just that. Remember, these tips work just as well for trunk-or-treats, too.
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 very 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. See my post from Oct 10, "Allergy-Safe Halloween Candy 2011, Part 2," for a list of Halloween candies and their ingredients – it might help you sort through what isn’t safe.
Tip #4: A week or a few days before Halloween, try setting up a network of “safe houses” – families in your neighborhood who will agree to have some “safe” candy to give to your child. Most neighbors would be more than happy to accommodate your child if they know ahead of time. No one wants to think they’re ruining a child’s big night. You’d be surprised how willing most people are to help.
Tip #5: Before you head out on your adventure (preferably several days before, so that the kids aren’t overly excited and can actually hear you), talk about what you’re going to do with any candy when the night is over. Here are some ideas:
- Go trick-or-treating with a friend or sibling, 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. (My son often trick-or-treats with a friend who has braces – there are plenty of candies the friend can’t eat because of the braces, and plenty that my son can’t eat because of allergies, and it’s amazing how generous they both have been about handing over “safe for you” loot.)
- 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.
- “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 new toy, a trip to the movies, a night out with Dad, a visit to the dollar store, or other such treat.
- 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.
- Let the child “donate” the unsafe candy to Mom or Dad, so they can take it to work and share it with their coworkers.
- 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.
And don’t forget UFAN’s NO-CANDY Trunk-or-Treat, this Saturday, Oct 29, 2011, at the Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. Decorate your trunk and bring non-edible treats (toys, small novelties, etc.) to pass out. There will be prizes for the best-decorated trunks as well as festive music. See http://www.utahfoodallergy.org/ for more information.
Whatever your family chooses to do for Halloween this year, I hope it’s spooktacular!