By: Kathleen Sheerin, M.D., Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic
Kids love Halloween — the candy, costumes, haunted houses,
pumpkin carving — and all the ghoulish fun that comes with it. But for kids with
food allergies (1 in 13 nationally, approximately 15 million), it can be a
tough holiday, creating a feeling of exclusion from the festivities and
solitude from their friends. But that doesn’t have to be the case. There are
plenty of ways to fully participate in, and safely enjoy, the holiday.
Year-round vigilance is required to avoid an allergic
reaction from a food allergen, and it’s even more important on a day loaded
with all types of candy that can have danger lurking just beneath the wrapper.
Halloween candy can include the most common food allergy culprits — milk, eggs,
peanuts, tree nuts, and wheat — so advance preparation is necessary to keep
your ghouls and goblins safe while they enjoy the fun.
“Parents that have a child with a food allergy know to
carefully inspect Halloween candy, but they may overlook other common holiday
items that can cause allergy and asthma symptoms,” said allergist Stanley
Fineman, MD, of Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic, and past-president of the
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “There are several steps
parents should take to ensure their child remains healthy and symptom-free no
matter the season.”
Here are a few tips for ensuring a safe Halloween:
· Carefully read all the ingredients in a piece of
candy before eating. Be aware that the mini-versions of a candy are sometimes
prepared on different machinery and could have come in contact with nuts or
other allergens. They can also have slightly different ingredients.
· Enforce a “no eating while trick-or-treating”
rule so you have time to review all food labels.
· Carry your epinephrine auto-injector (Epi Pen or
AuviQ) while trick-or-treating; also consider carrying handy wipes for your
little Snow White’s hands.
· Give neighbors safe Halloween treats in advance
to hand out to your food allergic child
· Prepare a container filled with safe treats in
advance, and then swap it for the treats collected.
· Plan an alternate activity, such as a party or
scavenger hunt around the neighborhood for safe treats.
· Trade unsafe candy for allergen-safe treats or
age-appropriate non-food items once your children return home. Non-food ideas
include coloring books, storybooks, pencils, stickers, stuffed animals, toys,
cash, and play dough.
Remember to focus on the FUN not the food. Happy Halloween!
Dr. Sheerin practices at
the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic Lawrenceville office. For more information, visit