Food Allergies and Halloween: How to Keep Your Kids Safe
In an already tricky time, Halloween can be even more tricky for kids with food allergy. For the past several years, 2020 not included, Lurie Children’s FASE (Food Allergy Support and Education Program) hosts a Kids with Food Allergy Hangout to talk about Halloween. As the hangout begins, some of the kids are quiet and reluctant; others excited and noisy. But what they all have in common is a challenging relationship with Halloween.
As we sit down together in a large circle, we introduce ourselves and share our costumes. Some of the older kids ask if we are really going to talk about Halloween the whole time because they did not have anything to say about it. Within three minutes, these same kids won’t stop talking about how Halloween makes them feel, isolated and frustrated. As they speak, the younger kids echo their feelings. They talk about their sadness and fear but they also share their feelings of acceptance and excitement.
One of the most important conversations that we have is about each of our “Halloween Routines.” We talk about whether or not we go trick-or-treating or stay home to hand out candy; whether we take whatever candy is given to us or ask for safe candy; whether we look for teal pumpkins at houses knowing that they will likely have non-food options; whether our parents separate the safe from the unsafe; whether we donate the candy to dentist’s offices or the military or whether we have our unsafe candy switched out for safe candy. It seems that each family finds a creative way to make the holiday a day that their child can still find joy in despite the inherent difficulties.
If your child with food allergies plans on heading out to trick-or-treat, share these reminders with him/her/them.
Halloween & Trick-or-Treating Food Allergy Safety Tips
Keep Yourself Safe From COVID-19
Wear your mask and social distance. It is more important than ever to take steps to stay safe this Halloween. Wear your layered face covering, keep socially distant, stay on the move, and keep your groups very small. Grab some sanitizer wipes, too! And don't forget to get vaccinated to protect yourself and others.
Read It First, Don’t Eat It First
Make sure to teach your children to save treats for when you get home. This will give you and your parents time to check your candy and make sure the ingredients are safe for you. And then you can even trade for treats that are safe for you. It can be dark when you’re trick-or-treating and that makes it hard to read the labels so at home is always best.
Look For Teal Pumpkins
Looking for non-food or allergen-friendly treats? The Teal Pumpkin Project helps make trick-or-treating safer for children living with food allergies. These houses that showcase a teal pumpkin may have a choice of safe treats for you like stickers, pencils, erasers and more! Also, consider placing a teal pumpkin on your doorstep to signal that, in addition to candy, you offer non-food trinkets and treats as well.
Always Bring Your Epi with You
Your epi should always be with you. Halloween is no different; it is just as important to bring your medicine with you at all times. It may be tricky to carry your candy band AND your epi, but it is very important that you do! As a parent with a child with allergies, it also may be helpful to carry antihistamine medications just in case.
Food Allergy Support and Education (FASE) Program at Lurie Children’s educates and supports our patients and families affected by food protein induced immune disorders. We focus in particular on patients and families affected by IgE-mediated food allergy, but also food protein induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES) and eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE).
We aim to help patients and their families gain a more complete understanding of food allergy, and how they can live successfully despite it.
The FASE Program is led by Sarah Boudreau-Romano, MD. Dr. Boudreau-Romano is an attending in the Division of Allergy and Immunology and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She has four children, three of whom have food protein induced immune disorders. This background has provided her with both professional knowledge and personal experience to share with patients and their families.
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