The Halloween season is a very exciting time for every one of all ages; there are Halloween movies, haunted houses, and parties to look forward to. But the biggest Halloween tradition revolving around children is trick-or-treating. This is something most children look forward to, a chance to go door to door and get as much candy as their bucket can carry. But some children do not get to share in this beloved tradition, at no fault of their own or anyone else’s. Children with food allergies may not be able to take part in trick-or-treating due to the risk of their allergens being in the candy. 1 in 13 children now have a food allergy, and sometimes they can be very severe, causing life-threatening anaphylaxis. For the parent of a child with a food allergy, Halloween can be very scary, not because of ghost or ghouls, but because they fear for their children’s lives if they consume the wrong candy, that is being given out left and right during this time of the year.
Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat are the most common food allergies and these probably sound very familiar. Think about which of these would be found in a common candy bar, milk, in the chocolate, peanuts, tree nuts, and even soy. Even if they are not ingredients in the candy bar, the candy bar could have been produced in a facility that contained one of the allergens. Even a small amount of an allergen can cause a child to have reactions, including anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a type of reaction in which the airways can swell shut, causing unconsciousness and death if left untreated. To avoid the risk of this during the Halloween season, most parents choose to not take their children trick-or-treating at all.
The prevalence of food allergies in children has caused many people to stop giving out candy at Halloween and begin giving out toys or other non-food items. To indicate that a house is giving away non-food or allergy-friendly items, a teal pumpkin is placed outside the house. There is an interactive map on foodallergy.org that shows houses who are participating in the teal pumpkin movement. While not all the homes participating are on this map, it is a good place for parents to begin to plan on where to take their children. This is very important for children with allergies, so they can be included in one of the season’s most fun tradition.
Malissa Sarver is a Registered Dietitian for KDMC Ohio. Taylor Cyrus is a Marshall University Dietetic Intern.
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