Every family has their own set of seasonal and holiday traditions. Allergic families often add another unique layer to those annual rituals. Take Halloween, for example. While children across the country are sorting out their costumes, considering their trick-or-treat routes, and negotiating exactly how much candy loot they’ll be permitted to consume in one sitting, allergic families are trying to figure out how to balance this childhood staple in a way that doesn’t trigger a reaction. If food allergies are new to your family, perhaps that delicate balance seems out of reach. You worry that Halloween will be more fraught with tricks than treats. Sound familiar? Don’t worry. Grab yourself a pumpkin-spiced something to sip on and read these tips.
Make a Game Plan
Whether you’re taking your ghoul and goblin door-to-door with their plastic pumpkin buckets or your family has been invited to a festive party, invest in some pre-game planning. This isn’t just a Halloween tip. This is a general “living with allergies” approach that should become your normal operating procedure. Making time to research and plan before an activity with food helps prepare you to make smart, allergy-aware choices and mitigate risk of exposure.
Pre-Trick-or-Treat Treasure Hunt
Okay, so what does that look like? I’m glad you asked. From your favorite grocery store to that big box store you can’t resist, you’ll be hard pressed to find a retail outlet without at least some shelf space dedicated to bulk candy bags and treats. Make it work for you! Dedicate some time to reading the labels on those bags. Get to know which items might be safe for your family and which ones are a definite no go.
Involve your kids, too! Even pre-readers can get in on the fun. Read allergy statements to them and let them help you identify which items they can and can’t eat. While your kids are scanning the aisles, let them pick out one type of candy or non-food item that they’d be willing to trade a bucket-full of treats to get their hands on. The more options they give you for that one, the better. We’ll come back to why in a bit.
Check it All!
You know that go-to chocolate bar your allergic child covets? Just because it’s safe in the full-sized edition, doesn’t mean the fun-sized version is going to be safe as well. Not only may there be a cross-contamination risk associated with different variants of your usual candy picks, there can also be changes to the overall recipe. Take the time to look over all the bucket-ready counterparts.
If a Halloween bash is in your future, give the host a call and ask a few questions. You aren’t looking to alter the menu to cater to your family’s specific needs. You just want to know ahead of time what might be served so you can identify which items will be okay and what (if any) food you may want to bring along with you to substitute.
Armed with Alternatives
Remember those food and fun treats you asked your kids to identify while you were label checking previously? Head back to the store and buy one or two of them when the kids aren’t with you. You can switch out an entire plastic pumpkin’s worth of candy (or just the stuff they can’t eat) for these items after your family has returned home from trick-or-treating. Some families do an item-for-item switch as soon as they get home. Others leave a bowl of candy out for the “Switch Witch” and let her magically whisk away the items your family has opted to give up, while leaving the safe (and more awesome!) alternatives in their place.
Your child’s auto-injector should be with her all times. She may just be walking around the block to trick-or-treat, but that doesn’t mean she can leave the allergy meds at home. Make sure she’s got them with her and that someone she’s with knows when and how to administer them.
Above all else, remember this: Have fun! Food allergies don’t need to keep you from having a good time at Halloween, or any other time. Do your homework ahead of time. Make a game-plan. Stick with it and enjoy yourself!