Halloween is a fun time for kids and parents, dressing up, trick-or-treating and the thrill of being out after dark. Halloween excitement can quickly turn to stress and anxiety for parents of children with food allergies. In the United States one in 13 children has a food allergy and we have some tips for parents on how to help reduce some anxiety related to this candy-filled holiday.
Top 8 Food Allergens:
- Tree Nuts
Thrive Nutrition RDN’s Tips for Parents:
Talk About It: Talk with your child about their food allergy. Depending on their age this can be a simple or in-depth explanation. For young children, explain that certain foods can make them sick. You can do this by using terms you feel comfortable with. Some parents use simple “yes” and “no” foods, other ideas are “safe” and “unsafe” foods, or “green light foods” and “red light foods.” Whatever you choose, stick with the those terms while your child is young in order keep the message clear. Reassure your child that “yes/safe/green light” foods are okay for them to eat. Finally, make sure your child knows what to do if they think they’ve eaten a food they are allergic to, such as tell an adult, especially if they do not feel well.
Check the labels: Always read the ingredients labels and look for ingredients that relate to your child’s allergy. Many times candy is processed in a facility that also processes peanuts or tree nuts so be sure to look for that notation on a label. Also, any candy that does not have a nutrition label should be avoided.
Find a Teal Pumpkin: The Teal Pumpkin Project promotes safe trick-or-treating for children with food allergies. A teal pumpkin on a doorstep signals that non-food treats are inside.
Work Together on Rules: Set boundaries with your child before trick-or-treating. Do they need to wait until they get home before sampling any candy? If so talk about it together. If you know they will want to have some candy while walking the neighborhood, have some on hand so that you can give them treats you know are safe. Also, if one child has an allergy and another does not, be sure to include the entire family in the conversation around allergies and rules. Instead of phrasing the rules as restrictive, set it up so it feels special. Such as “we get to dive into our candy bowls together as a family after trick-or-treating.” Or, “to be safe we will save all of our candy for when we get home and then you can have 5 pieces before bedtime.” When boundaries are set, especially with a reward such as x amount of candy after trick-or-treating, kids feel prepared and know what will happen which helps to reduce their anxiety and in turn, yours as the parent.
Provide Non-Food Fun: While Halloween is certainly a candy focused holiday, there are other non-food ways to make it fun. Have a few non-food items to pop into your child’s bucket if all of the candy options pose a threat to their allergy. Glow sticks are always a winner, cracking the tube and watching it light up and light the way as you walk. Other ideas include stickers, spider rings, monster stamps, vampire teeth and bookmarks.
Allergy Friendly Candy:
Always read the label before giving a treat to your child. If you are uncertain about an ingredient in a candy, please do not give it to your child. Select an allergy friendly option or non-food treats.