Forget ghosts, goblins and ghouls. For parents of children with food allergies, the most frightening part of Halloween can be the treats.
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Between harvest festivals, schools parties and, of course, trick-or-treat night, food is a big part of Halloween. Unfortunately, children with food allergies often can’t share the goodies their classmates enjoy, which can make them feel left out or embarrassed. And after trick-or-treating, parents of kids with food allergies are faced with having to throw away much of their children’s haul.
Here’s how you can make sure your treats don’t end up in the trash – or worse yet, accidentally in your child’s mouth if they contain allergens.
1. Try non-edible goodies
“The safest thing to do is to give non-edible things like bouncy balls or small plastic toys from a dollar store or from Oriental Trading,” says allergist and immunologist Sandra Hong, MD.
Halloween-themed pencils, erasers or stickers are good alternatives to candy for class parties and Beggars’ Night.
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2. Avoid accepting homemade snacks
“It’s very difficult for parents of children with food allergies to feel comfortable with homemade snacks,” Dr. Hong says. For instance, parents are often encouraged to contribute cookies, cupcakes or other homemade treats for classroom parties.
But those who don’t regularly deal with food allergies might not understand the risk of cross-contamination. Trace amounts of peanut butter from a sandwich made earlier could make their way into a classroom treat not made with peanut products, causing a life-threatening allergic reaction.
3. For baked goods, consider bakery-made
Baked goods from a bakery are a safer bet than homemade, especially if they come with an ingredients list.
Still, the risk of cross-contamination could make them too dangerous for a child with a severe allergy to nuts, eggs, wheat or dairy.
4. Be creative with fruit and veggies
If you must bring food to a Halloween holiday party, Dr. Hong recommends bringing cut-up fruit or vegetables as an option. Presenting these foods in a fun way in shapes of pumpkins or ghosts can make this option especially appealing.
5. Consider fruity, sweet and non-chocolate
Most popsicles are also hypoallergenic, Dr. Hong says. Hard candies and treats that do not contain chocolate are also a safe bet.
“Ring pops, gummy bears or worms, lollipops and hard candies typically don’t have highly allergenic ingredients,” Dr. Hong adds.
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Pay close attention to ingredients
Dr. Hong suggests the SnackSafely.com website as a general guide for which snacks are safe and free of some of the most common allergens. But, she cautions, ingredients and manufacturing processes change and the site’s Safe Snack Guide is no substitute for carefully reading an ingredients list.
“I tell parents to always look at the ingredients on any snack or treat,” Dr. Hong says.
“And I tell families with food allergies to keep a stash of really great snacks on hand. At the end of trick-or-treat night, parents can distract their children and switch out allergenic foods for a snack they really enjoy.”