trick or treat

Trick or Trigger? Halloween Safety for Allergy Patients

I may be a Halloween treat hypocrite. Admittedly, I enjoy indulging in chocolaty treats on Halloween, but when it comes to choosing Halloween candy to pass out to little goblins and ghouls, I have a strange desire to save all the children from too much sugar. Instead of sugary delights, my husband Ben and I have passed out non-edible treats over the years – things like play dough, creepy toy bugs and spider rings. The little kids enjoy getting something different and parents often throw me an appreciative smile from the sidewalk.

A couple of years back, our passion for non-edible treats took on a whole new meaning. A mother of one of the trick-or-treaters thanked us for not passing out candy. She said that her daughter had a life-threatening peanut allergy. For their family, Halloween was a very stressful time. Her daughter really enjoyed dressing up and trick-or-treating with her friends, but she had to be extremely careful about which candies she accepted and even more careful about reading labels at home before indulging in her treats. Eating the wrong thing could mean life or death.

Like this girl, my patients with food allergies have to be extremely careful about avoiding their allergy trigger foods, especially around Halloween. Most families are very strict in their avoidance, yet accidents still happen.

The message of the trick-or-treater’s mom really hit home. It’s not the people with allergies that need to be reminded to avoid certain trigger foods; it’s everybody else.

Many Halloween candies contain common food allergens (i.e. peanuts or milk) or are processed in a plant or on shared equipment with food allergens. With up to 8% of children having life-threatening food allergies, giving food to children that are not your own is risky. It’s important to ask kids/parents if they have food allergies before giving them food, and Halloween should be no different. If this seems impractical with hoards of kids coming to your door, this Halloween consider the option of passing out a non-edible treat. You could even put out a sign “allergen-free treats” or put green bulbs in your front porch lights to signal the option of allergen-free treats at your house (green means “good to GO”). Trick-or-treaters with food restrictions and their parents will appreciate it. And I’ll be right there with you, passing out the safe treats, then eating my Snickers bar after the kids have gone to bed. If keeping kids safe makes me a Halloween treat hypocrite, I’m okay with it.

Check out these ideas for non-edible or alternative Halloween treat ideas or be creative and come up with one of your own!

Amber Patterson, MD
Amber M. Patterson, MD, works in the Section of Allergy and Immunology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. As a wife and mother of 3, she is passionate about harnessing efficiency to create time. Her current projects to make allergy care more efficient include: researching intralymphatic immunotherapy (a new form of allergy shots), innovating allergy/immunology education, and inventing better ways to test and treat for allergies. Dr. Patterson wants to teach her patients how to feel better quicker and stay healthy longer. The Pattersons enjoy being outdoors (playing, biking, swimming, gardening), reading, and rooting for the Buckeyes. OH-!

One thought on “Trick or Trigger? Halloween Safety for Allergy Patients

  1. Connie Manning on said:

    this is a wonderful idea …. two of my grandchildren are allergic to numerous foods … being 13 & 12 makes them want more of what the others are getting …. and while they have out grown some of the allergies, not all …. they can now have cooked milk & egg in foods, but not plain to eat or drink as the food itself … they only drink soy milk since they are allergic to nuts, no almond or almond flavored for them …. absolutley nothing with peanuts or the oil or anything processed on the same equipment …. they carry epi pens everywhere they go ….they have been made fun of by other kids & adults alike… which I put down to ignorance … but it still hurts … I happened on the Teal Pumpkin idea this year, so I think I will try to do that …. there are at least 10 kids in their school that have allergies & they have epi pens located in the school office, labeled for use if necessary … we have been seriously lucky so far & only had to make 3 trips to the hospital for allergic reactions that caused life threatening respiratory reactions … multiple times for the horrendous hives that cause them to itch so bad they talk about pulling their skin off … So any ideas that would help & protect the kids with allergies is wonderful .. we can all think of something we can give in place of the normal fare….the dollar store is a treasure trove …. the kids balk, but it’s life or death …. I bought fangs for all the little monsters knocking on my door

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