Halloween is a time of year that strikes fear into the hearts of parents of children with food allergies. Here are four strategies to help you and your child cope and enjoy the holiday.
Engage officials at your child’s school, sporting activities, clubs and organizations. Have them commit to sponsoring food-free activities or restricting treats for parties and social events to an approved list that is deemed allergen safe for all children with food allergies in attendance. Some important guidelines:
- All children (not just those with allergies) and their parents must follow the food restrictions set forth by the sponsor to avoid the possibility of contact reactions.
- If food treats are served, they must remain unopened in their original packaging to allow those adults responsible to perform a final check of the ingredient list before the snack is served.
- Homemade snacks must not be permitted. While parents may have the best of intentions, cross-contact can occur in any kitchen where allergens are not normally excluded. There is also no way for the adult responsible for a food allergic child to ensure that all the ingredients used to make a homemade snack are free of specific allergens.
- Parents of children with food allergies should have the opportunity to approve snacks in advance or provide their own substitutions.
- Restrict the consumption of treats to a specific time period and engage the children in hand-washing immediately before and afterward.
- Arrange a safe trick-or-treating community with other families concerned with food allergies in your neighborhood. Agree within the group to restrict treat handouts to non-food items or those on an approved, allergen-restricted list. Take turns trick-or-treating at those homes the group. [The Teal Pumpkin Project by FARE has many resources to help plan non-food celebrations.]
- If you do decide to trick-or-treat outside of your “safe” group, buy some of your child’s favorite safe treats and agree to swap them one-for-one for unsafe snacks at the end of the evening. Make sure that your child understands:
- Not to accept any unwrapped or homemade snacks of any kind.
- Never to open or eat any treat until it has been approved by the parent.
- Pass it on – Consider handing out non-food treats or those that are allergy-friendly to trick-or-treaters to accommodate the largest number of children in your neighborhood.
SnackSafely.com publishes the Safe Snack Guide featuring a wide variety of snacks free of peanuts, tree nuts and the Top-8 allergens including a section devoted to allergy-friendly Halloween treats – perfect for parties and activities.