Food Allergies and Halloween: What to Do?

So your little one has food allergies. How do you handle Halloween, a holiday where allergens - more scary than the ghosts and witches out at night - will be everywhere?

candy

 

As PSP member asked the PSP Food Allergy Group:

Was wondering what parents of older kids with allergies have done for Halloween?

 

Get them to hand out the candy (this trick might only good for a year or two):

"For a long time we just had him giving candy out at my parents stoop in central Slope. He was so busy that it didn't occur to him to go trick or treating. But then he figured it out."

 

About pumpkin hands

Look out for the teal pumpkins:

"Do you know about the Teal Pumpkin Project?
Look for houses with teal pumpkins for allergy-aware treats. We put out a bowl of candy and a bowl of stickers with a teal pumpkin on it. There aren't a ton of houses doing it yet, but it spreads a bit more every year. You could even print some flyers about it and slide them under neighbors' doors if you wanted to raise awareness in the area where you guys will be trick-or-treating."

"Some people who are providing allergen sensitive things paint their pumpkins teal to signal parents that they are an allergen safe place to trick or treat (there's a whole campaign. You can look it up online."

 

Teach your child to advocate for themselves:

"My son, who will be 9 by Halloween this year, now says "Trick or treat. No nuts." Both of my children understand that we have to go through all of their candy before they can eat anything because, of course, while my son advocates for myself on people's stoops, my daughter doesn't always and there's a Butterfinger that might slip into her bag or something. Also, as he has additional allergies, we have to check packaging for that kind of stuff."

 

Talk to your neighbors:

"Educate, educate, educate. Educate your neighbors and friends ahead of Halloween and make sure to hit their homes first (that way your younger child might be full by the time you get to other more dubious homes). You'd be surprised how many people don't even think about allergen safe candy on Halloween, despite the fact that it is our worst nightmare."

 

Prep the route ahead of time:

"Prep the trick or treating route, so that the stops are already prepped with the information and a substitute snack."

 

Stock up on allergy-free treats or toys to swap out:

"We buy back-up candy that is safe that he can exchange if he gets something in his bag he can't."

"Our 2 year old, who'll be 3 by then, has a medical condition and can't eat any candy due to his restricted diet. I'm planning to buy a bunch of small toys he likes (mini tubs Play-Doh, little cars, etc) and bring them in a bag when we go. The I'll let him trick or treat, and tell him he can swap 2 or 3 pieces of his candy for a toy."

"I also go to the neighborhood stores in advance and make note of any candy in the popular Halloween mixes that my son can safely eat so that when we're at a house that puts out one of those mixes, I can remind him to choose one that he can safely eat. At the end of the night, we offer a swap of all of the candy (minus a few pieces if he has some safe ones) for one big gift that we've purchased in advance. This is only our second year, but last year he went for the gift without hesitation."

 

And we love this one: Have the "switch witch" pay a visit:

A pal just mentioned to me the idea of having the "switch witch" come and switch candies so they are safe post-trick-or-treating. She has twin girls who are 8, one of whom has allergies, and she has both girls do it every year and that seems to work too! :)

 

Ideas for candy alternatives:

Stickers
Slinkies
Bracelets
Novelty pencils and pens
More:
18 Alternative Halloween Treats That Don’t Suck
Foodallergy.org's ideas for non-food treats

Sweets and candies* PSP members recommend:

*Note, every allergy is different! Be sure to check with your physician and read the ingredient labels closely to be sure!!

Hershey's bars pure chocolate
Hershey's kisses are fine, though, you need to make sure that they aren't the almond ones, of course.
Smarties
Starburst
Dum dums
Gummy bears
Sour patch fish.

Other candy guides out there:

 

Related reading on PSP:

Halloween Safety and General Reminders