The spooky decorations and scary movies around Halloween make this holiday a favorite for many adults and children alike. But for parents of kids with food allergies, there’s an entirely different reason to be frightened. Wheat, milk, soy, egg, and other common food allergens are found in everything from chocolate bars to caramel candies to fruit chews. What’s more, many goodies are processed on the same equipment as peanuts and tree nuts, making them unsafe for sensitive individuals.
Then, there’s the coronavirus pandemic looming over this year’s holiday festivities. To reduce the spread of this illness, everyone must take extra precautions. If you want Halloween 2020 to be more thrilling than chilling, follow these safety tips to avoid exposure to food allergies and COVID-19.
Food Allergy Safety Tips for Halloween
Whether you’re attending a Halloween party, hosting an event at your house, or simply going trick-or-treating, it’s important to take food allergies seriously. Here’s how to make the holiday a safe and fun experience for children with food allergies:
Bring epinephrine with you: Carry your child’s epinephrine auto-injectors while trick-or-treating, attending parties, visiting stores, or going anywhere else that might involve handing out candy. In fact, you should keep an epinephrine auto-injector with you at all times.
Talk to Halloween party hosts: Make sure a responsible adult who knows about your child’s allergies will be supervising any Halloween parties your child attends. Teach your child what to do if they think they’re having an allergic reaction, including seeking help from an adult.
Read food labels before eating: Discourage your child from nibbling on goodies while trick-or-treating. Wait until you get home to examine the labels for possible food allergens. Keep in mind that many individually wrapped fun-size candies don’t contain ingredient lists, so you may need to look them up online. If any products are homemade or have no label, throw them out.
Trade out allergen-filled candies with non-food treats: Remove any goodies from your child’s stash that could cause an allergic reaction. To make this process easier, swap out candy for glow sticks, Halloween-themed pencils, stickers, plastic spider rings, and other non-food treats.
Bring your own goodies to share: Host parties at your house so you can easily serve allergen-free snacks. When attending events elsewhere, consider bringing goodies you know are safe for your child to eat. Bring enough for everyone so your child doesn’t feel singled out.
Teach your child to “always ask first”: A well-meaning friend may offer your child a piece of candy, forgetting that they’re allergic. To prevent a mishap, make sure your child knows to always ask you, a teacher, or another adult who knows about their allergies whether the food is safe to eat.
Talk to your neighbors: Friends and neighbors may want to provide allergen-free candy at parties and for trick-or-treaters, but they’re not sure what to buy. Share with them what to look for when purchasing candy, or provide them with a list of safe goodies they can give your child.
Look for teal pumpkins: Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) created the Teal Pumpkin Project in 2014 to raise awareness and provide safe options for trick-or-treaters with food allergies. Participants place a teal pumpkin outside their home, indicating they have allergen-free, non-food treats available. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the campaign does not include a teal pumpkin map this year, but the website has plenty of other resources to explore.
COVID-19 Safety Tips for Halloween
Many Halloween activities have a high risk of spreading the coronavirus. Traditional trick-or-treating, crowded costume parties, indoor haunted houses, and hayrides with people who live outside your household should all be avoided this year. Consider these alternative, lower-risk ways to enjoy Halloween with family and friends:
– Follow day-to-day coronavirus safety precautions, including maintaining a six-foot distance from others, wearing a cloth face covering, and regularly washing your hands.
– Keep in mind that a plastic Halloween costume mask is not a substitute for a mask designed to slow the spread of COVID-19. Avoid wearing a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because this could make it difficult to breathe. Instead, consider wearing a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
– Carve pumpkins with members of your household and display them on your porch.
– Carve pumpkins with friends or neighbors in an outdoor setting where tables are set up at a distance.
– Decorate your living space for the fall season.
– Participate in socially distant trick-or-treating. One idea is to place individually wrapped goodie bags on a table at the end of your driveway. This way, trick-or-treaters can grab and go without reaching into a communal candy bowl or crowding your front porch.
– Seek out open-air events, such as an outdoor costume parade, pumpkin patch, apple orchard, haunted forest, or corn maze where guests are required to wear face coverings and remain at least six feet apart.
– Host an outdoor Halloween movie night, with friends and neighbors spaced out appropriately.
– Hold a virtual Halloween costume contest with your children and their friends.
– Have a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt, either with household members around your home or with neighbors walking from house to house.
– Do not participate in any in-person Halloween festivities if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or think you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
With these food allergy and coronavirus safety tips in mind, you should be all set to enjoy Halloween safely this year. Remember, accurately diagnosing food allergies is the first step toward proper treatment. Whether your child shows minor signs of food intolerance or experiences a severe allergic reaction, Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM can help. To request allergy testing or treatment, please call 610-825-5800 to set an appointment at one of eight convenient office locations in the Philadelphia area.