As Halloween approaches, focus on what your child with food allergies can do rather than what he or she cannot do. Sure, candy and trick or treating are synonymous with Halloween, but there’s much more to the holiday than gorging on sweet treats.
Fun Without Food
Get into the Halloween spirit by enlisting your child to help decorate for the holiday. Carve or paint pumpkins. If you cannot carve a real pumpkin because of an allergy, craft stores sell foam pumpkins that can be carved just like the real ones (an added bonus with the foam ones — no cleaning out pumpkin guts).
Get crafty and make your own Halloween decorations and costumes. Tissue paper ghosts are a cinch. Simply ball up a piece of tissue paper or a plastic shopping bag. Place it in the center of a flat sheet of tissue paper, then wrap the corners of the sheet around the ball. Tie off the ball with string to create a head. Decorate with a spooky face!
Bats and spiders are also easy and fun to make. Trace a bat shape onto a piece of black felt (white chalk works well), cut it out, add googly eyes, attach a string and fly them from trees and in doorways. To make spiders, lay down four pipe cleaners next to one another. Gather the pile, bend it in half at the midway point, then tightly twist the entire pile at the bend. Separate each “leg” and slightly bend it so the spider can stand. Glue on a pompom or cotton ball for the body. Instant spider!
Making your own costumes is a great tradition and you don’t have to be a sewing wiz to put something together. Not up for making your own costume from scratch? Buy a costume and add personal touches to make it one of a kind. If your child gets skin reactions to candy wrappers, incorporate gloves into the costume to cover his or her hands. You can also add a matching pocket, belt or bag for carrying an epinephrine autoinjector.
Trick or Treat
No need to forego trick or treating because of food allergies. Just be smart and plan ahead. To help curb your child’s desire to eat candy while out and about, feed him or her before you leave the house. Teach your child to hold out his treat bag and ask adults to put the candy in the bag. Practice this at home before you go out. If your child is very young, you can accept the treats and put them in the bag.
At the end of the night, let your child swap the allergenic candy he’s collected for safe candy, a toy or a gift card. Donate uneaten candy to a local charity, hospital or even your workplace. Some dentists participate in a candy “buy back.”
If you’re trick-or-treating with a younger child and going to just a few houses, consider providing neighbors with safe treats to give your child. This is also a great way to raise awareness and educate people about food allergies. Also remember to carry emergency medication while trick or treating, even if it’s just around the block.
There are plenty of options to trick or treating that many families are embracing whether they are dealing with food allergies or not. Host a neighborhood Halloween party. Turn your garage into a haunted house for friends and neighbors to visit. Host a Halloween fashion show.
Safe at School
In many schools, Halloween is still class party day. Enjoyment of the party starts with a positive attitude. With some planning, your child can have a safe and fun experience. If possible, volunteer to help with the party. If not, talk to the party planners and teacher about your child’s food allergies. Volunteer to bring your child his or her own personal safe treat if necessary. Most importantly, make sure all the adults at the party are aware of how to keep your child safe and what to do in the event of an allergic reaction.
Empower your child by talking to him or her, at a developmentally appropriate level, about the party game plan. Make sure he or she understands to only eat food from home or pre-approved foods. With careful preparation and good communication, the only thing you’ll have to fear this Halloween are some scary ghosts and goblins.
Take the next step:
- Learn more about the University of Michigan Food Allergy Center.
- Search for allergen-free candy options.
Other Halloween related blog posts:
Jessica Krivan has a teenage son diagnosed with multiple severe IgE-mediated food allergies, in addition to Mast Cell Activation Disease. She works with the U-M Food Allergy Center on community outreach and marketing.
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.