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Halloween is a fun time for carving pumpkins, dressing up in costumes, going out trick-or-treating and having a Halloween party.  Many kids wait all year for the night when they can go out collecting candy, candy and more candy.  Although trick-or-treating is fun, it can be a scary horror for children with food allergies.

A report issued in 2008 by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states that the number of children with food allergies has increased more than 18% over the last 10 years.  In 2007, it was estimated that approximately 3 million children and teens under the age of 18, in the United States, had digestive food allergies.  This staggering number accounts for nearly 4% of that age group, or one in twenty two children.  In comparison, 10 years ago, approximately 3.3% or 2.3 million children had digestive food allergies. 

Since food allergies are definitely on the increase, what types of foods seem to be causing the biggest problem for children?  There are eight types of food that account for 90% of all food allergies.  The most common type of digestive food allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, fish, shell fish and wheat.  Reactions to these foods can vary from hives, to watery eyes, tingling around the mouth and lips, a rash, difficulty breathing and even death.

Trick or treating and Halloween parties can heighten the danger for kids with food allergies.  Here are a few tips for you, to help you and your child have a treat and not a scare for Halloween.

  1. When shopping for Halloween candy or food, check the labels to see if it states that the product may contain nuts, tree nuts etc.
  2. When trick-or-treating, help your child to pick only nut-free candy or a candy that contains ingredients that they are not allergic to.
  3. As soon as your child returns home from trick-or-treating, double check the candy they received.  Go through his or her candy and separate out all the treats that may contain nuts, or any other ingredients that may cause a reaction.
  4. Give you neighbors Halloween treats in advance to hand out to your child.
  5. If you or a loved one eats a product containing nuts, make sure to brush your teeth and wash your hand before you kiss or hug your child.  The residue that is left on you may cause an allergic reaction for your child.
  6. Wipe down all surfaces that are exposed to nuts.
  7. If you’re having a party, or are at a party, make sure that all dishes, pans and serving utensils are thoroughly cleaned prior to being used if a nut product was in it, or touched it.
  8. Have a party at your house, so you can serve treats that you know will be safe.  Have everyone that comes to the party bring safe treats (you can prepare a list), put the different treats in each room of your house and let the kids go trick-or-treating from room to room.  To make it even more exciting, decorate your house like a haunted house.
  9. When trick-or-treating, carry your child’s emergency medicine and bring hand wipes along with you to clean little hands that may accidentally touch the wrong treat.
  10. If you get too much candy, you can always donate some candy.

With the many varieties of food products that are available, it is very easy to find Halloween treats that don’t contain nuts or any other ingredients that your child may be allergic to.  It is also easier than ever to find healthier options than candy, or  items that are fun.  Here are a few options:

  1. Fruit snacks made with 100% fruit with added vitamin C
  2. Animal shaped graham crackers
  3. Juice boxes with 100% fruit juice
  4. Low-fat pudding cups
  5. Cereal bars made with fruit
  6. Mini rice cakes
  7. Baked pretzels
  8. Whole grain goldfish crackers or other types of crackers
  9. Mini play dough
  10. Stickers or rub on tattoos
  11. Small stuffed toys
  12. Glow sticks

Wishing everyone a safe and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!