This is a reprint of a post that originally appeared in October 2008 on the now-defunct website Being Savvy San Fernando. Links to resources have been updated.
Nothing takes the fun out of trick-or-treating like food allergies in children. If your child or someone close to you has a serious food allergy that makes most candy dangerous to them, navigating Halloween can be an anxiety inducing experience. Some parents cope by skipping the ritual altogether, but as children get older and especially if they have siblings, it gets harder to deny them the fun of going door-to-door with the rest of the kids in the neighborhood.
Kim Parlee, 36, of West Haven, CT approaches Halloween, and any treat-filled holiday season, with trepidation. “I never thought I’d be afraid of a Snickers bar,” she says. Her 3-year-old daughter Kameryn was diagnosed with multiple food allergies when she was 8 months old. Since she has an older brother, trick-or-treating came with the territory, and so far Aidan serves as a willing apprentice in the effort to shield his little sister from dangerous foods.
This family takes special measures when they go door-to-door on Halloween night:
-Kameryn wears gloves to minimize contact risk. This year she’ll dress as Cinderella, so the gloves absolutely fit the costume.
-Kim goes right up to the doorsteps to help the children select the safest treats from the offered bowls.
-She tells the adults at each house that Kameryn has food allergies. People are very nice about it, and then they understand why she hovers.
After the loot is gathered, the real work begins back at home. Kim and her husband Charlie go through everything that both kids collected and read as many labels as possible. Aidan trades out safe candy with his little sister. And Kim keeps safe candy as a backup to fill Kameryn’s collection after the unsafe or questionable foods are removed.
As for giving out candy to the neighborhood children, it’s still a must to use safe treats, especially when the food allergies in your household are life-threatening and you don’t want to chance having traces of peanut in your house at all. “It’s getting harder to buy safe candy because more and more manufacturers are putting facility warnings on their labels, just to release themselves from liability,” says Kim. Her family has identified a few tried and true safe treats, mostly sugar-based hard candies and lollipops (luckily, Kam is a big lollipop fan!). Alison St. Sure provides a very comprehensive list of major candy manufacturers and their brands and links to their allergen statements on her blog, Sure Foods Living, which is dedicated to awareness of celiac disease and food sensitivities.
As an alternative to trick or treating for candy, The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis encourages kids to collect donations to support their “mission to raise public awareness, to provide advocacy and education, and to advance research on behalf of all those affected by food allergies and anaphylaxis. Every dollar, quarter, nickel, and dime counts.” You can request a collection kid for your child here.