Let’s face it—when you have a child with food allergies, Halloween can be a scare. On the one hand, your neighbors are doling out candies that could unintentionally harm your child; on the other hand, you can’t simply tell your child that they’re barred from trick-or-treating. After all, we want our children to experience the same tradition of trick-or-treating that we enjoyed as kids!
As a Certified AllerCoach and mother of a daughter with food allergies, I’ve learned over the years that you have to get creative on this holiday. With a little planning and forethought, children with food allergies can have fun partaking in Halloween’s tomfoolery without the health risks.
Here are six ways to help make a food allergy Halloween a success:
1. Trick-or-treat inside your home. This option works well with young children. Plant family members and friends behind different doors in your house, and when the child knocks on the door, someone pops out to hand them a treat that’s safe to eat. We did this last year and my kids loved it!
2. Neighborhood trick-or-treat hacks. This option could be approached a few different ways! One approach is to research candies ahead of time that you know are safe for your child (e.g., sweet tarts or gummy bears). This way, your child is coached on which candies are safe to eat and which to turn down. They can also do a candy swap with friends at the end of the night and trade those candies they’re unable to eat for ones that are safe. This was the approach our CEO Abigail Barnes took as a child—she recalls that her brother and father benefited generously!
Another approach is choosing specific houses ahead of time that you know will have safe candies available. This requires a bit more work as you may have to call neighbors and friends to see what treats they plan to offer. Alternatively, you can plant safe treats at these houses.
One other strategy is to place a few safe snacks in your child’s trick-or-treat bag ahead of time so that if the kids start snacking while trick-or-treating, your child has some safe go-to snacks at the ready.
And follow the teal pumpkins! Thanks to the Teal Pumpkin Project, houses that display a teal pumpkin at their door are an indication that non-food treats will be available.
3. Wear costumes with gloves. There are so many costume choices out there that include gloves, which is a great safety precaution to take—especially if your child has a very sensitive food allergy. Gloves provide a barrier between their hands and the candy, thereby minimizing cross-contact. So whether they want to be Spider Man, The Green Lantern, or Elsa, they’ll be covered.
4. Get yourself a Switch Witch. My kids love our Switch Witch, who they’ve fondly named Esmerelda. The Switch Witch and The Magic of Switchcraft book encourages families to leave their candy out on Halloween night for the Switch Witch, who comes and replaces these candies with non-food treats for them to enjoy. This is a great option for kids with special dietary needs or for those families who simply want to promote healthy eating!
5. Start a new tradition. Some of my favorite holiday memories as a child were the traditions my family created together. Instead of trick-or-treating, maybe go see a scary movie or start a Halloween scavenger hunt in your neighborhood and encourage neighbors and friends to get involved! You can also host a Halloween bash at your house, where you can control what food is served.
No matter how you celebrate Halloween, the most important thing is to manage your child’s expectations and set ground rules ahead of time. This will help ensure your child’s safety, while also letting them take full advantage of all that childhood has to offer.
We wish you all a spooky and safe Halloween!
— Meg and the Allergy Amulet Team