How To Handle Allergies At Halloween
One big challenge for families dealing with food allergies is Halloween. When a holiday is specifically targeted at kids, and the whole point is to collect as much candy as possible, what are parents and their food-allergic kids to do? Here are 9 tips that have proven useful as we’ve learned how to handle my son Gabriel’s allergies at Halloween:
1. Set ground rules
It’s important to have ongoing conversations about allergies with kids given that the reality is, you cannot be with them at all times and they need to learn to advocate for themselves. So, set age-appropriate ground rules. For example, with younger kids, tell them not to eat any candy while out so you can check everything that comes in and make sure it’s safe to eat.
2. Bring your allergy meds with you
Better safe than sorry. Because even if you talk with your kids about not eating while out, the excitement may overtake them!
3. Teach them what to avoid
People tend to (generously!) have options in their Halloween bowls, so to lessen disappointment once they get home, teach your kids which common Halloween candies to avoid.
4. Figure out sibling protocol
For siblings without allergies, decide how treats are handled in your family. So long as there are enough checks in place for your food-allergic kid(s), it may be fine to have all manner of candy around. We’ve decided to keep it simple and make Halloween an allergen-free holiday for Gabriel and his two siblings. Kids understand this stuff remarkably early as long as it is a regular topic of conversation. Even at just 4 years old, Gabriel’s brother could repeat a list of candies that would not be okay for Gabriel, and also why they aren’t okay for any of us to have (e.g., accidentally transferring the allergen via kissing, holding hands, etc.).
5. Be label conscious
Once we get the kids home, our general rules are: 1) no label = no good; and, 2) read the ingredients every time…these change often, and different sized candy packages can have different ingredient lists.
6. Invent a Halloween fairy
We did this for a number of years when Gabriel was little enough to not know the difference and I wasn’t keen on him having any candy (never mind that to which he was allergic). The Halloween fairy comes and takes all of the candy piled in the middle of the kitchen table and replaces it with an inexpensive toy.
7. Swap the candy haul for allergen-free options
A variation on #6 is to simply swap your child’s candy haul with allergen-free treats (homemade or bought). Present it in cute, simple Halloween packaging and it will feel festive!
8. Play up the costume part of Halloween
One way to make the candy less of a big deal is to enjoy the costumes! Costume prep is a big source of fun in our house and while the kids are getting ready we also delight in all of the costumes that come to our door.
9. Be prepared with allergy-friendly alternatives for other kids
Allergies are so tricky, given that it’s not just about nuts; many kids have allergies to egg, milk, soy, and corn. The good news? There are lots of Halloween candy alternatives you can toss into your bowl to make for a fun holiday for everyone!