Halloween can be fun even with food allergies. How do you navigate all those treats without triggering a food allergy reaction? It can be done, and luckily, options are greater than ever before.
Top food allergens like milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, walnuts, almonds and pistachios are common in Halloween candy. Even trace amounts of these can trigger serious reactions in sensitive kids. Somewhere between 8-10% of US children have a life threatening food allergy. Among those, about 40% are allergic to more than one food. In my pediatric nutrition practice, I often meet kids who have never been screened for food reactions – and lo and behold, we find food allergies, sensitivities, or other types of food reactions, once we do deeper screening. Kids can be struggling with food allergy or sensitivity reactions, and not even know it. Halloween can be a time of year when these become more evident, with all the treats kids encounter. Although fewer families let kids wander free-range style to trick or treat unattended anymore, there’s still plenty of chance kids will bump into a nut, some milk, gluten, colors, too much sugar, or additives that may trigger trouble. Here are a few simple ideas to make sure that what your kids eat is a treat they can enjoy without spooky allergic reactions.
- Teal Pumpkin Project – Look for the Teal Pumpkin for non-food treats and little toys as your kids go door to door.
- Have a Trick or Treat Fairy in your house who secretly takes your child’s candy cache and leaves a coveted toy (or toys) in its place – like the Tooth Fairy, only better.
- Make some allergen friendly treats to trade for candy.
- There are loads of allergy free candy options available now. Check out…
- Yum Earth Organic Fruit Chews (a cleaner version of Starburst) – this company makes many varieties of GF, organic, nut free and vegan (no egg, no dairy) candies for Halloween sharing.
- Enjoy Life Rice Milk Crunch Chocolate Bar
- Yum Earth Choco Yums Quinoa Crisp candies
- Charms Organic Lollipops, Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks,
- The Natural Candy Store lets you choose candy by dietary restriction and by organic status.Give their grid a try, see what you get – it’s genius!
But What If?? What if my child eats an allergen and has a reaction? Of course keep medications like antihistamines and epinephrine handy and use them as your doctor has directed. Some non-drug supporting players that you may also use include homeopathic remedies, binders, and supplements.
Homeopathic remedies use a “like cures like” principle, in that traces of an offending substance are used to elicit recovery. Though there is plenty of bickering about the validity of this, I personally love homeopathy and have witnessed many a miraculous response to it, including in my own family. If you’d like to learn more about using it for your family, I highly recommend this book. It is a powerful modality! If you’d like to work with a homeopathic professional, expect certification in classical homeopathy. This may be a helpful adjunct to care for a child with food allergies in general. Meanwhile, here are commonly tapped remedies for food allergy reactions. These are typically given at reaction onset, that is, acutely when the reaction happens, at 8-10 pellets on tongue. Keep liquids and foods out of the mouth for about ten minutes while using the pellets. Doses are repeated every 30-60 minutes if no change or improvement, and stopped once condition improves.
Natural antihistamines are supportive as well. Consider quercetin, nettles, diamine oxidase (DAO) enzyme (this degrades histamines), or vitamin C. These can be used day to day for kids with allergies too.
Charcoal or clay binders can help bind a food once it was eaten, to mitigate its effects. Young kids can place charcoal in a little water and drink it (tasteless) while older kids may be able to swallow capsules. Contact your on call doctor for direction.
Great! Lots of options. But wait – Don’t Make This Halloween Food Allergy Fail! There’s one mistake I witness often working with well meaning parents in my pediatric nutrition practice, and that is this: Feeling sorry for your child. Or, unwittingly, for yourself. If you fear that your child is being deprived or missing out because they have a food allergy, then your child will feel this way too. If you feel worried about your child skipping the pizza at the Halloween party, your child will too. This will engender defeat, anxiety, feelings of powerlessness and sadness.
The truth is that, when needed, elimination diets can help kids feel, function, grow, and gain a lot better. They are not deprivation anymore than using insulin is deprivation for a child who needs it. If an elimination diet is useful, use it! Favorite foods may be missed, but new options, flavors, recipes and experiences await. A positive outlook is truly a key to success, when children need an elimination diet. Emphasize what feels good when allergens are avoided. Invite curiosity with your kids about new tastes, textures, and recipes. Usually children of all ages are delighted to feel better when replenished with foods that are non-triggering, and I have witnessed this hundreds of times over my decades in clinical nutrition practice.
Halloween is full of junky processed candy, but it’s a tradition that many kids really enjoy. Don’t sweat it if they are eating some sugary treats for a few days, or chat about how terrible it is for them to eat these. Allow some fun and enjoy a safe and Happy Halloween!