Nutrition • Oct 31, 2017

Parenting a child with food allergies through Halloween

HalloweenContemplating Halloween costume ideas has been a favorite Fall activity for my two children for the past several years. So far, we’ve had the football and cheerleader combo, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and The Big Bad Wolf, and Batman and Catwoman.  This year, be on the lookout for Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia in your neighborhood!

Halloween has been a fun tradition since having my own children, but last year’s Halloween required some adjustment on my family’s part. My then 4 year-old son had been diagnosed with a severe tree nut allergy over the summer — complete with an ER visit, medical air transport, and PICU stay. We’ll never forget how that vacation ended.

Our family adjusted to a tree nut free home, and thankfully his daycare was already nut free. We found the allergy-friendly restaurants in our neighborhood and learned to quickly leave when a restaurant either did not seem to take our dietary need seriously or was not able to accommodate someone with a food allergy.

When October rolled around, I realized how much of a nightmare Halloween would be for a little guy who loved the tradition of trick-or-treating. My husband and I talked with him ahead of time about how Halloween would be different this year. We talked about how we would need to check the labels of all candy, and if we were not 100 percent sure something was safe, he would not be allowed to eat it. Our family had decided after we found out about the allergy that if our 4-year-old was not able to eat something, then — as a family — we would not eat it unless he did not mind. He and our then 6-year-old worked it out that if he got an unsafe piece of candy, he could trade it for one of her safe pieces of candy (but only if he was ok with anyone eating it!). This arrangement worked out well, and we decided to not go to as many houses as we would have had we not had a food allergy. But it was quite time consuming (and anxiety provoking) to read tiny labels on every piece of candy. And even then, I would watch him closely as he was eating the candy to make sure he was not having an anaphylactic reaction anyway!

Shortly before Halloween last year, I learned about the Teal Pumpkin Project, launched in 2014 by Food Allergy & Research Education (FARE).  When I read about the project, I thought it was such a great idea, especially for the 1 in 13 children who has food allergies.  The project basically involves having a teal colored pumpkin on your porch if you are offering non-food options as treats: little toys, pencils, stickers, bracelets, etc. Kids seem to really get into this option, even if they do not have food allergies. It’s dentist, approved, too!

My family is excited to participate in this project this year! The FARE website is a wonderful resource to learn more about food allergies. It includes a downloadable sign for the Teal Pumpkin Project that can be hung on the front porch to raise awareness of your allergy-friendly options for Halloween.  Luke Skywalker would love for the word to get out!


Comments are closed.