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Look at that title–that’s a lot of 8’s! But, as you know–8 is great and in this post I’ll tell you why! I’ll give you 8 tips for trick-or-treating safely with food allergies, a great wipe that comes in handy, non-food treats you can hand out for the Teal Pumpkin Project, as well as 8 allergy-safe candies. Basically, get ready for an all-inclusive “Halloween with Food Allergies” article!
Look at those handsome boys! They have had their costumes picked out for a few months now and they can’t wait to go trick-or-treating. They also both happen to have multiple food allergies–and they both share an allergy to peanut and tree nuts. So, Halloween can seem more of a trick than a treat to me as a food allergy mom!
I wanted to share 8 tips that will help you if you’re new to trick-or-treating with food allergies. While every family is different and has totally different comfort levels, this is what’s worked for us. I think you have to totally take into consideration the temperament and personality of your child and your own anxiety levels too.
8 Tips for Trick or Treating with Food Allergies
- Talk to your kids about trick-or-treating so they know what to expect. Explain that while they will be handed candy, that they are not allowed to eat it until Mom/Dad go through it afterwards to help them pick the safe candy from the non-safe candy. I try to give them a big dinner right before so they’re less hungry and tempted to eat while en route. Be sure to be positive and point out how much fun it is to dress up, see neighbors and get to stay out late. Even though this is a pretty heavily “food holiday” you can help them remember and focus on the non-food aspects as well.
- Know your route, if possible talk to neighbors and friends beforehand. Check out the #TealPumpkinProject map to see if there are any houses participating in your neighborhood. (For those new to this concept, the Teal Pumpkin Project is an initiative where people set out teal pumpkins to alert food-allergy families that they are offering non-food items.) I know it works well for some parents to go earlier in the day, or the day before to neighbors and plant “safe” treats for their kids to be handed so it’s not up to chance and so that the neighbors are sure to have something for them.
- Check your epi-pens and make sure that they are not expired and that you know how to use them. Take them trick-or-treating with you, and a charged cell phone in case there is an emergency. Be sure you have and understand an allergy-action-plan from your allergist, so you know what symptoms merit the use of an epi-pen.
- Go with your kids–and not just on the route, but up to the door. Since my kids are still small, and many people just offer their bowl up to wanting fingers I go up to the door with my kids and help them find a safe treat in the bowl. Often there are things they can have, but instead they would unknowingly pick a Snickers since all of the colors, sizes and rush of a crowd can inadvertently not allow them to understand what they’re picking. It’s up to your comfort level, but I will let them get some things they can’t have if there are no safe options (like licorice for example that has wheat in it) because it’s individually wrapped, and really they just love the fun of grabbing stuff out of a bowl. We then just get rid of it when we divide up the safe from non-safe treats. It hurts their feelings more to say they can’t get anything at a house (and avoids tantrums) if we let them grab something.
- Get support–the more people with you, the better! While we feel bad just leaving out a bowl of candy, and a bowl of non-food treats on our door step, my husband and I both go with our kids. Part of that is because we’re obsessed with seeing them in their cute costumes, and the other part is that is that we want extra eyes to make sure they’re not tempted to eat anything during the hustle and bustle of trick-or-treating. We’ve also gone trick-or-treating with another couple and their kids who know our situation for extra eyeballs and we’re doing it again this year!
- Check and re-check the candy. I’m going to go through it and then I’m going to have my husband go through it to double check me. I have my laptop ready so that I can research the ingredients on candy I’m not familiar with or look up ingredients on candies that don’t have the ingredients on each label. Anything without an individual wrapper, or brand/name that we can verify it is automatically assumed it is unsafe.
- Be prepared with back-up. I don’t know what it is, but last year almost all of the candy handed out was chocolate (HELLO DAIRY ALLERGY)–which my son couldn’t have. My kids are still young, so while they get sad about candy being taken away for a bit, it’s pretty much out of sight/out of mind once we get rid of the non-safe stuff. I make a big deal out of “WOW! Look how many smarties you have!” to get them excited again and focused on what they DO have. Since my kids are little, I’ve also found it helps for one parent to get them into their PJs while the other gets rid of the non-safe candy so it’s not rubbing it in their faces. When they see a bowl brimming with safe candy they get all excited again. If losing candy is a big deal to your kid–you can have safe candy at home to “trade” for. If your kids are older, I’ve heard money is a great “trade” too!
- Before the kids eat their candy, I like to have them wash their hands. With them touching doorbells and reaching into bowl after bowl of other peoples’ candy you never know what residue they’ve come into contact with. Another good alternative is to use Nice N CLEAN wipes as it is antibacterial and gets rid of 99% of peanut residue on hard surfaces. I’ll also be wiping out their pumpkin buckets too just to be safe. I just found out about these and will have these at home and in my diaper bag!
Let’s talk more about these wipes and why I’m grateful the company sent me some! What made me feel really good right off the bat is that they’ve partnered with FARE–the national non-profit for food allergies. And, 1% of their profits go right back to FARE…and we all know how much more research is needed to combat food allergies.
While I was luckily given some, you can find them at CVS–which if you’re like me is on about every corner. If you’d also like to just have some delivered (I’m telling you #happymail is where it’s at!) then be sure to enter my Instagram giveaway!
If you want to know more about these handy-dandy wipes and see their full line visit: www.nicencleanwipes.com.
What if I Want to Hand out Non-Food Items For the Teal Pumpkin Project? What Should I Give?
There are three go-to places I buy my non-food “treats” at: Dollar Stores, Amazon and Oriental Trading. Dollar Stores are great for a small number and quick/last minute access. Amazon is great because, well–Amazon PRIME!!!! And, Oriental Trading is great for prices and bulk offerings. If you follow my social media, you’ll see I linked to some fun light-up items my kids would personally love. Glow sticks, small toys, stickers, cool straws, creepy looking plastic bugs are all fun items. I also went on Fox 13’s The Place to share all of my favorite recommendations for the Teal Pumpkin Project. You can watch the video by clicking on the screen shot below:
What Allergy-friendly Candy Can I Hand Out?
I get it. I totally get it. I am eating an allergy-friendly rice krispie treat as I type this (sorry keyboard!). I’m a sugar-aholic so I still set out a bowl of candy as well. Luckily, there are easy-to-find, top 8 free candies at your regular grocery store. (For those not familiar with the term “top 8 free” there are eight foods that cause over 90% of all food allergies, they are: wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, peanut & tree nuts). You can see my candy list by clicking here.
I hope this post helps all of you have a safe and wonderful holiday. Keep your ghouls and guys safe. I know it’s easy to feel anxiety and want to just ban these type of events to keep our kids safe, but I’ve found when I prepare ahead and push myself to help my kids enjoy “normal” activities as much as I can that afterwards I’m glad I did.
*Nothing in this post should take the place of your allergist/doctor’s advice. Always follow your mom-gut and do what’s best for your individual allergies and circumstances.*
Looking to make a homemade Halloween allergy-friendly treat? Try some of these favorites: