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6 Ways to Make Halloween Safer for Children With Food Allergies

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Halloween can be an exciting season of pumpkins, costumes, spooky movies and trick-or-treating. But for parents of children with food allergies, there is a different, much more terrifying reason to be afraid of the holiday. Approximately 15 million Americans are affected by food allergies. That’s 1 in every 13 children, and those statistics continue to increase. Halloween is prime time for a majority of the eight major food allergens to circulate. They present in treats you might not expect: soy, milk, egg and even wheat are used in many fruit chews and chocolates. A greater number of candies and chocolate are made with or processed around peanuts and tree nuts, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.

As someone with mast cell disease, even a minuscule amount or exposure to an allergen can send me into anaphylactic shock. I’m 22, and I can adjust to the idea of not getting candy and understand that many may not be safe for me to eat. But that lesson can be much more difficult for a 4-year-old to understand.

Society is growing increasingly aware of the importance of accessibility and inclusivity for all, and Halloween is no exception. Here are six ways to make sure Halloween can be a safe and enjoyable holiday for all!

1. Be on the lookout for teal pumpkins.

The Teal Pumpkin Project is an initiative on behalf of the non-profit organization Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) with the intent of “creating a safer, happier Halloween” for all children. The organization advocates to make Halloween inclusive and safe for children with food allergies. When you see a teal pumpkin outside of a house, it means that house is offering non-food treats as an alternative to candy.

2. Buy candy that has an ingredient list on each piece.

Though many of the treats that are handed out on Halloween are from reputable brands, try to make sure that each piece of candy has an ingredient list on the back. This can help parents be sure that the treat is safe for their child, minimizing the risk that comes with assumption.

3. Revamp your Halloween tradition!

Make this the year to look beyond the basket of candy. Instead of filling multiple baskets with different types of candy, include a basket with non-food treats. Items like glow sticks, glow stick necklaces, bouncy balls, spider rings, Halloween-themed pencils, erasers and stationary, fake vampire teeth, stickers, sunglasses, keychains, Silly Putty or hair accessories are great! The best part is that you don’t have to look beyond your local dollar store.

4. Don’t share your candy.

We grow up with the understanding that sharing is a sign of kindness and encourage it throughout childhood, but this is one time to teach your children not to. Even though it may seem harmless and may be extended with good intentions, this can be dangerous for kids with food allergies. Encourage your children to reach out to an adult before sharing their candy with a friend.

5. Don’t snack on-the-go.

When I was old enough to understand trick-or-treating, my parents stressed the importance of making sure they checked my candy before I unwrapped and ate it. Parents, please remind your children not to eat candy before getting home and checking it thoroughly. There have been far too many stories of dangerous foreign objects or substances found in Halloween candy, but the most dangerous item for some children may be in the ingredients.

6. The Switch Witch.

In recent years over the holidays, the Elf on the Shelf trend has taken over homes worldwide. It was only a matter of time before it spread to other holidays, and this is genius! The Switch Witch is a witch figurine accompanied by a book that tells a story and encourages children to give their candy to the witch in exchange for a toy, gift, or reward of some sort. It is a great way for children with food allergies to participate in the joy of trick-or-treating and still be rewarded without the risk.

As the years progress, I can’t help but be amazed and immensely grateful for all of the initiatives and awareness being put forward to make this world a safer place for kids and adults alike. Here’s to a safe and fun Halloween for all!

Follow this journey on #SimplySabrina.

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Originally published: October 19, 2016
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