Cue the cat ears and teal jack-o-lanterns- Halloween is among us! Coming in at the top of the holiday season, Halloween is a thrilling time to gather with friends and family to celebrate all things creepy, crawly, and, dare we say, spooky. However, with food-filled activities such as Halloween parties and trick-or-treating, Halloween can seem a tad eerie for those with food allergies or their caregivers. With the right tools and careful pre-planning, your family can Make Every Moment Count and have an allergy-friendly Halloween.
From trick-or-treating to holiday parties, candy arguably rivals pumpkin as a typical Halloween staple. However, for those who are allergic to some of the top food allergens such as milk, peanuts, eggs, and tree nuts, finding safe candy can be a difficult task. In fact, A 2020 Canadian study found an 85% increase in anaphylaxis cases during holidays such as Halloween- but don't fret! Some helpful tips to celebrate safely and avoid pesky allergy interruptions include:
Reading ALL labels
It is important to read the labels of ALL candy beforehand, as differently-sized (such as mini or fun-sized) candies may contain different ingredients than their regular or king-size counterparts- even with some of your familiar go-to's. As mentioned in our post, "Tackling Valentine's Day with Food Allergies," ingredients are subject to change. Similarly, as Kids with Food Allergies Foundation notes, repackaged candy (Ex. Variety Packs) can be manufactured in facilities with different ingredients or by other manufacturers. Furthermore, treats like candy corn and nougat may contain egg whites, while chocolate may contain milk, tree nut, and peanut ingredients.
Remember: When in doubt, or if you cannot read the label clearly, it’s best to throw it out.
Recently, there have been numerous up-and-coming Top-9 Free candies that have come into the market, as well as treats made in dedicated facilities such as Enjoy Life Foods, Free2b, NoWhey, and YumEarth. Many organizations within the food allergy community have curated lists of Halloween candy that may be considered safe for some food allergies, such as this 2022 list from Allergic Living.
A Food-Free Halloween
If candy seems like a no-go this year, consider food-free activities and treats. Food-free activities can include telling scary stories, watching your favorite childhood Halloween movies, or having a food-free costume party. Arts and Crafts can be a fun, creative option, such as painting or "carving" craft pumpkins, and holiday coloring activities such as these from our friends at FAACT.
Skipping the sweets? Safe, non-food treats can include items such as toys, stickers, bracelets, glow sticks, “fangs,” and bubbles galore! Food allergy community members, such as GoDairyFree, have a great list of “The Best Food-Free Halloween Treats Picked By Kids” for a food-free Halloween. These non-food treats can often be found in households participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project.
- With the color teal representing food allergy awareness, a Teal Pumpkin signals an allergy-friendly household featuring safe, non-food treats for eager trick-or-treaters. Check out FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project, which provides a safe and inclusive Halloween experience for those with food allergies!
Making Every Moment Count
Remember to always read labels with your holiday treats this year, even with sweet treats that may appear safe at first glance. Preparation is key! Have your "Alerje" resources on hand, and, in case of reactions, always have your epinephrine auto-injectors nearby. More excellent options include "keeping it teal" by considering allergy-friendly or food-free activities. However you slice it, although Halloween celebrates all things scary, celebrating your favorite spooky holiday with food allergies does not have to be.
For more tips on thriving with food allergies or therapies such as Oral Immunotherapy (OIT), join our Facebook group, Alerje True Grit, and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. However you celebrate, Make Every Moment Count this Halloween Season and beyond- you've got this!