Each year I counsel my very own patients on the risks and potential hazards with exposure to suspect food allergens, if they indeed have a bona fide food allergy. The focus is generally spent on learning to “de-code” ingredient contents as become a “label detective”. This can be the difference between a fun-filled evening with your kids and a trip to the emergency room.
Here are some tips and strategies that may help to reduce the risks during Halloween if you have children and adolescents with food allergies or asthma:
• Discard foods, candies, sweets that have been prepared in neighbor’s or friends homes.
• If food or candy is not wrapped with labels, take a pass. And when in doubt, throw it out!
• It’s always best to remove small items such as hard candies and small toys to prevent choking hazards for the little ones.
• Remember, many chocolate candies may say: “may contain peanut or nuts.” Take it seriously and avoid these foods!
• Before the Halloween holiday, consider pre-giving “safe” snacks to your friends and neighbors ahead of time for your child. This will help you and your child feel more comfortable and at ease.
• Instead of giving out only food and candies, consider having alternatives: themes, games, pumpkin carving and costumes.
• Did you know that smaller sized candy for Halloween may contain different ingredients than their regular sized counter parts?
• Teach your child to politely say no to home baked cakes and cookies, especially when the ingredients cannot be 100 percent confirmed.
• Don’t forget to read costume labels, check for products that may contain latex rubber, if an allergy exists.
• Watch out for eggs may be used to provide a shiny coating in a variety of baked foods as well as in bagels, pretzels.
• Try and avoid tight fitting masks that can be smothering, especially if you have a child with asthma.
• Avoid harsh face paints that may cause a rash, especially if your child has sensitive skin, like eczema. It is recommended to have a simple allergy test performed if your child will be wearing face paint for Halloween, to avoid unexpected allergic reactions.
• Have an early pre-Halloween dinner for your child with a food allergy. This may help to reduce temptation to try unknown or un-labeled foods.
• Keep safe snacks on hand and with you.
• Go to www.foodallergy.org and create a customized “chef card” when eating outside of your home (parties, restaurants, etc).
• Bring emergency medications such as asthma inhalers if prescribed, during trick or treating events. Remember, asthma can be a risk for more severe reactions to food allergens. Have an asthma action plan in place for optimal control now, and throughout the year.
For more information about how to have a safe Halloween and holiday season visit our educational site at www.allergyepidemic.com. To locate an allergist near you, for expert care and evaluation of a food allergy go to www.allergyandasthmarelief.org.
Dr. Clifford W. Bassett is an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Long Island College Hospital and on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine. He is the current chair for public education committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. No information in this blog is intended as medical advice to any reader or intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.