Halloween can be a tough time for kids with allergies… and parents of kids with allergies. My son has a severe peanut allergy, an allergy to eggs, and one to sesame. The very idea of sending him out to collect candy that has peanut butter and peanuts is terrifying.
For years, we managed to put it off by having him give out non-allergen candy instead at my parents’ house. He still got to dress up, show off his costume to his grandparents, see a few friends who would come by, maybe go to a Halloween parade, and be none the wiser.
When he was 4, he figured it out. If his friends could go to all of these houses and get candy, he could probably do that, too. We made it clear to him that we would be going through his bag and his younger sister’s bag to take out any candy he couldn’t eat. He completely understood, and we just went around the block, which also tamped down the amount of candy we’d have to sort through.
Last year, we reiterated our rule when we started trick-or-treating. To my surprise, he started pre-screening, asking me from the top of stoops if he was allowed to take some of the pieces of candy that he was being handed. This cut down on our work even more, though it was slightly embarrassing and a little harder when there were swarms of children trying to get to the bowl.
For the first time this year, we’re giving out candy at our own home before trick-or-treating. And, as I think about what to buy for our bowl, I know others are, as well. So, here are a few guidelines, if you’re interested in being allergy-sensitive:
1. Read the labels. Different parents have different opinions about “made on equipment in a facility that contains nuts, etc.” If you’re giving out candy that has a label like that and you want to be sensitive, you can put it in a different bowl or just don’t buy it.
2. It’s harder with a mixed bag of mini-candy bars but it’s a pretty good bet that something in those bags won’t work out.
3. Candies that are usually safe for kids with peanut allergies: gummy anything (bears, worms, etc.); jelly beans; lollipops and sucking candies; Hershey’s usually does a pretty good job with their kisses and chocolate bars (of course, don’t get the ones with nuts); and, of course, raisins (don’t underestimate them).
4. Additionally, I won’t let my children eat anything unpackaged. Despite the fact that you may have painstakingly put little treats into snack bags or baked anything, I can’t give that to my son and it will be thrown out. If I can’t see the label, I can’t make sure that it’s OK.
5. If you’re terribly frustrated by trying to navigate all of this, you could go a totally different route and hand out stickers or spider rings.
You can also participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project. This project is to help kids and parents concerned about allergies easily identify houses that are giving out non-allergen candies or non-candy treats. You can paint a pumpkin teal and put it out, and there are also posters that you can print out from the website.
As a parent of a child with allergies, I appreciate any consideration you give to these ideas to help make Halloween safer for more children. Happy Halloween!