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Sharp Health News

Food allergies and Halloween

Oct. 23, 2015

Halloween and food allergies

What is the first thing about Halloween that comes to mind? Probably trick-or-treating or giving out candy, right? Well, for kids with food allergies, trick-or-treating poses a health risk as many popular candies and treats given out are made with the most common ingredients (peanuts and tree nuts such as almonds, walnuts, etc.; wheat, soy and milk) associated with food allergies.

When eating certain foods, a child with a food allergy experiences an adverse reaction, like hives, chest tightening, trouble breathing or anaphylaxis. Make sure to consult an allergist if you suspect this is the case with your child. By contrast, food sensitivity is a non-threatening reaction such as stomach irritation or heartburn.

Dr. John Pauls, an allergy and immunology specialist at Sharp Rees-Stealy, says Halloween shouldn’t be any different than any other day for food allergy families.

“Parents have to do the homework for their kids before going trick-or-treating,” says Dr. Pauls. “Families need to know what steps to take to keep their kids safe.”

If you have a child with food allergies, those steps are:

  1. Keep a current, unexpired Epi-pen, Auvi-Q or generic epinephrine injectable on hand at all times and know how to use it. Your child’s allergist and staff will help you learn how to do this.

  2. Create fun, safe alternatives to collecting candy or sweet treats. Dr. Pauls says many of his patient families celebrate Halloween by going to “trunk or treats” at malls, church or other social gatherings where it’s more likely to find toys, stickers and other non-food items being distributed.

If your family does not have a child with food allergies, but you would like to provide safe alternatives for your neighborhood trick-or-treaters who may, consider these tips:

  1. Put out a teal-painted pumpkin on your doorstep. This signifies that you have food allergy-safe offerings. Visit the Food Allergy Research and Education website for more information about this effort.

  2. Offer primarily non-food items. Even foods that don’t contain the most common allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy and milk) could have been packaged in a factory with those allergens present. Dr. Pauls suggests stickers, bracelets, rubber balls, notepads and other toys and trinkets that don’t pose a choking risk.

There's nothing too tricky about an allergy-friendly Halloween. Keep these tips in mind to ensure a safe and sweet night for all your little trick-or-treaters.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Pauls about food allergies for an upcoming, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com.

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