Monday, October 21, 2013

Halloween with Food Allergies -- Thoughts from a Mom Who's Been There

It's that time of year again! You know--when you start seeing articles talking about how "scary" Halloween is for kids with food allergies (I've said it on this blog!). All clich├ęs aside, I've always believed that if kids with food allergies really want to participate in Halloween trick or treating, there are ways to do this. It doesn't have to be scary and intimidating. With a little common sense and a lot of flexibility, it can be fun and even educational about what foods are safe and what foods are best to avoid.

I have several posts about how we've handled Halloween over the years and now that my oldest (with allergies) no longer goes trick-or-treating, I am here to tell you that for us, at least, Halloween can be a lot of fun whether you decide to trick or treat or not. If your child doesn't want to trick or treat, don't force them. As parents, sometimes the prospect that our kids are limited from certain things because of allergies is more painful for us than it is for them. They often don't know any other way of life so it's less of a big deal for them. I'd rather be positive about the things they can do. Below are two of my most popular Halloween posts:


If you have a very young child who is not going to understand or appreciate that mom and/or dad have to take away a lot of their candy "score," you might want to limit the trick or treating and try some other fun stuff instead. Maybe they can just trick or treat at grandma's house or the homes of a few friends who are in the food allergy loop and will have some "safe" treats to offer. Again, my posts above have some ideas.

Some kids don't particularly enjoy Halloween--food allergies or not. So if they would rather hang out at home and pass out candy, don't assume it's all about the allergy. For example, my non-allergic child hated getting into a costume until she was past age 5. She did not enjoy Halloween until kindergarten, much to our general amusement. Once I realized this, I let it go. The important thing is that the child feels good about what they're doing. This goes double for kids with allergies -- if they're forced to go out and then have to give up all the candy--that's no fun for anyone!

One important note regarding food allergies and school: Speak to your child's teacher now.  Ideally you have a written plan in place for dealing with food allergies in the classroom, but it never hurts to touch base and reiterate how your child should not be given unauthorized food.

Halloween is a great time to work with your child on saying "no" to foods that are not given the OK by you. The trade off is that your child will get some "safe" treats -- edible or non-edible, your choice, of course -- when they do have to say no. Over the years, I've found that helps ease the "pain" of refusing the mountains of unsafe candy kids may encounter at Halloween. Again, my blog posts above have some suggestions for alternative activities/treats at Halloween.

If you're in the market for some delicious and nut-free Halloween candy or treats, please take a look at several of my blog sponsors (to the right of this page, just click the image to go to the company web site)-many good nut-free choices there! Peanut Free Planet is another excellent source --this site is a treasure trove of not only nut-free but other "free from" candies and treats.

My daughter is  headed for high school next year and she is a well-adjusted, confident young woman. I can guarantee that even if she felt badly at times that she had to turn in most of a candy bag, this has not been an experience that has had any lasting negative effects that I can see. It's hard to deny candy to a little kid who is asking for it. But attitude is everything. Be upbeat and find alternative activities, alternative treats -- there are many more of them out there right now -- and it does help.

For all of you just beginning the journey that is holidays with food allergies, hang in there. Follow your gut instincts, focus on having fun with your kids, keep your safety measures in place and the rest will fall into place.

Don't forget to enjoy your kids. Now that my kids are older, I already miss the days when my oldest wanted to dress up and trick or treat, hand out candy, watch Halloween Town on TV or whatever. Parents, I know it can be stressful but enjoy these enthusiastic little faces while you can. They'll be grown up before you know it.

However you decide to handle it, have a fun, happy and safe Halloween! For more general advice on living with nut allergies in general, check out my e-book.Thanks to all of you who have made it a bestseller on Amazon!

Yes, that is a Nancy Drew pumpkin on the left, for the Nancy Drew nerds out there.



Matthew said...

Hey Jenny, great blog and fantastic advice on how parents can deal with their children's allergies with Halloween right around the corner.

Gratefulfoodie said...

I just love anything Halloween! Your pumpkins are darling and it's nice knowing there is a huge group of us food allergy types trying to make the most of Halloween and succeeding in making better than the "average" person's Halloween.

Megan said...

Hi I'm a freshman with my own Peanut-Treenut allergy, pretty severe, (supposedly I'd have anaphylaxis if ingested and hives/rash if I had contact with nuts, but I've only had hives reaction before,) but anyways, all of my cousins and I have a party at my house every Halloween since I can remember and what we do is I go out and collect candy with everyone else, nut-free or containing nuts, and by the end of the night when we get back home we have kind of a trading "fair," where we lay out all of our candy and not eating any nut-candy while I'm around, my cousins trade out the treats I can't eat for what I like from what they had gotten. If I have any leftovers, my parents take it to work and will eat it there and trade me in return some of the candy they distributed that was left over. It is a win-win system for everyone and it's pretty safe for me and I still get a lot of the candy!

Jenny said...

Thanks everybody for your comments. I love your solution, Megan, because it allows you to hang out with the cousins and still get some "safe" candy for yourself. They sound very supportive! Families working together on allergies is always a win-win. Thanks for your sharing your Halloween strategy!

LancasterMom said...

Hi Jenny! Thanks for your timely blog. My daughters are 9 and 5, and enjoy Halloween, but they do NOT enjoy dumping almost every piece of candy into a give-away bag at the end of the night. Do you know that the Great Pumpkin comes to homes of food allergic children? Yes, the kids place the 'unsafe' food on the porch on Halloween night, and the Great Pumpkin leaves them a bag of goodies and little toys they CAN enjoy. Happy Halloween everyone!