Friday, October 30, 2009

Trick-or-Treating with Nut Allergies

When my daughter was first diagnosed with life-threatening peanut and tree nut allergies, we considered not doing the whole trick-or-treating thing. It just seemed counterproductive and potentially harmful emotionally. Why be handed lots of candy that you can't eat? We thought about doing other Halloween activities, like attending Halloween-themed events at the zoo and Chicago museums, but seriously thought about just skipping the candy routine.

My daughter was 5 years old at the time and all she cared about was dressing up like a Disney Princess (that year, I think it was Sleeping Beauty.) She really wanted to go door to door in her fancy costume and I didn't want to have her miss out. Thinking back to my own childhood, Halloween was never only about the candy. It was mostly about dressing up and hanging out with my friends after dark. Candy was a nice side benefit--but definitely not the whole show.

Why should it be any different for my daughter then? We decided to take her out and just have her hand us the obvious unsafe candies--Snickers, Reeses, Butterfingers, M&Ms, and sort through the rest of it later.

It was amusing to see the reactions of neighbors who tried to hand my daughter a Snickers bar. She would politely refuse, ask if they had anything else and then say "OK, then. Thank you anyway" and skip back down the street. Most were like "huh?" A few thought she was being ungrateful or picky. So what? She was so empowered. Finally, I said "just take the candy and I'll put it in a separate bag." That's what she did and all was well.

When we got home, I traded her unsafe candy for a Halloween treats bag: Bonne Belle lip balm, stickers, safe candy and a Halloween book. She loved it!

By the next year, she was running back to me to hand me Snickers bars and the running to the next house without a second thought. Let me tell you, people love their Snickers. I had a bag full of them by the end of the night. No matter. Being with her buddies and dressing up was enough for my daughter--plus she knew she got her own special goody bag later.

A lot of you may wonder "what's the point" about trick-or-treating with nut allergies but if your child really wants to do it, I say go for it. It's a way to show them that they can participate with other kids, while still being careful about their allergy. Now that my daughter is older and her trick-or-treating days are numbered, I'm so glad she enjoyed this. I don't think she'll remember the bag full of Snickers as much as she'll remember the good times she had dressing up, seeing "spooky" decorations and running around in the dark with her friends.

Have a Happy and Safe Halloween!!!


Susan said...

My son is 6 1/2, and while we've only had peanut/tree nut allergies for 2 years, we've been dealing with with food issues for over 5 years because of celiac disease diagnosis. We use the "Great Pumpkin" switch. While we're out trick or treating, the Great Pumpkin comes and brings a goodie bag filled with treats & candy that is safe for our son to eat. Overnight, the Great Pumpkin returns & takes the unsafe candy. We already have the goodie bag put together & will leave it with a neighbor to bring it inside when we're out. It's probably the last year we can get away with it, but it makes him happy.

Unknown said...

My triplet 5 year old girls love to go house to house. We couldn't separate the allergic girl from the event and let the sisters go. So, we took them all out. The only rule is that they can't eat any of the candy until mommy and daddy make sure it is all safe. Not just from peanuts but from people trying to cause them harm. They get too much candy and never really notice the amount that I have to take away with peanuts. Let children be children. (Great article)

Anonymous said...

We had the same issue when my son was first diagnosed and decided to take a similar route. After we are done Trick or Treating we allow him to keep any candy that might be safe for him and the rest goes out o0n the front porch for The Great Pumpkin. Great Pumpkin takes the candy and leaves a small toy or book for our son.

RLR said...

It's a tough call here, too. I'm thinking we will do Trick-or-Treat for Unicef, and take along a bag just in case we end up with candy, too. I think, as adults, we worry about it much more than the kids do!

Crazy Nut Lady said...

Nice. It just goes to show that with a little thought, you can take a potentially dangerous situation, modify it a bit, and let your PA kid enjoy the acitivities all of thier other friends do. We too are wondering about how to handle Hallowee, but one thing is certain and that is that our child will be enjoying it like all the other kids on the street.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article! I'm getting pretty nervous about tomorrow night (1st time w/PA)! We are going to a Fall Festival at our church and most of the people are aware of DS's peanut allergy...but still!

We've had a couple "practice runs" the past 2 days with 2 costume parades at nursing homes. I kept safe candy in my purse just in case and was sooo glad I had it bcs the one nursing home had so much nut candy. The 2nd nursing home gave out everything nut-free but M&Ms! They were aware of children's allergies bcs some of the staff had kids w/the same thing! It was really neat that DS could eat everything that was given to him!

I am switching to a bag tomorrow night rather than pumpkin bcs it's just too easy for my 2 1/2 yr old to reach in the pumpkin and play w/the candy! We've already got a safe bag to trade him when we get in the car!

Thanks again for sharing your experiences and helping us out!

Kelsey said...

We have used the trick or treat candy as an excuse to trade for something we might have bought anyway - last year it was the new Tinkerbell movie. She was allowed to trade piece for piece for safe candy, or turn in a load of candy for the movie - she picked the movie! :-)

I also know of some local dentists who do candy buy back and send the candy to the troops - another idea for us allergy folks.

jenny said...

Jenny, I personally think your way of handling trick or treating is super, I love the whole idea and will likely give it a try sometimes in the future...when someone is old enough to ask :)
We avoid it of course due to her young age, and me, not growing up in the US, completely NOT getting the "fun" part of the Halloween, up to this day, my idea of the Halloween still stays as the first few years when I came to the US - which is college time and everyone goes crazy.... not inspiring at all. That said, I still hope your girls have fun and stay safe!

Unknown said...

We always trick or treat and just bring all the candy home for Daddy to take to work the next day. I have PLENTY of safe candies at home, and they are happy to have them. They really don't care where the candy comes from, they just want to eat it!

Confessions of a Mother, Lawyer & Crazy Woman said...

The trading idea is brilliant ... glad your daughter had a fun Halloween! Switching candy is a great idea.

I actually just posted about our yearly Great Pumpkin Halloween switch-out ... thought you might enjoy son's reaction ....

Thanks for blogging about these issues! So much good info to share!