Halloween is one of the best nights of the year for kids who get to collect candy and dress up. For kids with food allergies, it is still fun, but can also be dangerous. Moms of kids with food allergies know just how stressful it can be to have kids who can’t eat certain foods but who still want to participate in the holiday. Below are my 8 best tips for staying safe this Halloween, whether that means double checking your candy or staying in with an alternate activity.
1. Bring Emergency Medicines With You
Double check your medication before leaving the house for trick-or-treating. Make sure you have the Epi-pen, Benadryl, Zofran, or whatever you need in order to keep your kids healthy.
2. Look for Teal Pumpkin Houses
Check the list of Teal Pumpkin Project locations, or look for teal pumpkins on porches near you. If you don’t know what the Teal Pumpkin Project is, it helps match kids with allergies together with houses that offer non-food treats. As a house that passes out candy, you can put your house on their list for trick or treaters in your area to find. You can list the hours that you will be home and what type of treats you have to pass out, or you can just add your home address.
Houses are also encouraged to place a teal-colored pumpkin outside their house to help kids find the right location.
This tip may work best if you are in a larger city, or an area that is more allergy-friendly. In our area last year, there was one house on the map, and it was 30 minutes away. This year, there are over 30 businesses that are participating all over our town!
I honestly wasn’t expecting to see that since we live in a small town. Check the map, even if you looked last year or several weeks ago.
3. Alert Others to Your Child’s Medical Issues
Consider a medical alert bracelet – if you already have one, make sure your kids are wearing it and that the information is up to date. If something were to happen, this helps first responders see that your child has allergies at a glance. This is especially helpful if your peanut allergy child is able to go Trick or Treating with friends on his own, or if you have kids going with friends or neighbors.
Kids are likely to eat the candy as they go house to house, so even if your child knows not to eat anything until you check it over, their friends probably won’t be thinking to check if their candy has nuts in it while they eat it around your child.
4. Double Check the Ingredients
Double check the ingredients of EACH piece of candy that your child will be eating. I’ve written a master guide to safe candies for kids with allergies, and it has a HUGE list of popular Halloween candy and their top allergens.
The ingredients can be different for the holiday varieties of many popular candies, so make sure you look at them all. Certain sizes of candy bars can be gluten free, while others are not. Some regular versions of candy are soy free, but the fun size is not. Some of it depends on the factory that the candy is packaged in.
My best tip here is to make a list of candy that you know is safe ahead of time, and stick to those candies (especially if you are passing out munchies in the dark). I know it can be so tempting to start opening candies as soon as you collect them, but take a couple of seconds and read the label twice to make sure it’s safe.
5. Pass Out Treats to the Neighbors in Advance
This is great if you have a close knit neighborhood or family that is close by that you trust. We hand out safe candy and toys to neighbors that know our kids the night before. Check with them beforehand to make sure they are ok with it and see if they will be home. Then leave them a little note that tells what costume your kids will be wearing, along with a bag of treats to pass out to your child.
6. Skip Trick or Treating Altogether
For those with very dangerous or severe allergies that make participating in trick or treating a no go, schedule some alternate activity that makes the night special without the food. Consider checking out a fall festival, staying home with a movie and passing out non-food treats to other kids, or completing a family scavenger hunt as an alternate activity.
You can do so many things to make this really fun still – make a tent and camp out in the living room with glow sticks or have a puzzle building contest. This is great for older kids with severe food allergies or limited food options.
Last year my husband had COVID-19 on Halloween. We were quarantined, and we couldn’t pass out any candy. Instead, we had a couple of sweet friends who dropped bags of candy on our front porch.
We took that and our candy that we were going to pass out to trick or treaters, and I hid it around the house. Then we turned off all the lights and let the kids hunt for the candy using flashlights. It was so much fun, and it really took the sting out of not being able to go trick or treating. This could be done with small toys or baggies of safe food if your child can’t do any candy.
7. Instead of Eating the Candy, Donate It!
Trick or treat for as much candy as possible, then work with your kids to box it up and donate it to deployed soldiers or kids in the hospital through your local Ronald McDonald house. There are several programs where local businesses (usually dentist offices) partner to collect extra Halloween candy and then they ship it to troops who are deployed. Treats for Troops and Operation Gratitude both have programs like this in the United States.
8. Trade Out the Candy for a Toy
Have the Switch Witch pay your kids a visit. The Switch Witch comes at night to swap out candy for a basket of toys, or in some cases one large toy. If you want the Switch Witch to visit, have your kids trick or treat as usual, then at the end of the night set their candy buckets out on the porch. While everyone is sleeping, the Switch Witch will come and trade their candy for a toy!
No matter how you decide to spend your Halloween, stay safe!