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Deliciously Deadly: Trick-or-Treating With Food Allergies

I love Halloween for many reasons, but mainly because I’m not in charge of it. My children take on the responsibility of planning Halloween costumes each year. They take turns picking a theme in which the whole family can participate, and from there, choosing which character they most want to portray. From The “Wizard of Oz” with Dorothy, Lion and Scarecrow, to “Inside Out” with Joy, Fear, Sadness, and Disgust; they love going all out on a theme and picking the character that best fits their personality.

Deliciously Deadly Trick or Treating With Food Allergies

Kevin, Stewart and Bob even created their own language!

However, each year I get more and more afraid of Halloween–not for the pumpkin-smashing pranksters or the scary “Pennywise” clowns that I’m sure will visit my doorstep this year.

Rather, Halloween scares me because of the candy. 

As a non-allergy parent, my radar isn’t tuned to how scary this holiday is for many parents. I don’t have to scour labels, know what foods are safe or not, or ever look at any information beyond nutritional value. 

Only because I am surrounded by loved ones with severe food allergies does this even cross my mind. I am blessed with 5 beautiful nieces, and between them, there are no peanuts, tree nuts, soy lecithin, milk, or cheese allowed. Oh yeah, just for good measure, one is allergic to our dog, too.

Hosting family parties always puts me on high-alert and my heart hurts for those who live with the fear of food allergies on a daily basis. I can’t imagine living in a world where sending your child to school, where a student might unknowingly sit next to your child with his granola bar, could literally be a life or death decision.

The Dangers of Allergies

This may sound a little overly-dramatic, but as a teacher, I scold my students often for eating food in my classroom. Though they always joke about how “dumb” it is that I take this “no food in the classroom” policy so seriously, but it truly is life or death for some of my students. Just a few weeks ago, a teacher-friend of mine shared how a boy in Minnesota died after eating a cookie at school. Warm, soft, sugary goodness took the life of someone’s baby. What if one of my students offered a cookie to someone with an allergy unknowingly? What if I was the mama that made those cookies? What if I was that mama who sent her precious son to school, not knowing he wouldn’t return home?

What if?

Common Allergens

I hate, “what ifs.” I prefer the preventative “why nots.” Why do I need to have Halloween candy with my favorites in it, when it’s not really intended for me anyway? Why not buy candy without nuts in it? Why not have a gluten free choice in your Halloween haul? It doesn’t always have to cost more money or take more time to make allergy-conscious choices. There are numerous sweet treats that avoid the top 8 allergens: peanut, tree nut, dairy, egg, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish ingredients. Why not fill an entire bowl full of allergy friendly treats so more kids can enjoy them? Maybe you can include a few sticker sheets, play-dough or stampers for the kiddos who can’t enjoy the candy?

Allergy Friendly Options

So where do you find these sweet treat superheroes? They are everywhere you go dressed up as: Dots, Skittles, Smarties, Ring Pops, Sour Patch Kids, Starburst, Swedish Fish, Blow Pops, Dum Dums, Jelly Bellies, or even Nerds. As a mama without food allergy sufferers, I can set out with my kids on Halloween and only casually check their loot to ensure their safety. If I stock my candy dish with  allergy-free treats, I can also set out knowing that our ghoulish guests are staying safe as well. 

We all know how fast little people can be when they’re on a mission, and even the most cautious of parents – who have spent YEARS teaching their children what they can and can’t eat – can lose sight of their littles for a minute. And it only takes a minute for a dangerous sweet treat to inadvertently fall into the wrong little hands. I encourage you to re-think what you set on your doorstep this Halloween, and I invite you to check out the “Teal Pumpkin Project®” that helps to ensure more children have a safe and happy Halloween.

 

Do you go all out for Halloween? Do you dress up? Whether you are the house with the king-sized candy bars or the neighbor who hands out toothbrushes, we’d love to hear how you celebrate and we’d love to know if you’ll join the Teal Pumpkin Project.

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