Halloween is supposed to be a spooky time of year. And if your child has a peanut allergy, it can go from spooky to terrifying.
Whether your child plans to attend a Halloween party or show off their costume while trick-or-treating, you may be concerned about their exposure to peanuts in candy and other Halloween treats. In some cases, exposure can cause more mild side effects, like hives. But in other cases, it can be life-threatening.
Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children, so you're not alone if you're searching for ways to keep your child safe while also allowing them to enjoy the festivities of Halloween.
Peanut allergy awareness is spreading, making Halloween activities more inclusive for all children. Still, it's critical to remain proactive about keeping your child safe during the treat-filled festivities.
Here are 3 ways to keep your child safe as they celebrate Halloween:
1. Be Extra Careful About Treats Out of Your Control
Whether it's during trick-or-treating, Halloween parties, or other festivities, Halloween tends to center around candy and desserts. Even though these treats may be tempting for your child, it's important to make sure they aren't exposed to any peanut-filled treats.
Even though peanut allergies aren't likely to be triggered by casual skin contact - except in the most severe cases - a reaction can occur if your child touches their eyes, nose, or mouth with skin that has traces of peanuts on it.
The most effective way to prevent a reaction is for your child to avoid peanut and peanut products. Some ways to do this include:
- Going through their trick-or-treat bag and taking out any candy that contains peanuts or has a label with a statement such as "may contain peanuts"
- Not letting your child eat any candy that doesn't have a label with a list of ingredients
- Informing party hosts of your child's peanut allergy - and consider offering to make some peanut-free treats to contribute
- Making sure your child's teacher knows about their peanut allergy - and asking them about the school's peanut policy
- Staying wary of labels such as "allergy-safe" or "classroom-safe," which may be marketing tactics that aren't a guarantee of a peanut-free treat
Remember - food allergies are unpredictable. Just because your child has only experienced a mild reaction in the past does not guarantee that they won't have a severe reaction one day. Because of this, it's important to be extra cautious, especially when candy and treats are flowing freely.
2. Have a Plan in Place in Case of an Allergic Reaction
No matter how careful you are, peanut exposure to your child is always a possibility. You don't want to isolate your child from the holiday fun - but you also don't want to put your child in a life-threatening situation.
Before the spooky season even begins, it's important to have a plan in place if your child becomes exposed to peanuts. This plan can save your child's life any day of the year - not just around Halloween and other holidays.
With your child's pediatrician, create an action plan for an allergic reaction. This document outlines the symptoms of an allergic reaction and what should be done for each one. Provide a copy of this document to all of your child's caregivers, including teachers, friends' parents, and babysitters.
Your child may also need to carry an epinephrine autoinjector (commonly known as an EpiPen). An EpiPen contains a single dose of medication to treat your child during an anaphylactic emergency - or a sudden, life-threatening allergic reaction.
An anaphylactic reaction can be deadly. If you believe your child is experiencing an anaphylactic reaction, administer an EpiPen and call 9-1-1.
If your child is old enough to go trick-or-treating without you, make sure they keep a charged cell phone and a list of emergency contacts on hand. Also, consider talking to older children about recognizing their own symptoms of an allergic reaction. They may be the first ones to notice the symptoms, and it's important to encourage them to communicate these to an adult.
3. Try to Keep Festivities as Fun as Possible
Halloween is an exciting time of year for children. It's all about crafting the coolest costume, choosing the best trick-or-treating route, and making the spookiest crafts.
However, it can be frustrating for your child if they're constantly told they have to be extra careful compared to their friends and classmates.
Some ways to keep your child's Halloween spirits up include:
- Setting up a system where they can swap peanut-containing treats with ones that you have ready at home, such as toys or peanut-free candy
- Taking your children to donate their peanut-containing treats someplace local, such as a fire station to give thanks to the firefighters for their service
- Writing a note to your neighbors ahead of time about your child's allergy and providing them with a small peanut-free treat to hand to your child when they come trick-or-treating
- Having your child choose allergen-free treats to have at your house for other trick or treaters
- Having your child bake peanut-free Halloween themed treats to bring to school
- Hosting your own Halloween celebration full of allergen-free treats
- Handing out non-food treats (initiatives like the Teal Pumpkin Project help spread food allergy awareness)
Peanut allergies don't have to take the fun out of Halloween. Communicate your child's needs to the people that surround your children, and make adjustments accordingly. And keep in mind - there's plenty more to Halloween than just candy.
Staying Prepared Year-Round
Peanut allergies can be a little more frightening around Halloween. However, your child can have an allergic reaction any day of the year, and it's important to stay prepared year-round.
By keeping up with your child's regular pediatrician appointments, they can monitor their peanut allergy and keep you informed about the most effective and up-to-date treatment options.
Raising a child with a peanut allergy can be challenging, but it's manageable. The more prepared you are, the more both you and your child will get used to maintaining their allergy.
There are plenty of holidays that may present the risk of peanut exposure, but that doesn't mean your child has to miss out on the fun. Remember, there's more to Halloween than just candy bars and peanut butter cups.
Find a pediatrician by using our Find-a-Doctor tool, or call 610-738-2300 for a local listing of providers near you.
Related Information from Chester County Hospital: