We may be a whole month ahead however we’re looking forward to one of our favourite moments of the year – Halloween.
Halloween is a time for fun, parties,treats and eating – however this year is going to be different – yet not that different for children and adults with food allergies or intolerances.
Food and treats play such a huge role in moments like Halloween however most people don’t even think about because they can eat what they like.
However for families where a member or a child has allergies, it all has to be planned. With Covid19 restrictions in place this year, which will require a new plan for those who celebrate Halloween -perhaps it’s a moment to reflect on what it’s like for those living with allergies every year.
What are the worries around Halloween for those with food allergies?
For children suffering with food allergies, this exciting time, can be tinged with fear, especially for their parents. Fear of eating something that can, literally, be a risk to their life.
Like any child who celebrates Halloween, they can have great enjoyment, deciding which character they want to be, and sorting out their costume and have fun just dressing up, putting on scary make up etc.
However, the risk comes as soon as they step outside of their own home, ring somebody’s front-door bell, and are offered sweet treats, biscuits or cakes. How many parents feel they can then question someone handing over a treat with ‘does it contain nuts? Are you sure? Have you got any nuts in your house?”
The outcome is that those children simply take those treats, and they are disposed of, given away or they have to refuse. The truth is those parents and those children cannot know for sure what is going to be in food treats being handed out.
Sweets and chocolates, often removed from the outer packaging don’t have the food labelling on them, so any children who have allergies are in danger of eating something that would put them at risk
Allergy safety tips for Halloween:
So should children with allergies ‘do’ Halloween? Of course they should if it’s a family occasion and we have a few tips for parents in how to use that opportunity to educate their child about dealing with this moment in the year.
- Set expectations before you leave the house around what is ok and what not.
- Before Halloween, alert neighbours you know well about your child’s allergies. Ask them not to offer food, and suggest they offer something which is not food – or perhaps offer those neighbours some suggestions of treats which are safe for everybody eg. Gnawbles
- Take safe sweets with you, avoid the unknown and ensure your allergic child doesn’t feel left out.
- Be prepare, ensure you take Epi-Pens with you.
- Wait until everyone gets home before eating sweet treats, so that you can check what you have.
- Have a swap-session, where you swap any treats that are unsafe for safe foods, or other items.
- Stay with your child, expecting them to overcome temptation to delve into the sweets can be too strong, especially when they are younger.
- Costumes with gloves may be a good idea for children who shouldn’t come into any contact with certain foods.
Remember too, for some children it isn’t just food that is a problem. Children with food allergies can have other sensitivities as well:
- Use hypo allergic face paint for costumes.
- Most children’s costumes are safe and hypo-allergenic, but check.
- Be aware of cheap Halloween makeup, which could cause allergic reactions.
Tips for safe treats to give at Halloween:
Many communities and housing estates have Facebook groups or Whats App groups to share information which is uber local. This is a useful tool to gently spread the word about a child’s allergies when it comes to Halloween and offer some suggestions. If your community doesn’t have this – can you create one?
If you know there are children in your neighbourhood with allergies, shop ahead of time for:
- small toys;
- hair bands;
- puzzle booklets;
Prepare two bowls of sweets to hand out, one for children without allergies, and one filled with free-from snacks. You could include small bags of Gnawbles; Protein Crunch Bars or Raw Fruit Oaties in the treats.
Alternative Halloween/ New Traditions
If Trick and Treating is something that you won’t feel comfortable taking part in this year, Covid19 restrictions and fears, here are some alternatives or new traditions that you could create:
- A special Halloween treat bag, filled with personal touches, and foods that are allergy safe for your child.
- Bake some free-from muffins, decorated especially for Halloween, using our Chocolate Chip Muffin Baking Mix.
- Make a special cup of Hot chocolate, in their own personalised Halloween mug, made with our Raw Cacao Powder.
- Have a Halloween scavenger hunt around the house, decorating the house, and hiding things for the children to find. Watch a scary movie, or end the evening with a special Halloween-styled meal.
- Have a virtual Halloween party with children sharing their costumes and ‘looks’ with others and play music with each other and have fun quizzes or competitions.
A more timeless idea that promotes inclusion and safety for all children, and means that children with food allergies don’t have to miss out on the fun of Halloween is the Teal Pumpkin Project which started in the USA.
The Teal Pumpkin Project
The Teal Pumpkin Project set up by FARE (Food Allery Research & Education), is about raising awareness of food allergies through the addition of non-food trinkets and toys to your treats, making Halloween safer and more inclusive for all trick or treaters.
The project was inspired by a local community group in East Tennessee, and has become a world-wide movement to create a safer Halloween for all kids. Putting a Teal pumpkin on your doorstep means you have non-food treats available, such as glow sticks or small toys. This act p
romotes inclusion for trick-or treaters who have food allergies or other conditions.
If you have children with allergies, and they know of others in their school, talk to the other parents about sending out flyers to the area where you live, to involve friends and neighbours to take part in a Teal Pumpkin project. Create some fliers to hand out at school. Ask local shops, doctors and community buildings if they would let you put up posters, to get more people in the neighbourhood involved.
Share information on your social media – raise some awareness well before Halloween, so that people have time to get prepared.
The FARE website has resources to support this campaign. It answers any questions you may have too. For example, if people don’t have time to paint pumpkins teal, or can’t easily get hold of paint, create there are downloadable posters on the website to stick on your door instead.