At Halloween, we love pretending to be afraid, but for parents with a child who has a food allergy, this fear can become very real.
What to watch out for
Celebrating Halloween usually means filling up a big bag with candy, but for children living with a serious food allergy, it isn’t that simple. In fact, it is estimated that 5% to 8% of children in Quebec are affected by this reality. Certain foods or additives that can trigger an allergic reaction may be found in their bags of candy. Here are a few examples of foods and food additives that can cause a serious allergy:
- nuts and peanuts
- monosodium glutamate
Nut and peanut allergies can prove to be particularly problematic at Halloween.
Caution and vigilance
Adapting one’s lifestyle in consideration of food allergies can sometimes be a challenge for some parents. Although they may be used to exercising constant vigilance, balancing special events such as the holidays or Halloween may require more organization and creativity.
Here are a few tips to ensure that your Halloween celebration doesn’t turn to horror:
- If you decide that your child can go trick or treating, don’t let them go alone, be sure to accompany them.
- Remind your child of the importance of not eating any candy before you have had the chance to examine it thoroughly.
- Once you have returned home, sort the candy carefully.
- Eliminate all candy that has not been commercially packaged.
- Be extremely vigilant when examining candy labels and remember that certain miniature formats may include different ingredients than the original one.
- Avoid letting your child eat treats for which you do not have the list of ingredients.
- If you have any doubts that the product may contain an allergen, check with the manufacturer or don't give it to your child.
- When a product contains a label, watch for key phrases such as “May contain…”, “Contains…”, or “May have been in contact with…” concerning the allergen affecting your child.
- Replace or exchange the candy that isn’t safe for your child with something else that you have chosen, that you have baked yourself, or that comes from a brother’s or sister’s trick or treat bag.
- Suggest making a trade with your child: exchange the unwanted product with a safe one, such as an object other than food. If your child is a little older, suggest exchanging the candy for some change (the amount per candy is up to you), which they can use to buy something they like.
- Hand out treats that are non-food items, such as stickers, balloons, colouring crayons, etc.
- Keep in mind the risk of contamination. If your child touches treats that have been in contact with peanuts, for example, they may contain traces that can trigger an allergic reaction.
- In the event of severe allergies, be imaginative! Plan a Halloween party in your home with pumpkin decorations, serve treats from home and put on a movie.
Never without an epinephrine auto-injector
Remember to always have an epinephrine auto-injector at hand. This is considered the treatment of choice in the event of a severe allergic reaction. You must be prepared to use it immediately if your child is exposed to an allergen. Then, you must bring your child to the emergency room right away.
Here are a few tips on how to optimally use your epinephrine auto-injector:
- Periodically reread the manufacturer’s instructions to be ready to use it if necessary. Ask your pharmacist for advice or visit the manufacturer’s website for a thorough demonstration.
- Make sure that the people who spend time with your child know how to use it.
- Have more than one auto-injector available and keep them in strategic places (home, cottage, school bag, hand bag, etc.)
- If the auto-injector has expired, be sure to replace it. Check the expiry date regularly. Your pharmacist can help remind you when the auto-injector has to be replaced. Speak to your Jean Coutu affiliated pharmacist about this service.
For additional information about food allergies and preventive and rescue measures, speak to your pharmacist, who will help you to have a happy and hassle-free Halloween!