Halloween is right around the corner and millions of children are preparing to sport their ghost and vampire costumes for school parties and a night of trick-or-treating. However, for children who suffer from severe food allergies, Halloween is a time where extra precaution must be taken.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) asks children and parents to watch out for hidden foods that could trigger a life threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Food-related anaphylaxis leads to 150-200 deaths each year, so every exposure should be taken seriously. Peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk and soy are the most common causes of food allergies in children. Eating even a small amount of these foods could trigger anaphylaxis.Symptoms of anaphylaxis include severe headache, nausea and vomiting, sneezing and coughing, hives, swelling of the lips, tongue and throat, and itching all over the body. The most dangerous symptoms include difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, and shock-all of which can be fatal.Here are some helpful Halloween tips to avoid hidden food dangers:
- When classroom parties are planned, parents can help by packing treats from home that their food-allergic child can eat.
- Create a “candy swap” with siblings or friends so that allergen-containing candies can be traded for other treats such as stickers or toys.
- Take the focus off of trick-or-treating by hosting a costume party that emphasizes fun instead of candy. Halloween stickers, pencils, spider rings and stamps are great alternatives for goody bags.
- Provide neighbours with allergy-safe candies for your child or ask neighbours to hand out only candy with individualized labels-so kids with allergies can determine whether the treat is safe to eat or not.
- Teach children to politely refuse offers of cookies and other homemade treats.
- Remember that candy ingredients can vary for different sizes of the same product such as full-size candy bars and their miniature versions, which are not always individually labelled.
(Source: Natalie Lemke, Amber Johnson : American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology : October 2007)