Halloween arrives this weekend, and many kids are looking forward to restocking their candy supply. But for kids with food allergies, Halloween isn't so simple.
Living with food allergies can be complicated--especially at Halloween! While other kids stuff their bags with goodies, kids with allergies have to be careful not to collect foods that could make them sick.
People with food allergies have abnormal responses to items such as nuts, milk, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish and wheat. When someone with a food allergy eats what experts call a "trigger" food, the symptoms can include hives, vomiting, diarrhea and even breathing problems.
Food allergies are no joke: In some cases, just one bite of food can bring on anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can cause body systems to shut down. In extreme cases, anaphylaxis can cause death.
Unfortunately for people who have them, the only way to manage food allergies is to strictly avoid the foods to which they're allergic. They have to learn how to read food labels carefully and how to spot high-risk foods that might contain hidden allergy triggers.
At Halloween, being on guard against trigger foods can be a real challenge. Like other children, trick-or-treaters with food allergies want to collect as much candy as possible. However, many candies don't have ingredient labels. Those candies just have to be shared with someone who doesn't have allergies or thrown away.
That doesn't mean that kids with food allergies have to avoid the holiday entirely. But they do need to be extra careful, and to ask for some adult help to celebrate safely.
Of course, if you don't have food allergies, you still need to be careful about what you eat on Halloween. It's really hard to resist the temptation to start gobbling while you're still out going from house to house--but you have to do it! To be safe, wait until you get home and can see exactly what you've collected. Ask your parents to help you go through your goodies in the light. Throw away anything that might not be safe, including loose or unwrapped candy, apples and other fruit.
Halloween's almost here. Following these tips from the American Red Cross will help you and your ghoulish friends stay safe while you're scaring the living daylights out of the little kids on your block:
* Walk, slither and sneak on sidewalks, not in the street.
* Look both ways before crossing the street to check for cars, trucks and low-flying brooms.
* Cross the street only at corners.
* Don't hide between parked cars.
* Wear light-colored or reflective clothing so you are more visible. (And remember to put reflective tape on bikes and brooms, too!)
* Plan your route and share it with your family. If possible, have an adult go with you.
* Carry a flashlight to light your way.
* Keep away from open fires and candles. (Costumes can be extremely flammable.)
* Only visit homes that have the porch light on.
* Accept your treats at the door and never go into a stranger's house.
* Use face paint rather than masks or things that will cover your eyes.
* Don't eat candy if the package has already been opened.
TIPS FOR PARENTS
The Food Allergy Network offer these tips to help children with food allergies safely enjoy trick or treating:
* Early in the day, deliver raisins, pretzels, stickers or other special treats for your child to your neighbors' homes. (It is important for children to feel "normal," so be discreet.)
* Tell your neighbors what character your child will be dressed as so they can hand out your treats to your child.
* Explain to your child that if the candy does not have an ingredient statement, it will have to be traded for one that does.
* Plan to trade the "forbidden" candies for others when your child gets home.
* Nonfood treats can include stickers, wash-off tattoos, small toys, stamps or other inexpensive trinkets.
* Accompany your child to be sure that he or she does not eat any candies before you read the ingredient label.
For more information on food allergies, contact the Food Allergy Network, 10400 Eaton Place, Suite 107, Fairfax, VA 22030-2208, or call 1-800-929-4040.
FOR YOU TO DO
If you have a food allergy, then you know how tough it can be to do ordinary things like trick-or-treat or go to birthday parties. The Food Allergy Network is working on a book about what it's like for young people to live with food allergies. Your story might help them. Your essay doesn't have to be long; a few paragraphs will do. You can submit it by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell a little about yourself, too--such as your name, age, what foods you are allergic to, your hobbies and what advice you would give to other kids with food allergies. If you can't use e-mail, you can send your essay to the Food Allergy Network at the address listed above.