How can you safely participate in trick-or-treating when you have a child with food allergies? Below are six quick tips!
I can still remember the anxiety I felt taking our daughter with an anaphylactic peanut allergy trick-or-treating for the first time. Seeing the Snickers and Reese’s candy bars near her hand or tossed into her bucket by a well-meaning (but clueless adult) made me cringe.
But now that we are five years into life with food allergies, I no longer worry so much about holidays and want to share the tips that we’ve found helpful with others like you who want to avoid food threats at Halloween.
1. Explain Expectations Before Going
Several times before stepping foot out the door to go trick or treating, be clear with your child about the expectations to not eat ANYTHING without your permission.
Talk about it a few days in advance because kids usually need to hear things more than once for it to sink in.
If you’re dealing with anaphylaxes and your child’s life is on the line depending on what she eats, she needs to know the seriousness of eating things that could make them very sick or worse.
2. Have Your Child Wear Gloves
You might find comfort in having your child wear gloves.
We live in the midwest where it’s usually pretty chilly on Halloween, so the gloves can keep their fingers warm and act as a barrier between their skin and potential allergens.
3. Find Places with Teal Pumpkins (Non-Food Items)
Although it takes time, you might be surprised how beneficial it can be to share how the Teal Pumpkin Project benefits many children in the community with your neighbors, businesses, and family.
A Teal Pumpkin, when used as intended, shows that people are offering non-food items. There are plenty of myths about teal pumpkins and what they mean, so you might need to do some educating around this topic.
Then find places offering non-food items and take your child to trick-or-treat there. It’s helpful to find out ahead of time and make a ‘Teal Pumpkin Map.’ We’ve done this before and the kids were thrilled they could keep everything in their bucket at the end of the night!
4. Guide Your Child on What to Pick
When your child goes to the door and gets to pick an item, give advice on what to pick and what not to pick (and I don’t just mean to pick out your favorite candy 😉).
Since we were most concerned with avoiding peanuts, we pointed out candy like Snickers, Reese’s, and PayDays and advised our daughter to avoid these.
Our generic advice was:
- Take non-food items if available
- Take fruity or sugary treats rather than a chocolate bar
If you see brands you know are safe for your child (such as Enjoy Life or another allergy-friendly brand), point those out as safe options for your child.
5. Swap Candy for a Non-Food Prize
When your child gets home from trick or treating, trade the bucket of candy for a special non-food prize.
Some parents do the ‘Switch Witch,’ which is based on a book about a witch who switches candy at night for something special (get the book from Amazon). Even non-food allergy families use this tradition as a means to swap out the candy they don’t want their kids to eat.
I simply took our daughter to the store and let her pick out a prize the day before, told her after trick-or-treat she would trade the candy for the prize she picked out, and that was that. Either way works!
Here are 20 Non-Food Halloween ‘Treat’ Ideas for you to spark some creative prize ideas!
6. Have Your Child Hand Out Candy or Non-Food Items
Finally, you could have your child help hand out candy or non-food items instead of going trick-or-treating. Your kids can still have fun dressing up, see other kids in costumes, and snack on safe treats at home throughout the evening.
This would totally avoid the unwanted candy from ending up in their bucket and help them experience the joy of giving to others.
Share These Halloween Tips with Food Allergy Parents
If you found these tips helpful, please save them to Pinterest or share them with food allergy parents on Facebook.
Cheers to a safe, fun, and healthy Halloween from one food allergy parent to another,
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I am a constantly-researching food allergy mom. However, I am not a medical professional and nothing on this blog should take the place of your doctor’s recommendations.
This post was originally published October 2021. It was updated and re-published in October 2023.
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