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Halloween treats tricky for children with food allergies

Preparation is key for kids and parents

POSTED: October 23, 2013 1:00 a.m.

For a child with food allergies, Halloween treats can be a bit tricky.

Many candies contain common allergens that can cause a child to experience anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction. Fortunately, a nightmarish allergic reaction can be avoided with a little preparation and communication.

According to Food Allergy Research and Education, foodallergy.org, one in 13 children have a food allergy in the United States. More than 90 percent of food allergies come from eight specific foods: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.

“Halloween does present a challenge for parents with kids with food allergies because a lot of Halloween candies do have common allergens including milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts,” said Dr. Amy Boyd, a physician with the Allergy and Asthma Clinic of Northeast Georgia. “There are several options in terms of keeping your kids safe on Halloween.”

The most important thing parents and children with food allergies can do is to carry epinephrine, most often in the form of an auto-injectible shot, to be administered in the event a person starts to experience a severe reaction.

“I can’t stress enough how important having that life-saving medication on hand is,” said Karen Harris, president of Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta. “Seventy percent of fatalities or near fatalities are due to delayed epinephrine or not having epinephrine at all. That’s a big number. We have to act quickly in case there is an accident.”

Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta is an organization based in Cumming aimed at increasing community understanding of food allergy prevention. Harris recommends parents bring hand wipes as their children trick or treat in case their child accidently touches an allergen contaminated candy or wrapper. She also suggests children wear a medical identification bracelet to assist emergency medical personnel in the event of a reaction.

While trick-or-treating can be a lot of fun for youngsters, it can be a lot of work for the parent of a child with an allergy. Parents must take special care to read the ingredients lists of candy products.

Boyd said children should be taught from an early age to check if foods they are allergic to are included in the ingredient’s list of the candy or food. If a child can’t be certain the food is safe, he or she should not take the risk by eating it.

Parents should also be aware regular-sized candy products may not be made the same way or in the same facility as the bite-sized counterparts and may contain allergens not normally present in the larger versions.

Boyd said some of the stress associated with a food allergy can be minimized by planning ahead of Halloween night or other holiday events. If a trick-or-treating route has already been determined, parents can stop by homes along the way and provide the homeowners with a “safe treat” to give their child.

“Something the general community can do to help keep kids safe is consider giving out an allergy-friendly treat that may not necessarily be geared toward candy, like stickers, bracelets or pencils,” Harris said.

Parents may also employ a visit from the “switch witch” or “great pumpkin” to convince children to give up their candy stockpiles in exchange for a toy or other non-food treat.

While a few more challenges exist to keep children with food allergies safe, children with a food allergy should not be excluded from the festivities of the holiday season.

“There are emotional consequences to not being able to have foods at school and not being able to go trick-or-treating,” Boyd said. “The goal is for children to have all those normal life experiences but in the safest way possible.”


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