Many kids and adults alike look forward to the month of October. Fall weather sets in and the festivities are in full swing. For many of us, the food and candy are the highlight of many fall get-togethers. But, have you thought about those who suffer from food allergies?
According to the Food Allergy Research and Education, approximately 32 million people are plagued with food allergies: that is 1 in 10 adults and 1 in 13 children. Chances are, you have someone in your family who will need to approach fall festivals and trick-or-treating with caution to avoid exposure to a food they are allergic to.
The “Big 8” allergenic foods include milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy and around 90% of allergic reactions occur due to one of these foods. Do you spot an ingredient from your favorite candy or dish you prepare for a fall get together?
As of 2004, the Food and Drug Administration requires any intentional use of the Big 8 to be clearly labeled on food and food ingredients. So, when you head out to purchase a bag of Halloween candy, you may find statements on the nutrition label like “contains nuts”, or “processed in a facility that also processes wheat”.
If you or someone in your family suffers from a food allergy, here are some tips for keeping those fall activities fun instead of focusing on the restrictions due to the allergy:
Stock up on small trinkets or inexpensive toys that can replace candy given out at festivals if the child is allergic.
Avoid candy or dishes that are not clearly labeled or the ingredients cannot be identified.
Try non-food prizes like bubbles or glow sticks instead of candy.
Consider making small and safe “goody bags” for neighbors to give to your child. Deliver the bags in advance and describe your child’s costume to your neighbors. Encourage your child to trick-or-treat at the houses in which you’ve delivered the bags.
Keep the emphasis on the fun of the outings rather than on the food or candy being served.
If you are hosting a party, consider asking guests if there are any food allergies to you can plan your menu accordingly.
Always have an epinephrine auto-injector available, if prescribed by your healthcare provider.
The Teal Pumpkin Project is a campaign featured on many food allergy information websites. You can place a teal pumpkin outside your house for trick-or-treaters or at your fall festival booth that indicate you have non-food treats available for kids or adults with food allergies.
Communication is key in helping prevent food allergy related reactions. If your child suffers from the allergy, educate them on how to use their medication and how to ask for help if they begin to have an allergic reaction. And, do not be afraid to ask about ingredients in a dish or candy offered. Fall can be spooky enough without the added risk of an allergic reaction.
For more information, visit foodallergy.org.
Carin Booth is the family and consumer sciences agent at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office in Hall County. She can be reached at 770-535-8293 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column runs monthly.