Military Special Needs Network

Proudly Supporting all Military Families with a Special Needs Dependent

Keeping Halloween Allergy-Free and Fun

Courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Food allergies are on the rise. According to Food Allergy Research & Education, the estimate is that nearly 15 million Americans are living with food allergies (FAs). Approximately 1 in every 13 children under age 18, or about 2 in every single class is affected by FAs.

We’re a few short weeks away from Halloween. Many of us are starting to unearth the decorations and cobble together costumes. For those of us with children with FAs or who require special diets, those are our biggest “concerns” for our celebration. But, for those families with FAs, the prep work – and the worry – is much bigger than cobwebs and witch hats.

To better understand the concerns these family face, one of our MSNN contributors, Samantha S., sat down and pulled back the curtain on what Halloween means for her family. Samantha and her husband, in the Army Armour Branch, have a beautiful 4 year old, Lilly, with tree nut allergies.

“One of the main challenges in having a child with food allergies is having control of the candy around your child. It does get better as they get older. My FA child is now 4 and is starting to ask if she is allowed to eat something if it isn’t given from my husband or. And, yes, this includes other relatives – even grandparents!

I have always worried about her feeling left out. I have learned that by stressing different aspects of the holiday, she doesn’t feel that way. I use to HATE this time of year with a passion, but now we enjoy it. We stress that Halloween is about dressing up, that it’s your chance to be something you have always wanted to be. We talk about the excitement in seeing others dressed up, the fun that craving pumpkins bring, Halloween arts and crafts, and time with friends.

House Rules:

1) No eating candy till I have checked it. 2) No digging through your bag while we are trick or treating. 3) Wash your hands as soon as we get home.

All of my kids follow these rules, and because it is all they know, it simply isn’t an issue.

Prep Work: 1) I buy allergy-safe candy like Skittles, Starburst, and Rice Crispy Treats to hand out, plus small toys for any kids who still can’t eat those types of treats. 2) I trade out all of the unsafe candy we’ve received for safe candy. I always put an extra bag of candy away for this. When its removed the kids forget about it and it becomes a nonissue.

Schools and parties: 1) If the class is having a party I send in her own special candy for the teacher to switch out with the unsafe candy. This is arranged before hand with the teachers. 2) I request that students not eating the candy in the classroom. I have never had an issue getting this approved. 3) Before the party I get a list of everything that is being brought in, and all the actives that are going to happen at the party. 4) I always bring something that is allergy safe that everyone can eat.

It’s a bit more work than maybe the typical family does to prepare for Halloween, but, just like with our children, it’s what we know now. Our children are kept safe, but fully included and integrated into the traditions of Halloween.”

Samantha also stressed how important it is to read the ingredients on all sizes of the food. She says, “For example, so-called fun-sized treats may be unsafe. You have to read those, too.”

Hopefully with the help of these great tips, those of us handing out treats can make sure we get items to ensure that all kids have a wonderful, and safe Halloween.

– Samantha S., MSNN Contributor

Comments, discussion and insight always welcome!

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