How to avoid an allergic Halloween
October 29th, 2010
01:59 PM ET

How to avoid an allergic Halloween

For some kids, ghosts and goblins aren't the biggest fear on Halloween: It's having a serious allergic reaction.

The candy that gets passed out on Halloween may contain common allergens such as nuts or peanuts, or it could be processed in a facility that also manufactures those foods. Depending on how allergic your child is, that could mean trouble.

Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York, offers these tips for families with food-allergic trick-or-treaters:

• Make sure that your child has an epinephrine auto-injector or antihistamine and knows how to dial 911 if an emergency occurs

• Have dinner before trick-or-treating, so your child will be less tempted to snack on foods of unknown composition

• Go trick-or-treating with your child

• Teach kids how to say "no" to candy that they can't eat

• Children with severe allergies should eat only labeled foods that are verified not to contain the offending foods - even jelly beans may contain peanut flower, Bassett said

Dr. Sean Cahill at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine adds:

• Consider buying nut-free candy to give to neighbors before Halloween, so that you can take your child there on the big night

• When your child comes home from trick-or-treating, separate the candy with potential allergens from that which you know to be safe

• Wash your hands and brush your teeth after eating nutty candies yourself if you are going to come in close contact with a child who is severely allergic.

And if you're an adult expecting kids to come to your door, consider giving out non-food items, such as stickers and small toys.

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soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Andrea

    What a stupid article. ANY parent with a child who has severe food allergies already knows to take the precautions given and does not need to be told on a health blog.

    October 29, 2010 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Lizzie

    "And if you're an adult expecting kids to come to your door, consider giving out non-food items, such as stickers and small toys."

    Yeah, because that's what every little kid wants to get on Halloween. A sheet of stickers. You'll be about as popular as the dentist down the street who gives out toothbrushes or the fundamentalist Christian two doors down who gives out evangelical literature. Do we really have to suck every last bit of fun out of Halloween?

    October 29, 2010 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • USAfeeding frenzy

      "Do we really have to suck every last bit of fun out of Halloween?"

      every last bit of fun=junk food

      let me guess .. you are either overweight, obese, or have horrible teeth?! or, maybe you don't have kids or don't know a thing about them?? there are many, many kids that would much prefer non-food items than candy any day. it is mostly the parents that have a big problem with this. hence, the reason we are a nation of overweight people with all of the related heath issues. sad state of affairs, for sure.

      October 30, 2010 at 15:56 | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      I have to say that when I was a trick-or-treater I absolutely loved the toothbrushes and stickers/temporary tattoos handed out (I never received the evangelical literature, the fundamentalist Christians tended to live at the houses with no power on Halloween hehe... Weird!)... So I don't think the people who are worried about kids' allergies and decide to abstain from handing out potentially allergen-laced candy needn't worry about getting "egged" or "toiletpapered" anymore than the guy next door handing out handfuls of full-sized chocolate bars.

      That being said, I think they maybe should have focused this article on people buying candy that is guaranteed nut-free to give out on Halloween! A lot of the candy they sell comes from peanut free facilities, buy that instead.

      October 30, 2010 at 16:56 | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      ignore the grammar errors, oops!

      October 30, 2010 at 16:57 | Report abuse |
    • Daina

      Silly holiday; I'm surprised it isn't a federal one yet...the feds have a few more paid holidays they could be utilizing...Halloween, Arbor day, grandparents day ad infinitum...after all I think there still may be a month they're underutilizing.

      October 30, 2010 at 19:59 | Report abuse |
  3. Gigi

    One year, we gave out candy, and stickers and little tubs of playdough...my daughter is severely allergic to nuts and peanuts, and I thought having options would be nice for those who can't eat most candy. Kids got to pick what they wanted. The playdough and stickers were gone much faster than the candy. BTW, tootsie pops and tootsie rolls are safe for kids allergic to nuts. You don't have to "suck every last bit of fun out of Halloween", as previously indicated.

    October 29, 2010 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Parent of Allergic Child

      Gigi: Exactly! The kids come to our door every year excited because we have the "fun stuff" instead of candy because they know my son is allergic to peanuts and nuts. They actually become disappointed when I've run out of halloween toys, stickers, etc. and "just" have candy left! They love the special halloween pencils and erasers, small toys, bouncy balls, playdough, whatever. I always let the kids choose and we always get something for every age range, including babies. They tell me they can get candy "everywhere" all the time and it isn't that big of a deal. They LOVE the "other" treats. If anything it ADDS fun to Halloween. Here's to thinking outside the box!

      Happy Halloween everyone!!

      October 30, 2010 at 01:19 | Report abuse |
    • Xilo

      As an adult, I love the play dough! That's a great idea. Or order stuff from that Oriental Trading Company catalog in advance. That's cheaper than candy, too!

      October 31, 2010 at 17:37 | Report abuse |
    • KC_in_CA

      Thanks for the tip! I just may give out the little "holiday" cans of play-doh next year. Heaven knows we don't need left over candy at our house, especially not with the Christmas season right around the corner. But left over play-doh? That is always useful!

      October 31, 2010 at 22:48 | Report abuse |
  4. Christy Ford

    It's simple, when buying Halloween candy, look for products with "peanut-free" on them.

    October 30, 2010 at 00:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. teklit welday

    haw to you comments cnn

    October 30, 2010 at 03:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Cindor74

    I like how jelly beans can contain peanut flower, not peanut flour. Stupid. Plus, any parent who has kids with severe allergies already knows all this.

    October 30, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Xilo

      You would hope that they know all this, but unfortunately not everyone is well-read or has a good pediatrician dispensing the facts. Or has a steel-trap memory that keeps every bit of "there's nuts in that" info it receives. After a long night of chasing sugar-crazy kids around a small laps in memory could mean an emergency situation. A reminder couldn't hurt.

      October 31, 2010 at 17:40 | Report abuse |
  7. KantSpel

    It's nice to see CNN is hiring the handicapped.

    October 30, 2010 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. JCizzle

    Why are kids allergic to everything these days?

    October 31, 2010 at 05:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JennyMcCarthy

      Its because vaccines are turning our children into hyperallergenic, autistic zombies.

      October 31, 2010 at 18:31 | Report abuse |
    • dom625

      No, vaccines are not turning our children into anything. The prevailing theory behind the increase of allergies and asthma is called the hygiene theory. Simply put, our environment is *too* clean. We disinfect and sanitize every little thing because we don't want ourselves or our children to get sick. However, the immune system requires contact with germs, even everyday commonplace germs, to learn what needs immediate action and what is not worth bothering with. When it cannot get what it needs, it tends to overreact to everything it sees as foreign, including common proteins found in various foods. Studies have shown that cultures less obsessed with disinfection, who allow their kids to get muddy and have fun, have far fewer rates of allergies than we do.

      November 1, 2010 at 12:57 | Report abuse |
  9. mom

    my kids are severely allergic to FOOD COLORING. we went reverse trick or treating and handed out organic fair trade chocolate.

    October 31, 2010 at 23:15 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.