October 28, 2020

Spooky Scary Allergens: Keeping Trick-or-Treat Mindful and Accessible

A blue Halloween bucket filled with goodies

If you’ve ever been locked in tense negotiations with your housing association for permission to have skeleton decorations in your yard, then you already know Halloween can be stressful, and that was even before Coronovirus came along. This year, things got much more complicated. It’s hard to say what Halloween will even look like this year. Perhaps the safest thing would be to buy some candy and stay home.

If you do decide to trick-or-treat, figuring out how to handle candy and a child with allergies can be quite scary all on its own. You may feel anxious about letting neighbors know that your child has an issue and requesting accommodation. Don’t be. None of your neighbors want to be responsible for causing harm to your child. That said, don’t expect to give them a list of dos and don’ts and call it a day. No one knows better what your child can and can’t eat better than you.

It’s hard to make trick-or-treating allergen-free but not impossible.

There is a lot to consider. Nuts, seeds, chocolate, gluten, and dairy are some of the most common allergies and essentially make up the contents of 90% of trick or treat candy. A restrictive approach to do away with all of the candy may also be impractical. No one wants to tell their child that they are the only kid that can’t trick-or-treat.

So what can you do to make your neighborhood a safe place to trick or treat?

One option is to suggest that people in your neighborhood offer alternative buckets to choose from—one bucket with the standard fare for children without allergies and one for children with allergies.

The easiest solution for what goes in the bucket for kids with allergies is non-edible treats such as Halloween themed party favors like glow sticks, pencils, bouncy balls.

If you have a sense of nostalgia for your child having the “candy” experience of Halloween that you remember, there are many options for that as well.

There are plenty of alternatives that will allow you to buy allergy-friendly trick-or-treat candy. We can’t guarantee product safety, and you shouldn’t trust any blog that claims they can. You should always read ingredient labels. Make sure to contact the manufacturer when in doubt and confirm the safety for your child.

One good comprehensive list is the Kids With Food Allergies Halloween Candy Guide.

If it’s too late to order online, you may be able to find something at your local store, even if they don’t have allergy-free options listed. Check the vegan and organic food sections as sometimes those alternatives will be allergen-free.

Our advice to parents and homeowners is to be flexible.

Talk with your community about these issues. If there is a child with a severe allergy in the neighborhood, it is helpful for people to know, but they don’t have to know the child’s name. There are many ways to warn people without making someone, especially a child, feel singled out.

What your neighbors need to know is that if they hear someone has an allergy, they have one job: be accommodating. The definition of good manners is that you try to make the people around you feel as comfortable as possible. That starts with saying, “What can I do to help?”

Let’s try to keep our communities safe for everyone and plan for All Hallows Eve fun.

Greater Austin Allergy Asthma & Immunology