Trick-Or-Treating 101: How To Have a SAFE Night of Fun!
Happy Halloween! Tonight is the night... sweet little ghosts and goblins everywhere will hit the streets for some trick-or-treating fun. As a food allergy mom, I have always respected the fact that each food allergy family must decide for themselves how to handle this night - it's a very personal decision. For me, I always felt that if I could make Halloween safe for my boys, I wanted them to have the experience of dressing up and trick-or-treating. No, they can't eat a majority of candy that is passed out, but YES campaigns like the Teal Pumpkin Project have made Halloween so much more inclusive and safe for my kiddos. So, each year, we plan ahead, pack essential supplies, set some strict ground rules, and hit the pavement... just like the other kids do.
Again, every family is unique (as are each child's food allergies), but if you are a family that is planning to take your food allergy kids out on Halloween, or you are still contemplating how to do it safely, I want to share with you some ideas that have helped us make this work each year. All it takes is a little bit of planning, and your kids can truly enjoy the same kind of experience as their friends.
Create a travel bag for the road
The first thing I do before we go out to trick-or-treat is take a large ziplock bag and create a "safe" kit for the boys, filling it with the following items:
Two epinephine autoinjectors and Benadryl. DO NOT leave your house without these!!
Antibacterial wipes. Yes, there is candy everywhere. Short of soap and water, the very best way to remove allergen protein is with antibacterial hand wipes, so
bring PLENTY. You will not only have the ability to wipe surfaces, but also your child's (and their friends') hands. Keep in mind that hand sanitizer does not work in the same way - you need wipes.
Safe candy. Most kids love to snack on the candy they collect as they move from house to house, but my number one, steadfast rule for safe trick-or-treating is that NO CANDY IS CONSUMED UNTIL WE HAVE TAKEN IT HOME AND READ LABELS. In order to make this easy for my boys, I always pack a few pieces of candy that I know are safe for them in case they want a treat on the road. They know that as long as they are choosing something from their "safe" bag from home, they are good!
A flashlight. This is probably a good idea for non-food allergic families, too, but when it gets dark, I want to be able to see what is going on. If there is an emergency, I need light.
Inform people around you of your kid's allergies
My younger son's best friend said to his mom the other day: "Mom, I have to trick-or-treat with Luke because if I don't, who is going to keep people from eating unsafe candy around him!" YES, true story! While I clearly have the benefit of a precious six year-old body guard as a part of our trick-or-treating entourage, this same idea applies to the adults around us, too. It is essential that the grown-ups with whom we are trick-or-treating know about my boys' allergies. Halloween gets hectic, and the more adults keeping an eye out (particularly on their own children who may be eating unsafe candy around your child), the safer and better.
If you do allow your child to collect candy, set the ground rules for when you get home
As I mentioned earlier, do not let your child eat ANY candy until he or she gets home and you are able to go through it as a family. Your "safe" candy stash should make this rule easy to follow.
Once you are able to go through candy, make sure that each piece - even those candies you've known to be safe in the past - have individual labels on them. There has been a lot of buzz on social media this year about third-parties that have taken over the manufacturing of candies that are typically free of major allergens; except now, they are made on shared equipment. The only way you'd know that is by looking at individual labels.
Listen, there is no one who understands better than me how scary this holiday can be for families like ours. But, just as with so many things with our food allergy kids, we really can make some modifications to keep them safe and give them the same fun and festive experiences as their peers. I hope that all of the food allergy kids out there have a SAFE and FUN Halloween night - I really will be thinking about all of you!