Happy haunting: How to be allergy-safe on Halloween
Your child is no doubt eager to scare up a memorable Halloween costume and go trick-or-treating. Unfortunately, Halloween can be hazardous for kids – and grown-ups, too – who are at risk for an asthma flare-up or anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.
The most common food allergens in Halloween candy are peanuts, tree nuts, milk and egg. Baked goods may also contain wheat or soy.
“Many times, candy that is given out on Halloween contains peanuts and tree nuts, or it has been manufactured on equipment used to make candies that contain peanuts and tree nuts,” says Tonya Winders, President and CEO of Allergy & Asthma Network.
Parents should inspect their children’s Halloween candy and check each label carefully. Federal law requires food labels — even mini-size candy bars — to list common allergens. If one child in a family has food allergies and another does not, then be sure to separate out the candy with allergens so there’s no chance of an accidental exposure.
Do not try to guess if a candy contains an allergen. Call the manufacturer if you’re uncertain. If the label includes an advisory statement such as “May contain” for “Produced in a facility with,” there’s a chance the food allergen is present. Follow the advice of your healthcare provider — for most, avoiding these candies is the safest way to go.
What about pumpkin allergy? There are reported cases of allergic reactions to pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, but these are very rare.
More safety measures:
- Consider putting together a Halloween route consisting of family, friends and neighbors and ask them to put allergy-safe treats (apple, bubble gum, lollipops) in your child’s bag. Or request alternatives to snacks and candy, such as crayons, temporary tattoos, stickers or novelty toys.
- Don’t leave Halloween candy lying around your home or apartment where food-allergic children can easily find it.
- Teach children to politely refuse offers of cookies, baked goods and other homemade treats (cupcakes, muffins) that may contain allergens.
- Consider trading in the collected candy for other safe treats, prizes or rewards.
If there’s an accidental exposure and anaphylaxis symptoms occur, the first line of treatment is epinephrine. This shot of adrenaline via an epinephrine auto-injector is safe, fast acting and helps treat your immune system’s response to the allergen.
Always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors — including on your Halloween route — in case a second reaction occurs. Seek follow-up medical care right away.
Everything from chilly Halloween weather to fog machines could cause asthma symptoms to flare.
Dressing up is one of the best parts of Halloween fun, but before reusing old costumes stored away in your attic or basement, give them a thorough washing in hot water. They could be full of environmental allergens such as mold or dust mites.
On Halloween night, pack a quick-relief bronchodilator inhaler so that you’re prepared for an asthma flare while trick-or-treating.
If it’s cold outside, wear a scarf over the mouth and nose to help warm and humidify the cold, dry air you breathe – and minimize the possibility of an asthma flare. Encourage costumes that include coats and scarfs such as a snowman.
Avoid Halloween houses using fog machines, which are known to cause asthma flares. Don’t go into a neighbor’s house that might have a smoker or a pet – both are potential allergens.
Many costumes and masks are manufactured using latex, the milky fluid from rubber trees.
Parents of children with latex allergy should verify what a costume or mask is made of before buying it or dressing up their child. Check the product’s label for latex, but it may be best to contact the manufacturer directly. Ask for the consumer relations department.
Also, make sure the costume has a pocket wide enough to carry two epinephrine auto-injectors in case anaphylaxis symptoms occur.
Hosting or attending a Halloween party? Latex balloons are a trigger for severe allergic reactions for those with latex allergy. Mylar balloons are safer alternatives.
Allergic to Makeup?
Halloween makeup can cause an allergic reaction or asthma symptoms, says the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). Some makeup may contain preservatives, including formaldehyde, which can cause a rash, swelling of the skin or breathing problems.
Read the product’s label and check the packaging for any warnings.
Test the makeup on a very small area of the skin – such as the back of the hand or the inner wrist – well in advance of Halloween. If a rash or any abnormality occurs, do not use the makeup, ACAAI advises.
Also, keep an eye on costume accessories such as crowns, wands or faux jewelry that may contain nickel or cobalt, which can cause allergic reactions.