Halloween & Food Allergies

I have always loved hearing stories about my childhood and my own parent’s memories from when they were little.

There is one story from my mother’s younger years that is just so heartwarming.

When my mom was in second grade, her family was in the middle of relocating from the city to the countryside. She was so excited to move because it felt like a great, big adventure.

Since they would be living the farm life, my mom begged and begged her parents to get her a cat. Because no decent, self-respecting farm could be complete without a mouse hunting feline. ^.^

Despite her admirable efforts and persistent requesting, she was continually told no.

Then, on Halloween day, they were finally ready to move into the home they were building.

Excitedly, her and her siblings were able to go trick-or-treating before putting on their pajamas and heading out to the new property.

My grandfather told my mom to go put on her pajamas, which she did lightning fast in order to prevent any of her other three siblings from stealing treats out of her candy bag.

When she came back, her Halloween bag had indeed been tampered with. Distraught, my mother immediately demanded to know who had done the terrible deed.

As if on cue, her bag eerily started moving on its own.

She cautiously approached her Halloween bag, and to her great joy, was greeted with a soft “meow” noise.

A beautiful, orange tabby kitten clumsily stumbled out. I can just imagine my sweet momma’s squeals of happiness. After so much longing, she finally got her beloved kitten.

Suddenly, Halloween became something much more important to my mother than just lots of candy.

She gained a precious memory of having fun with her family. There was magic in seeing the fulfillment of her childhood dream; the longing of a pet.

That special memory for my mother has lasted a lifetime, long after her candy bag ran out.

In fact, that memory also has inspired me now that I have my own children. I want my children to have special memories on Halloween and experience magical moments, but I don’t want those moments to always be centered around candy or trick-or-treating.

My children’s food allergies (eggs/sesame/peanuts) limit what treats they can eat safely.

Naturally, for our family, the emphasis of fun on Halloween now looks a lot different than the main stream traditions.

Halloween Safety Concerns

Hey everyone! Lauren here. I’m going to jump in to share our family’s experiences as well.

Truly, Halloween is such a great season to be a kid. Costumes, parties, and treats. A hallmark of childhood.

Food allergies, however, have a way of making you rethink these traditions to meet the needs of your child.

All of a sudden, you’re wondering things like:

  • How can my child go trick-or-treating safely?
  • What safe candy is there for my child?
  • How can my child feel included in the celebrations?
  • Can we do things differently for our family’s Halloween traditions?

I’ve had the same questions and share many of the same concerns, fears, and feelings that you have.

One of my first questions was, how in the world do we go trick-or-treating with a life-threatening peanut and tree-nut allergy?

I had all the feelings of wanting to be sure my son did not miss out, but also concerns about how to keep him safe when Reese’s, Snickers, Almond Joys, and other nut based candies would literally be everywhere.

Furthermore, my daughter has a banana allergy. How would I keep her safe with all the fruit flavored candies? Do the companies use actual banana to flavor their treats, or is it an artificial flavoring?

There are just so many things to check on and think about.

As a food allergy family, what in the world do we do with this holiday?

There is not a right, or wrong, answer to Halloween.

It all comes down to the priorities for your family, your family’s tolerance of risk, etc. It’s a personal choice and Katie and I whole-heartedly support whatever choices you need to make for your family.

We hope to share some ideas that we’ve learned about navigating Halloween with food allergies that make your journey a little easier.

Trick-or-Treating Ideas

First, our family prioritizes including my son in whatever we can.

Therefore, we invest all our efforts into figuring out the modifications we need to do (if any) to keep him safe, but still included.

Here are some ideas we’ve thought of for you to consider based on your family’s needs and level of comfort.

1. Ideas for No Direct Contact with Candy

One of my concerns was my son having direct contact with the candy that contained his allergens (peanuts and tree nuts).

If you’ve ever seen the bottom of a candy bowl, there are usually small chocolate remnants, etc. that have come out, or a candy wrapper gets torn, etc. I was concerned about it getting on his hands, then into his eyes, nose or mouth, especially when he was a toddler.

One way to stay safer is to have your child wear gloves. Depending on your child’s costume, gloves might already be a part of the ensemble.

Also, Halloween night is typically cold anyways. Your child could wear regular gloves or mittens, which can be washed later.

Another good tip, especially if you have toddlers, is to either carry the Halloween bag yourself or make it a “deep” bag that is not easy to reach into. Again, this is dependent upon your family’s comfort level.

Lastly, the last tip is to role play and talk to your child about the importance of not touching the candy until the two of you can go through it together.

Using age appropriate language such as, “We don’t touch the candy until we get home as a family” will help your child be more aware as they trick-or-treat.

My family’s goal is not to scare our kids, but to help them build self awareness.

2. Talk To Neighbors Ahead of Time

One thing that has been super helpful this year is that I’ve coordinated with my neighbors to sneak over safe treats before my kids go trick-or-treating.

This way, my kids are guaranteed to have snacks they can have with several houses nearby.

I’ll have my kids’ treats in a small bag and my neighbors will keep this separate from the other candy. Then, when my kids show up at the door, voila, a safe treat!

This works well with young kids who aren’t as interested in trick-or-treating for long periods of time and going to lots of houses.

3. Go to Teal Pumpkin Project Houses

FARE is the trusted source of information about food allergies and The Teal Pumpkin Project is amazing. The way it works is for people to place a teal pumpkin on their porch to indicate they are participating.

To participate, the house must offer a non-food treat. This way kids with any food allergies can participate too.

There is even a map where houses can sign up so you can see what houses are available in your area.

If you prefer, you could map out a route that is exclusively Teal Pumpkin Project houses.

We are definitely participating this year to help other food allergy families!

4. The “Switch Witch”

I learned about the Switch Witch from other amazing food allergy moms. I love this idea.

The way that it works is that your kids go trick-or-treating as normal, but when they get home, they get to trade in their candy for either a toy, safe candy, etc.

It’s up to the Switch Witch!

Have the kids leave their candy buckets outside the front door. This is also genius because then the candy doesn’t even come into your house.

Then overnight, the Switch Witch comes and swaps out the candy. You could donate the unwanted candy, give to a friend or neighbor, or bring into work.

5. Take Safe Candy for the “Double” Rule

Hey y’all, Katie here. I’m popping in again to say that I LOVE Lauren’s “double” rule with her children.

Her and her husband have always told their kids that if they are unable to eat a treat that is served unexpectedly somewhere, they get to go and have double of a safe treat later.

I took that idea this year and am applying it to my daughter’s Halloween trick-or-treating activities.

My daughter is very confident and likes to take on more responsibility in self-advocating about her food allergies lately. She helped me make a list of safe brands of candy that she can eat.

We included pictures of the candies and clear brand titles on the list before laminating it.

My daughter will take that visual list to the person handing out candies and will ask if they have any of her safe brands. If the answer is ever “no” then she will come back to me, and I’ll be ready with a bag of safe candies.

She then will get to pull two candies from the safe bag. Double the fun!

6. Make Your Own Fun Tradition

Hey, Lauren again, I also wanted to make space to say it’s okay to not trick-or-treat. I know there is a lot of cultural pressure, but if this isn’t right for your family, that is okay.

Really! It’s okay!

Katie’s family does trick-or-treating still, but with a lot of modifications. They focus mostly on making memories with their children.

There are so many ways to make fun memories with your kids. You could:

  • Give your kids Halloween baskets filled with toys (Katie’s parents do this for her kids)
  • Host a party at your home
  • Costume night
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Movie Night
  • Carve or paint pumpkins (real or fake depending on your needs)
  • Bake together or make Halloween sugar cookies
  • Game Night

And I also want to say, the decision you make this year doesn’t mean it is what you’re deciding for the next 20 years. Your family may have different needs next year.

The biggest thing is to enjoy time with your kids.

Some Additional Resources

Whether you want your child to participate in Trick-or-Treating safely or you just want to provide safe treats for a child with food allergies, there are still many options!

There are a few websites out there that specialize in helping food allergy families navigate finding safe food products.

Here are a few that we love!

  • Spokin – Check out their Halloween Candy Guide HERE.
  • Snack Safely – Take a look at their safe food guides HERE.
  • Vermont Nut Free Chocolates – They have so many wonderful Halloween themed treats! Check out their Halloween collection HERE.

Important Note: Always check with each food company for updated information on ingredients and manufacturing information to ensure that the product is safe for your child.

We Wish You a Happy Halloween!

We know that Halloween can feel stressful for food allergy families, especially if you are brand new to food allergies.

All the emotions and concerns are real and valid.

Hopefully, this blog post provided you with some great ideas and makes planning for Halloween a bit easier.

We pray for safety over your family this Halloween holiday, and hope it is filled with special memories. <3

-Lauren and Katie

What to Read Next: 9 Tips for Food Allergies and Babysitting

One response to “Halloween & Food Allergies”

  1. So well written! Love the kitten Halloween – what a wonderful memory! We have always done a version of Switch Witch (didn’t know it had a name), where we trade allergic candy for safe candy/small treats/or 1 bigger treat like a book/dvd/movie & donate the unsafe candy to either local nursing homes that accept candy/homeless shelters etc…what we may not be able to have, others may happily want.

Leave a Reply