I’ve been asked several times over the years by food allergy and non-food allergy families alike, “What do YOU guys do on Halloween?” The general thought among them is that we just hide away because, “Oh, my gosh ~ allergens, allergens everywhere!!!” The truth is ~ yes, we’ve had those fears creep into our psyche when Halloween rolls around (no judgement here if that’s you right now!!), but Hubby and I didn’t want to stifle the fun of the season for the boys. We knew there had to be a way to enjoy Halloween and avoid anaphylaxis. However, we also knew that our “way” was going to look different than it would for other food allergy families. Since we have been asked over and over again how WE do this creepy, spooky, sugar-filled holiday, I thought I would share what has worked for us over the years when it comes to food allergies and Halloween.
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Food Allergies and Halloween
For the food allergy family, October (if not September) begins a season where overprotective parenting goes into hyperdrive. This is not to say that we aren’t already hyper-vigilant and hyper-aware. Oh, goodness! You should know us better than that. It’s just that this time of year is all about candy, sweet treats, allergen-filled side dishes and more. Not to mention, it’s in mass abundance and somewhat more difficult to control exposure. We have to gird ourselves with an extra layer of armor in order to battle those who just don’t understand the dangers food allergies present.
Hmmm – Halloween costume idea???
When the boys were young, we would dress them up in a fun costume (usually Disney-related….cough, cough) and take them around the neighborhood. We would go door to door for about an hour or so and be home in time to clean them up and tuck them into bed. Truth be told, when it comes to the loot they collected, Hubby and I usually had them trade in their candy for coins and they were infatuated with this idea for years! They got to dress up in a cool costume, get spoiled by the neighbors and then collect some cash for the good ol’ piggy bank.
Things changed just after our youngest turned one and suffered his very first anaphylactic reaction. It was amazing to see what just a dime-sized piece of egg could do to a child. What shocked us even more was the laundry list of foods that turned up positive after the doctor FINALLY agreed to testing. Life was going to be different moving forward.
So, now that we had this to keep in mind, we had to come up with some entertaining alternatives before the next Halloween showed up on the calendar.
Of course, one of our greatest obstacles was the fact that we moved often when the boys were young due to Hubby’s career. This made developing any kind of consistent holiday routine extremely arduous. Yet, we still found a way each year to do something fun. In time, the boys didn’t even miss trick-or-treating and, once we established a little residential stability, we developed some traditions that fit our particular food allergy family needs.
How We Do Halloween
Okay, so this is not ON Halloween, per se, but grant me a little grace.
We normally do our pumpkin picking very close to Halloween. This way, the pumpkins don’t rot sitting on my counter or on the front porch. Yuck! Picking up soft, mushy, rotten pumpkin is not my favorite task in the world.
Now, when it comes to selecting our annual gourds, my favorite place to go is an actual pumpkin patch. There is nothing like walking through and finding that perfect pumpkin that fits your own personality.
I swear there were years I feared the oldest would insist on bringing home one that weighed more than he did!
On the afternoon of Halloween, usually a few hours before the trick-or-treaters start filling the streets, we normally cover the kitchen table with an old sheet, pull out the good ol’ pumpkin carving tools and begin creating our individual pumpkin masterpieces. When the boys were too young to use a sharp knife or cutting tool, we would have them paint their pumpkins. Ah – yes…THOSE were interesting years.
Check out these crazy designs!
This is a night that screams for a simple meal. We don’t want to spend our evening in the kitchen washing dishes, so we either order pizza, make personal pizzas or shove a frozen few into the oven. Easy peasy.
I think one year, I may have made Pumpkin Sloppy Joes in the crockpot, but that’s not a favorite among the boys. Hubby is pretty much the one who enjoys this meal.
Don’t forget the roasted pumpkin seeds!
YES!! My boys NEVER let me forget this anymore. We started this a few years ago and they are hooked! We try a new seasoning each year, but I’m still looking for this year’s winner.
Let’s be clear. We have never been against trick-or-treating (well, we’re not crazy about candy consumption in general, but hey – it’s one night a year and they aren’t my kids). I grew up with spotty Halloween memories myself, usually not allowed out due to religious reasons. However, I think it’s all in how you confidently present it to your children. Plus, we didn’t want to take anything away from the kids in our neighborhood.
So, we never stopped handing out candy.
We were simply just careful about how we did it.
When the youngest was a toddler, we didn’t have to worry so much about him handling the candy we were handing out because we kept them in the bags until just before the ghouls, goblins and superheroes rang the doorbell (which, by the way, is a nightmare when you have dogs). When the bewitching hour approached, we would place the candy in a specific bowl that he never touched and then washed that bowl and our hands after the night was over.
As he got older, he was simply taught how to protect himself by not being involved in handing out any of the candy or by using gloves if he really wanted to help.
The helping part is HUGE if you can find a way to protect them. Our son loves his gloves because he loves to be involved.
Those gloves are then washed once he is done. And mind you ~ he had to show enough maturity to know he couldn’t “accidentally” touch the candy. He has had a contact component to his food allergies.
Recent adjustments to our routine
Now that food allergies are so much more prevalent and there are so many littles who have to be careful, we try to purchase treats that are more food allergy-friendly. That way there is limited potential for cross contamination. This year, our container will likely include any variety of the following: Enjoy Life mini chocolate bars, Smarties, Skittles, Starbursts, Free2B suncups, Surf Sweet treats and Yum Earth lollipops!
What we have done for the last five years, and will try again in our new neighborhood, is sit outside on the front porch once dusk begins to set in so that we can meet the neighborhood kids as they approach our home. At least one of the boys usually lends a helping hand, sometimes they will rotate out.
Teal Pumpkin Project
Have you heard of the Teal Pumpkin Project? This is a fabulous program designed to help communicate to food allergy families trick-or-treating where food allergy friendly treats may be. So, if you are entertaining trick-or-treaters this year and plan to provide for those who have dietary restrictions, you can purchase a teal pumpkin or a teal pumpkin yard sign and place it on your front porch or in your front yard. This will put a smile on some faces on that haunted evening for sure!
To keep ourselves occupied ~ okay, wait. Let me rephrase that. To keep those not handing out goodies occupied ~ we usually find some funny Halloween movie to play in the background. Nothing scary. We’re not that kind of family ~ watching Sweeney Todd the other night reiterated my dislike for things like that. So, whether it’s playing the Charlie Brown special, Hocus Pocus or Nightmare Before Christmas from the DVR, there is always something festive being played in the family room.
Now, there have been years where we have turned the TV completely off and just sat around the kitchen table playing a board game or two. We are partial to Yahtzee and Train Dominoes, but we’ve been known to break from under the spell of being creatures of habit and played Monopoly.
With the last haunt and howl
Before long, the bowls are empty and the last goblin and superhero have retired from their candy stalking. At that point, we simply pack it up and call it a night. There is usually school and work the next day – no rest for the weary – so a good night of sleep is essential.
I know that, to some, this isn’t the most exciting way to spend a Halloween evening together. It’s just our way. It makes us happy and it keeps our son safe. When I was asking him some questions specifically for this post, he turned to me and said,
“To be honest, Mom, I’m not really into it anymore. It’s just candy and I’m certainly not interested in dressing up in a costume.”
Hmmm…my baby is growing up.
Well, here’s to another safe and enjoyable Halloween, everyone. If you have any questions for me regarding how we have have managed Halloween and food allergies for over a decade, please feel free to comment below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any great ideas you would like to share on how YOU have managed Halloween and food allergies over the years, I would LOVE to hear them. Please feel free to leave those ideas below and I will be sure to comment back.
I would never and will never promote or encourage the ingestion of foods that could be dangerous to one’s health. I am not a medical professional, nor claim to be one. It is important that you make well-informed decisions on your own regarding whether trick-or-treating or handing out candy on Halloween is safe for you or your family member dealing with dietary restrictions. My goal here was to answer the many questions I receive as a veteran food allergy mom and to share our family’s traditions in an effort to give some peace of mind and ideas to those still wondering how to handle this holiday.
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