Food Allergies & Halloween: Tricks for Being Safer & Having Fun

Food Allergies 101: Key for Making Halloween Safer & FunAs the leaves begin to fall and Halloween approaches, you may hear talk about the Teal Pumpkin Project. But do you know what it really is and signifies?

Halloween comes with many names and traditions. All Hallows’ Eve. All Saints’ Eve. Orange pumpkins. A more recent (and fantastic) tradition is putting teal-colored pumpkins outside of your door. This lets trick-or-treaters know you have non-food items to offer instead of just candy. You could make the night of a child with food allergies!

Halloween can be one of the trickier holidays for families managing food allergies. For some families, with all of the candy, traditions and food-centered celebrations inherent in the holiday, Halloween is hands-down the hardest to navigate.

Our Tricks for a Safer Halloween

Over the years, my family has developed fun ways to help make Halloween safer. With early planning, we’ve been able to create a fun, safe, yummy and inclusive holiday for all of us.

1. We buy yummy, allergen-free candy and fun, non-food trinkets ahead of time. 

In addition to buying candy from the store that doesn’t include most of the top allergens (such as Dum-Dum lollipops and Starburst — but please doublecheck for your particular allergens), we buy Enjoy Life mini-chocolates! Always remember to read ingredient labels, because they do change. Also, the packaging of unsafe products can sometimes look similar to the packaging of our go-to, safe options. So be sure to always read labels; know exactly what you’re eating.

2. We invite a small group of friends over to celebrate ahead of time.

In the past we’ve scheduled a party two weeks before the big day (so costumes would be clean), calling it our “test out your costume” pirate treasure party. We had nonfood games and allergen-free treats that were safe for all! The minute everyone arrived, they were each handed their own treasure map and riddle for where their pirate loot bag and first treasure were hiding. I also handed out stickers and “jewels” during our games!

3. We reach out to neighbors to help make trick-or-treating safer and more inclusive.

When the kids were younger, I chose 10 or so houses in our neighborhood and left notes about our food allergies, along with a little bag that included safe trinkets and treats. In the note I explained they needed to keep the bag closed due to cross-contact risks. And I told them what their costumes would be. It turned out to be SO fun, and my neighbors were so supportive. We made a few new friends and found out some of our neighbors also have food allergies.

4. We “BOO” our neighbors with food allergies.

If I find out a neighbor’s children have food allergies, we leave them an anonymous note and a bag of nonfood toys. The note says “You’ve Been BOO’ed” and invites them to “BOO” other neighbors. I’m hopeful they will get to enjoy Halloween, but not everyone plans ahead or feels safe going out trick-or-treating. So we like to pay special attention to our friends with food allergies.

5. We put a teal pumpkin outside of our door, along with a sign that says visitors can ask for trinkets instead of treats!

As part of FARE’s “Teal Pumpkin Project” campaign, we always display a teal pumpkin and post a sign that says we are handing out nonfood trinkets (think packaged vampire fangs, stickers, plastic spiders and yo-yos) as well as treats that are free of the top 8 allergens (milk, egg, wheat, soy, peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish). This lets those with food allergies know we have safe items for them! However, always check ingredients yourself.

6. We always bring at least two epinephrine auto-injectors.

Unfortunately, I’ve already heard about food allergy families that have been managing allergic reactions during celebrations happening before Halloween. Please always bring two epinephrine auto-injectors and keep them with you.

7. We do the Switch Witch!

When all is said and done, we usually get home with a lot more things that we can’t eat than those we can. Not everyone participates in the Teal Pumpkin Project.

Last year we started doing something called “the Switch Witch.” We leave our unsafe bags of candy for the Switch Witch, who leaves something special when we wake up the next morning!

It’s something to consider, but you still have to take into account the contact factor. Neighbors handing out candy likely have eaten or touched unsafe candy. Do you still want your child reaching into their unsafe bins? We wear gloves as part of our costumes. Then I sort through the bags while the kids watch, showing and educating them on unsafe candy versus safe candy, and leave the unsafe items for the switch witch!

It may seem like a lot of planning ahead, but it really isn’t. The children’s smiles make it all worth it. What fun we have!

How do you stay safe on Halloween? What traditions have worked for you? If you like this post, sign up for Mothernova’s free newsletter HERE to receive more! We have some exciting news we will be sharing over the next few months.

Remember, always look up ingredients as products — and packaging — change.

Please note that my writing, advice, tips, and all other information given by Mothernova stems from my personal experience and opinion; it should not be used as a substitute for professional legal or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. In a similar vein, my interviews with specialists, doctors, and other professionals are conducted with a general audience in mind and are not to be taken as individual-specific advice or diagnoses. My content is meant only for support.[/alert-warning