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Practicing trick-or-treating safety can keep kids healthy

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, ILL. (October 15, 2013) Between dodging vampires in haunted houses and listening to tales of terror, Halloween can be a scary time of make-believe. But for the four percent of children with food allergies, Halloween can be a real, horrifying experience.

Holiday treats can have many hidden allergens in them that can cause a severe life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

"Even candy that may seem harmless, such as lollipops, can contain trace amounts of allergens," said allergist Richard Weber, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). "Seemingly allergy-free candy can be manufactured in the same facilities as peanuts, wheat and other allergens, causing cross-contamination."

The urge to snack on candy while trick-or-treating can be irresistible, but knowing the exact source of the candy can be impossible, especially with snack size candies. To help keep your trick-or-treaters safe, ACAAI has put together the following Halloween safety tips.

  1. B.Y.O.P. (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) Join the kids and carry your own jack-o-lantern. Fill it with snacks and candy that are safe for your little ones to eat. Be sure to have emergency epinephrine on hand just in case your child eats something they shouldn't. Is asthma also a problem? Carry an inhaler in your pumpkin since running door to door and kicking up moldy leaves can spur asthma attacks.
  2. Hold a Candy Swap When you get home from trick-or-treating, have a candy swap with your children. If you have children without allergies, have them trade their safe candy for candy your other child might not be able to eat. Or you can trade allergy-free candy and age appropriate items, such as a stuffed animal or coloring book, to exchange with your child./li>
  3. Read Labels Carefully Just because a candy doesn't contain milk, soy, wheat, nuts or peanuts doesn't mean it's safe to eat. Hard candies may be manufactured at plants that have these airborne allergens. Gelatin and food additives can also spur reactions in those that are allergic. Even if you know a candy doesn't contain an allergen and isn't processed at a plant that contains allergens, it can be bagged with other candies that are.
  4. Start New Traditions If trick-or-treating still has you worried, try starting a new tradition. Start a Halloween scavenger hunt around the neighborhood or stay in and play Halloween themed games. Seeing a scary movie or going out to dinner can be a fun way to spend the evening as well.
  5. Get Creative with Costumes Search for a costume that might include the use of gloves to ensure your little one doesn't come in contact with certain foods. Have more than a food allergy? Many costume accessories, such as jewelry and swords, can contain allergy-causing nickel. Get creative and make pieces with cardboard or opt for plastic over nickel.

Food intolerance can often mimic a food allergy, causing nausea and vomiting. Before you exclude a certain food from your child s diet, be sure to have your child tested for food allergies by a board-certified allergist. Upon diagnosis, an allergist can prescribe life-saving treatment and teach you and your child avoidance measures.

For more information about allergy and asthma, and to locate an allergist in your area, visit


The ACAAI is a professional medical organization of more than 6,000 allergists-immunologists and allied health professionals, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill. The College fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research. ACAAI allergists are board-certified physicians trained to diagnose allergies and asthma, administer immunotherapy, and provide patients with the best treatment outcomes. For more information and to find relief, visit Join us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

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