As we bid summer adieu and welcome cooler temps, our attention is quickly turned toward the upcoming celebrations. Whether your crew is all about trick-or-treating or looking forward to local fall festivals (Pumpkins! Hayrides! Fried apple pies!), parents with young children are eager to participate while knowing how to best protect their families. Read on for suggestions dealing with common cautions of the season and how to have a safe Halloween.
For children with food allergies, Halloween treats can be a real threat. The allure of free candy is hard enough for little ones to resist, keeping caregivers on high alert to potential hidden dangers.
“Several of the eight most common foods and food groups that can cause serious reactions are found in Halloween candy, so food allergy families have to take special care,” says Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, FAAP, pediatrician and chief medical officer of SpoonfulONE. For moms and dads needing to remain vigilant, she recommends the following:
Make sure you’re checking and reading all labels. Some labels will state “may contain (allergen name)” but you may have to go look at the full package label for more details. IF there is no label (which can be common with hard candy), or the treat is homemade, I recommend tossing it out.
Implement the rule of “Always Ask First.” If you’re a food allergy parent, you likely already have this rule squarely in place and are an expert, but make sure to reinforce it during an exciting and frenetic time like Halloween night. Make sure they know to wait until you’re back home from trick-or-treating to sneak any bites. (This is also a good practice to avoid choking hazards that may pop up when you’re not looking.)
Talk to your child’s school. If your child’s class has any sort of party or celebration that involves food, make sure you discuss it with the teachers and/or class volunteers. Ensure your allergy emergency plan is in place and your epinephrine pen is readily available and not outdated with the school nurse.
Trade or donate goodies. If your kiddo gets candy that they aren’t able to eat, have a few small toys or trinkets on hand for them to trade in. Let them feel awesome for the goods they get to trade-up for in replacement of that old candy!
One way to help spread awareness of food allergies within your community and create a more inclusive environment for children and families affected by these sensitivities is to start participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project.
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“The Teal Pumpkin Project is a campaign started by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) to promote safety, community, and inclusion for children with food allergies, explains Swanson. If you see a teal pumpkin outside someone’s home in lieu of a traditional jack-o-lantern, it means they’re offering non-food goodies or treat bags for kids with allergies in addition to candy, like stickers, glow sticks, pencils, small toys, or things like spider rings.”
Here’s a scary statistic: According to Safe Kids Worldwide, children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a vehicle and killed on Halloween than any other day of the year.
While alarming, there are measures you can take to safeguard your outing.
If planning to be out after dark, wear light-colored clothing and add reflective tape to everyone’s costumes or bags to better be seen by motorists.
Only cross the street at corners or crosswalks. When applicable, always wait for the proper walking sign at intersections and try to avoid stopping at or on medians. Also avoid walking too closely to curbs.
Opt for face paint over a mask (for tots, older children and adults alike). Masks can limit vision.
Be mindful of driveways and teach children to treat these as a road, always double-checking that no one is backing out or pulling in before crossing.
Don’t get distracted with your cell phone! Resist the urge to scroll social media or take photographs when in motion. Stay in familiar areas to know what to anticipate when facing traffic.
As the pandemic continues to shape social gatherings, you may feel inclined to try an alternative celebration. (You can still leave a bowl of candy on the front porch to offer neighbors even if choosing to not participate in trick-or-treating.) Consider one of the following to make Halloween special while also prioritizing public health.
Keep celebrations outside. As we all know by now, the key to successful social distancing is adequate space and open air. Throwing a boo bash in the backyard on your terms allows you to better control the environment (like requesting masks or only having fully vaccinated guests attend) while still enjoying the All Hallows Eve vibes. We’ve seen some pretty neat haunted garages pop up as an added outdoor activity with less risk if you’re feeling extra inspired!
Plan an epic night at home. If you’re more comfortable keeping things in-house with just your people, you can still have the best night ever! (Honestly, when does staying home in jammies with takeout not sound better than most outings anyway?) Make a themed dinner, watch your favorite seasonal movie, plan a spooky scavenger hunt for your kiddos throughout the house, carve pumpkins or play games. Whatever your crew enjoys, use this time to create special memories.