Halloween is a time when children look forward to putting on scary costumes, face paints and taking to the streets with their parents to shout ‘trick or treat’ at neighbours, in the hope of adding to their swag of sweets.
But trick or treating can be a different kind of fright night for parents of children with allergies. Staff Tutor in Nursing at The Open University (OU), Claire McGuigan is urging people to be mindful of children with allergies when giving out sweets this Halloween. A registered nurse for over 25 years and mother to a child with a number of food allergies, McGuigan understands the balance required between keeping their child safe and allowing them to participate fully in fun activities.
McGuigan says nobody wants to worry children unduly, but everyone who takes part in trick or treating should be aware of the risks:
“Worry Worts are not fun! But it can be difficult for parents of children who have allergies to create and maintain a space where their children will not be harmed by what is seen as an innate, kind and generous public gesture of giving children sweets. We don’t want to put barriers in the way, as this can ruin the experience and make children with food allergies feel more isolated.”
There are a number of sweets that are off-limits for children with food allergies, either because their allergen is an included ingredient or because of the risk of cross-contact.
Some of the most common food allergens like milk, nuts, wheat, soy and eggs are used in the manufacturing of many popular sweets, but there are a number of things parents can do.
- If you’re not familiar with the sweets, make sure you read the label, but if there isn’t sufficient information, if in doubt do without.
- If a child is out with their friends and they have a food allergy such as milk, make sure that the child doesn’t come in contact with any sweet residue. Take simple measures like asking the children to wait until their buckets are full, so that you’ve got a chance to check the sweets before they start eating them.
- Be prepared and have a supply of safe treats that you can give to all the children in the group at the start, as you can’t expect them not to eat the sweets as they walk around. Ensure they only eat the sweets you’ve given them, until you’re able to check the other sweets are safe.
- Trick or treating doesn’t have to be just about sweets. Stock up on some alternatives such as small toys, torches or slime.
By taking these extra steps, Halloween and trick or treating can be enjoyed by everyone.