Halloween and food allergies

by Kim on October 14, 2014

As a food allergy mom, Halloween stresses me out.

We haven’t had to fully address it yet, since Mason is only 2, hates wearing costumes, and doesn’t like candy (or, really, hasn’t been exposed to it). But eventually, I know it’s going to be something we’ll have to deal with.

And I’m nervous.


Not so much about his safety—Halloween is just another day that we have to protect him from the dozen foods he’s dangerously allergic to. I’m more worried about him feeling different. Left out.

Who knows—maybe he’ll never be that interested in costumes. Maybe he won’t care that all his friends are running around the neighborhood dressed as ninjas, with pillowcases full of shiny stuff he can’t touch, let alone eat.

But what if he does care? And what about us, wanting to give our kid a normal childhood?

Will I have to run around the neighborhood the day before Halloween, dropping off allergy-friendly candy and non-food treats at houses for people to give him? Or will I let him go, and then make him give up his entire stash, except for maybe the Smarties, once he gets home?

It makes me sad thinking about it, and knowing that it’s just one of a million situations we’re going to have to learn how to navigate when he’s older (and even worse: ones we’re going to have to teach him how to navigate himself when we’re not around).

We’re kind of lucky, though, for two reasons:

–Food allergy awareness is blowing up these days. Everyone knows at least something about it, and schools are getting more proactive, cautious, and better informed all the time.

–General health awareness is blowing up these days. The real food movement, in particular, is gaining popularity like crazy, and more and more people are interested in candy alternatives for Halloween just for health reasons.

It makes me wonder if Halloween will look different in the coming years anyway?

One recent example: have you heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project?

teal pumpkin project

The Food Allergy Research & Education organization is encouraging people to place a teal-painted pumpkin outside their door on Halloween this year if they’re offering non-food treats like small toys and stickers for kids with food allergies.

While I obviously appreciate the idea, I’m not sure if I’m totally behind it.

For one thing, I picture all these well-meaning families buying a pile of cheap junk from the dollar store, putting it in a bowl, and then having 1 kid out of 100 actually take one (and then break it or lose it under the couch by the next morning).

Plus, I don’t think it addresses the primary problem, which, in my opinion, is the “feeling different” thing. How is my kid going to feel when he goes to a teal pumpkin house and has to pick from the “special” bowl while all his friends dive into the chocolate?

To me, this is not an issue of safety. Most food allergy parents are super vigilant about what food goes near their kid as it is, and that’s only compounded on holidays. We’re not going to be sending our kids out into the neighborhood and just hoping that our neighbors have researched food allergies and have a plan to protect our kids.

The article about the Teal Pumpkin Project says, “If you don’t want to purchase non-food items, it is helpful to separate allergy-free candy from candy that may trigger an allergic reaction.”

Well, sure, but also…no. It is not the average person’s responsibility to protect food allergic kids—and I say that as a food allergy mom. For one thing, how many people even know what an “allergy-free candy” is? I remember how overwhelmed I was when I started reading labels for food allergens, and I would absolutely not expect my neighbors to learn all of that just for my kid’s sake.

Even if I sent everyone in my neighborhood a list of allergy-free candies prior to Halloween, that doesn’t feel fair. It’s just not their problem (lucky for them).

So what’s the perfect solution?

Curing food allergies, I guess…

In the meantime, all I’d really like to see from others is some plain old empathy.


–Not bad-mouthing families who choose to hand out non-candy treats (and especially not in front of the kids). A treat is a treat, and we should be teaching our kids gratefulness.

–If one kid in a group has to have his loot “checked” by Mom or Dad before he can indulge, having the other kids wait to eat anything until they get home too. Nope, it’s not fair—it’s just kind. And we should be teaching our kids kindness.

–Not suggesting that kids with food allergies just not go trick-or-treating. Please don’t make me explain why that is not helpful.

How would (or do) you handle Halloween for a kid with food allergies?

Do you think Halloween will change in the next decade? What might it look like?

What are some good candy alternatives for Halloween?




{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny Davis December 8, 2014 at 10:20 am

Lately, people have becoming sensitive about programs that promote allergy-free treats. As a mother of child with life threatening peanut allergy, it delights me to know that people are becoming aware of this disease. My Allergy Easy


char eats greens October 15, 2014 at 2:12 pm

I hope it does change for your sake!! Especially since Mason should have the opportunity to feel just like any other kid, regardless of having allergies! For Nia (I know it’s not comparable), but I think my plan for the future is to let her trick-or-treat and then we just donate all the candy, and then she can go to Whole Foods (or wherever) and get to choose a few candies/chocolates of her choice. It sucks that you even have to think about this, but I think you’re awesome with the way you handle things! And the way you think about things! I hope it all works out. I’ll take more cute pictures of Mason in the meantime while you decide what to do :)
char eats greens recently posted…my first 3-in-1 race {recap}My Profile


Kim October 15, 2014 at 3:12 pm

I like your plan for Nia–I could see us doing something similar. And honestly, Mason probably wouldn’t even care that much because he’s never had “real” candy. Where do you donate candy?
Kim recently posted…Halloween and food allergiesMy Profile


Marissa @ Where I Need to Be October 15, 2014 at 9:16 am

That is a tough situation and I feel for you. I don’t know the whole allergy back story or if this is even a possibility but sometimes kids do outgrow their food allergies. The teal pumpkin project reminds me of the year I gave out Larabars for Halloween and got the strangest looks from kids — and parents. Now I just opt out of Halloween altogether because I don’t want to give kids candy. I know this sounds weird, but in New York City it’s not as bad as the neighborhood family that keeps their house dark and doesn’t answer the door. Most large apartment buildings have lists and you can “sign up” if you plan to hand out candy to trick or treaters.


Kim October 15, 2014 at 3:09 pm

I could totally see this being easier in NYC! And wow, I’m impressed you gave out Larabars–those aren’t cheap! Those kids probably didn’t even realize what a hook up that was. :)
Kim recently posted…Halloween and food allergiesMy Profile


Melanie @ Happy Being Healthy October 14, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Oh, that is so tough that your cute little guy has allergies. I never thought about how hard that would be on Halloween. I did hear about the teal pumpkin thing, but I totally think all of your concerns are valid. My kids love to go to a house that gives out Hot Wheels Cars, boxes of crayons, hot chocolate and hot dogs! Yes, they stay out all night giving fresh hot dogs to people and hot chocolate. It’s awesome.


Kim October 15, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Ha! That is cool! For the parents too?? So nice. :)

You’re right–lots of kids would probably love to get non-candy stuff. Those Hot Wheels are kinda pricey though, compared to cheapo candy! :)
Kim recently posted…Halloween and food allergiesMy Profile


Giselle October 14, 2014 at 6:37 pm

I was planning to purchase a non-food treat for halloween just because I’m not huge on all the sugar. Ayden and I have already been discussing how some of the candy he will get is not made with “the good” sugar. Like last year I will most likely purchase some candy that I approve or and switch it out for his bad candy. We then donate it or send it with the Hubby to work. We’ll see how long that lasts though…
Giselle recently posted…How I’m dealing with my HypothyroidismMy Profile


Kim October 15, 2014 at 3:03 pm

I haven’t even thought about what we’ll do for the neighbor kids…I hate it when we get stuck with SO much leftover candy, regardless of how “good” it is. Maybe we’ll just hide in the basement, haha :)
Kim recently posted…Halloween and food allergiesMy Profile


Julie @ Run Away Freckles October 14, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Have you heard of the Switch Witch? I think its mostly used to keep kids from eating a ridiculous amount of junk. Basically the kids can choose to eat their candy or on Halloween night they can leave their candy for the switch witch. She will take the candy and leave them a toy they want. It might be an interesting option.
Julie @ Run Away Freckles recently posted…The Day After the DinnersMy Profile


Katie October 15, 2014 at 10:25 am

I think the switch witch is a great idea!! I agree that the teal pumpkin is not a great substitute. (there’s a whole lot of feelings behind it, but let’s just all agree there are good things and bad things behind the idea).
Katie recently posted…Motivating Myself to Run and WALK! (Couch to 5k Update)My Profile


Kim October 15, 2014 at 3:01 pm

The teal pumpkin idea is ok, but I have a kid with food allergies and even I don’t feel like it would be worth the trouble. And then, are we supposed to go out and just hope we see some houses with teal pumpkins? :)
Kim recently posted…Halloween and food allergiesMy Profile


Kim October 15, 2014 at 2:57 pm

I’ve never heard of that! That could definitely work, thanks for sharing. :)
Kim recently posted…Halloween and food allergiesMy Profile


Amanda October 14, 2014 at 4:42 pm

We used to get bananas from one our neighbors when we trick or treated at their house, and we used to think it was thr coolest thing!


Kim October 15, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Hahaha…really?? Hmmmm :)
Kim recently posted…Halloween and food allergiesMy Profile


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: