Halloween pumpkin Credit: Unsplash

Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room in the U.S. No parent of the 1 in 13 kids nationwide with food allergies or intolerances needs that type of scare on Halloween. Never fear – Dr. John Good, general pediatrician at Optum in Rio Rancho, has got tips for during and after the trick or treating to keep your children safe.

When your kids bring home their stash, check the labels of course. Favorites that checked out last Halloween might have changed a few ingredients since then. Mini-versions of candy can differ in their ingredients, too.

“Peanut allergies are the most worrisome and dangerous,” Dr. Good said. “There’s also eggs, milk, soy and wheat, which are among the things kids most often react to.”

Allergic reactions can show up in different ways. “There can be mild swelling of the eye, or lip swelling, or a tingling in the mouth,” he said. “Allergies affecting the airway can cause a cough or anaphylaxis. Hives are another sign of food allergies. And of course tummy aches from eating too much candy are very common.” Although a “sugar high” is a bit of a myth behaviorally, Dr. Good cautions that eating too much sugar can cause very real physical problems.

He suggests allowing children to eat no more candy at one time than fits in the palm of one hand – one washed hand. Taking along a small bottle of squirt-able hand sanitizer is a must. “Children are reaching out and grabbing things out of a communal candy dispenser. And there are kids out there who are sick but, if they can walk, they’re going trick or treating,” he said.

Can ingredients transfer between one wrapped piece of candy and another within a child’s treat bag? Dr. Good says it’s not likely. “Just stay away from homemade goods,” he said.

A Halloween mask can impede a child’s vision while crossing the street – but beware of face paint, too. “Some of the makeups can be quite irritating to the skin because they can contain heavy metals and could trigger a dermatologic reaction or even anaphylaxis,” he said. Parents should check those labels, too.

Households that offer nonallergenic treats or non-edible treats often follow the Teal Pumpkin Project guidelines and place a teal-painted pumpkin on their doorsteps. The Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) has a map of those households who register, and suggestions for non-edibles like small toys, glow sticks and popular stickers. CVS Pharmacy is the Exclusive Retail Partner of the FARE Teal Pumpkin Project 2022. 

Afterward, make sure kids brush with fluoride toothpaste and floss before bed. That increased sugar intake can do quite a bit of damage to little teeth.