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How to Survive Halloween

Sweet Advice for Parents of Children with Nut Allergies

October 14, 2009

By Janet Millan - Co-founder

It’s almost THAT time of year again - the time of year that parents with children who have food allergies fear the most. Schools, buses, parties, and trick-or-treating are all filled with fun and candy...and danger. It is Halloween.

Back in 2000, when I first got involved with my son’s elementary school, I was asked to co-chair the Halloween party. Over 1500 people attended the party, and everyone had a great time. There were games, food, and a spooky Haunted Hallway set up to scare those that were brave enough to enter. It was a wonderful event that took many volunteers and hours to plan and organize.

But what we had forgotten was that there were many children with nut allergies who would be attending the party. One mother with just such a child was frantic when she realized what was placed in our Haunted Hallway candy cauldron. The thought of all those kids with peanut-soiled hands running around the school was more than frightening for her. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

How often is this scenario played out at other fun Halloween events, and what can parents do to ensure that their children will be safe? Obviously, the first suggestion would be to avoid any large parties with unsafe candy being distributed, but that isn’t any fun. You can contact the person in charge and politely ask if they would be willing to remove any products containing nuts. Now that severe nut allergies are so common, they may agree that it’s a good idea, or get involved and help plan the party yourself. Then you’ll have more input as to what food is served. This will benefit not only your child, but any other children who also have severe nut allergies.

You may also want to contact your school’s bus service and have them remind the bus drivers that no candy, especially that with nuts, should be handed out or consumed on the bus. Although our bus system has a “no eating” policy, it is not strictly enforced. A little reminder that there are safety issues involved can go a long way.

Remind your school’s principal and teachers that only safe candy should be offered in class and for parties. Furthermore, students should not be bringing in Halloween candy unless it does not contain nuts. Although we had rules about nut products in place for classrooms, the cafeteria, and school-wide events, we forgot about the candy basket in the office! Keep your eyes open for any gaps in your school’s policies.

Even with all those nut-filled candies, trick-or-treating can still be a fun time for kids with nut allergies. Have your child request candy without nuts if there are several choices available. Make sure your child knows to always check with you before eating anything from his/her bag. Consider organizing a candy swap when the night is over. Kids with allergies can trade their nutty candy with other children for safer treats, so everyone can enjoy their Halloween night safely.

As for the mom who had the courage to stand up at our school Halloween party, she became the chairperson of the allergy committee at our school and ran it for several years. It was this committee that fostered a better understanding of the seriousness of severe food allergies and brought many changes in our school to ensure the safety of its students with nut allergies.

If you have any ideas you’d like to share, let us know. You can send us an email at www.projectallergy.com/contact.cfm, or post a suggestion on our forum.

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