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Real Life Scary – Food Allergies and Halloween

Did you know just touching someone who has a certain food allergy can trigger a serious reaction? It’s a scary reality for many parents who have children who live with food allergies, especially during the Halloween season with treats, carnivals and playdates. What if you don’t have a child with an allergy? What can you do to help? 

Food allergies are growing at a tremendous rate with now 1 in 12 children diagnosed and 17 million Americans suffering. To raise awareness Kim Hall and Elise Bates are co-founders of the organization EAT, End Allergies Together

HFM: What is the most common mistake when it comes to reading labels?

Elise Bates: There are two main things to remember when reading labels:

•Read the entire label.  You can’t solely rely on the bold Allergen Statement as they don’t always include ALL allergens.  Once, I relied on the Allergen Statement for crackers and it said “Contains dairy and soy”.  Luckily, I went back and read the entire label and saw that eggs were listed.  My daughter is allergic to eggs but the company hadn’t listed it in the Allergen Statement. Yet it was in the list of ingredients. 

•The label may or may not address cross-contamination issues in the factory.  The only way to make sure there isn’t cross-contamination risk is to call the company or check www.SnackSafely.com for the most updated information.

HFM: What can parents who have kids who DON’T have allergies do to help out those who do?

Kim Hall: It is important as parents of children with food allergies that we take the time to explain the severity of the situation with parents who plan to host our children. It is important that the hosting parents are briefed on the emergency action plan including how to administer epinephrine should an emergency occur. Parents who are open-minded and understand the dangers of food allergies make a world of difference in our lives! It means so much to us when a parent is willing to take on the risk of having our daughter over and that they take the precautions in their home to make it a safe place to be and have fun. 

I think it is extremely important for us (parents with food allergies) to make it easy. For my child who is allergic to a trace amount of dairy, eggs and nuts we send all of her food in bag or container  – she only eats from her bag. That way she feels safe, the family hosting her feels comfortable and I am more at ease.

HFM: What is the most common misconception when it comes to food allergies?

Kim Hall: That a simple bite of any allergen can place children with severe food allergies in a life threatening situation. SO many people do not realize that a trace amount can be dangerous and that children can be allergic to any type of food – not just peanuts. 

HFM: What is the biggest fear when it comes to halloween and dealing with a kid who has allergies?

Kim Hall: My biggest fear is that my daughter’s food allergens are everywhere all day and all night on Halloween. It is a dangerous holiday for children with food allergies. Halloween treats often contain many of the top 8 allergens (dairy, eggs, tree nut, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish). For many children with severe food allergies, it only takes a small bite, being touched after another children touched an allergen or even inhaled to trigger a life threatening situation.

HFM: How can families who have kids with allergies keep safe during Halloween time? 

Elise Bates: 

•Carry 2 epinephrine auto-injectors and Benadryl for all Halloween festivities including trick or treating. 

•Offer to bring safe treats for the Halloween parties and where not possible we bring safe options to replace food that contains my child’s allergens.

•Communicate the dangers of my daughter’s allergies to the children and parents trick or treating with us. Carry hand wipes to hand out freely after children eat candy that is unsafe so that Lindsay can avoid a contact reaction. 

•When my daughter was younger, we carried safe candy to exchange when the treats being offered were not safe in the bowl. We wanted to avoid a contact or airborne reaction if there were open wrappers. 

•Remind my daughter that she must read every label and only eat food that she knows 1) is safe and 2) where it came from. 

•Facilitate a candy swap after the trick or treat is over. My child would swap out her unsafe candy with friends and family members. Help where necessary!  Again, when my daughter was little, we would bring our own stash of safe candy and dump it into her bag so she felt like she had as much candy as everyone else – this is very important when everyone sits down to count candy together.

•At my house, I offer allergen free candy as well as non-food treats like pencils, stickers or glow sticks

•Be vigilant about washing our own hands before hugging my child if we had consumed one or more of her allergens. 

HFM: What can you do with leftover halloween candies?

Hall: You can check with your local dentist, our dentist will buy back the candy at a $1 per pound. Local food pantries and fire stations often take leftover candy as well.  

There is also a wonderful option to donate any to the troop overseas through  Operation Shoe Box or Operation Gratitude.  

HFM: Do you have any “allergy friendly” snack options to share?

Divvies Famous Chocolate Cupcakes

1 ½ cups unbleached flour

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 ¼ cups water

•Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-weel cupcake pan with paper liners

•In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together until well-combined; do not sift. Set aside

•In a large mixing bowl combine the vegetable oil, vinegar, and water and blend with an electric mixer on medium speed.

•Add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients and mix until very smooth, scraping batter form sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula. Continue to mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. This batter will be more watery than typical cake batters.  

•Pour the batter into the lined cupcake pan filling each well about three-quarters full. 

•Bake the cupcakes for 25 minutes on the center rack of the preheated oven.  After 12 minutes, rotate the pan to ensure more even baking.  Remove the cupcake pan from the oven, and immediately transfer the cupcakes to a wire cooling rack – this is very important as it allows excess moisture to evaporate from the bottom of the paper baking cups. 

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes.

[Dairy, egg and nut free.]

Chocolate pretzels

1 bag small pretzels (make sure package says they are egg, dairy and nut free)

1 package dairy, nut and egg free semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 package dairy, nut and egg-free sprinkles

In a heavy saucepan, empty bag of chocolate chips.  Place on low burner and stir until all chocolate is melted.  Use dairy-free milk to thin if chocolate gets to thick.  Once all melted, dip pretzels in melted chocolate and then place on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper.  Spoon sprinkles over pretzels so they stick to the chocolate.  Once cookie sheet is filled, place in refrigerator to harden.  

[Dairy, egg and nut free.]

For more information on EAT, End Allergies Together and Kim Hall & Elise Bates, check out the website: endallergiestogether.com.

 

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