Childhood Allergies and How to Avoid them this Halloween
By: Tray Oates
With Halloween and trick-or-treating just around the corner, kids will be exposed to a host of foods and candies that are not often handed out with parental supervision. Allergies in the U.S. are common, with prevalence’s estimated around 4.2% in children 1-5 years old and 3.8% in children 6-19. With the hundreds of children coming to your door, it’s important to be aware of the possible allergies and sensitivities to certain foods they may have. Five common food allergies in children are wheat (gluten), eggs, nuts, soy, and dairy.
Wheat allergies are tricky because so much of our diet in America has some sort of wheat derivative in it. The intolerance to wheat products, sometimes referred to as celiac disease if serious enough, is caused by the inability to digest the wheat protein, gluten. Most food products today are regulated by the FDA and are labeled gluten-free if they do not contain wheat, rye, or barley. Often, chocolate candies contain barley malt, so you have to be careful choosing. Snickers Bars are a common candy that is gluten-free and also a great choice to have in your porch set candy bowl!
Egg allergies are among the most common allergy in children. Cross-contact with eggs in food preparation can be very common and needs to be avoided at all costs. Baked goods, marshmallows, and certain nougats all contain some form of eggs. Typically, hard candies do not contain egg. Some good options are Laffy Taffy or Tootsie Pops. If you plan on making your own treats, you can make caramel apples very easily without adding eggs.
Nut allergies are fairly easy to avoid because any food containing nuts usually has a nut warning on its label. The problems arise again if the food is prepared in a place where other foods with nuts are prepared. Hard candies are again a good option because they rarely contain nuts. Candies from Wonka are not prepared near any other foods containing nuts, so they are all good options to provide to your trick-or-treaters.
Soy allergies are often not as serious as symptoms usually ranging from hives to itching around the mouth. Foods containing soy, a product of soybeans, are hard to identify because soy protein is a versatile ingredient in processed foods. Soy allergies are more common in children than in adults. Some baked cookies can contain soy protein to help hold the food together. A lot of Hersey’s products contain soy or are made in a factory containing soy foods. Starbursts and Airheads are two examples of soy-free candies.
Dairy allergies, also known as lactose intolerance, are the most prevalent childhood allergy. It comes from the inability to digest the milk sugar, or lactose, and this stems from the lack of the enzyme lactase. Milk products such as Lactaid are produced without lactose and are safe to consume. Oftentimes, children can take lactase pills, which will allow an individual to consume dairy. Again, hard candies are a good option because many soft candies or chocolates will contain some sort of dairy. Homemade Rice Krispy treats made with coconut oil instead of butter are a great way to avoid dairy.
We often do not think about food allergies when buying candy or making treats for Halloween. It is imperative that we take great measures in protecting children with these allergies because more often than not, the child will not know if a food contains an ingredient that he/she cannot eat. Being an educated trick-or-treater is being a safe trick-or-treater!