Allergy Mom: What makes Halloween the scariest night of the year
Posted October 22, 2014 8:12 p.m. EDT
Updated October 30, 2015 2:26 p.m. EDT
What’s so scary about Halloween? To a food allergy mom – everything.
I love holidays. Each and every one of them. But after learning about Elias’s life-threatening peanut and tree nut allergies, I started to dread Halloween with every fiber of my being. Last year, he was young enough to keep strapped in the wagon while his big brother went door to door. We swapped out the candy for "safe goodies" in our garage when we arrived home.
And I’d love to report that I handled it all well, but I didn’t. I was a mess. And, who wouldn’t be? To outsiders, or those less-informed, what’s the big deal? You just don’t let your kid eat the stuff they can’t have.
But no, it’s not that simple. Some children (including Elias) have peanut allergies that can be very severe and extremely unpredictable. Handling that Reese’s cup from the hand of your well-meaning neighbor on its one-foot journey to the pumpkin bucket could trigger a contact reaction. Rub his eyes, or munch on some Sixlets (safe) after touching the other candies and you could find yourself in the ER with an anaphylactic reaction.
Call me dramatic if you’d like, but I know for a fact it happens. And it scares the crap out of me.
Very few candies are truly peanut or tree nut free. Many kids are allergic to other things – severely – like dairy or soy. It’s like we are sending our kids up to these fun, decorated doors to ask politely for poison. No parent would want to do that. But that’s just what we are doing.
This year, I’m already feeling the dread. We have great neighbors that are aware of Elias’s allergies and help us keep him safe. There’s always a neighborhood parade and block party. The kids are running around all costumed-up and fueled by candy. And I will follow my two-year-old around like a hawk. I will observe keenly what the kids have in or on their hands when they play with my boys. I will be sure Asher only consumes safe things, so we can encourage brotherly love and hand-holding without panic attacks.
But beyond that, we will be handing out non-food treats at our house. We will trick-or-treat at a few homes we know will be safe, and we’ll venture home to hand out our toys to the others. (Last year, that was the most exciting part for our two anyway.)
This year, FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education, a national organization) has launched the Teal Pumpkin Project. FARE is asking homes nationwide to paint their pumpkins teal to signal that you have non-food treats available for your trick or treaters with food allergies.
If you don’t want to paint your pumpkin teal, just hang the poster. Trust me, as a mom that’ll be on high alert, this would be SUCH a welcome sight. I dream of a neighborhood full of teal pumpkins and Pumpkin Project fliers, letting us know that Elias can Transformer-Rescue-Bot-march himself right up to that door and I can smile confidently from the sidewalk.
I plead with all the Halloween fans out there, consider giving out toys, stickers or other non-food items in addition to your candy. Help us keep our kids safe. Don’t know what to get? Let me help. Check the dollar stores, or sticker/party favor sections at your local Walmart or Target.
Here are some ideas and links to items we will be handing out at the Kroboth house:
- Bubbles.Target has some cute options, too.
- Bracelets, of the glow or slap variety
- Little plastic jumping spiders
- Variety packs of Halloween toys
You can also check out Oriental Trading for some great options in large quantities.
I do feel a little better this year knowing that Elias is consuming nearly the equivalent of a peanut in peanut flour daily through his Oral Immunotherapy. But I’ve done my research and I know that Reese’s pieces are super-charged with peanut protein and just the site of a Snickers bars will still (rightly) give me cold chills. We are safer than we were last year, for sure, but we have a long way to go before I can let my guard down around his allergens.
Halloween begins the parade of the best holidays of the year, but also those that bring me the most anxiety. I’m looking forward to raising awareness, continuing our OIT journey and working with our friends/family to keep Elias safe. Come Oct. 31, I will keep my eyes hopefully peeled for teal pumpkins, and brace myself for a fun-filled night with some anxiety built in. I’m only human, after all.
If you are local to North Carolina and are on the search for opportunities to connect with other food allergy parents and doctors, consider attending the Food Allergy Research Updates conference here in the RTP area. It’s sponsored by FARE and a food allergy consultation group started by a local mom. It’s really affordable, and features some big names in food allergies. I’ll be there and would love to meet you.
Kira is the mom of two boys in Raleigh and owner of Krobe Interactive. She is writing regularly about her son's peanut allergy and his treatment.