Fall is here, and with Halloween trick-or-treating around the corner, so are the temptations to eat outside the normal diet. Following a few dos and don’ts can help make the celebrations safer and more healthful for both children and parents.

Treats for special diets

Food allergies can put a damper on any child’s fun, especially during Halloween. Parents are reminded to examine the label of all candies to ensure your child’s allergen isn’t present and are cautioned to not allow consumption of any home-baked goods or foods that are not commercially wrapped. It is important to keep in mind that mini or bite-size versions of candy might have different ingredients than their full-size versions. Consider imposing a “no eating while trick-or-treating” rule until you have time to review all food labels and check for tampering.

Handing out candy to little ghosts and goblins on Halloween is part of the holiday experience, and there’s a fun and easy way to make it even more inclusive for the one in 13 children who have food allergies or intolerances. The “Teal Pumpkin Project” created by the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) organization suggests placing a teal-colored pumpkin at the front of the home. The color signals that it contains allergy-friendly candy or foods as well as non-edible treats like small toys, glow sticks or stickers.

Keeping a watchful eye on your young ones while they enjoy their loot is important, as food allergies can develop at any stage of life. Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room in the U.S.; no parents need that type of scare on Halloween.  A child having an allergic reaction may manifest with children putting their hands in their mouth, pulling or scratching at their tongues, slurring their words, or resulting in hoarse or squeaky voice. Symptoms, which typically begin soon after ingestion, may include hives, abdominal pain and, in very severe cases, low blood pressure and loss of consciousness. If you think your child is having an allergic reaction, seek immediate medical care. Calling 911 may be needed in some cases, particularly when a severe reaction occurs and/or if symptoms are progressing rapidly.

Tricks for keeping children healthy

The spookiest holiday of the year is also a good marker for the start of flu season. Getting a flu vaccine and staying current on COVID-19 vaccines before mischief night can help keep your child happy and healthy past Halloween and into the family holiday season.

It is also an ideal time to remind your child of other important ways to stay healthy and safe as they travel door to door, speaking to neighbors to get treats. Children trick-or-treating on Halloween night should remember to watch for cars, use reflective gear, if possible, walk with a group, and carry a flashlight. With the increase in sugar intake, it is also important to remind children to brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste regularly and floss daily as well.

For parents with children who wear face paint or makeup, it’s important to be aware that potentially harmful ingredients in these products can trigger allergies or cause problems like skin irritation. Be sure to check the ingredient list, avoiding makeup with heavy metals like cadmium, mercury, lead and even arsenic. To avoid infection from makeup, wash hands before applying and never share makeup with others. A good practice is to test a small amount of makeup a few days before full use to see if your child will have a reaction, and when in doubt, talk with your child’s pediatrician.

Optum Disclaimer: Some items and foods are choking risks for children and should be avoided, particularly with children under age 4 or who have certain disabilities. The list includes certain foods, small toys, and any item small enough to place inside the mouth.