With Halloween just around the corner, the spotlight is on the safety of kids with allergies. As one Canadian expert explained it, families should be aware of the candy their children get this time of year.
To Teresa Yehudiaff, mother to a toddler in Winnipeg, it’s important to be extra careful when it comes to handing out candy to trick-or-treaters.
She said she accommodates all forms of allergies in her decision to hand out baskets full of allergen-free sweets and toys, when children stop by at her house on Halloween night.
Her three-year-old son lives with an anaphylactic allergy to sesame. And that means being careful about the candy he gets.
“We do have to read every single label and every single candy,” said Yehudiaff. “He’s aware that he’s allergic to sesame and he’s used to us reading labels all the time… you do have to just read the ingredients every time.”
Yehudiaff said that while sesame-related allergens are less common in candy, it can still sneak in. She added that the mother and son duo have a system that lets her remove unsafe candy, and instead switch it with a toy or something safer.
Referring to it as a “switch witch,” Yehudiaff said her son looks forward to it.
Jennifer Protudjer, an associate professor with the University of Manitoba, said that it’s great for families looking to manage food allergies to have safety procedures. This includes reading food labels and avoiding items all together, if they don’t have an ingredient list.
She also added that it can help if a parent or guardian communicates with neighbours that their child has an allergy.
“Allergy-safe treats and non-food treats would be something that I think a lot of families who manage food allergy would be really open to,” said Protudjer.
She also noted that people can engage in the Teal Pumpkin Project — described on its website as a movement that allows families to place teal-coloured pumpkins outside their homes, indicating that they have non-food treats available for trick-or-treaters.
In the excitement of Halloween, Protudjer noted that safe practices can slide. She doubled down on reading food labels and ensuring each food item has a label.
Adding to the lists of precautions that families can take, Food Safety Canada’s director of food safety, Beatrice Povolo, said that children with allergies should have some sort of adult supervision with them on Halloween night. She added that younger kids should have a no-eating policy while out, ensuring that whatever candy is gathered can be inspected at home first.
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She also said that in case of emergency, it’s important to always carry an epinephrine auto-injector.
“It can be a stressful time and a challenging time simply because the (number) of treats or candy is so much more around the house than you would typically see on any given day,” said Povolo, highlighting that Halloween is one of the days in the year with an increased rate in allergic reactions — alongside Easter.
Raising awareness, she said, would help keep that down.
— with files from Global’s Rosanna Hempel
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