CBS News ran a story today about problems children have with food allergies, particularly tree nuts and peanuts, when they go trick-or-treating on Halloween, and how to take precautions against a reaction.
In our NYC Allergy practice, I see a lot of kids with food allergies, but I have not found a case where a child couldn’t participate in this fun Halloween event if some reasonable ground rules are set before the fun of collecting candy begins.
The key ground-rule for Halloween is that while all candy can be collected:
- No candy is eaten until the child comes home
- Parents must carefully go through the Halloween candy and make sure they don’t contain any nuts
- If the candy is home-made or there is no visible label, then the candy goes into the garbage – no arguments there
- If your child is very young — go with them so they are not tempted to “cheat”
If a family is throwing a Halloween party and they know that some of the children may have food allergies to nuts, a great place to order nut-free candies and desserts is from Divvies, who specialize in nut-free, great tasting treats. I personally met the owner, Laurie, and her son, who were on The Martha Stewart Show last spring when I appeared.
As a NYC and LI allergist, I have seen numerous children with peanut and tree nut allergies. Peanut and tree nut allergies can cause the most explosive type of allergic reaction - anaphylaxis - if an allergic child ingests a particular nut. It is possible, but unusual, for a child to have a severe reaction by simply coming in contact with the allergenic food. It is possible the child may get a rash in the area of contact with the nut allergen, but that usually does not lead to a more severe reaction.
Exciting breakthrough news in food allergies is that there is now a blood test that can measure which proteins in the peanuts and other foods, such as eggs, soy and wheat, that can help determine how severe a specific food reaction is to that food. The peanut test is called component testing and is done at one particular lab in this country called PIRL labs in Michigan. I send my patient’s blood with concerns about unclear severity to these foods and help determine what foods must be avoided and what can more safely be in their diet.
Dean Mitchell, MD