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Nov 7, 2013

Halloween :: Staying Safe from Allergies

Traditionally, Halloween is a time of fun, festivities and food. But if you are managing food allergies, school parades and classroom parties, trick-or-treating the neighborhood, and even a trip to the grocery store can cause excruciating anxiety.

(This time of year always brings back so many memories for me...this post is a little flashback and a little bit of the present.)

I have learned over the years that keeping my son safe from his allergens and managing these stressors takes a lot of work. Preparing teachers, other parents, and your child(ren) is crucial. 

The first Halloween that Mason showed me how attentive and aware he was of his allergy to milk was two months shy of his second birthday. Our daycare at the time had a parade and party for everyone to take part in with a variety of foods and treats. I remember bringing a few safe snacks for him, the teachers set aside a few of the candies we knew were safe for him and it went off without a hitch.
#foodallergies #halloween

Taking him trick-or-treating that year was and still is one of the highlights of my life. We had practiced at home so he would understand to say "trick or treat" and "thank you" (or even "no, thank you," when necessary). We also made the trip to Grandma and Grandpa's house first to squeeze in a little of the real thing since we knew they would have safe treats.

Off we went to canvas the neighborhood. I will never forget my sweet baby boy dressed in his fuzzy, chunky monkey costume as he walked up to the door, watched the treat fall into his pumpkin basket, then looked at me with wide eyes  questioning if it was okay. I would smile and tell him, "it's okay, we will check it at home!" and we would go on our way.

#foodallergies #halloween

When we reached the third house, instead of putting the candy in for him, the neighbor held out a bowl for the kids to choose from. Mason turned to me (just a few feet back) and said, "These are not safe for me." I stepped closer to get a better look. Sure enough, the bowl was filled with Snickers, Milky Way, and other chocolate bars. We took the opportunity to say "no, thank you" and give an explanation to the neighbor so they would not be offended. 

We left that house and I was in awe of my little boy. We don't buy those candies and, as far as I knew, he had never even seen some of them. I'm sure he probably just deduced that they did not look familiar to him, but it was amazing to me that he would recognize such a thing. He was still a baby. (Okay, maybe just in my eyes.)

Fast forward three years later and our Halloween festivities go pretty much the same way. We've had a question come up here and there about whether something is safe. He has learned very well that if someone gives him food or candy, he needs to not touch or eat it until he's given the okay by a trusted adult. Even then, I have to warn people that he may not accept something from them even if it is safe, unless I am there to reassure him. 

We have been blessed with teachers at preschool and other parents who will bring treats specifically from the list I've given them so that he can feel included. 

This year, I had another mom ask what she could bring for the classroom party that would be safe for Mason. We brainstormed ideas and talked about safe brands and products. You can read about what she decided to bring for the kids here

Now, it is not only the chocolate candy bars we do not buy or keep around the house. It's all kinds of candy. Sure, a little bit of sweets on occasion isn't the end of the world. But kids are given "a little bit" here and there so frequently that it hardly seems to fall under the "special treat" umbrella any longer. For this reason, we don't regularly keep candy in our house.

I was so happy to find out that our local pediatric dentist office does a candy buy-back during the week after the holiday. The treats are boxed up and sent overseas to our troops. We let the boys pick out a select few special and safe treats to keep (I think the hubs keeps the most...), and the rest is exchanged for cash. 

Before: with loads of unsafe candy; After: with his share of the cash!

All in all, we have navigated the holiday pretty well so far. I'm a little nervous about upcoming years once we enter the public school system, but I am confident we will manage and continue educating others in order to stay safe and included. 
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