When your child is a toddler with food allergies, it can be very stressful. Making sure that daycare, play dates, friends and everyday environments are safe, educated, aware and prepared to support your child is an ongoing mission, let alone during special events and holidays!! Having a toddler with food allergies means you are always on alert. The more severe and broad the allergy list is, the more heightened the alert level.
Toddlers are stealthy ninja-like creatures! They are curious, rambunctious and can be incredibly unpredictable. (Like the time in the spring when my toddler picked up a peanut that had been abandoned in our garden by an evil squirrel!’)
It may be easy to keep your home environment a save haven but special occasions can be difficult even around well meaning close friends and family members. While it’s fun when everyone is together and participating in the festivities, with all the cooking, baking and excitement going on, it’s easy for even the most well informed friend or family member to innocently forget about an allergen.
With the fall season in full swing and Halloween decorations and treats adorning the shelves at every store, some new parents of toddlers and young children may start to feel some anxiety. Most parents see delicious candy and baked goods as sugary treats, but parents of children with allergies see hives, EPI pens and hospital visits. Unfortunately, it is now a reality that some family’s lives are dominated by food allergies.
Does this mean your toddler can’t participate in all the fun?
Not at all! By now, you have started to teach your toddler all about their food allergies. By 18 months, my son knew “peanuts yucky” and could identify the no peanut symbol on anything.
At two, he would say, “Look no peanuts! Me eat!” every time he saw the symbol. It can get trickier depending on the allergy, but for now the only universal visual symbol on food products is for Peanut Free.
A toddler won’t know that the breads, muffins and cakes are baked with eggs, wheat and milk. Or that the deliciously innocent cheese tray has dairy and wheat/seed crackers, or even that those shiny wrapped candies could contain peanuts. As a parent of children with food allergies, here are 3 tips to help keep your toddler safe this Halloween:
1 – Communicate!!
Talk with your child before the event.
Reminders are the best way to reinforce your food rules. If your toddler knows from previous years what Halloween is, talk about the arrival of the event, what happens and what you need to be careful of.
If this Halloween is your toddler’s first experience, there are plenty of shows and books that will help you broach the subject of Halloween and trick or treating.
Some simple rules that we’ve set that help us through Halloween are:
1 – Never eat treats while trick or treating.
(Always be sure to eat a good dinner before hand)
2 – Mommy and Daddy must look at all the treats before you eat anything
(Bad things can be hiding in yummy looking packaging)
And the stark reality…
3 – You will not be able to keep it all.
(There are going to be things you cannot have and it will make you sad or upset)
Talk with friends, family members, parents and teachers before any events.
Don’t feel bad or ashamed about reminding people about your child’s food allergies. Adults forget too! It is our job to keep our children safe.
I know one mom who is the resident baker for her son’s class and makes the most delicious, moist egg, nut and dairy free cupcakes!
Even I still have that one great aunt who, out of habit, puts out a nice big bowl of salted peanuts on every table.
2 – Be Prepared!!
Be Prepared for the Best Case Scenario
So, you come home and upon inspection, find some allergy offenders that must be thrown away. Although there will be some treats that pass, toddlers and young children can get upset when they see things being taken away that look interestingly delicious and a gentle reminder that they are “Yucky” or “Bad” will simply not suffice. Often times, you can get away with trading. By having a special container of safe treats that your child likes can help to ease this frustration. Think about trading the offending allergens for special non-food treats or toys you know your child would love! Make a habit of bringing a variety of “safe” dishes with you to parties and get-togethers.
Be Prepared for the Worst Case Scenario
It goes without saying that you are prepared! You have your EPI pen and know how to use it!! (Hopefully you have never had to.) If you are like me, you have a Ziploc bag with antihistamine and a syringe to administer it as well as a package of pre-moistened wipes or hand sanitizer. I can’t tell you how many times a quick wipe down and a dose of Benadryl at the first sign of a hive may have saved us from a full blown reaction (or worse)
3- Have Fun!
Just because you have a toddler with food allergies does not mean you have to miss out on all the Halloween fun! See if there are any playgroups in the city where you live that may be organizing “safe” Halloween activities you and your child can participate in. Libraries often have organized activities that don’t involve food or treats.
Don’t forget to take lots of pictures!
Paula is a mom to an adult child, teens and a toddler. Addicted to social media, organic chocolate, coffee and product evaluations!