Tips to prevent allergy during Halloween

The haunted happenings of Halloween are upon us and soon we'll be carving pumpkins, dressing in costumes and telling spooky stories. But if your child has a food allergy, what's at the bottom of his or her trick-or-treat bag may be more frightening than any ghost or goblin.

According to a new national survey of 678 moms of children with food allergies - whether to peanuts, tree nuts, milk or eggs, eight out of ten say Halloween causes a great deal of anxiety because they fear their little ones might eat candy containing peanuts or another allergen. Their anxiety is heightened by the fact that food allergies can cause a potentially life-threatening severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is caused when an allergic reaction becomes so severe that a person may stop breathing. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict when a child with food allergies might experience an anaphylactic reaction.

According to the survey, 40 percent of moms said that this time of year makes their children feel alienated because the child can't fully engage or participate in Halloween activities. The fear is so great that nearly half of these moms said they are thinking about having their child skip trick-or-treating altogether.

In spite of these concerns, less than half of moms surveyed are adequately prepared to handle a life-threatening allergic reaction - 43 percent of moms surveyed said they carry or have immediate access to an epinephrine auto-injector, such as EpiPen® (epinephrine) and EpiPen® Jr Auto-Injectors 0.3/0.15 mg. EpiPen® Auto-Injector is a self-administered medicine that is used in the emergency treatment of a severe allergic reaction, including an anaphylactic reaction.

"The Halloween season can be an emotionally troubling time for children with food allergies because they are often faced with the temptation of delicious treats they can't eat and parties they can't fully enjoy. Halloween is also a frightening time for many parents who fear that their child might accidentally eat an allergen-containing piece of candy or treat while at school or out trick-or-treating," said Stacy DeBroff. "But there's no reason your son or daughter needs to miss out on all the fun this Halloween. With a good plan, they can still have an enjoyable time and be prepared."

The new survey was conducted by Mom Central, a one-stop web resource dedicated to providing busy moms with smart household and parenting solutions. Dey Pharma, L.P., a subsidiary of Mylan Inc. (Nasdaq: MYL) sponsored the survey. A total of 678 moms of children with a known allergy completed the online survey. The survey also found that:

  • 61 percent of children have been prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector; however, only 23 percent of them carry it with them at all times.
  • One in five moms is unsure how they feel about their school's emergency plans in place to deal with a severe allergic reaction.
  • While many moms feel they have good information on food allergies, they also expressed a clear desire for more: 78 percent of survey respondents say they would benefit from additional information on food allergies and how best to prepare for and treat allergy-related medical emergencies.

"Parents of children with food allergies need to be vigilant throughout the year, and at Halloween when the temptation for sweet peanut-based or chocolate treats may be especially high. Even a child who has experienced a mild allergic reaction to foods in the past may be at risk for a more severe allergic reaction - or even anaphylaxis - in the future, so it's vital that every parent and child is prepared," said Dr. Phil Lieberman, Clinical Professor, Medicine and Pediatrics University of Tennessee College of Medicine. "Whatever you do this season, make sure you know if you or your child has allergies that are severe enough to put them at risk for anaphylaxis, and if they are, be sure to ask your healthcare provider if you or your child should have access to and carry an epinephrine auto-injector like EpiPen® Auto-Injector. In the case of an anaphylactic emergency, prompt administration of this medication can help save the child's life."

Tips for an Allergy-friendly Halloween

For parents of children with food allergies, monitoring Halloween candy is just one way to avoid an accidental allergic reaction. Stacy DeBroff from Mom Central offers additional tips for enjoying an allergy-free holiday:

  • Find Allergy-Free Activities: With a little research, you can find many festive activities right in your own backyard. Take the family pumpkin picking, on a hayride or for a scavenger hunt.
  • Bring the Fun to Your Child: Consider hosting your own costume party for your child's friends. Invite everyone over for pumpkin carving, bobbing for apples, spooky stories, a scavenger hunt and other Halloween-themed games. This way, your child can still have fun and you can control all the goodies that are being passed out.

For those children who do go trick-or-treating, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) offers these helpful tips:

  • Never Go Alone: Always accompany younger children trick-or-treating and have older children go out with friends.
  • Inform Others: Make sure all the adults and friends in your group know about your child's food allergies and what to do in an emergency.
  • Pack Medication: While out for Halloween, make sure you or your child is carrying an epinephrine auto-injector. Make sure your child's friends or other adults know how to administer this medication.
  • Provide Safe Snacks: Provide your close neighbors and even your child's teacher at school with safe treats or even non-food items like stickers that can be given to your child.
  • Check the Goodies: Carefully read labels or check the candy company's Web site to make sure the product doesn't contain something that can cause an allergic reaction. It's important to remember that the ingredients of 'fun size' candy bars may differ from the regular-size bars.
  • When in Doubt, Throw It Out: If you can't find information on a treat's ingredients or are simply not sure if it's safe, then throw the candy away or stick it in a treat jar that is out of the reach of the child.
  • Avoid Snacking: Eating dinner before trick-or-treating might curb your child's urge to sneak goodies from the bag.

SOURCE Dey Pharma L.P.

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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