She reached out her hand to show me the wrapper, happily chewing its contents. As the yellow M&M’s bag came into view, my adrenaline shot like a gun. A flash of heat ran up my face and in instant terror I screamed. I quickly looked from Ellie to Ronin in blind panic not knowing how or why this was happening.
She had eaten a bag of peanut M&M’s!
My brain raced as I grabbed the bag and began asking questions much louder than I normally would have. Seeing my reaction, Ellie also panicked and began spitting out the chewed chocolate.
Holy shit! OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD! Ronin, did you eat those?!?
Trick or Treat!
The kids know the routine. A Halloween allergy scare is no joke, so we take it very seriously. Every year, after a fun night of filling up their bags with candy, it’s time to weed out the allergens. One big bag becomes a small one as we remove the candy with peanuts, gluten or anything processed with peanuts or gluten. Both Ronin and Ellie are used to this process so for the most part it works.
Except for last year.
Somehow last Halloween a bag of Peanut M&M’s slipped through the cracks. Thanks be to heaven it was Ellie who ate them. Ronin has a severe anaphylactic allergy, the kind that needs an EPI-Pen. At school it’s classified as a “life threatening condition.” So I’m very much conditioned to not have peanuts anywhere near my kids.
I HAD gone through the candy that night and somehow missed it in Ellie’s bag. And until that horrifying moment, I didn’t even know if she might be allergic to peanuts because she had never had them.
After scaring the living shit out of my daughter we realized that she was in fact not having a reaction to the peanuts she had just eaten. But oh the fear! For at least an hour I had to talk her down, telling her that she was OK. That the peanuts were not hurting her. She was so so scared that she might get sick. And I felt absolutely awful.
I still have to remind myself that I am not a bad mom because I missed those damn M&M’s.
I am unbelievably thankful that something very bad didn’t go down that night.
In truth, Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I love dressing up! But once I became a mom of kids with allergies, it’s become a bit stressful. I know allergies are not on everyone’s mind when they purchase Halloween candy. I totally get that. I fully admit, I never thought of allergies before Ronin came into my life.
Allergies are complicated.
There are so many–gluten, soy, eggs, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, food dyes, etc etc etc.–it’s impossible to be completely 100% allergy-friendly with food. But I invite you to try to avoid the top 8 allergens this Halloween: wheat/gluten, milk, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish or shellfish in your candy bowl, OR have a 2nd allergy-sensitive cauldron of candy. (You might even consider having small toys/non-food items as an option.)
How can you make your candy bowl more allergy-friendly?
Here are several examples of candies that do not contain the top 8 allergens listed above (please double-check ingredients at purchase as things do change) :
- Smarties (which just happen to be Ronin’s favorite! by Ce De Candy)
- Jelly Beans (by Gimbal’s Fine Candies)
- Hot Tamales (by Just Born)
- Sour Patch Kids & Swedish Fish (by Mondelez International)
- Skittles & Starburst (by Wrigley/Mars)
- Bottle Caps, Nerds, Pixy Sticks, Runts & Sweet Tarts (by Wonka, these may contain egg)
- Also here is an extended list for 2014 from Great Foods Living.
Those are some very readily available candies. I personally think it’s easy to make small alterations to your candy plans and help many kids with Halloween allergies. I know chocolate is not on the list. #sadpanda So if you want to continue to give out your chocolate favorites, as I mentioned a 2nd allergy-friendly bowl is a great option.
I really hope you’ll consider allergy-friendly candy options this Halloween.
Do you or your kids have food allergies? Have you ever had a scare? Please tell me I’m not alone.
UPDATE: October 24th: A lot of people have brought up the Teal Pumpkin Project to me since writing this post, which is a campaign getting a lot of attention right now about Halloween and allergies. Their recommendation: “This campaign encourages people to raise awareness of food allergies by providing non-food treats for trick-or-treaters and painting a pumpkin teal – the color of food allergy awareness – to place in front of their house along with a free printable sign from FARE to indicate they have non-food treats available.”
While I absolutely love and support promoting awareness of food allergies, I do personally feel that kids with allergies deserve candy treats too. I think my kids would be very disappointed if all they received were non-food treats. So the purpose of my post was to highlight that there are many easy-to-find and readily available allergy-friendly candies on the market. The candies listed above avoid the top 8 allergens, so would be OK for most kids. If you’d like to offer non-food items as well, I think you are awesome. Thank you to those who have shared the Teal Pumpkin Project with me.