Children across the country are looking forward to trick-or-treating and gathering candy and other goodies. For kids with diabetes, food allergies, and asthma, Halloween presents a few special challenges, but that needn't take away from the fun of the day as long as certain precautions are taken. Here is what to keep in mind when your child has:
Diabetes. Children with diabetes can eat candy just like other kids. But the carbohydrates the treats contain should be factored into the child's meal plan for that day and the child's insulin level adjusted accordingly. Kids should be given "some basic healthy eating rules," says Laurie Higgins, nutrition and diabetes educator in the pediatric unit at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. "I wouldn't encourage them to eat a whole bag of candy, but you can fit small amounts in" by setting the haul aside and parceling pieces out as special treats over a number of days, for example. You might then toss the excess or take it to work to share with coworkers.
Kids might also enjoy trading in excess candy for rewards like special family outings—bowling or miniature golf, for instance—or a toy or piece of clothing the child has been eyeing. But whatever parents do for a child with diabetes "they should do for all of the children in the family," so that the child with diabetes does not feel singled out, Higgins advises.
Food allergies. Because there's a risk the treats and candies children collects will contain ingredients they're sensitive to, parents of children with food allergies should prepare their kids ahead of time for what to do and what to expect. Before trick-or-treating, children with food allergies should eat a meal or snack so they aren't starving and won't be tempted to dip in before Mom and Dad have a chance to give an all-clear, says Clifford Bassett, chair of the public education committee at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
On Halloween, "the bulk of the problems [for food allergies] typically occur around foods that contain nuts or peanuts," Bassett says. Other common sources of food allergies in kids: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. (Read those candy and food labels carefully, parents. When in doubt, throw it out, Bassett advises.) Bassett says parents should accompany their child treat-or-treating or have a responsible older sibling go along. And ask your doctor for a prescription for an epinephrine pen—used in emergency situations to treat food allergy reactions—so you're ready in the event your child consumes something he or she shouldn't.
Asthma. Children with asthma should be told to avoid entering people's homes when trick-or-treating, because the presence of pets or smokers can cause an asthma attack in kids who are susceptible, Bassett says. Such kids should keep a rescue inhaler in their pocket or trick-or-treat bag in case they experience trouble breathing.
If a susceptible child will wear a mask with a costume, make sure that he or she is able to breathe properly. And, as a precaution against dust, wash any costume that has been used before and stored, Bassett says.
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