Some 41 million children 5 to 14 years old could hit the trick-or-treat trails this Halloween, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and for children with asthma and allergies, the holiday fun can turn into a scary reality. Candy and other treats are among the usual suspects, but costumes and makeup can also bring on allergy and asthma symptoms.
Consider these tips on how to help your little ghost or goblin stay wheeze- and sneeze-free this Halloween:
Treats: Eggs, milk, peanuts, and tree nuts are common ingredients in chocolate and other confections. For kids with food allergies, eating these Halloween treats can bring on anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction. Candies containing gelatin, such as gummy bears are potential triggers, too. For children prone to food allergies, it's a good idea to have some non-candy treats on hand, like stickers or small toys. Also, be wary of "fun size" candy which can contain different ingredients than regular size packages, and teach your child to politely say no to food that may not be safe. Verify that adults or friends accompanying your child understand his or her food allergies and what to do in an emergency.
Costumes: Halloween costumes packed away in a box for months can be laden with dust mites, which could trigger an allergic or asthmatic response. Be sure to wash any dusty or hand-me-down costumes in hot water. Also watch out for nickel in costume accessories such as cowboy belts, magic wands, pirate swords, and tiaras. Nickel can cause allergic contact dermatitis, making for an itchy, bumpy, uncomfortable kid.
Makeup: Cheap Halloween makeup may include preservatives that can cause allergic reactions, such as a rash or swelling. Opt for higher quality theater makeup, and test the makeup on a small area of your child's skin well in advance of Halloween.
Pumpkins: Pumpkin allergies, while rare, can cause itching, chest tightness, and other symptoms, and they can appear suddenly, even if there has never been a problem before. Also keep in mind that pumpkin patches are often moldy and dusty, and are thus an allergy and asthma trigger for some.
Decorative contact lenses: If your Twilight fan is asking for colorful, vampire-inspired contact lenses, consider this warning from the Food and Drug Administration before saying yes. An eye doctor must measure each eye to properly fit the lenses and evaluate how the eye responds to contact lens wear. A poor fit can cause serious eye damage, including cornea scratches and infection, conjunctivitis (pink eye), decreased vision, and even blindness. Never buy the lenses from places that sell them without a prescription, such as street vendors, salons, novelty stores, and the Internet.
Fog: If you're planning on using a fog machine at your Halloween party, keep in mind that fog can trigger asthma in some sufferers.
Avoid the Danger of Anaphylaxis this Halloween [American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology]
Don't Let Allergies, Asthma Haunt Halloween Fun [American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology]
Decorative Contact Lenses: Is Your Vision Worth It? [FDA]