Trick-or-Treat your way to an allergy-free Halloween
-Allergist at UMDNJ urges children to
recognize symptoms and carry epinephrine-
NEWARK — During Halloween, millions of children are preparing to sport their ghost and vampire costumes during school parties and while trick-or-treating. However, for children who suffer from severe food allergies, Halloween is a time when additional precaution must be taken.
Dr. Leonard Bielory, an internationally recognized allergy and immunology expert at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School, and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology asks children and parents to watch out for hidden foods that could trigger a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Food-related anaphylaxis leads to 150-200 deaths each year, so every exposure should be taken seriously.
Peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk and soy are the most common causes of food allergies in children. Eating even a small amount of these foods could trigger anaphylaxis.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis include severe headache, nausea and vomiting, sneezing and coughing, hives, swelling of the lips, tongue and throat, and itching all over the body. The most dangerous symptoms include difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, and shock-all of which can be fatal, said Dr. Bielory, who directs UMDNJ’s Asthma and Allergy Research Center. He also directs the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School’s Division of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology, which operates New Jersey’s only training program that specializes in allergy and immunology.
Aside from calling 911 when an emergency occurs, parents should consult with an allergist/immunologist to find out if their child should be given a self-injectable epinephrine during an allergic reaction.
The following Halloween tips are being provided to help parents and children avoid hidden food dangers:
· When classroom parties are planned, parents can help by packing treats that their food-allergic child can eat.
· Create a "candy swap" with siblings or friends so that allergen-containing candies can be traded for other treats such as stickers or toys.
· Take the focus off of trick-or-treating by hosting a costume party that emphasizes fun instead of candy. Halloween stickers, pencils, spider rings and stamps are great alternatives for goody bags.
· Provide neighbors with allergy-safe candies for your child or ask neighbors to hand out only candy with individualized labels-so kids with allergies can determine whether the treat is safe to eat or not.
· Teach children to politely refuse offers of cookies and other homemade treats.
· Remember that candy ingredients can vary for different sizes of the same product such as full-size candy bars and their miniature versions, which are not always individually labeled.
If your child has ever had an allergic reaction to a food or has a history of food allergies, seek the care of an allergist/immunologist for a follow-up evaluation and to discuss treatment and environmental control options.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,700 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and a school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a statewide mental health and addiction services network.
The AAAAI represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic disease. Allergy/immunology specialists are pediatric or internal medicine physicians who have elected an additional two years of training to become specialized in the treatment of asthma, allergy and immunologic disease. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has more than 6,500 members in the United States, Canada and 60 other countries.