Halloween allergy and asthma triggers, and how to avoid them

Consumer Reports News: October 14, 2011 06:08 AM

For millions of children with asthma and allergies, and their parents, Halloween can be a frightful time of year. Not only because of the usual suspects—candy and treats—but some more unexpected culprits as well. Costumes, makeup, and other accessories can bring on dangerous allergy and asthma symptoms, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. But fear not—be smart and consider these important tips on how to help your little ghost or goblin stay wheeze and sneeze-free on Halloween night.

Treats: Peanuts, tree nuts, milk and eggs are common ingredients in chocolate and other confections. For kids with food allergies, eating these Halloween treats can bring on a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. But candies containing gelatin, such as gummy bears are potential triggers, too. For children prone to food allergies, have some non-candy treats on hand, such as stickers, pencils and small toys, be wary of “fun size” candy which may 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. And always make sure your food-allergic child carries their EpiPen with them.

Costumes: Thinking of re-using last year’s Halloween costume or taking a hand-me-down? Here’s something to consider: 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 the dusty and hand-me-down costumes in hot water. Or spring for a new costume. And, whenever possible, watch out for nickel in costume accessories, from cowboy belts and pirate swords to tiaras and magic wands. 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 you haven’t had a problem before. And keep in mind that pumpkin patches are often moldy and dusty, allergy and asthma triggers 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.


Don’t Let Allergies, Asthma Haunt Halloween Fun [American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology]
Avoid the Danger of Anaphylaxis this Halloween [American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology]
Decorative Contact Lenses: Is Your Vision Worth It? [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]

Ginger Skinner

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