Don’t Let Special Dietary Needs Trick Your Child This Halloween

Hard to believe Halloween is two days away! Kids across the country are counting the hours until they can don their costumes and start their annual trek around their neighborhoods for treats.

Treat gathering is a big more complicated these days with the amount of kids who have food allergies or chronic diseases that require special diets such as diabetes or celiac disease. But, with a bit of information at your fingertips, even kids with food issues such as these can have a wonderful time gathering and eating their treats.

I talked about just this topic on NECN’s Health Week recently:

Click Here to see Dr. Gwenn’s Halloween Advice

As I mentioned on the air, there is no reason kids with food allergies, diabetes or celiac can’t enjoy Halloween. In fact, the tips parents of kids with special dietary needs should follow make sense for everyone, namely:

1. follow your doctor’s advice for your child’s situation
2. check available lists for appropriate foods
3. read labels carefully for ingredients your child should not have
4. As always, limit treats to a couple pieces at a time and after a couple days toss the candy out – for all kids!

If your child has Celiac Disease, there are many gluten-free candies on the market. Here is a list that you can refer to once your child comes home from treat gathering.

If your child has diabetes, moderation and exercise are the typical keys to keeping reasonable sugar control during a sugary holiday such as Halloween. In addition, the American Diabetes Association has some other useful tips to keep in mind.

Finally, before you head out, review these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:


*Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
*Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
*Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
*When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
*If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
*Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
*Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.


*Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then parents can do the cutting.
*Votive candles are safest for candle-lit pumpkins.
*Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.


*To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
*Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
*Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
*Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.


*A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
*If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
*Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
*Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or Treaters:
*Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
*Carry a mobile phone for quick communication.
*Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
*If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
*Never cut across yards or use alleys.
*Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
*Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. *Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!
*Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.


*A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
*Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
*Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
*Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.

And, above all, make sure everyone has fun!!



  1. As usual, Dr. G., great post!