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How Dangerous Is Halloween for Kids with Food Allergies?

By Kevin Hellyer
Updated May 16, 2024
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Halloween can be a very scary time for children, but it has nothing to do with the ghosts, vampires, and witches associated with the holiday. Instead, as Canadian researchers documented in 2020, Halloween results in a very significant spike in emergency room visits for children with peanut and tree nut allergies. Researchers examined more than 1,300 visits in four provinces between 2011 and 2020, and found that nut-triggered anaphylaxis jumped by 85 percent on Halloween.

They also documented that Easter, which for many children is inextricably linked with chocolate rabbits and Easter eggs, led to a 60 percent increase. Researcher Melanie Leung of McGill University said that although many of the children who turned up in the ER had known allergies, “often times it was a first allergic reaction.”

Kids and food allergies:

  • Food allergies affect more than five million children in the United States, ranging from minor reactions such as an upset stomach to life-threatening reactions, such as swelling, difficulty breathing, and a sudden drop in blood pressure.

  • Interestingly, other holidays centered around food, such as Christmas and Chinese New Year, didn't result in a noticeable increase in ER visits, perhaps because Halloween is a holiday when children may encounter new foods for the first time, sometimes with limited parental supervision.

  • Parents are urged to look for signs of food allergies, and to have quick access to an epinephrine pen. Symptoms can be subtle, such as an itchy lip or a tickle in the throat, or obvious, such as sudden vomiting.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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