Give Treats, Not Tricks this Halloween.

As you prepare for your annual ghoulish hauntings, don’t forget that approximately 4% of American children have a food allergy. One of the most common and potentially fatal allergens, peanuts, can be hidden in some of the most popular candies, and even in some face paints made with unrefined peanut oil. Even seemingly peanut-free snacks could have been processed in a plant where products with peanuts are made, and traces of the proteins can find their way into your favorite candy by mistake.

Food allergies develop as a result of a prior exposure, and an abnormal immune reaction to that exposure. When an allergenic food, such as a peanut, is eaten (or in extreme cases even touches the skin or its scent is inhaled) the immune system can respond by making antibodies to that protein within minutes or hours. With the next exposure to that food, the antibodies attack the protein to get rid of it.

With each subsequent exposure, the reaction tends to worsen and to occur more rapidly. Even though a prior reaction may have been mild, it is likely that the next reaction will be sooner and more severe.

Large amounts of histamines are produced during an allergic reaction. These histamines can affect the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal tract, and the skin. A potentially fatal reaction, anaphylaxis, can even result. Severe reactions are more common in children who have a history of asthma or other airway disease.

Common symptoms of a food allergy include:

· Sneezing
· A tingling sensation in the mouth
· A scratchy throat
· Hives,
· Eczema flares,
· Tongue and facial swelling,
· Dizziness
· Nausea and vomiting,
· Abdominal cramps,
· Wheezing,
· Airway obstruction, and even
· Cardiovascular collapse.

These are ways that you can avoid allergic reactions:
· Look for a “peanut-free” manufacturer’s label before you eat your Halloween candy.
· Use professional-grade hypoallergenic makeup and avoid tempura and acrylic face paints.
· Always apply a small test patch of makeup to arm skin before it is applied to the entire body.
· Consider choosing an inexpensive toy, rather than candy, for a treat.

By: Dr. Kathryn Glass, MD Pediatrician with Memorial Hermann Medical Group

Childrens Memorial Hermann Hospital