Halloween happenings and candy caveats

Susan Moody, Emerald Coast Insider

When I was about nine, rumors of tainted Halloween candy were everywhere. When seven people in Chicago died after taking cyanide laced Tylenol, parents were cautious about allowing their children to trick or treat.

Halloween wasn’t canceled in my town that year, but I remember attending a Halloween party, hosted by my grandmother, rather than trick or treating with my friends.

While my parents may have been erring on the side of caution back in the 80s, for parents of children with food allergies, Halloween and trick or treating can be a real nightmare.

According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), as many as six million American children have food allergies. The most common allergies are to milk and dairy, tree nuts and peanuts, eggs, soy, and wheat. Allergic reactions can range from mild rashes and hives to wheezing and difficulty breathing. The most severe reactions can be life threatening.

According to FAAN, most children will outgrow these allergies by the time they are 10 years old. This, however, is not comforting for parents who have to be extra vigilant about what their child consumes, and Halloween presents a tricky situation.

If you know children with allergies, or just want to be a little more aware when passing out treats, there are a number of things you can do to help these kids have a safer Halloween. First, let the parents know that your candy and treats haven’t been cross-contaminated.

To a parent, cross contamination is the number one fear. If parents can read labels, they can determine which foods are safe. Foods of indeterminate origin are the “iffy” ones, so stick to pre-packaged treats. Perusing the candy aisle (followed by a quick search on the Internet to confirm), I found that a number of Halloween favorites are free of many common allergens.

Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, Sweet Tarts, Tootsie Pops, Starbursts, Skittles, and Peeps are wheat and gluten free, peanut/tree nut free, dairy free, soy free and egg free. They are not, of course, sugar free. Stickers, temporary tattoos, crayons, and glow sticks are more fun than a toothbrush, and are definitely allergy free.

If your neighborhood is not particularly welcoming for trick or treaters, there are a number of alternatives, which will allow your ghosts, ghouls, pirates, and princesses to have a scarily good time.

For preschoolers, Mr. Will’s Annual Library Halloween parade is a Destin tradition, and I’m a little melancholy that we’ll miss it this year. I look forward to seeing the photos in The Log and on Facebook. While you are there, be sure to check out the beautiful fall gardens.

The Destin Garden Club has done a fantastic job landscaping the grounds and you may find some inspiration for your own Jack-o-Lantern.

Destin Commons’ Main Street Trick or Treating starts at 6 p.m. Pre-trick or treating activities begin at 4 and include face painting and creepy crafts by Abrakadoodle, and a costume contest.

You can trick or treat at The Village of Baytowne Wharf beginning at 6 p.m., with fireworks at 8. A number of local churches are hosting “trunk or treat” events in their parking lots that evening as well. All these alternatives to traditional trick or treating are well lit and safe places for kids and adults to go “Boo”!

Of course, Oct. 31 is the end of the Annual Fishing Rodeo, so spectators have a chance to see who tops the leaderboard. Come in costume and trick or treat at the shops and restaurants along the harbor boardwalk. There’ll be fireworks beginning at 8 p.m.

For those who are going to stay home and answer the door, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” airs on ABC at 7 p.m.

Our Halloween plans are still up in the air. Alex and Harper are still deciding on costumes and with whom they want to trick or treat. For us, deciding between Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb and a Yeti is the most important decisions we have to make.

However you decide to spend Oct. 31, please be safe.

Follow Susan Moody on Twitter @susanjmoody and visit her blog, The Emerald Coast Insider, at www.emeraldcoastfl.com/blog.