Health Watch -- Peanut Allergies and Halloween

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


Some children may find it difficult to enjoy safe Halloween treats.

You only let your children trick-or-treat at the homes of people you know. You inspected the candy, discarding any treats that were unwrapped or unidentifiable. But the candy still may not be safe for some children. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say parents need to read ingredient lists on candy if their children are allergic to peanuts.

Peanut or tree nut allergies affect about 3 million Americans, of which about 8 percent are children younger than the age of 6. Nuts cause some of the most severe allergic reactions - reactions that can even be life-threatening. 

Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, a UT Southwestern allergist, says even candy that doesn't appear to contain peanuts could contain peanut byproducts or could be contaminated by peanuts. Labeling of foods that could contain nuts is improving as the allergy community works with the US Food and Drug Administration, but it is still possible that foods might be contaminated, even if they don't contain peanuts on the ingredient list.

People allergic to peanuts should stick to hard candy and well-known treats that don't contain peanuts. Avoid homemade treats. Do research before eating off-brand foods or fun-sized treats without ingredient lists. Contact the manufacturer for an ingredient list. For more information on peanut allergies and foods that could contain peanuts, visit www.foodallergy.org.

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Oct. 2004

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