Sunday, October 24, 1999

Allergic kids trade away most Halloween treats

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Trick-or-treating demands a little extra from some parents. They have to worry about the wheat in Good and Plenties. Who knew the licorice-flavored candies share an ingredient with beer?

        This is the sort of detail that ends up in urgent press releases from the Food Allergy Network. For Halloween, the group says, parents should scrutinize every label and consider cutting out pictures of “safe” candy, so their allergic kids can make a scrapbook.

        Gee, that sounds like fun. Here's another suggestion from the network: In case well-meaning people offer cookies and punch at the door, have your child rehearse say ing no.

        What's amazing is how cheerfully parents and allergic kids adapt to all these rules. Here in Northern Kentucky, some kindergarteners know most of their candy will be going to work with Dad. They happily trade their chocolate bars and peanut-butter cups for the safe stuff, like Sweet Tarts and Airheads.

        In other words, anything made of pure sugar is OK.

        Three to 6 percent of U.S. children have food allergies, compared to 1 percent of adults. Peanut allergies are most common; there's even talk of banning peanuts from schools.

        For some kids, the list also includes wheat, soy, milk, eggs and nuts that fall from trees.

        Their parents know all sorts of candy trivia. Plain M&Ms are risky, because they may have brushed against peanuts in the factory. Certain lollipops contain lactic acid, even though a related item, Blow Pops, is milk-free.

        Also, there are 22 ways to say “wheat” on a food label.

        In Fort Thomas, 7-year-old Logan Riffe plans to dress up like a genie this year. He already does a pretty good impersonation of Charlie Brown.

        This happens when Logan gets a peanut-butter cup. Remember how Charlie, in The Great Pumpkin, always finds rocks in his bag? That's what peanut-butter cups are like for Logan.

        Once he couldn't help but say, “I can't eat that,” when someone tried to give him peanut-butter crackers. He got a quarter instead.

        In Lakeside Park, 8-year-old Joey Abdelghany struggles with multiple allergies. Last year, he inexplicably lost his hair, but it grew back. Another time, he got really sick from eating a Kit-Kat bar, says his mom, Shelley Abdelghany. It turned out to contain concentrated wheat, one of his danger foods.

        Despite the risks, Mrs. Abdelghany wouldn't want anyone adjusting their candy choices just for her son. He graciously accepts all treats, then trades for things he can eat, such as Skittles, Starbursts, Smarties and Fruit Roll-ups.

        Joey is good about accepting his food problem, Mrs. Abdelghany says.

        “One time he said, "Mom, I don't know what I'd be like without my allergies.'”

        In Florence, 5-year-old Travis Wilson hardly notices that he's candy-deprived. This year, he's going trick-or-treating as a NASCAR driver, says his mom, Mary Beth Wilson. He'll fill up his bag, then run home for the annual tradition: trading his treats for a surprise toy.

        “The bad thing is we end up eating his candy,” Mrs. Wilson says.

        Here's what I mean about families adjusting cheerfully to one another's limitations.

        Travis is allergic to milk, peanuts, eggs and tree nuts.

        His mom looks at it this way: “We're lucky. He's not allergic to soy.”

To learn more
        The Food Allergy Network offers many resources for parents, including instructions on reading food labels and a book called Alexander Goes Trick-or-Treating. Call 1-800-929-4040 for more information.

        Karen Samples is Kentucky columnist for The Enquirer. Her column appears Thursdays and Sundays. She can be reached at 578-5584, or by e-mail at

        Karen Samples is The Enquirer's Kentucky columnist. Her column appears on Sundays and Thursdays in The Kentucky Enquirer. She can be reached at 578-5584 or email her at