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Halloween tricks can be tricky for kids with allergies

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HENRY COUNTY, Ga. -

Halloween can be tricky for kids who have food allergies, but with a little extra planning, they don't have to miss out on the fun.

Lauren Exline is ready for Halloween. The 4-year-old from McDonough will dress as Snow White. She'll wear the dress, cape and ruby red slippers.  Lauren will also bring something that Snow White didn't have back in the day -- a medical alert bracelet that she wears every time she leaves home to remind grown-ups that she has severe food allergies.

"Her fish allergy, chocolate allergy, shellfish allergy and peanut allergy," said Lisa Exline, Lauren's mother.

And as young as she is, Lauren knows Halloween is tricky.

"Because she's actually been in an ambulance, in anaphylactic shock one time and she remembers that," said her mother.

Which makes trick or treating scary for Mom, too.

"Mothers of food allergies patients do not like Halloween.  We don't like any holiday that involves any kind of food," Lisa Exline said.

Lauren's allergist, Dr. Karen DeMuth, who works with both Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory Pediatrics, says if your child has severe food allergies, you need some Halloween ground rules.

First, no eating treats until you get home. Once you get home, go through the treats together, filtering out candy that may contain allergens.

"Read all the labels, anything that is not labeled should be considered unsafe. Or homemade, you don't know what is in that," said DeMuth.

Lauren trick or treats carrying an epinephrine injector, known as EpiPen, so if she accidentally eats something like nuts or chocolate, she can inject herself to stop a severe reaction.

"The only medicine that saves lives due to food allergies is epinephrine," said DeMuth.

DeMuth says if your child has severe allergies, an EpiPen is a must-have.

"They should have it everywhere they are, not just while they're trick or treating," the doctor said.

This year, Lisa will bring along a backup bag of candy that's safe for Lauren to have.

"So that when we go trick or treating and she gets some kind of a treat that she is not allowed to eat, I can swap it out with something she's not allergic to," said Lisa Exline.

That's OK with Lauren, because she knows the drill.

"She goes up to the door, the door opens, she says ‘trick or treat!' and if they have chocolate or something with chocolate, she says, ‘I can't have that!'"  And they're like, ‘Hang on, let me see if I have something else,'" said Lisa Exline.
 
It takes extra work to help Lauren living out her Snow White fairytale, but her mom says that's okay, because doesn't every kid deserve a little magic?

Even if your child doesn't have food allergies, it's good to have a rule: nothing gets eaten until you get back home. Then the two of you can look through the candy together and weed out anything that is unwrapped, or may be a choking hazard for little ones.

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