STK - Closeup of candies with pumpkins

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. As a child it was even more magical.

I loved seeing all the different costumes, getting my hands in gooey pumpkin guts, and exchanging jokes for candy during our neighborhood’s trick-or-treat tradition.

The downside is massive amounts of candy. This can cause sugar highs and crashes, tooth decay or even severe allergic reactions. Fortunately, there are some fun ways to mitigate the damage. Whether you’re a parent or a neighbor handing out the goods, this article is for you.

Eat a reasonable amount of candy

For many children, Halloween equals candy. But it doesn’t have to. Create traditions that don’t revolve around candy. Have kids create costumes, Halloween art or a haunted house in a refrigerator box. Carve pumpkins, roast pumpkin seeds, bob for apples or have a Halloween movie night. Focusing on the fun and relationships can make candy feel less important.

Consider limiting the amount of candy your kids get in the first place. Make the trick-or-treating portion of the night short and spend the rest of the evening doing fun family traditions. Have kids carry a smaller Halloween bag to reduce the amount of candy they can hold.

Swap out the candy for another incentive. Have your kids pick a few pieces of their favorite candy to keep and leave the rest. While they sleep, the Halloween Fairy (or some variant, like a goblin) takes their candy and exchanges it with an awesome surprise. More commercialized versions, like the “Switch Witch” sold online, are other options.

Alternatively, let your kids pick their favorite candy and donate the rest. Some families give Halloween candy to the local fire or police station to thank them for their service. Others donate to a give-back program for deployed troops and first responders. This is a meaningful opportunity to teach children about giving while limiting their sugar intake, establishing good habits and protecting their teeth!

And for you sweet-toothed adults – don’t buy your favorite candy to give away. It will help stop you from binging on the leftovers!

Include children with food allergies

If you’re handing out candy, remember that approximately one in 13 kids have food allergies. Milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat and tree nuts are among the most common causes of food allergies in kids. Peanuts and tree nuts tend to cause the most severe allergic reactions. Tree nuts include walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamias and other nuts commonly found in candy.

Andrea Jensen from the Utah County Health Department warns that “the risk of death from anaphylaxis is real. From ingestion to death could be as little as 30 minutes.”

Jensen, a parent of children with food allergies, has some advice.

“You should not allow kids with allergies to eat candy until you’ve had a chance to check the food label for the allergen,” she said. “Make sure you always have two epinephrine auto-injectors on hand at all times in case one misfires. And remember no food sharing!”

Jensen suggests having a stash of safe treats at home for kids with allergies to exchange with problematic candy.

How can the average citizen make Halloween safer for these kids? One simple way you can help is by doing a quick Internet search for “allergen free candy” to give out on Halloween. While there are no guarantees this will prevent all allergic reactions, you can proactively avoid the most common and serious allergens.

“Kids with food allergies want to be included in trick-or-treating and class parties,” Jensen said. Ask your child’s teacher about food allergies in the class and avoid sending treats with those ingredients.

“It’s no fun for a kid to have to pack their own cupcake for a class party,” she said.

Better yet, participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project. First, stock up on non-food goodies like bubbles, glow sticks, bouncy balls, stickers, play dough, noisemakers, spider rings, temporary tattoos, snap bracelets, erasers or other small toys. You can find many of these at party supply stores, or watch for the Teal Ghost at Walmart.

Second, mark your home with a teal pumpkin to show that it’s a safe place for kids with allergies to trick-or-treat. Paint a pumpkin teal, purchase a teal pumpkin at a local department or craft store, or print out a teal pumpkin sign from the project’s website.

Third, add your address to the Teal Pumpkin Project’s map so parents of kids with allergies know you’re participating. This approach helps kids with food allergies, while reducing the overall sugar haul for everyone!

Happy Halloween!

Dr. Sarah Hall is an assistant professor of public health at Utah Valley University.