Negotiating Halloween with Acid Reflux

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

It's almost Halloween again and time to negotiate another food holiday with your little ghouls and goblins. This time of year can be rough if your child has acid reflux. Between the chocolate, sour candies and other [reflux triggers] it can be a minefield of potential tummy troubles. Fortunately there are several ways to get through this holiday without any scary flare ups.

Non-food treats

One of the ways to eliminate a lot of the food triggers are to provide non-food treats whenever possible. As a dietitian this is one of my favorite ideas because, let's be honest, our kids end up with way too much sugar this time of year anyway.

Some of our favorite non-food treats include:

  • Rub-on or stick on temporary tattoos

  • Funny Halloween glasses

  • Mini-magnifying glasses

  • Glow sticks, bracelets, or necklaces

  • Pencils, pens, crayons or markers

  • Bubbles

  • Halloween erasers or pencil toppers

  • Mini Slinkies

  • Whistles, kazoos, or noisemakers

  • Bouncy balls

  • Finger puppets or novelty toys

  • Spider rings

  • Vampire fangs

  • Mini notepads

  • Playing cards

  • Bookmarks

  • Stickers

  • Stencils

  • Small books

  • Small plastic animals

Food Allergy Research and Education has a wonderful Halloween treat alternative program called the [Teal Pumpkin Project]. While it is designed for children with food allergies, the concept is also great for kids with Celiac or acid reflux too. You place a teal pumpkin in front of your house to symbolize that there are non-food Halloween treats available at your house. This makes it safe for the kids who can't normally Trick or Treat to still be able to participate.

Non-food activities

Another way to help limit some of the food functions is to plan some fun activities you can do for the season that doesn't focus on food. We planned carnivals at our children's schools with fun games, went on hay rides, had pumpkin carving parties and did art projects themed around Halloween. While you are decorating pumpkins be sure to make a [teal] one while you are at it!

Provide reflux-friendly foods

Now, we all know that there is virtually no way to completely avoid food functions at Halloween but with a little planning ahead you can still make them reflux-friendly. If you are attending a party it can help to contact the hostess ahead of time to be sure that there will be foods your child can eat. It can help take the pressure off the hostess if you volunteer to bring something to share and will ensure there is food available that your child can eat. If your child is super sensitive it can help to eat before you hit any parties. That prevents them from being famished and downing way too much of something that could bring on the burn.

When it comes to school parties or Trick or Treating it is more likely than not that your child will come home with something they can't eat. It's always a good policy, for overall safety and to avoid reflux triggers, to tell your child you have to go through their candy before they can eat any. Be sure to have "safe" treats that you can switch out for ones that trigger your child's reflux readily available. That way they don't feel like their medical problem means they will be short changed at Halloween.

Some of the treats my refluxers could do in moderation included:

  • Sugar cookies

  • Gummy bears

  • Gummy and regular Lifesavers

  • Starbursts

  • Lollipops

  • Marshmallows

  • Gum

  • Smarties

  • White chocolate candies

  • Rice Crispy Treats

Remember: what works for my children may not for yours so be careful to choose treats you know are safe for your reflux child.

With a little extra work your reflux child can survive Halloween with out a flare up. Better still? They can have a wonderful time enjoying the holiday.

Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition. She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years. Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER).

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.