Tips For Negotiating Halloween With Acid Reflux Kids

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

Dealing with acid reflux at Halloween can be a downright pain. There are so many triggers that it can seem impossible to prevent a flare-up for yourself, much less for your child. Check out these tips we use to negotiate the holiday without bringing on the burn.

Start with good control throughout the holidays.** Some ways to do this are discussed in my previous article Dealing with AR at Halloween. They include:**

  • Make sure not to forget your child’s medications

  • Do not go to any party hungry This increases the chance of making poor choices

  • Prepare your child by warning that they may not be able to eat everything offered

  • Bring treats that your child CAN eat and trade them for trigger foods

  • Avoid having your child go straightto bed when you get home. Lying flat can trigger the burn

Trick or treating and CANDYSome parents simply opt out of trick or treating, but for my children, who are now school age, this isn’t an option. It makes my daughter with reflux feel as if she is being punished for having a condition that she didn’t ask for or cause. So what we do is impose a candy exchange or buy-back regime, supplying her with candy that don’t trigger reflux in exchange for candy that would cause her pain, or giving her money for the bad stuff. It’s an even trade so our daughter doesn’t feel slighted in any way.

What to AVOID:

Treats we pull from her collection include anything chocolate and super sour candies, which can also cause burning and pain for our daughter. Everyone’s tolerance for certain foods is different and depends on how the condition is being controlled. You or your child may be able to tolerate small amounts of these foods. Instead of these candies, our daughter does well with most lollipops, gum, Starburst, jelly beans, white chocolate bars or treats, Smarties and other candies without chocolate or citrus.

Candy buy back programs are often done by local dentist offices. They buy the candy back from the kids and send the treats in gift bags to the troops overseas. This can limit some of the reflux triggers AND sugar in your house while providing a little cash your child can spend on something else. Check out the Halloween Candy Buy Back 2016 website to search your location or ask your local dentist to participate.


School parties

This can be the hardest activity to negotiate for parents whose children have acid reflux. Most teachers are familiar with food allergies, but acid reflux and its triggers might not be on their radar. It is important to discuss the issue with your child’s teacher and school nurse so they know in advance what your child can eat and what they can’t.

I also have found it helpful to ask for a head’s up from the teacher about when a party will occur and what will be served. With one of my children having reflux and the other food allergies, I try to participate in planning and helping with parties whenever possible, and to volunteer alternatives so that my children won’t feel excluded.

For example, many class parties include cupcakes. I try to include vanilla cupcakes (and not just chocolate) so that my child will be able to have them. Even better? Pumpkin muffins. They are festive and have more nutritive value than cupcakes.

By focusing on non-food activities and offering alternatives to trigger foods, Halloween can still be tons of fun for your refluxer.

Jennifer has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years. She has a bachelor's degree in dietetics and has done 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 on 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.