Every year, without exception, my office is inundated with sick children after Halloween. Not always immediately… sometimes the reaction is delayed for a few days while the sugar bomb impact fully manifests. It is possible that sugar is only part of this sickly equation. It may be a combination of the weather change, excitement and a late night, but invariably runny noses, earaches and coughs follow this fun day. Problematic behaviours also seem to spike after Halloween – if you believe your harried teachers – and I do. What is this all about and what can you do about it? Well I am no party pooper, so I would say that Halloween should and must continue. Let’s focus on blunting the impact of all of that sugar, food dye and food additives on your child’s brain and immune system.
Here are some tried and true strategies – tested on my guinea pigs (aka my children) and those of my patients:
- Reduce the duration of the sugar bomb. My philosophy has always been that kids can have fun, for one night, without limit. Most of them will stop short of vomiting. It’s what comes after that is the problem. Candy in school lunches for 30 days straight is unreasonable and sets an unhealthy standard. Allow 1-2 small treats per evening (not during school) for 7 days. Then the candy can magically disappear.
- Let’s make a deal. Let your kids choose a limited number of their favourite treats (5?) and trade the rest for a toy or outing that they desire.
- Meet Harry the Halloween Fairy. Harry has you hang your candy on the door handle the day AFTER Halloween (so you still get one binge night) and miraculously there is a toy there in the morning. Yes, the next morning. Don’t screw this up parents.
- The joy is in the giving. Invite your trick or treater back home a little early to help give out treats… including those from their bag that they don’t love. Those little goblins who love to share and older kids will especially like this option.
- Immune system rescue 101. For the next week following Halloween, be especially careful with bedtimes and food choices. This is not a good time to be running through the drive through or going to a sleep over. This is a time to eat really well – lots of vegetables and protein and sleep off the food coma.
Finally, when all else fails, now would be a good time to support immune function. Vitamin D, C, zinc and probiotics all have solid evidence in supporting healthy immunity in children. Supplements appropriate for the age and weight of the child are usually provided on the bottle.