By: Kerri, an attorney and Mom of 3 cuties
For parents and children alike Halloween is a time of excitement – picking out the costume, classroom parties, parades and the ultimate highlight – Trick-or-Treating! Over the years as a Food Allergy Mom, I received a lot of great questions about Teal Pumpkin Project® and what it is like to celebrate Halloween with food allergies. Our 7-year-old daughter is severely allergic to eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish so Halloween can definitely have its challenges, but that does not stop us from enjoying our favorite holiday!
Enter Teal Pumpkin Project®! Teal Pumpkin Project® raises awareness of food allergies and promotes inclusion for all during Halloween. The national movement offers a fun alternative for kids with food allergies, and other children whom certain candy may not be an option. 1 in 13 children are diagnosed with food allergies now. After a few doorbell rings with groups of trick-or-treaters, most likely at least 1 of them has a food allergy.
FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) offers free Teal Pumpkin Project posters for your window which are fantastic for trick-or-treaters. You can also register your house on Teal Pumpkin Project Map so food allergy families know you are participating with non-food allergy treats or safe candy available. Near the end of the evening, we love driving to visit local Teal Pumpkin houses as a special treat for our daughter. It’s wonderful to meet and support other families participating in Teal Pumpkin Project®, and offer our thanks!
How can you participate in Teal Pumpkin Project®?
It is really easy and offers an inclusive option for many children:
Offer non-food treats/toys in a separate bowl from other candy.
What is so important is to keep the non-food treats/toys in a separate bowl from the candy. Unfortunately, candy wrappers can open and if the candy has nuts or another allergen even the smallest particle can contaminate the other candy or toys. For many children with food allergies, if they touch something with a particle of their allergen they can break out in hives or something more serious could occur, including a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.
Some ideas for non-food treats are plastic rings, little dinosaurs, pencils, stamps, temporary tattoos – a lot of great ideas are available at Walgreens, Target or through Oriental Trading. My kiddos love helping us pick out what we’ll be handing out at Halloween!
Offer candy that is free from the 8 major allergens.
While peanut is the most well-known allergen, milk is actually the most common food allergy and can be equally as severe. When choosing candy that most children can enjoy, it is so important to check the Allergen Statement at the bottom of the ingredients list on the back of a product. It is so important to check not only if it “Contains or May Contains” but also whether the product denotes if it is manufactured in the same facility or same equipment as the major allergens. Often candies with those allergens made in the same facility or equipment is not safe for kids with those food allergies.
Highly recommend are Top 8 Allergy-Free Brands per Spokin are: Dots, free2b Sun Cups, Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Minis, Ring-Pops, Skittles, Smarties, Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, Starburst, Surf Sweets. (1)
Paint or Purchase a Teal Pumpkin or place a free Teal Pumpkin Project® Poster in your window (they have Spanish and French versions available too!). Don’t forget to register your house on the Teal Pumpkin Project® Map.
We like to offer both toys and candy in separate bowls for all children to be the most inclusive for kids at Halloween. All it took was one look of sheer fear and disappointment on my daughter’s face when trick-or-treating seeing a bowl was full of candy with eggs and nuts. She bravely and politely said, “No, thank you. Happy Halloween.” The parent looked confused and tried to put some candy in her bag. She came running back and I said, “Thanks, it’s okay, she has severe food allergies” while my sweet 7-year-old hid behind me. That’s the thing, it is okay to have food allergies. Again, 1 in 13 children have food allergies now – that means 2 children in most classrooms.
Many children face different challenges on a daily basis whether it be food allergies, juvenile diabetes, ADHD, autism, etc. It is through awareness and education of each of our own challenges to create understanding and foster support. Because perhaps it is our similarity in facing different challenges that truly brings us together for not only Halloween, but for our communities as a whole.
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