Halloween makes you think of kids, costumes, and candy — not a trip to the emergency room. But for children with severe food allergies, a fun-size candy bar could be life-threatening. Which is why you may see teal pumpkins by doors this Halloween, and even choose to set one out yourself.
Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that nearly five percent of children under the age of 5 suffer from food allergies. They also found the number of food allergies in children under 18 increased 18 percent from 1997 to 2007.
The most common allergens are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. Reactions often appear within minutes. There are treatments for the most common symptoms, such as hives, wheezing, and stomach pain.
Severe allergies, though, can affect breathing and blood circulation – what’s called “anaphylaxis.” It can lead to coma or even death if it’s not treated immediately with epinephrine (often injected with an “epi pen”).
Having children with food allergies takes vigilance. Families often limit what foods come into their homes or where their children eat. But trick-or-treating is another story.
Teal pumpkin = allergy-free Halloween
The Teal Pumpkin Project®, developed by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), is a movement to create happy, safe Halloweens for all children. It encourages offering non-food items on Halloween.
Placing a teal pumpkin outside your house marks it as safe for food allergy sufferers. You can also register your house on the FARE website and download free resources – like sign, flyers, and stickers – to help alert trick-or-treaters.
There are plenty of fun giveaways that don’t involve food. Many are available for a low cost at discount stores or online. Here are some non-food options, courtesy of FARE:
- Glow sticks, bracelets, or necklaces
- Halloween erasers or pencil toppers
- Mini slinkies
- Whistles, kazoos, or noisemakers
- Bouncy balls
- Finger puppets or novelty toys
- Spider rings
- Vampire fangs
- Playing cards
Use care: some non-food items, such as moldable clay, may contain wheat allergens. Consider latex-free items to protect against potential latex allergies.
Even if you “go teal,” you can still offer candy for trick-or-treaters without allergies. Store the sweets away from non-food items to avoid possible contamination. Clearly label each area if you’re letting children choose their own treats.