How to make this Halloween safe for children with food allergies
It’s almost Halloween and chances are you have seen teal pumpkins, teal buckets or teal smiley jack-o-lanterns at your local retail stores. You may have also even seen them at doorsteps or decorating the front yards of some of your neighbors. What are they, and what do they mean?
The Teal Pumpkin Project® was created by the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) organization, to promote food allergy awareness during this time of the year – which can be quite stressful for children with food allergies.
Food allergies are on the rise, currently affecting about 5.6 million American children, that’s about 1 in 13 children. Doing a quick mental count, this means a child with a food allergy will likely knock at your door and say “trick-or-treat” this Halloween. Many children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food, and some are allergic to all eight of the major food allergens (milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish).
Despite the challenges these children face every day, they learn to live life to the fullest, to be resilient, to be the best advocates for their own health, and to participate in all activities with caution. When parents ask me if they should let their food allergic children trick-or-treat, the answer is yes! – with caution.
Children want to dress up in costumes with their friends and family, walk on their streets and knock on doors. Most children with a food allergy know they will end up giving much of their candy away to their siblings or friends because it won’t be safe for them to eat. Some of the fun- or mini-sized candy is not labeled properly or fully, making an ingredient check nearly impossible.
What can you do to help make Halloween a little easier on these children?
This is where the teal pumpkin project comes in. Placing a teal pumpkin on your doorstep means you have non-food treats available for them. It promotes inclusion and respect for children with food allergies, creating a fun and positive experience for everyone. If you like to give out candy, you can have two separate buckets, one with candy, and one with non-food items. Some fun non-food items children love are glow bracelets or glow necklaces, pencils, markers, erasers, stickers, mini slinkies, finger puppets, and whistles. Coins are a great hit too! (My own children always loved to receive coins from houses that run out of candy!)
Let’s make a difference this Halloween. Place a teal pumpkin or a teal pumpkin sign (you can print a free sign online) by your door. Offer some non-food treat alternatives. Spread the word. And see those children with food allergies smile ear to ear under their creepy costumes.
For more information about the Teal Pumpkin Project® visit the FARE website: https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project
By: Maria Gabriela Buheis, MD, FAAP