Our Readers Write: Paint the Town Teal
According to the Food Allergy and Research Education (FARE), over 6 million children in the United States suffer from potentially life-threatening food allergies. Halloween is a particularly challenging time for these families, needing to balance possible exposures and the fun of trick or treating, enjoyed by nearly 40 million children nationwide.
The Teal Pumpkin Campaign has worked since 2014 to identify locations as food-allergy-friendly during the Halloween season. To support this effort, homes and businesses are encouraged to pass out nonfood items such as stickers, bracelets, bubbles, glow sticks and little toys. They should identify themselves as food-allergy-friendly locations by placing a teal pumpkin at the door. It can be either a decorative teal pumpkin from the store or a picture of a teal pumpkin.
It would be a fun family activity to paint a real pumpkin teal. This would be an opportunity for the children to learn about caring for other people’s needs in their community.
To prepare the parents of children sensitive to contact with certain foods an Allergy-Immunologist doctor with Hattiesburg Clinic Dr. Olmstead recommends: “Children should wear long sleeves while trick or treating and keep an epi pen and allergy medicine on hand, if prescribed”. One parent of a 9-year-old boy with severe food allergies shares his experience: “I will let him and his sister swap the candies he knows he cannot eat for the ones he can. I do not allow my kids to eat anything until we get home and I inspect the candy”.
Here are some other tips to encourage safety while trick or treating:
- Bring a safe snack or food item to enjoy while trick or treating until all food labels are reviewed from the evening’s haul.
- Focus more on the fun and less on the sweets collected.
- Candy recipes change, so do not assume the list of ingredients remains safe year to year.
- Be mindful that mini-sized products may have different ingredients than the full-size ones.
- Do not eat anything without a label.
Teal can be the new orange as we join together in making Halloween safer for all our children by offering options that include goodies all can enjoy.
Alicia Stevens is a freelance writer, doctor, wife and mother of two little blessings, one of whom lives with food allergies. Her favorite pass time is dancing, twirling and spinning with her kids to whatever jiggle spontaneously comes to mind.