Teal pumpkins mean safe trick-or-treating for kids with allergies
Craig — Halloween can feel more like a trick than a treat to the nearly 6 million kids in the U.S. with food allergies.
With Oct. 31 just around the corner, most youngsters are ramping up for the costumed sugar-fest by prepping their princess or superhero getups and pulling out their pillowcases to be filled with candy.
But, children with food allergies are often excluded from the most highly anticipated part of the holiday: trick-or-treating.
The Teal Pumpkin Project, a project of the organization Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), is gaining traction in its second year as a nationwide effort to make Halloween every bit as fun for kids with allergies.
“Instead of putting out regular jack-o-lanterns and stuff like that, it’s a spray-painted teal pumpkin and it designates that that house has candy for kids with allergies — peanut-free and stuff like that,” said Brian Slaight, a captain with Craig Fire/Rescue whose 4-year-old son, Lucas, has a severe peanut allergy. “There are a lot of people that do toys, too.”
Launched by FARE last year, the organization especially encourages participants to hand out inexpensive, non-food treats and toys such as glow bracelets, stickers, pencils and bouncy balls.
Slaight’s wife, Camie Slaight, got involved last year when she heard about the new project.
“(Lucas) was diagnosed with a life-threatening peanut allergy at age 1. Most people don’t realize that most candy has been processed with peanuts or has peanuts in it, and he can’t have any of it,” she said.
Other common allergens include different types of nuts, milk, wheat and soy — ingredients found in many candies.
Food allergies affect one in 13 kids in the U.S. and 15 million Americans overall, according to FARE. That means roughly two kids in every classroom have some kind of food allergy, which can range from mild to severe.
“Food allergies are not a lifestyle choice — they are life-altering and potentially life-threatening,” said FARE Vice President of Communications Veronica LeFemina. “Halloween is about having fun with your friends, neighbors and community. By providing non-food treats, you are helping children with food allergies enjoy a safe, happy Halloween just like their friends.”
Other tips for parents trying to keep their allergic kids safe is to enforce a “no eating while trick-or-treating” rule, avoid candy and treats with no ingredient labels, and always have two ephinephrine auto-injectors ready at hand in case an allergic reaction begins.
Also, be warned that mini-size versions of candy may contain different ingredients than their full-size counterparts, and that candy that has been deemed safe in the past could now have different ingredients. FARE recommends to always read the label every time.
“He knows Skittles are okay,” said Lucas’ grandmother Vicky Slaight. “We really have to watch everything.”
For more information, ideas for non-food treats and inspiration, visit http://www.tealpumpkinproject.org.
Craig Press Publisher Renee Campbell invites the community to join Coffee & a Newspaper, set for 7 a.m. Wednesday, June 5, at the east Kum & Go, 700 E. Victory Way.