Halloween is upon us. The trick-or-treaters are full of excitement about their costume choices and the treats they will find. Homes have already transformed into “haunted mansions”. Lawns are filled with scarecrows, spider webs, skeletons, and more. There are pumpkins lining the streets in anticipation of Halloween night.
But for children with food allergies or dietary restrictions, Halloween can be anything but fun.
Even a tiny amount of an allergen – or something just near an allergen – has the potential to cause a severe reaction that may send someone to the hospital. Many popular Halloween treats contain common food allergens, such as nuts, milk, egg, soy, and wheat. The symptoms of an allergic reaction to food can range from mild (itchy mouth, a few hives) to severe (throat tightening, difficulty breathing). Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that is sudden in onset and can cause death.
Food allergies are a life-threatening condition, and a growing public health issue that affect one in 13 kids in the United States. The most recent studies estimate a prevalence of 7.6% of food allergies in the pediatric population.
Peanut (2.2%) and milk (1.9%) allergies remain among the most common food-specific allergy. It's followed by shellfish (1.3%), tree nut (1.2%) and egg (0.9%). Among these children with food allergies, 42% have been treated in the emergency department for a severe allergic reaction.
Between the years 2007 and 2016, those diagnosed with an anaphylactic food reaction increased by an astounding 377%.
The Teal Pumpkin Project was inspired by the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee (FACET) and is in partnership with Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). Teal has been the color of food allergy awareness for the past 20 years, and now teal pumpkins have taken on this theme to show inclusivity for all children.
The Teal Pumpkin Project raises awareness about food allergies and how to make Halloween a safe celebration for all children (and less worrisome for their parents).
By placing a teal pumpkin on your doorstep, you are letting trick-or-treaters know that you have non-food and allergen-free treats available.
To register your own home as "food-allergy friendly", place a teal pumpkin outside your home. Visit the Teal Pumpkin Project map on the FARE website, where you can indicate that your home has allergen-friendly treats and prizes available for Halloween. Some creative ideas include glow sticks, bracelets, coloring tools, bubbles, Halloween-themed erasers/pencils, slinkies, whistles and noisemakers, bouncy balls, puppets, rings, fangs, cards, and stickers. You can also find some FAQs and helpful printable signs to make handing out treats as seamless as possible.
Help make this Halloween the perfect celebration for every child. Get involved and make Teal the new Orange.
Authors: Dr. Lorena Frontado Morales and Dr. Tara Govcovich, pediatric residents at the University of Miami Health System.
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