One in 13 children are dealing with a food allergy. If you happen to be the parent of one of those children, Halloween can be scarier than hell. Luckily, good people are doing good things and one of the spookiest seasons of the year has become much more tolerable for parents and their kids.
You may recall that Jay’s oldest suffers from a dairy and nut allergy. That alone is enough to keep all of us on guard whenever the Stefani clan stops by for a visit (Lord knows we have peanut-covered everything during the holidays, courtesy of our attorney-friends), but It becomes a point greater due diligence in October when candy practically consumes our everyday existence.
As we gear up for tricks and treats, we refer you to one of our more popular blog posts (What does it mean when you see a teal-colored pumpkin on Halloween?) with the hopes that you’ll consider participating in what has now become an annual program thanks to the people running Food Allergy Research Education advocacy group.
For those with limited time, here’s a primer: The Teal Colored Pumpkin Project is a national campaign created by the FARE, promoting food safety and inclusiveness. During fall, thousands of families participate to raise awareness about the dangers of allergens, but also a way to make those with allergies feel included over the holidays.
Here’s what you can do: Take a pumpkin, paint it teal, and set it on your doorstep. Simple. Doing so indicates that you have non-food treats available, like glow sticks or small toys. Taking part in such a tiny gesture has great significance, as it promotes inclusion for all trick-or-treaters.
Last year, FARE reported that nearly 18,000 households took part in the Teal Colored Pumpkin Project, and the number stands to grow in 2017.
There are several convenient resources available on FARE’s website, including ideas for non-food treats and an FAQ section with details about whether kids do, in fact, like non-food treats (spoiler: They love them!). And if you don’t want to break the bank, FARE has great recommendations for candy-alternatives at Dollar Stores and other cost-friendly chains.
And just for good measure, beyond painting a pumpkin teal, here’s a list of food safety precautions that we put together from our original post in 2015:
Keep your bags separated. One for the candy crew and one for the non-candy crew, and make sure they’re separated with enough distance so one doesn’t contaminate the other.
Though many kids won’t say much more than “trick-or-treat,” it’s worth prodding them for a bit extra. Ask if they’re allergic to anything or give them a choice between a non-food item and a food item.
Diligent parents will keep an EpiPen with them. Scary as it sounds, you never know when you’ll have to administer one, even with a parent hanging out nearby. Nationwide Children’s Hospital put together a great video on the proper protocols. It’s a great intro/refresher on what to do in case of an emergency, especially if you’re a Teal Pumpkin participant.
Buy candy with clear labels and listings of ingredients. You’re thinking this is completely counter-intuitive. And yes, it is, but there are those who won’t be so willing to admit they have an allergy. Should the little devils sneak a piece, their parents should have an easy way to see what the ingredients are as they filter through their bags. This gets a little more complicated when “fun-size” packaging omits ingredient and allergy information from the individual items, instead placing it only on the main bag or box.
Be on the lookout for allergy bracelets. I talked about this in a previous post. They’re visible red flag and they’re important. If something unexpected happens, you can quickly identify the allergy and the proper protocol, assuming the parents have dashed off in another direction (maybe there’s another little goblin in their crew running around).
Consider keeping safe treats at home for an exchange program. Each year, after we finish our trick-or-treat journey, we sit down at the dining room table and go through our daughter’s bag with her, looking for potentially unsafe items. For each one we find, we let her swap it for a safe item. It’s become a fun way to avoid her feeling like we’re just taking her candy.