By Christine Maughan
I’ve heard living with life-threatening food allergies compared to watching your child play near the edge of a cliff, and that is exactly what it feels like. My three year old has a life threatening allergy to both dairy and eggs. If she accidentally ingests something she is allergic to she breaks out in hives, her face starts swelling, and there is always the possibility she will stop breathing entirely.
Due to this condition, my daughter’s body views many common foods as poison. Daily activities can be a bit complicated, anxiety inducing, and socially awkward. Holidays can be a particular challenge as festivities seem to focus on food.
We try to celebrate in our own allergen free way, but what child doesn’t want to be part of the fun? To get dressed up in costume and beg the neighbors for bags full of candy? That’s why this year my family is participating in The Teal Pumpkin ProjectTM*.
The Teal Pumpkin ProjectTM was launched by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) in 2014. Its primary goal is to raise awareness on
behalf of the 15 million Americans now living with food allergies and to promote inclusion of all trick-or-treaters. Its impacts are felt not only by those of us in the ever growing food allergy community, but also other trick-or-treaters for whom candy is not a safe option.
Participation is simple and fun. Offer some non-food treats on Halloween; you can still include your usual candy if you would like. Place a teal painted pumpkin or official Teal Pumpkin ProjectTM poster on your front porch, and happily watch adorable children dressed in costumes leave your house with whichever goodie is best for them.
Some non-food items to consider would be: stickers, Halloween pencils, temporary tattoos, bouncy balls, etc. I’ve even noticed many local grocery stores are now offering bags of small non-food goodies in the Halloween aisle right next to the bags of candy.
To get involved with The Teal Pumpkin ProjectTM or to gather information, you can visit FARE’s website at www.foodallergy.org. There you will find free downloads such as Teal Pumpkin ProjectTM posters, other suggestions for non-food treats, FAQs, and more. It’s also a great site for information regarding food allergies in general.
If you have any doubts as to how your non-food items will be received, let me assure you that most children seem to love them. Last Halloween we happened upon a teal pumpkin house in Providence. The children were ecstatic to find small boxes filled with temporary tattoos. I suppose after an evening of candy and sweets other treats must be an exciting novelty.
And for those of us parents who manage our children’s life-threatening food allergies and other medical conditions everyday, who keep frozen cupcakes in the fridge to send along to birthday parties, who field the questions of “Why me?” and watch their children undergo frequent skin prick tests and blood draws, who never leave the house without emergency medication, well, that teal pumpkin means a bit more.
It means we are not alone and we have a community of people who understand and are compassionate. And what an awesome community that is.
*The TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT and the Teal Pumpkin Image are trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)