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How to help children with food allergies this Halloween
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The goal of the Teal Pumpkin Project is to increase awareness about the serious nature of food allergies and be more inclusive of children who live with the condition every day of their lives. One mother shares her story of childhood allergies. - photo by Alicia Walters
Wondering what is behand all these bright teal pumpkins you see on your social media and news feed?

Teal is the color for food allergy awareness and in 2014, Food Allergy and Education Research started an ongoing tradition to benefit families with children affected by food allergies known as The Teal Pumpkin Project.

The goal of the Teal Pumpkin Project is to increase awareness about the serious nature of food allergies and to be more inclusive of children who live with the condition every day of their lives. Families are invited to place a pumpkin painted teal on their front porch to let trick-or-treaters know that their home will be passing out non-food or allergy-safe treats. The Teal Pumpkin Project has exploded with supporters showing their compassion for young trick-or-treaters with food allergies.

One of the biggest misconceptions about food allergies is that they are similar to food intolerance such as gluten sensitivity. Many people still do not understand that when a parent says their child has food allergies that it is not a lifestyle choice or something that can be resolved simply by changing the way a food is prepared, but that ingesting certain allergens found in everyday food is an actual threat to a childs life. Parents of children with food allergies must be prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure their child does not ingest or have direct contact with their allergens. For school-aged children, this can present a complicated schedule of doctor appointments, visits with the school principal, teachers and school nurse and extra paperwork and continuous communication to ensure that medical supplies and plans are in place in the event of an emergency.

Parents have to monitor their childs food in a similar way that parents of children with Type 1 diabetes have to monitor their childs insulin. These parents are never completely relaxed when sending their children to school because they must be ready to drop everything and rush their child to the emergency room if exposure to allergens occurs. This often leads to anxiety and feelings of loneliness on the part of the parent, the child or both.

Stacy Chatterton is a food allergy advocate raising her two daughters who have food allergies. Holidays like Halloween can be a stressful time as she has to constantly weigh wanting her daughters to participate in celebrations at school and with friends but also needing to keep them safe. She enjoys seeing the teal pumpkins show up on the doorsteps of families who want to include children with food allergies.

Stacy is grateful for her husband and family and close friends who understand food allergies. Her mother makes a safe meal for them every Sunday, as she understands that being the constant provider of safe meals can be exhausting for parents with children who have food allergies. Friends have also jumped in and Chatterton appreciates the messages that fill her inbox around Halloween telling her a friend will have allergy free treats for her daughters. A close friend whose daughter does not have food allergies even started packing her lunch allergy free anyway so she could sit by Chattertons daughter at the allergy free table at school.

Even with all this support, Chatterton still recognizes a need for more public awareness so people in their communities know what to watch out for and how to help children with food allergies year-round.

"I deal with the reality of this possibility every day that I drop off my two young daughters at school," Chatterton said. "In the months and weeks before school starts, I schedule meetings with teachers and school nurses to ensure health care plans are in order. I also make sure that both girls have their epinephrine and medical bracelets on them at all times. You will often not find me further than 15 minutes away from either child's school with my phone in my back pocket. In the last few years, I have had a few anxiety attacks while the two of them are away at school."

Chatterton said that the key to helping her and her girls not feel alone is reaching out and making friends with other food allergy families. Since her first daughters diagnosis over five and a half years ago, she has found support at Kids With Food Allergies as well as many Facebook groups for parents of children with food allergies. It isnt difficult to find allergy free candy for trick-or-treaters. All grocery stores sell candy for egg, peanut and tree nut allergies that even children without food allergies enjoy regularly.

Parents and neighbors of children with food allergies wanting to know more about The Teal Pumpkin Project can find information on the FARE website.

DIV BOX:

As with the majority of emergencies, time is everything. If you see a child having an emergency, call 911. A child with food allergies who has ingested or had direct contact with allergens may show signs of anaphylaxis, which usually beings within minutes after ingesting food that is unsafe.

Symptoms include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • reduced blood pressure
  • hives
  • swollen lips
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • fainting
Allergy free candies include:

  • Skittles
  • Starburst
  • Tootsie Roll Brand
  • Twizzlers
  • Jolly Ranchers
  • Swedish Fish