Teal pumpkins to signal safe treats for kids with food allergies

Tick-or-treating can be really scary for those with severe food allergies. One bite of the wrong tempting treat could be fatal.

As a parent of a child with a severe peanut allergy, I must be vigilant about everything my son eats. I scrutinize every label to avoid anything containing nuts or processed in a facility that also processes nut products. Just a trace amount can cause a reaction.


Food-centered celebrations like Halloween can be challenging. We could choose to keep our son at home, but like other parents, we want him to feel included and to participate with other kids, so we carefully watch his every move as we go door-to-door. If there is no safe treat offered, he will accept it politely, and hand it over to us. When we finish inspecting candy back at home, we inevitably have to take most of it into work or donate it. His sister is not allowed to keep any “nut-issue” treats in the house either.  We keep it fun and positive by letting them “trade” for safe treats, toys and books instead.  

Unfortunately, our experience has become more common as food allergies are on the rise, especially among kids. In the U.S., nearly 6 million kids -- one in every 13 -- under the age of 18 have a food allergy, according to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE).  The most common food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.  While labeling has improved, allergens can be challenging to avoid, and every three minutes someone visits the ER because of a food allergy reaction, according to FARE. Read more facts and stats.

In an effort to include food-allergic kids and keep them safe at Halloween, FARE created the Teal Pumpkin Project in 2014. Putting a teal pumpkin by your door is a signal to trick-or-treaters there are safe, non-food treats available.

Non-food treats are easy and inexpensive. Think stickers, glow sticks, pencils, plastic spider rings – all stuff you can find at your local dollar store. You still can offer candy treats too, but have a non-food alternative. Non-food treats are great to help reduce the amount of sugar we give kids too!

To make a teal pumpkin, all you need is teal craft paint, a brush and a real or craft pumpkin. You also can  check your local craft store – some of the major retailers have started stocking teal craft pumpkins. FARE also has simple teal pumpkin signs you can print out and tape in your window or on your door.

Thanks for making all kids feel welcome and giving them a food-safe Halloween!

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