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For kids with allergies, Teal Pumpkin Project is a trick-or-treating lifesaver
Just imagine all the kids running around and dressed to the nines, maybe as Princess Anna from "Frozen" or as the Incredible Hulk from the latest "Avengers" installment. Either way, they have one goal in mind, and that's treats.
Trick-or-treating can be a fun activity for parents and children alike, but for those raising little ones with allergies, trick-or-treating can turn into a guessing game of what's safe to let their child consume and what isn't.
"Of course I want my son to trick-or-treat," said Jeanne Gullery from Red Lion. "A lot of people don't realize that for some of us, though, it's not as simple as going door-to-door and grabbing a handful of candy."
Treats: Gullery's 9-year-old son, Kevin, is severely allergic to milk and eggs, which eliminates nearly all of the treats he'll most likely be dropping into his goody bag on Halloween.
That's why the Federal Allergy Research and Education Center began the Teal Pumpkin Project. The nationwide initiative asks nothing more than placing a pumpkin painted bright teal on the porch if non-food items are available for trick-or-treaters.
"It's important for people to be aware of this, and I think it's great that the village, so to speak, is stepping up to protect kids with allergies because, you know, it really does take a village," said Michelle Weiss, an allergy and asthma specialist at the Family Center for Allergy & Asthma in York Township. "It better allows a child suffering from allergies to be involved, it helps them to not feel like a pariah, it allows them to participate without worry."
The center recommends goodies like stickers, pencils, vampire fangs and playing cards for those looking to offer "allergy-friendly" treats for children in their community.
"It's perfect for Kevin," Gullery said. "Non-edibles will always be safe, and they're things that he can still really get excited about."
That's not to say that those with allergies have to stick solely with non-edible treats, Weiss said.
"Most people have been able to (trick-or-treat) safely," she said. "Parents for the most part have educated themselves and are aware of what their children can and can't eat. When they get home, they simply have to empty the bags and see what they have. They go through the names of the food and remove the foods that aren't safe for their child. This Teal Pumpkin Project would definitely help take the guessing out of it."
And some of the drama, Gullery added.
"You try taking a chocolate bar from a child," she said.
Education: Because allergies seem to be on the rise in children, Weiss said, those with questions can easily call a local center or pediatrician to get their questions answered.
Schools usually will have some type of celebration and that, more often than not, means snacks, Weiss said.
"I can't tell you how often we hear about kids who have food allergies and then the kids want to bring in food for the class but they bring in things that aren't safe," she said. "There are a lot of great resources available if you know someone specifically suffering with a particular allergy and you want to accommodate them."
The research and education center is among them, Weiss said, noting that they have a monthly newsletter stuffed with useful information.
For more information on the Teal Pumpkin Project or to purchase a teal pumpkin to support allergy research, visit foodallergy.org.
— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at firstname.lastname@example.org.