With Halloween looming this year, I’ve wondered how we would celebrate it this year with our 3 year old son Caden. He is old enough to very much want to join in the fun of trick or treating, especially because he wants to go with his 9 year old aunt Emily, but not old enough to understand why so much of the food he would be given would be then taken away. He just turned three in September and has only a murky understanding of his own problems with food. With tomatoes, strawberries, dairy, and soy being on the “no no” list for him, he understands not to touch (even just touch can sometimes cause a reaction) red food, but dairy and soy are the ones he doesn’t know how to avoid. Have you read some labels of common foods? Dairy and soy are sneaky; they are in SO much. Three year olds aren’t exactly the most reasonable group on the planet either. Imagine taking away most of your child’s candy haul. At his age, it’s heartbreaking, but even for older kids, it takes away a lot of the fun of this candy-fueled holiday.
We all know our kids don’t NEED this much candy, but when they want to join into something that is such a huge part of American childhoods, it’s sad that they can’t really do so. I consider our family very lucky that our son only has fairly mild reactions. We’ve never had to rush him to the ER. There is no need to carry an EpiPen, and his life does not depend on us doing so. This we are grateful for. However, the reactions are miserable for him. Often, food allergy reactions became more severe the more they happen. Closely monitoring everything he touches is just a part of our daily life and hearing “no, that has dairy/soy/etc in it” is something that he is usually very accepting of (though not really understanding). Until a cure is found for food allergies, this is just how life goes. But for Halloween, we hope that he can participate in the fun safely. He’s just another 3 year old who wants to dress up and say “trick or treat!”
The Teal Pumpkin Project
This is why the Teal Pumpkin Project means so much to our family. The Teal Pumpkin Project was actually born last year in Tennessee, but it was only a local event. This year, FARE (Food Allergies Research and Education) launched it nationwide in hopes of starting a new American tradition. It’s an easy way for people to make a difference. Halloween can be safer and more fun for children with food allergies if we spread awareness of food allergies. I’ve found our community to be so eager and willing to make this new tradition happen.
So many people have told me they feel guilty for never considering this problem before, but I feel the same way. Before Caden’s issues arose, I never thought about what Halloween is like for a child with allergies. In the United States now, 1 in 13 children are diagnosed with at least one food allergy. This number doesn’t include all of the children with food intolerances, sensitivities to food ingredients/dyes, or the children with other disorders that may limit what they can eat (such as diabetes). With so many children affected, we need more awareness so they and their families can have the support needed. We certainly aren’t trying to take the candy out of Halloween; we just want an option added for our kids when possible.
While painting a pumpkin teal is a fun way to join in, if you don’t have extra time for it, you can also just print out (or make your own) sign to put on your door announcing that you have non-food treats available. By adding little items such as stickers, glow sticks and little vampire fangs, you’ll be including kids who just want to go trick or treating too. I hope you’ll consider joining in and sharing this project with your neighbors!