Teal Halloween pumpkins help kids avoid scary allergies

If your child has a food allergy Halloween may be more tricky than full of treats if he or she eats a traditional token gift given at a stranger's door. That's where the Teal Pumpkin Project comes in…

For many who go Halloween door-knocking, the worst case scary scenario is a tummy ache (or headache) the morning after, but for some there is much worse afoot. Food allergies can be a real problem, and you never know what you are in for until you take a bite. With up to 8% of children having a food allergy, it's a more than a little scary.

Severe allergies to peanuts, or other substances, can cause reactions that can kill. Anaphylaxis - an enormous allergic 'whole body' response - can close the airways and leave you struggling for breath. Sufferers experience severe drops in blood pressure which may be enough to stop their heart. Milder forms can cause swelling of lips, itching and rashes. The immediate treatment is to use an EpiPen® but for new diagnosis of allergy this may be too late. If you suspect a severe allergy, always call 999.

The Teal Pumpkin Project

As always the best way to avoid treating disease is to prevent it. A forward-thinking initiative, The Teal Pumpkin Project, does just that.

Instead of playing the allergy Halloween lottery with a bag of sweets, homeowners can hand out small toys to spooky visitors. Those taking part can have fun in making their own painted teal pumpkin or can download a special sign; both will act as a signal to children (and their parents) that the homeowner they're visiting has considered food allergy and made precautions.

The project started in 2012 by one mum in Tennessee, USA who painted a pumpkin teal, a colour long- associated with food allergy awareness. The idea spread and since 2014 the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) organisation has led the campaign. FARE has now created a crowd-sourced online map that allows people who are participating to log their address.

It is unlikely that you will be able to predict exactly what is in the food your child is eating. Whatever it says on the packet is usually safe, but for unknown brands or those not tightly regulated there may be some contamination. Unless you want to stop your child eating sweets at all, it's always a gamble. Thankfully, although severe allergy rates are increasing, death is vanishingly rare.

So if you want to help keep kids safe this Halloween, consider a teal pumpkin. And if not, think carefully about which sweets you hand out. A little thought can go a long way. Think safe, think allergy. Happy Halloween!

Sources and further reading:

1) http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-features/article/Teal-pumpkins-a-way-for-kids-with-allergies-to-9992080.php

2) http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/10/21/teal-pumpkin-project/

3) http://patient.info/health/food-allergy-and-intolerance

4) https://www.allergyuk.org/allergy-statistics/allergy-statistics

5) http://allergytraining.food.gov.uk/english/food-allergy-facts.aspx

6) http://www.foodallergy.org/teal-pumpkin-project/about#.WAoSYuArKhc