How many trick-or-treaters will you have this Halloween? 10? 20? More?
One out of every 13 is likely to have a food allergy.
I know, it gets old: gluten-free, dairy-free, fun-free, whatever-free.
Most schools now offer allergy-friendly zones. As frustrating and cumbersome as it is for those of us with no allergies, consider the parent whose child could die from touching an allergen. Stand in their shoes for a moment. Every three minutes a food allergy sends someone to the emergency department—that’s more than 200,000 yearly emergency room visits. Keep standing where they are: their child has a Mirabel costume for Halloween, and can’t wait to ring the doorbells in your neighborhood. Feel the dread as they think about how to avoid allergens and a trip to the emergency room this October.
Cue, the Teal Pumpkin Project by FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education). A teal-painted pumpkin, or one of the three free signs available online posted near your door, tells both parents and children that you’ve got something safe for little Ariel from next door, whose parent carries an EpiPen® everywhere they go “just in case.” Maybe you have an allergen-free glow-in-the-dark spider ring for the Buzz Lightyear with Benadryl in his backpack. Such a simple step makes a miniature Frankenstein’s night perfect, because he goes home knowing that there’s something in his bag he can have without fear, something his parent won’t need to take away for fear of an allergic reaction.
Here are some things to remember when participating in this project:
- Keep non-food items in separate containers. You don’t have to stop treating with candy, but giving a choice is huge! Trust me, if candy is a risk, kids will gladly opt for a non-food item. A friend’s son gets quite ill from wheat – but before they knew what exactly was making him sick, he was known to guzzle a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts with his grandpa. I’m sure he still dreams of those donuts, but he doesn’t throw a fit to have one when they’re offered. He won’t sneak one either, because he knows that getting sick is no fun at all. If you offer him something he knows is safe, you’ll get the biggest smile – because little things do mean a lot!
- Read labels. Some contain hidden allergens (Play-Doh, for example, contains wheat) – and be sure to avoid toys with latex, as many children have latex allergies without knowing it.
- Unsure what to get? Think, little trinkets for birthday party goody bags or pinatas. Yes, they seem like junk to you—but now’s the time to recall the ol’ “one adult’s junk is another child’s treasure” adage.
- If you’re stuck for ideas, the following are always a hit:
Glow bracelets—perfect for trick-or-treating after dark. Parents will appreciate the extra light to see their kids better, too!
Pencils, stickers—novelty ones or those with cartoon characters, sports teams, etc.
Mini-comic books—I found some at our favorite comic book store.
- Keep in mind age appropriateness (size, etc.) of toys so you’re ready when teeny Elsas come a-knocking. Stickers and wind-up toys are always a hit with young trick or treaters, allergies or not!
To the people who have been to the emergency room struggling to breathe in full anaphylactic shock, and as a parent of an allergic child and friend to other EpiPen®-carrying parents, I promise you that Halloween just got a little easier and a lot more fun because you took the time to think about the kids with allergies who might show up at your door. Please share this info with your neighbors and friends via text or on social media, or a parenting group you’re a member of, too. You’ll make a parent’s day, I promise! Let’s see teal pumpkins everywhere this Halloween.
When you share on social media, don’t forget to use the hashtag #TealPumpkinProject.
You can visit This Website for more information and a list of suggested non-food items to give away.
Post originally written by Denise in October 2014, most recently updated and expanded by Ashley in October 2023.