Those teal colored pumpkins that are starting to show up on porches aren’t just pretty pumpkins; they are part of the Teal Pumpkin Project, and they are placed with intention of communicating a message.
With 1 in every 13 kids having a food allergy, Halloween can bring a real scare to families. Every three minutes someone visits the emergency room in the United States due to an allergic reaction related to food. Approximately 156 people die in the U.S. every year from anaphylaxis due to a food allergy, and food allergies are on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control estimates a 50 percent increase in food allergies among children in the last 18 years. Currently, there are no cures available, only prevention.
This Halloween, there is a growing movement to help ease the fears of families with a member having a food allergy. Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) is promoting the Teal Pumpkin Project. FARE is encouraging those desiring to participate in the project to paint a pumpkin teal and placing it on the porch. The teal-painted pumpkin serves as a sign to other families with food allergies that non-food treats are available at the home. In addition, the Teal Pumpkin Project is a way to raise awareness to others of food allergies and the possible consequences to those that ingest foods that cause a reaction.
Holidays are meant to be a wonderful time of year and cause to celebrate. However, for families that are managing food allergies they can create a high anxiety with the associated risk. The Teal Pumpkin Project seeks to allow those with allergies to participate, feel included, and be safe.
“I have two sons with serious, life threatening food allergies,” shared Julie Shirts. “My 13-year-old was diagnosed with a peanut allergy when he was 18 months old. He has also developed allergies to tree nuts, fish, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. My 8-year-old is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. They both carry medical kits with Benadryl and epinephrine wherever they go.”
“As a mom of boys with severe food allergies, I dread all the food at school parties, birthday parties, trick or treating, Thanksgiving, Christmas goodies, and Valentines,” Shirts continued. “We are on high alert always, but more so during these holidays.”
The seriousness of life-threatening food allergies was demonstrated in April 2013 when an 11-year-old St. George boy, Tanner Henstra, had a fatal reaction upon biting into a snack containing ingredients he was allergic to. Tanner bit into a pretzel containing peanut butter. He recognized what had happened and spit it out. However, it was too late. The contact with the allergen caused his tongue and throat to swell, cutting off his airway. By the time he was able to get an injection, only a few minutes later, Tanner had gone into cardiac arrest. He was flown to Primary Children’s Medical Center. However, doctors were unable to detect any brain activity, and Tanner was removed from life support.
The Teal Pumpkin Project is not looking to eliminate candy from trick or treat. Rather, it only seeks to offer a manner in which those with food allergies can participate safely. With the overabundance of candy offered, perhaps some will prefer to offer an alternative trick or treat option for kids, regardless of allergies.
Offering inexpensive non-food items to hand out can be easy. The Teal Pumpkin Project offers some ideas on the web, including glow bracelets or necklaces, pencils, markers, boxes of crayons, erasers, bubbles, mini Slinkies, bouncy balls, coins, spider rings, vampire teeth, mini notepads, playing cards, bookmarks, stickers, and stencils.