I wasn’t always an allergy parent. My son ate peanuts, especially that Halloween and Easter staple Reese’s, enthusiastically until he was five years old. Then one night he got violently ill after taking a bite of a peanut butter sandwich. And what started as an ordinary Tuesday with my husband working late ended with me racing all three kids to the ER, alternately stepping on the gas and craning my neck to make sure one of them was still breathing. It was a million times scarier than any horror movie and absolutely the worst night of my life.
Because he and I have experienced life from both sides—“Before Allergy” and “After Allergy,” we’re both in a unique position. For him, unfortunately, not being able to eat whatever he wants, share in his classmates’ birthday treats, and celebrate Halloween without adults breathing down his neck is doubly sad because he remembers a time when none of those things were an issue.
For me, it’s terrifying but also humbling. I used to consider myself allergy-aware and sensitive, but now that I understand first-hand what that really entails, I recognize I truly did NOT understand it at all. It’s for that reason I don’t get mad or judgmental when other parents and kids don’t get it. Unless you live it or are close to someone who does, you really don’t.
Here’s what every parent worries about on Halloween:
- Will my kid get lost?
- Will he eat too much candy?
- Will he get grabbed by a stranger?
- Will he egg someone’s house?
We worry about those things. But in addition, we fear:
- Him not checking the ingredients and accidentally eating something with nuts
- Someone near him or handing him candy having recently eaten something with nuts, and inadvertently causing an allergic reaction on contact
- Him getting separated from us, the carriers of his life-saving Epi-Pen
- Something with nuts somehow getting into his bag and “infecting” everything else in it with peanut dust
- How awful it would be to have to hold him down and stick a needle in his leg if he has an allergic reaction
- The likelihood of him having yet another emotional meltdown because he is the only kid around him on Halloween with a million “unfair” restrictions
- What it’s going to be like for him in college if he goes to a Halloween party and kisses someone who just ate nuts, and will he have his Epi-Pen on him? (This is a long way off, but I think about it often)
So now that you understand why Halloween is the scariest day of the year for families dealing with food allergies and restrictions (because it’s not just allergies, it’s conditions like celiac and diabetes, too), I’m happy to share how you can be a part of the solution.
First, become familiar with the Teal Pumpkin Project®. Now in its third year, this movement is dedicated to raising awareness of food allergies and promoting inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season. At the very least, just spending a few minutes on the website will offer some eye-opening information so you can be more sensitive to every child’s needs.
If you’re motivated to take part, consider providing non-food treats instead of (or in addition to) Halloween candy this year. To show trick-or-treaters you’re a participating home, simply place a teal pumpkin at the door. You can easily paint one yourself, or download signs and materials here. Teal pumpkin project ideas are vast and endless. Bedazzle them, keep ’em simple, whatever you want to do.
Wondering what you could possibly give out that isn’t candy and need those kinds of teal pumpkin ideas? Pretty much any kind of party favors, and if you’re really stuck, how about some of that loose change you’ve been collecting in a jar? (Just kidding.) You can also try:
- Video game-themed pencils
- Glow bracelets or sticks
- Spider bouncy balls
- 3-D stickers
Can I ask you for one more favor? Share this post with family, friends, and neighbors to help make teal the new orange this season. Happy Halloween!