If your child is like mine, she/he doesn’t eat much outside the beige family of foods. With peanut butter sandwiches at the forefront of her diet, it was hard to figure out what to pack for lunch when we entered the public school system. After talking with some of the other parents, I bought something called Sun Butter. For those who don’t know, it’s a similar brown spread made from sunflower seeds that looks like peanut butter with a similar taste. On her very first day of preschool, this Sun Butter sandwich came back wrapped and taped as if it was a grenade with a hasty note that said “no peanut butter!” Deeply annoyed at the time that my three year old had nothing to eat for lunch even though we had complied with the no peanut rule, I called. They explained that a child in the classroom had been hospitalized with anaphylactic reactions so they can’t take any chances and I didn’t specify that sandwich did not have peanut butter. As far as the school goes, they should have called me, I complied with the rules and my daughter should have had her lunch. That aside, it really puts the lives of these kids and their loved ones in perspective. I can’t imagine the worry that these parents must feel considering this kryptonite, essentially poison, is everywhere. I myself probably eat peanut butter several times a week.
According to FARE, the Food and Allergy Research Education center in Tennessee, “every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room. More than 40 percent of children with food allergies have experienced a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis. Results from a 2015-2016 survey indicate that 5.6 million children in the U.S have diagnosed food allergies. That’s one in every 13 kids or 2 kids per classroom.” On point with the statistics I found online, my seven year old has three friends who will suffer anaphylaxis when exposed to peanuts.
Also noted on the FARE website were the following statistics, “more than one-quarter of parents surveyed during food allergy appointments report that their children do not participate in camp or sleepovers because of food allergy. More than 15 percent do not go to restaurants, and more than 10 percent avoid child care settings or playdates at friends’ houses. Among parents of young children in the first year after food allergy diagnosis, most avoid restaurants and about half restrict social activities or travel. Mothers of food-allergic children under age five have significantly higher blood-pressure measurements and report significantly greater levels of psychosocial stress than mothers whose preschool-aged children do not have food allergies.”
Halloween is a week away and similar to years past, I’ve finished my second bag of Halloween candy. Reese’s and Snickers live in a bowl above the fridge so I can control when and where they get eaten and can facilitate proper hand washing afterward. My family members are lucky enough to have been spared any sort of allergies that we know of but we spend a fair amount of time with those who have them. As for Halloween itself, we will be participating in the Teal Pumpkin project and I encourage you to do the same. If you haven’t heard about it yet, it’s pretty easy and won’t likely cost you any more than purchasing candy.
Put a teal pumpkin on your doorstep. This can be a fun project for the kids too! If you’re not up for painting a pumpkin, you can always cut a pumpkin out of teal construction paper or have the kids draw and color a teal pumpkin to tape on your front door. If you’re running out of time, you can find teal colored pumpkins at many stores. The pumpkin will alert trick or treaters that you have non-food treats available. This promotes inclusion, support and camaraderie in your neighborhood. It will also help the trick or treater to avoid the awkwardness of declining your treats. Lastly, visit https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project/map to include your address on the Teal Pumpkin Project map.
Some examples of non-food treats- glow sticks, spider rings, bouncy balls, bubbles, stencils, crayons, colorful pencils, pencil toppers, mini notebooks, stickers and kazoos.
By participating, you are not only supporting kids with allergies but supporting those with diabetes and swallowing deficits including tube fed children. You may also offer an alternative bowl of candy as an option. It’s an easy thing to do to make Halloween fun for everyone. For more information, visit https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project.
Let’s see how your kids enjoyed Halloween this year! Drop a picture of your child’s costume in the comments section! Everyone is welcome! We’ll put everyone’s name in a hat and the winner will be sent a $25 Amazon gift card.