MOODY: Teal pumpkins — allergy friendly houses
Halloween is supposed to a spooky time of year. From haunted houses to trick or treating and fall festivals, our little zombies, ghosts, super heroes, and princesses get an opportunity to let their imaginations run wild for a little bit. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend almost $6.9 million on Halloween this year. This includes decorations, costumes, and a lot of snack size candy, and almost 14 percent of those buying Halloween costumes this year will be purchasing costumes for their pets.
For the 15 million people affected by food allergies, however, Halloween can be an exceptionally scary time. With more than one in three kids demonstrating or presenting symptoms of moderate to severe food allergies, sending kids out to collect Halloween candy presents a huge dilemma. For parents worried about accidental ingestion, cross contamination, or even just explaining to their little minions or Elsa’s that they can’t eat their treats makes navigating Halloween that much trickier. Food allergies, which are on the rise, especially among children, occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies a food protein as a threat and attacks it. From peanuts and tree nuts to gluten, soy, and dairy, everyone knows someone whose life is touched by a food allergy. Symptoms and the severity of the reaction vary from hives, eczema and skin rashes to anaphylactic shock. According to FARE, an organization dedicated to Food Allergic Research and Education, a child is admitted to the emergency room every three minutes with a severe allergic reaction.
Food allergy advocates and educators are encouraging homes to distribute non-food and alternative Halloween treats. Many of us may remember trick or treating as kids and heading to the house that handed out toothbrushes, dental floss, or apples, and leaving disappointed. While mini boxes of milk duds and bite size KitKats are traditional Halloween goodies, offering alternative treats is a way to show your support for and include kids with allergies in the fun, and you don’t have to resort to toothbrushes.
Alternative Halloween goodies can include glow sticks, stickers, crayons, pencils, erasers, bubbles, and bookmarks. You don’t need to break the bank, generally these small items can be found at any dollar store or the bargain aisle at Target. If you want to clearly identify your house as allergy friendly, you are encouraged to paint a pumpkin teal, and display it on your front porch, stairs, or stoop. Teal is the color for food allergy awareness, and your teal pumpkin will let parents, guardians, and trick or treaters know there are non-food options available. Halloween can be complicated enough for families without food allergies, and the teal pumpkin is an easy way to lend a hand and show support for families who might need it.
If you have preschool age kids and are looking for a family friendly and fun way to get into the Halloween spirit, I’d encourage you to register for The Destin Library’s Annual Cuddler’s and Toddler’s Story Time Halloween Parade on Wednesday, Oct. 29. It’s been many years since Alex and Harper joined the parade of butterflies, ladybugs, pirates, and cowboys marching through the stacks and “scaring” the patron and snow birds, but I remember those parades fondly. Mr. Will and the library staff, all dressed in costume, do a great job encouraging the kids to explore the library, sing, and dance, and enjoy some Halloween fun. If you’ve got preschool aged kids, make sure you mark your calendar and register for this event at 850-837-8572. This is a free event, but it fills up fast.
However you decided to celebrate Halloween, be careful, be safe, and have fun!
Follow Susan Moody on Twitter @susanjmoody and visit her blog, The Emerald Coast Insider, at www.emeraldcoasttreasurebox.com.