*WAIT TO POST UNTIL 6AM THURSDAY, OCTOBER 26!*
Over the last few years, food allergies have taken center stage in conversations around the country as parents, schools and organizations decide how to approach them with their kids.
The Teal Pumpkin Project is making that decision-making process a little easier, at least for one night out of the year.
For kids like Gavin Ott, who has a severe peanut allergy, Trick-or-Treat can be a particularly dangerous event. It can also be discouraging.
“I feel kind of like, left out,” he said.
That feeling weighs heavy on Gavin’s father, Eric Ott.
“Once you have a child with a severe nut allergy like that, well, you start to realize how many things are in the nuts and how many things have nut products in them,” Ott said.
The uncertainty is what drives the fear.
“It’s scary for me because I never know what he’s going to get and then I feel really bad for him because I have to go through and sort all of his candy and I mean, take away a good 85 percent of his candy because he just can’t have it,” he said.
The Teal Pumpkin Project eliminates that uncertainty for Trick-or-Treaters and their parents.
“Every kid deserves a fun and happy and healthy and safe Halloween,” said Lauren Hanna, who puts a teal pumpkin on her porch for Trick-or-Treat night to indicate that she has allergen-free goodies to offer.
While one bowl contains the typical Halloween candies, another is filled with pencils, stickers and vampire teeth.
“It’s very easy,” Hanna said. “We just put out teal pumpkin out with the rest of the Halloween decorations.”
Hanna’s own children do not have any known food allergies but she told 10TV she participates in the Teal Pumpkin Project anyways.
“I know that they have to advocate at the school, birthday parties, Girl Scouts, so this is just one way we can be inclusive and help and get the community involved, and it’s really easy to put out a teal pumpkin and serve non-food goodies,” Hanna said.
To the Otts, the teal pumpkins are more than just a kind gesture.
“The more people that can participate and the more people that can be aware and understand that this is a life-threatening allergy that he has and it carries a huge impact on him, it carries a huge impact on us as his parents, just to be aware and understand that that’s out there and for him to really get the full enjoyment out of it, if you can take a couple extra minutes out of your day and out of your time to set aside something that’s nut-free, allergen-free for people like him and even for other allergies, milk and whatever, that would be fantastic,” Ott said.
10TV also spoke with Dr. Grace Ryu, a local allergist who says she has noticed an increase in the number of child patients she sees with food allergies since she started practicing 21 years ago.
Data by the CDC reflect Dr. Ryu’s findings as well.
To keep your child as safe as possible from a possible allergic reaction during Trick-or-Treat, Dr. Ryu suggests the following:
. Check all candy your child brings home before they eat it. Don’t let them eat any while they’re trick-or-treating.
. Pack emergency items like Benadryl or an epi pen.
. Pack allergen-free snacks for your child to enjoy throughout the night.
. Double check labels as some popular brands offer several variations for the holidays.
Also note that many of the mini-sized candies lack the same labelling as the standard