Heading out for Halloween trick or treating should be a time of excitement for kids and their parents. But for those with allergies, it can come with considerable stress.
Here at LifeSavvy, we’ve got kiddos with severe food allergies. The chance that one of our LifeSavvy Media youngins could stumble across a rogue peanut or a bit of dairy makes us shudder worse than any scary film. For parents with children that have severe allergies that require constant vigil with an Epi-Pen and the specter of an ER visit on the horizon at all times, Halloween can be a scarier-than-usual event.
There’s a way you can help our kids and other kids with allergies out this year: a teal pumpkin.
What’s The Deal with Teal Pumpkins?
Teal pumpkins pop up in two ways during Halloween. First, they can be carried by kids as their trick-or-treat buckets. Second, they can be placed on front porches.
For kids carrying teal pumpkins, the buckets signify a food allergy, and the child should be given a low- to non-allergen food or a fun, non-food item—when in doubt, give a non-food item to play it safe. If you see one on a front porch or by an apartment door, the homeowner or renter has treats that are safe for kids with allergies.
But why teal pumpkins?
In 2012, Becky Basalone decided to help make trick-or-treating easier on those with allergies. She had the idea for people to put out a teal pumpkin (teal is the color used by food allergy awareness groups) to signify that their home had stocked non-food treats and low-allergen foods for kids.
Two years later, her idea had taken off and Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), the world’s largest non-profit for food allergy awareness teamed up with Basalone to promote the pumpkins. The team-up, called the Teal Pumpkin Project, is still going strong today.
According to the project, one in 13 children is affected by food allergies, intolerances, or conditions. By participating and placing a teal pumpkin on your doorstep, you can make a small shift in your usual trick-or-treating purchase and help one of those kiddos.
What Kind of Candy Is Safest for Kids with Allergies?
If not candy, then what?
For those who don’t have kids with allergies or allergies themselves, this question might stump you at first. After all, Halloween is about candy, right?
Good news: there are several popular candy brands that are considered to be low-allergen and even allergen-free. It turns out the criticism most people have of candy, that candy isn’t healthy because it’s totally devoid of anything of nutritional value, actually makes a lot of candies really safe for kids with allergies! When a candy maker’s recipe is sugar, sugar, and more sugar (with a little color and maybe some sour powder thrown on top) that means there’s no room for peanuts, milk, wheat, or any other allergy triggers.
There are two important things to note before we proceed though. If you’re going to buy special candy for kids with allergies, buy it in bags that are just that candy (or other candies that are allergen-free). If you buy a variety pack that has Skittles in it (which are safe) but also Peanut M&Ms (which are, obviously, not) then you could end up handing out a bunch of Skittles with peanut dust on them. That’s not something you might think about if you don’t have a severely allergic child (or severe allergies yourself) but keeping things separate is important.
This leads us to the second point, use a separate container to hold your Teal Pumpkin Project treats. Not only does the minimize cross-contamination but it also means you won’t accidentally load up a little tyke’s bag with unsafe treats. You could buy one of the official Teal Pumpkin Project buckets for the purpose or, more practically, use a blue bucket to make it obvious which container has the safe treats.
When choosing candy try to avoid items that have the Food and Drug Administration’s top nine allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybean, and sesame.
Dum Dum Suckers
These cute, classic suckers are low allergen, come in a variety of flavors, and are easily purchased in bulk on Amazon.
Dum Dum Suckers
If you went to the dentist as a kid, you've probably had one.
Skittles are another well-known candy that is considered safe for many trick-or-treaters. The chewy candies are often sold in bulk packs around Halloween at local grocery stores and can also be ordered online.
Taste the rainbow.
Starbursts are a fun candy option thanks to the age-old question of which one is best (it’s pink, by the way). Let your kids swap out different flavors and not have to worry about allergy triggers.
Admit it. Pink Starbursts are best.
Sour Patch Kids
For kids who love sour candies, there’s always Sour Patch Kids. These adorable candies shaped like kids are just as fun as any pumpkin-shaped chocolate.
Sour Patch Kids
Sweet and sour all in one candy.
What Kind of Treats Can I Give Instead of Candy?
If you want to be ultra-safe for the kids in your neighborhood, you can also have an entire selection of non-food-related treats. For folks who want to have something special for kids with allergies but are worried about picking out super safe food-based treats, this is a no-risk alternative.
Around this time of year, there are a million and one little trinkets for sale at local stores and you easily scoop up a party pack worth of look from Amazon. Here are some ideas:
Glowsticks: Since most trick-or-treating occurs near twilight, glow sticks are an excellent choice. Not only do they make kids even more visible as the sun sets, but once they head home, they can keep the party going with a kid-friendly at-home rave. Plus, at under $30 for 400 glowsticks, they’re a steal.
400 Glow Sticks Bulk Party Supplies
Get to glowing.
Bubbles: Help turn your street into a whimsical wonderland by giving kids bubbles. Not only will they have fun creating them, but the floating iridescent orbs will reflect any Halloween lights that might be up as decorations making the experience even more magical.
12 Piece Halloween Themed Bubbles
More magic, less spooky.
Vampire Fangs: For those who want something a little bit more on theme for the night, plastic vampire fangs might be the way to go. These brightly colored fangs aren’t just the right amount of scary for kiddos and everyone can wear them.
72 Pieces Halloween Vampire Teeth
They're just the right level of spooky.
Here’s How to Signal Your House has Safe Treats
If you’re all about the Teal Pumpkin Project now and want to make sure all kids have a great Halloween, participating is simple.
Place a teal pumpkin or signage in your yard or on your porch to signify that you have allergen-free or low allergen foods as well as non-food items. Be sure to keep these items separate to avoid any sort of cross-contamination. If you’re worried that people might not know what the teal pumpkin signifies, you can opt to put up signs that spell out exactly what you’re offering: allergy-friendly and non-food treats.
And while a fancy sign on a yard stake is nice, of course, don’t feel you have to spend a lot of money! The Teal Pumpkin Project has free signs you can print right at home or even have run off as a color 11×17 printout at your local print shop or office supply store for only a few bucks.
SCS Direct Teal Pumpkin Halloween Garden Flag
Signs and pumpkins are both great ways to let people know your home is allergy-friendly.
Outside of adding a sign or pumpkin, if your neighborhood has a Facebook page or other messaging forum, send out information regarding the Teal Pumpkin Project two weeks before Halloween and encourage other people to participate. Then, a few days before the holiday send out another message for the local parents to remind them to stop by your place so their kiddos can grab some non-food or low-allergen snacks.
This Halloween while you’re grabbing your candy from the grocery store, don’t forget the kiddos with allergies. From bubbles to suckers, there are plenty of ways to make sure that every child can have a happy, fun, and safe Halloween!