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Be allergy aware: Teal Pumpkin Project keeps kids with allergies safe this Halloween season

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Posted at 9:41 AM, Oct 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-21 14:27:00-04

CLEVELAND — Spooky season is officially upon us, and Halloween is right around the corner.

While it can be an exciting time for kids eager to get their hands on all of the treats, it can be very stressful for parents whose children have allergies.

Data shows that one in 13 children here in the U.S. is living with food allergies. That's roughly two kids in every classroom.

The Teal Pumpkin Project is working to make Halloween safer and more inclusive for children. It was created 10 years ago to ensure that all kids can have that fun Halloween experience.

Placing a teal pumpkin on your front porch signifies that you are food allergy aware, making sure no one is left out and giving kids alternative options to candy.

Northeast Ohio mom Dr. Princess Ogbogu understands the stress of prepping for Halloween firsthand.

In addition to tracking down the perfect costumes for her children, she's been highly alert over what candy is being offered because of her son's food allergy that she discovered when he was just 5 years old.

"My son has a tree nut allergy. We found out because he had those typical reactions after eating the nut that he was allergic to, so hives and vomiting," said Ogbogu.

The Division Chief of Pediatric Allergy Immunology and Rheumatology at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's wants everyone to think about what they're offering to trick-or-treaters this season.

She said parents should also consider getting their children tested for allergies--just to be safe.

"There is no such thing as a food allergy-safe candy. There are some that may be better than others for the general food allergies that we know of," Ogbogu said.

FARE or Food Allergy Research and Education encourage folks to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project.

Displaying a teal pumpkin at your home or on your porch shows you are food allergy aware.

This means you have a separate bowl of candy and then non-food items like toys, stickers, trinkets, and other items for kids with allergies.

"You want to offer them in separate containers. We want to reduce the risk. Of course, contact. A lot of those packages can open or they can burst," said Tiffany Leon, Registered Dietician and assistant director of training and professional programs at FARE --Food Allergy Research and Education.

The Teal Pumpkin Project has been vital in making kids feel accepted while still having fun with their friends and classmates.

Ogbogu says in many cases parents don't know their kids have allergies-- so look out for reactions like itching, swelling, hives, wheezing, shortness of breath, and vomiting.

Reactions usually happen right after eating the candy or up to two hours later. When in doubt, call 911.

And for parents whose children have allergies, she says to pay close attention to the labels and portion sizes.

"One of the biggest misconceptions is that if a child's able to eat the full-sized version of the candy, they will be able to eat the fun-size version of the candy. It's not necessarily true because the ingredient lists are not always the same between the full-size and the fun-size version of the candies," Leon said.

FARE'S Teal Pumpkin Project has partnered with CVS Pharmacy locations across the U.S.

You can purchase teal pumpkins there or wherever you get Halloween decorations.

For an interactive map to see who is participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project, click here.

For a full list of candies that might cause issues for children with allergies, click here.

This article was written by Mike Holden for WEWS.