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Why I’m Putting a Teal Pumpkin On My Porch

pumpkinporchAccording to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), 1 in 13 children has food allergies. These allergies can range from peanuts to dairy, and can cause mild to severe reactions.

Just a month ago, I didn’t know that statistic. I had no reason to know it, and I never searched it out. I also didn’t have a personal stake in the rising cost of EpiPens, the life-saving drug for anaphylactic reactions caused by allergens.

Now, I have a very personal stake in the food allergy world. Because now, I’m a food allergy mom.

Since birth, my son had digestive issues. He had extreme colic and acid reflux and was switched to soy formula to help him gain weight. I was hesitant to give him any dairy products, given his history, until he turned a year old. Just a few days after his first birthday, I gave him a cup of whole milk. He drank one drop—literally, one drop—before he started coughing, gagging, choking, wheezing, swelling.

It was anaphylaxis. And, it was the scariest thing ever.

A few more similar episodes later, and we visited the allergist. It was difficult to see my baby go through allergy testing, but it was nice to have his allergies confirmed: severe reactions to milk and eggs.

medicalbraceletWe immediately bought my son a medical bracelet, at his doctor’s request, and we carry our EpiPens everywhere. We’ve only been living with the diagnosis for a few weeks now, but I’ve researched like crazy. And in my research, I came across something I’ve since become very passionate about: The Teal Pumpkin Project. Since Halloween is right around the corner, there’s no better time to raise awareness for the initiative.

Sponsored by FARE, the project helps ensure that all children can trick-or-treat on Halloween in a safe, fun way, by encouraging parents to offer non-food treats for kids. You may not think about it, but placing certain candy in a child’s trick-or-treat basket not only means they can’t eat it, they might have an allergic reaction. For some kids, the peanuts in common treats—even when wrapped—are enough to cause serious problems. For others, like my son, chocolate could pose a deadly risk.

Participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project is simple, really. Offering non-food treats means providing glow sticks, small toys, stickers, pencils, or other items. You can go to the dollar store and pick up stickers that will treat as many kids as candy would. Or, as another Oklahoma City Mom’s Blog writer told me, you can bulk order glow sticks for the kids.

To let passersby know that you’re participating in the project, place a teal pumpkin in front of your home. You can also display a printable sign that explains the purpose of your teal pumpkin. Free, downloadable signs are available on the project’s website.

If you plan to take part in this initiative and will also offer candy for kids who can eat it, please remember to keep the non-food treats in a separate bowl.

My son won’t be old enough to care about trick-or-treating this year, but we’ll still put a teal pumpkin on our porch, and I hope when he’s old enough to enjoy Halloween, we’ll see many similar pumpkins on the porches of our friends and neighbors.

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