I’ve been there. Looking around town, around the internet, wondering, what is the deal with those teal pumpkins? Why is this such a big deal, even with kiddos with allergies? Can’t they just have the safe candies? I may or may not have even gone to the point of wondering if maybe some were going a tad bit overboard.
Then came Halloween 2015. Last Halloween, my older son was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), in his costume and all, in a doctor’s office where they were handing out (non-safe) candy. We were told he had to immediately stop consuming milk, soy, eggs, wheat, fish/shellfish, and nuts/tree nuts. We had to immediately begin a probable two year process of food trials and any one (or more) of those things would be the most likely culprit. So on the day known for kiddos receiving chocolates and candies, my son suddenly couldn’t have almost any.
If you’ve never heard of EoE, you’re not alone. There isn’t really an easy way to describe it since it has a different impact on each person. A slightly more lengthy explanation can be found in a previous article of mine.
An extremely short summary: certain triggers (foods or environmental) cause a reaction that can become life-threatening. It appears differently in all patients, but usually involves gagging and vomiting, stomach pain, bowel issues and more. The diseases are generally managed by food avoidance, medicines and even feeding tubes if the patients lose too much weight. These diseases are very rare and often missed and not diagnosed until far too much time has passed.
I’ve learned a lot in the last year. I’ve learned about hidden ingredients, cross contamination, GI procedures like endoscopies and biopsies. I’ve learned how to help my son adjust to a life where he can’t just eat anything. He can’t have the same foods as his friends, and he has to have mom check everything he eats. He can no longer eat at restaurants until his food trials are complete since the risk of cross contamination or unlisted ingredients is too high. We’ve both learned that if he sneaks something, like his brother’s milk, the consequences are immediate and painful.
I’ve suddenly become one of the moms I wondered about and never truly understood. I was constantly visiting different stores for safe foods and checking every single label. I made safe alternatives for every birthday party, every time. The amazing thing is, my son prefers the safe foods the majority of the time. He feels better and has only had GI issues this year when he had a food he shouldn’t have. Watching him make safe choices, which in reality are much healthier choices, is amazing and makes me proud.
As I remember the fear we had before we set off trick-or-treating last year, you better believe I am all for a safe alternative for my son — a safe alternative for any kiddo with allergies, since as difficult as we may have it, the fear and precaution is nothing compared to a kiddo with an anaphylactic allergy. Last year, trick-or-treating involved trying to guide him towards possibly safe choices, hiding and throwing away unsafe candies, and a sneaky method of somehow ending up with a basket of only safe alternatives. This year will probably be the same, but luckily we are down to avoiding only milk and wheat (while in a fish food trial). Luckily I am more prepared this time for what will come.
After last year, I thought about those teal pumpkins. I researched and found information here. I ordered our safe treats, which I will have in a separate bowl next to the candy. My son is so excited to give away bouncy balls, glow-in-the-dark critters and jumping frogs.
We painted and created a wooden teal pumpkin that we can use every single year. We proudly display it in the front window, and come Halloween it will be out for all to see next to the non-food treats.
In what I feel is just as important as participating, I share the word, since so many are unaware of what these teal pumpkins mean and how awesome it can feel for a kid to be able to participate safely.
Please consider making a teal pumpkin along with some safe alternatives, even if it’s just a few. Spread the word and help us make Halloween safer for everyone.
Note: Author purchased a wooden pumpkin at Target and painted it teal to display along with safe treats for kids with food allergies