If you're a parent of a child with food allergies, then you know Halloween can be a tricky holiday to navigate. Though it's at least easier these days to find peanut-free candy options to hand out to trick-or-treaters, more and more households are instead opting to offer non-food treats like stickers or small toys, and they're putting out teal pumpkins to let other parents know. The Teal Pumpkin Project is definitely a great way to make Halloween more inclusive, but if you're not sure where to find participating households close to you, this interactive teal pumpkin map will definitely come in handy.
According to ABC News affiliate WHAS 11, The Teal Pumpkin Project was originally started by a Tennessee mom in 2012 to help kids with allergies, and it wasn't long before the idea began to take off. In 2014, the Food Allergy Research and Education organization (FARE) began promoting the idea nationally, and with the creation of their Teal Pumpkin Project map, it's now easier than ever for families to find non-food treats on Halloween. Just enter you zip code here.
The process is still the same as usual: Teal Pumpkin Project participants are still encouraged to place a teal-colored pumpkin outside their homes to indicate their food-free status, according to FARE. But now, they can easily add their address to the map so that those looking for teal-pumpkin houses can know where to go.
Although candy has long been synonymous with trick-or-treating, growing awareness about the dangers of food allergies has helped promote the idea that giving out non-food treats — or at least, offering them as an option — is an easy way to make the holiday fun for all kids, not just the ones who can chow down on all goodies when they get home. And given that food allergies have been on the rise in recent years, according to CNBC, it seems more important than ever to take food allergies into account when picking up Halloween haul.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies now affect approximately 4 to 6 percent of children in the United States, and since there is no cure, the only way to prevent possibly-deadly reactions is avoiding the allergen entirely. It's why you've heard of peanut-free zones in schools, and why you may be requested not to send other food items to school depending on the allergies of students in their particular classroom (milk, eggs, soy, wheat, and fish, are other common causes of allergic reactions, according to CNBC).
Though it might be easy to gripe about not being able to send your kid to school with a PB&J, food allergies really do need to be taken seriously. According to FARE, an estimated "40 percent of children with food allergies have experienced a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis," and without prompt treatment with an epinephrine injection, the reaction could be fatal.
But the Teal Pumpkin Project isn't necessarily just for children who know they have allergies: according to FARE, in nearly one-quarter of cases where epinephrine has been administered at school, the allergy wasn't even known at the time. In other words? Food allergies are something that all parents need to be aware of, and normalizing the idea of giving non-food treats at Halloween is an easy way to make the holiday safer for everyone.
Given that it's not actually very difficult for parents to include non-food treats in with whatever they were planning on handing out, it seems like participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project can be a goal for all households this Halloween, whether they're directly affected by food allergies or not. And you don't even have to paint a pumpkin: a number of retailers now offer teal pumpkins for sale, and FARE also offers free printable signs you can put up to let others know you're an allergy-friendly household.
Being a kid with a life-threatening allergy is no fun in general, but having to get the majority of your Halloween treats taken away while everyone around you indulges just makes it worse. So this year, it might be time to consider putting out a teal pumpkin, and adding yourself to the map so those on the hunt for teal pumpkins can make sure to drop by.