Halloween spooky for kids with food allergies

BALTIMORE, Md. - Halloween is just a week away and many families are out grabbing last minute costumes and stocking up on candy.

"I love Halloween. It's my favorite," Canton resident Tracy Hall said. "I love to take my kids out and I also love to come back and give the candy out."

But food allergy advocates want people to add one more thing to their shopping cart: a non-food treat for kids with food allergies. 

"The food is a big part of the celebration so there's a lot of opportunities to have accidental reactions by eating new foods," Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins, Corinne Keet, said. 

According to Food Allergy Research and Education, 1 in 13 kids, or about 2 per classroom, have food allergies and the CDC says cases have been on the rise with the 90s. 

Keet says that rise may be in part because we recognize allergies more now.

"Before, people may have had symptoms that they didn't really realize what they were from and they might have just avoided food that they knew made them sick. It wasn't really labeled as a food allergy," Keet said.

She also added that experts used to give bad advice about how to prevent them. 

"We used to recommend that kids who might be at risk for food allergy, wait to introduce foods that might be potentially allergenic and we now know that introducing foods early might help prevent food allergy," Keet said. 

Keet says the most common allergies in early childhood are milk, eggs and peanuts, found in lots of Halloween candy.

"There's a lot more awareness now of peanut allergies so in some ways that's easier to avoid. Milk and egg can be much more difficult. Milk especially. It would be quite difficult to avoid in chocolate kinds of things. Egg can be found in some candies where people don't expect it. Some of the kinds of taffy candies actually have a very high amount of egg," Keet said.

That's the goal of the Teal Pumpkin Project, to make the holiday more inclusive. 

"I know a lot of kids have different food allergies and different levels of severity and it's not fair for them to either miss out on trick or treating or to bring everything home and have to just give it away. So I want to make sure that everyone gets something that's valuable to them and that they're going to be able to appreciate and enjoy like everyone else," Hall said.

Hall has put a teal pumpkin outside her Canton home for the last 4 years so trick or treaters know they can stop by for a non-food option. 

"I've given out little sticker books, Halloween pencils, and finger puppets," Hall said. 

This year, it's tattoos, but she also stocks up on candy too. Her house is marked on the website so it's easy for families to find. 
 
"We've had probably a few people who look at the website and specifically come. I'd love it if more people looked at the website, knew where to go and what to ask for," Hall said. 

If you are looking for a non-food friendly event, Trunk or Treat at Century 21 Pasadena is a Teal Pumpkin supporter. 

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