October 30, 2014 3:37 PM MST
The Teal Pumpkin Project aims to make Halloween trick-or-treating safer for kids with food allergies. Houses displaying teal colored pumpkins will dispense non-allergenic candy or alternative treats, said ABC News in an October 29 report. While this idea seems good, there are cautions. It's no substitute for common sense and good parenting on Halloween and always.
Food allergies, especially peanut, tree nut, lactose and gluten allergies, are a common parent concern. The allergies themselves aren't so common says Peanut Allergy. One percent of the population has a peanut allergy, the most common of the food allergies, and only a fraction of those have a life-threatening peanut allergy.
Regardless, food allergies create a lot of public hype. Parents of peanut allergy children have pressured schools to ban peanut products for all students. Banning peanuts and other allergens has been suggested in other public areas.
The ACAAI (American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology) says peanut bans are unnecessary. Peanut bans may not even be common sense, says Mayo Clinic. Very often, people confuse food intolerance with food allergy (a much worse condition). In food allergy, the sufferer may experience anaphylactic shock if he comes in contact with the allergen, even the fumes. But that is rare.
What's more common is food intolerance. The sufferer experiences cramping or discomfort after eating foods. He can eat small amounts to increase resistance. He can read product labels and avoid what bothers him. He can research treatment options.
The biggest concern about Teal Pumpkin Project, is that like peanut bans, it too easily becomes a silver bullet. Parents and kids may assume because they see a teal pumpkin, the house is safe. That's putting a lot of trust in people and leaving a lot to chance. There are a number of food allergies. Who's to say the house will cater to all of them? It's possible that predators could also exploit teal pumpkins to lure in unsuspecting kids.
Teal Pumpkin Project could work, but only in very small, close areas, not large, spread out areas where people don't know each other. Participants should educate themselves about different food allergies. Instead of trying to find safe candy, they should give out toys or non-food items.
Whether they participate in Teal Pumpkin Project or not, parents of kids with food allergies need to educate themselves. They need to find out whether their child is food sensitive or allergic, not just jump on the bandwagon. Parents need to read food labels and teach children how to care for themselves. They need to check candy and not just for allergens but for improperly wrapped, possibly contaminated treats. Kids are probably more at risk from infection from collecting candy than any other health condition.
Parents need to exercise caution in general at Halloween. They need to be mindful of other allergies besides food--asthma, animal dander and hay fever are the most common ones, says ACAAI. They need to be aware of sensitivities to face paint, costume materials, smoke, leaves or pollen. They need to make sure costumes are safe and visible. They need to teach road safety and stranger danger. They need to take kids trick-or-treating, not send them. They need to respect if kids are scared and not push them.
Mostly, parents need to take responsibility for their children. There's a lot involved in their care and raising. Parents shouldn't assume or expect that others will see to their needs.