Halloween candy can be life-threatening for some children
COLUMBIA - Children all around the country line neighborhood streets on Halloween collecting candy that will boost their already uncontrollable excitement. It's a fall tradition both parents and children enjoy. But what happens if your child could die from the candy they're given?
One child's story:
This is the case for Deanna Taylor, a Columbia mom of two girls, 11 months and 2 years old, who have severe food allergies. Her oldest is allergic to whey protein, which is found in milk products, and her youngest is allergic to milk, peanuts, and eggs. She said her oldest child has had a few scary flare ups due to her allergy.
"She's had a couple anaphylactic reactions on accidental exposures, so now we keep everything milk away," she said.
She recalled a time when her youngest child was only a few months old and ate peanut butter Cheerios. She said her daughter immediately started to swell and developed hives all over.
"It's scary as a mom, and it's given me lots of anxiety about sending them even to daycare."
She said she hopes her children still get to have a happy Halloween, despite their food allergies.
"I feel like food allergies are more common than you think, and making those kids feel included is something that the parents are really going to think you for," Taylor said.
She said it is hard to tell her children "no" at such a young age, so having non-food treats on Halloween would make both her and her children happy and avoid a breakdown.
How you can make a difference:
The Teal Pumpkin Project is an international effort to bring awareness to food allergies like the ones Taylor's daughters have. It encourages families to give allergen-free or non-food treats on Halloween to avoid the risk of a reaction and keep parents from having to take away candy from youngsters on a special night.
Families who are willing to provide allergen-free treats can display a teal pumpkin symbol in their window so trick-or-treaters will know which houses have treats they can enjoy. The Teal Pumpkin Project has free printables available on its website.
The Teal Pumpkin Project has not had all positive feedback, though. Some people feel parents and children should just be grateful for the candy they give out.
Ashley Crum, the mother of a two year old with a dairy allergy, said it is not hard to please young ones with allergies.
"It doesn't take a whole lot to make a kid happy," she said. "Any little thing, it doesn't have to be expensive, just so that they can go out and have the experience and have fun with all their friends and siblings."
A look at the numbers:
According to FARE, Food Allergy Research and Education, the organization behind the Teal Pumpkin Project, food allergies are becoming more common. It said roughly 1 in 13 children under 18 years old, about two students per classroom, have a food allergy.
It also said the economic cost of children’s food allergies is nearly $25 billion per year. With the recent hike in prices for EpiPens, this could concern some parents.
Christine Franzese, an MU Heath allergist, said, "They're not doing it just to be rude or funny. They actually could have such a severe reation that it kills them, particularly if they don't happen to have their auto injectable epinephrine, or their epipen, near by."
"I'm sure there's families that are sacrificing food or other necessities because you have to have this medicine that saves your kids life," Taylor said.