One of our favorite nights of the year is almost here…HALLOWEEN! But what is the most exciting night of the year for some, can be the deadliest for others…and we’re not talkin’ about Ghosts and Goblins…We’re talking about, Food Allergies. Peanuts, Nuts, Dairy, Wheat and more…being uneducated and unsympathetic to Food Allergies has gone out of style. Check out some ‘haunting’ statistics below that ain’t no ‘boo’ crap:
- Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies.
- This potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children (under 18 years of age) in the U.S. That’s roughly two in every classroom.
- The economic cost of children’s food allergies is nearly $25 billion per year.
- According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011.
- Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department – that is more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year.
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that food allergies result in more than 300,000 ambulatory-care visits a year among children under the age of 18. Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting.
- Teenagers and young adults with food allergies are at the highest risk of fatal food-induced anaphylaxis.
- Individuals with food allergies who also have asthma may be at increased risk for severe/fatal food allergy reactions.
- It is possible to have anaphylaxis without any skin symptoms (no rash, hives).
- Failure to promptly (i.e., within minutes) treat food anaphylaxis with epinephrine is a risk factor for fatalities.
- Eight foods account for 90 percent of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.
- A new wave of bullying has surfaced: Food Allergy Bullying. Check out this article for the unbelievable new trend in bullying, that 1 in 3 kids with food allergies experiences.
There are plenty of naysayers on the food allergy front, which makes the allergies all the more dangerous. Having a deadly allergy myself, to peanuts…life has been quite a bit more difficult to safely navigate than you’d think, due to Peanuts. I feel like they follow me everywhere.
When I was little, Peanut allergies were NOT common, if anything-most people brushed my allergy off as an overreaction and I was even teased over it. When I was little I had a group of boys in my class smear peanut butter all over my locker at school, because they didn’t believe my allergy…I remember they were actually standing and watching as I got up to my locker and cried. My allergy was even put to the test by one counselor at a camp, who decided to give the little girl with the giant ‘NO PEANUTS’ label on her chest…a PEANUT BUTTER COOKIE. Yep, you guessed it…it was me and my throat started to swell. I was a freaking little kid, not even old enough to understand…and this idiot put me in the hospital for their asshole behavior, because they thought my allergy was a hoax.
So, my allergy is BAD. Like, my now Fiancé, played baseball and it was hard to go to his games if they were crowded because of all the peanut shells, bad. If they weren’t crowded, I had girlfriends that would sit with me in an empty corner of the bleachers away from everyone. I even had designated ‘peanut contaminated’ chuck taylors i’d wear to his games and have to leave in my garage when I came home because of the risk of bringing remnants into my apartment. Jordan, my fiance, would frequently clean off the bottoms of them with soap, water and the hose. My allergy, became his allergy when we started dating…we’re talking he can’t eat it or touch it (yea, that teenage girl who died from kissing her boyfriend have he had peanut butter toast? Not an exaggeration, it’s real). When he flies Southwest and comes home, he has to remove his shoes, clothes, put them in the washer immediately before he comes into our house and has to shower before he can touch me because of any remnants that could be on his clothing. Overreaction? I F’ING WISH. All it takes for me to have a reaction is to merely touch a surface peanuts were on…I’m that sensitive. I’ve tested so far off the charts, that Mayo Clinic had me in a study. A mere whiff of peanuts/peanut butter is enough to make me get hives and have trouble breathing. This made being a kid hard, and pretty scary sometimes…Halloween wasn’t just scary for my family and I for the Ghost Stories, but my allergy was a source of anxiety for my parents on this night. ‘Will she accidentally eat something?’ ‘Will someone else eat something and touch her?’…you name it, they stressed about it. Then as I got older and became more aware of my allergy, I did too.
For most kids, Halloween is all about collecting the most candy and going candy-comatose…for others, it can be epically disappointing. Think about when you were little and how excited you were for Halloween, not having to worry what popped in your mouth, and the only sorting you did was for broken wrappers. If you have a food allergy, this night is 110% different.
I’d go trick-or-treating with friends and people would toss candy in my pillow case and without a care i’d keep moving because I knew to eat nothing and that my mom would sort my candy when I got home. The real danger for me on Halloween, came from the people I was with. Thankfully, my parents were always in tow to manage things. But, Imagine having my allergy and your best friend ripping into her snickers on the way to the next house…homegirl ain’t washing her hands and she’s little too, so she doesn’t understand the danger. I had a friend get upset with me for telling her to not eat her candy because of the risk of the smell or her touching me. For a little kid, that’s a lot of stress and responsibility, on top of it, add the nagging from people and friends questioning the validity of your allergy.
The next stress came when I got home. My least favorite part of Halloween, and my brother and sisters all time highlight: the dreaded…SORTING OF MY CANDY. We would all sit at the counter and while my brother and sister rummaged through their spoils…my mom would empty out my bag on the table, and she would read ingredient after ingredient and sort the ‘safe’ candy out of my bag. Let’s just say, back then, I’d be lucky to end up with a sandwich sizes ziplock. All the peanut candy would go, but any ‘may contain’ candy or tree nut candy would go to my brother and sister. For me, this was ‘trauma, trauma, trauma’.
This is why we’re thrilled to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project. To sum things up, we will be spray painting one of our pumpkins teal and placing it at our front door, to let trick-or-treaters know that we will have non-food goodies available for kids with food allergies. We chose to spray paint ours because it’s quick…but if you have kids, this could be a fun time to paint pumpkins and give your kids a little education on the severity of food allergies, and the need to respect them. We’ve chosen to give out bubbles and glow sticks. We are still giving out candy, but it is all nut free and not manufactured in a facility that has nuts. The Teal Pumpkin Project aims to take the danger out of Halloween for Food Allergy kids, while allowing them to still participate with their family and peers. After-all, who would want to miss out on All Hallows Eve!?
Check out Teal Pumpkin Projects page for more information, and printable material to display to let trick-or-treaters know you’re a safe zone! We hope you think about participating!