Trick-or-Treating with Food Allergies

By Grace, Gogis

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What do ghosts, zombies, and food allergies have in common? They are all frightening parts of Halloween that many students have to face every year.

For people without severe food allergies, trick-or-treating is a simple task. At the end of the night, most kids come back to their houses with bags full of Snickers bars, Kit Kats, Almond Joys, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and more. What students may acknowledge, but not give much consideration to, is the fact that these popular candies contain many common food allergens, including milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, and even eggs.

Paige Ridings and Lauren Kaltenmark, both sophomores, have long been living with severe food allergies and were open to talking about the effects they had on the Halloween experience.

“I found out about them in the third grade, so trick-or-treating was obviously big back in that time,” Ridings said.

Just like Ridings, Kaltenmark also experienced the impact of her allergies on trick-or-treating.

“When I was a kid, my mom used to go through the ingredients and make sure there were no nuts,” Kaltenmark said. “Over time I learned to just say no to the things I couldn’t eat.”

Ridings stated that when she is out and about, she typically sticks to the candies that she knows well. She knows that the most important part is knowing what is in her treats.

“[The difficult part is] really just remembering to ask what’s in the foods and to check their ingredients because I don’t always remember to check,” Ridings said.

Sometimes, forgetting to check the ingredients of a candy can have consequences. Kaltenmark and Ridings both shared stories of their encounters with allergic reactions on Halloween.

“I had at one point ate a Twix and thought that I was having an allergic reaction,” Kaltenmark said. “That wasn’t a very fun experience, but now I know that I can eat things that say ‘processed with tree nuts’.”

Similarly, Ridings had a scare after eating candy while trick-or-treating.

“I had an Almond Joy and started to have an allergic reaction, so I had to run home for a quick pit stop to grab some medicine,” Ridings said.

Luckily, with the bringing about of a new awareness of severe food allergies, childhood trick-or-treating experiences like those of Kaltenmark and Ridings can be further prevented. The Teal Pumpkin Project, led by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), is a new effort to give kids with food allergies the same fun Halloween experience without the risk of having an allergic reaction. The idea behind this project is that by putting a teal-colored pumpkin on your porch, you show your support for people severe food allergies and raise awareness.

According to FARE’s website, “Putting a teal pumpkin on your doorstep means you have non-food treats available, such as glow sticks or small toys. This simple act promotes inclusion for trick-or-treaters with food allergies or other conditions.”

So, whether it’s by becoming a part of the Teal Pumpkin Project or simply avoiding purchasing candy with common allergens, there are plenty of ways for your family to make spooky season a little less spooky for trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood.

The official logo of the Teal Pumpkin Project. Image courtesy of FARE.

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