A teal pump­kin can save a life

Lets chil­dren with al­ler­gies know homes share safe treats for Hal­loween

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BYMELISSA JENK­INS

On Hal­loween, par­ents may worry the eye holes in their child’s mask are too small or their cos­tume can­not be seen in the dark.

But a small few worry if their child will come in con­tact with an al­ler­gen that could prove fa­tal.

Over the past decade, peanut, egg, milk and many other prod­ucts have prod­ucts of con­cern when it comes to al­ler­gies and in­tol­er­ances. Some prod­ucts have be­come an is­sue in schools and other pub­lic places. Par­ents and teach­ers of chil­dren with th­ese al­ler­gies of­ten carry an EpiPen in case they have a se­vere re­ac­tion.

Moms like An­nette Oliver, whose chil­dren at­tend Cabot Academy in Western Bay, ex­pe­ri­ence th­ese types of is­sues on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. But she es­pe­cially wor­ries her daugh­ter Eve will come in con­tact with her al­ler­gens around Hal­loween.

Eve is al­ler­gic to peanuts and raw eggs. Her sis­ter Sarah doesn’t have any al­ler­gies, but still has to be care­ful not to come in con­tact with them, for her sis­ter’s sake.

“Hal­loween is ex­tremely stress­ful for me,” Oliver told The Com­pass. “There are some fam­ily and friends that will have a spe­cial bag done up for Eve and Sarah, but (many oth­ers) don’t care.”

Although Eve is one of only two chil­dren in her school with se­vere al­ler­gies, some schools have more than that in a sin­gle class.

Oliver is one of dozens of par­ents in the Trin­ity-Con­cep­tion-Pla­cen­tia re­gion that has to be mind­ful of her child’s al­ler­gies.

But this year, Oliver and sev­eral oth­ers from the area are pro­mot­ing teal pump­kins for Hal­loween.

Paint them teal

The in­ter­na­tional colour that sym­bol­ises food al­lergy aware­ness is teal – a bluish-green colour.

The Food Al­lergy Re­search and Ed­u­ca­tion (FARE) or­ga­ni­za­tion launched the Teal Pump­kin Project. Those that place a teal-painted pump­kin on their porch or a sign in their win­dow dur­ing trickor-treat­ing in­form chil­dren with al­ler­gies that they carry safe al­ter­na­tives, such as crayons, bouncy balls, stick­ers or other trin­kets and trea­sures.

Although it is not widely known in New­found­land, many house­holds across North Amer­ica are paint­ing pump­kins to en­sure chil­dren with all health is­sues, in­clud­ing al­ler­gies and di­a­betes, don’t feel left out dur­ing Hal­loween.

Oliver is al­ready spread­ing the word in her neigh­bour­hood and sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties about the teal pump­kins, and some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are hear­ing about the op­tion as well.

May­ors weigh in

The may­ors of two of the largest mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in the re­gion, Bay Roberts and Pla­cen­tia, spoke with The Com­pass about the Teal Pump­kin Project. Philip Wood and Wayne Power Jr. had just learned about the prac­tice, and be­lieve it could be use­ful.

Wood, the leader of the most pop­u­lated town in the re­gion, is a for­mer ed­u­ca­tor and school ad­min­is­tra­tor. Over his years teach­ing, he rec­og­nized a change.

“After just fin­ish­ing a 30-year ca­reer, I went from a zero thought process (on se­vere al­ler­gies) to see­ing a fair num­ber of prod­ucts cause re­ac­tions,” Wood ex­plained.

But with more al­ler­gies comes more health-con­scious de­ci­sions for both schools and the com­mu­nity. Wood agrees it’s im­por­tant for ev­ery­one to rec­og­nize those af­fected, es­pe­cially around Hal­loween.

“From a town per­spec­tive, from the best of my knowl­edge, we don’t do any­thing right now,” Wood said. “This is the first time I’ve heard about this par­tic­u­lar pro­gram. It’d be some­thing for us to con­sider.”

Power said around Pla­cen­tia they have nu­mer­ous house­holds that al­ready of­fer other items, such as small toys, in­stead of candy and choco­late, but the project is some­thing he be­lieves could be ben­e­fi­cial any­where.

“It sounds like a good way to pro­mote in­clu­sion and make sure every­body can have a safe Hal- loween,” he said. “This def­i­nitely puts a new per­spec­tive on things.”

Wood sug­gested the peanut al­lergy is what comes to mind for most peo­ple, and with some ar­eas of Bay Roberts ex­pe­ri­enc­ing over 100 chil­dren per house­hold, other al­ler­gies should be con­sid­ered.

Safety at school

Many schools have im­ple­mented poli­cies where peanut prod­ucts, and other items chil­dren have se­vere re­ac­tions to, are pro­hib­ited from be­ing brought into school.

At Cabot Academy, stu­dents are not al­lowed to bring in treats for Hal­loween or other spe­cial oc­ca­sions ei­ther. Car­bon­ear Academy lim­its what can be brought in — for ex­am­ple, no peanut prod­ucts.

The New­found­land and Labrador East­ern School Dis­trict has guide­lines for each school to follow, but it’s the school’s decision what type of cel­e­bra­tions they have and what treats they al­low stu­dents to bring in.

“There are pro­to­cols in place for schools to follow to en­sure the safety of stu­dents and this ba­si­cally would be no dif­fer­ent in the case of Hal­loween cel­e­bra­tions – schools still have to be cog­nizant of al­ler­gies and en­sure stu­dent safety,” said the school board’s di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Ken Mor­ris­sey.

Teach­ers and school ad­min­is­tra­tion also send out lists each year to let par­ents and stu­dents know what items are pro­hib­ited. Some send out an ad­di­tional list for spe­cial oc­ca­sions as a re­minder to those bring­ing in treats to class.

Some par­ents are more vo­cal than oth­ers, in­clud­ing Oliver, whose daugh­ter could die from com­ing in con­tact with peanuts.

“That’s what I try and stand up for — to en­sure I don’t lose a child,” she ex­plained.

For more in­for­ma­tion on what food lim­i­ta­tions your child has for school, you can con­tact the school di­rectly — a di­rec­tory can be found at nlesd.ca.

To learn more about the Teal Pump­kin Project or to print off a sign for your win­dow, visit www.foodal­lergy.org/teal-pump­kin-project.

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins/The Com­pass

The Teal Pump­kin Project en­ables par­ents with chil­dren that have al­ler­gies to know which homes have non-food al­ter­na­tives, al­low­ing their chil­dren to safely trick-or­treat.

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