Food Allergies Get A Mascot This Halloween

Our kids spend most of October in their Halloween costumes. Sometimes, they pretend to be their characters (Transformers, this year) and other times, they pretend they are trick-or-treating. We make pumpkin-shaped, peanut/tree nut/milk/egg-free cookies. They paint pumpkins. (No carving them, after seeing what they did to Charlie’s arms.) They draw ghosts and jack-o’-lanterns, bring us spooky books to read, and look for Halloween decorations when we walk around the neighborhood. As Max says: “Halloween? Thumbs up.”

Image courtesy: FARE

Image courtesy: FARE

They hardly mention candy, though. Sure, they get loads of it when they hit the streets on Halloween, but the treats they look forward to are plastic spider rings, pencils, tiny rubber snakes, and other random goodies. That’s what they get when they turn in their bags of trick-or-treat candy at the end of the night. They also get a few candies that we have personally bought and vetted, but it’s not the highlight of the evening. The kids have a good time and Charlie is safe. It rocks.


Image courtesy: FARE

This year, we’re adding a new tradition, thanks to FARE and FACET. We’re painting a pumpkin teal and putting out a sign that will let parents know we have non-food treats available. It will also help get the word out about food allergies. We only hand out non-food treats, but many families who are taking part in the Teal Pumpkin Project will be handing out candy and offering non-food treats to trick-or-treaters who request them.

What makes the teal pumpkin useful is that when we see one, we’ll know that we can ask for non-food treats. That means that more of the treats Charlie and Max collect will be treats they can enjoy. It adds to the fun for them and doesn’t change anything for kids who don’t have food allergies – especially at homes that offer candy and non-food treats (from separate bowls).

I really like this idea and I’m glad it’s getting so much love from the press. When it comes to educating people about food allergies,there’s still a long way to go, so some of the comments on these news pieces are a little disheartening, but most people seem to think the teal pumpkin project is a great plan. Hopefully, those who think it’s an attack on an American tradition will see that no kids are being excluded – they’re being included. Everybody gets to have good, safe, fun.



Food Allergy Fun: Charlie Meets Charlie

Whole Foods is on the other side of town, but it’s loaded with allergy-friendly brands and the kids love the produce section because the employees sometimes give them fruit to snack on. So, we trek out there occasionally and stock up on Applegate meats, Daiya cheese alternatives, Earth Balance vegan butter, and So Delicious coconut milk and yogurt.

And, of course, we get cookies. We can bake our own and often do (look up Kelly Rudnicki online for allergy-friendly baking recipes) but sometimes it’s fun to buy boxed cookies. We typically go with Enjoy Life and Cybelle Pascal’s cookies. It’s fun: it’s one of the few times I can point to several shelves of food and tell Charlie “pick what you want.” The cookies are insanely expensive, but watching Charlie choose his own treat is good for my heart.

Anyway, we went to the register and were just finishing up when a family walked past. The mom glanced at our counter and stopped dead.

“Does someone in your family have food allergies?” she asked.

I explained that Charlie does and she pointed out that her son was also named Charlie, and he also has food allergies – the same ones that our Charlie has. The two Charlies, who are about the same height and age, sized each other up while we talked about our experiences with the kids and food allergies. We agreed: it’s hard.

Charlie is very happy to know that there’s another Charlie who has food allergies, and he told MK about it as soon as she got home. I got a kick out of the coincidence, and, although I wouldn’t wish allergies on anybody, I’m always a little relieved to see that there are other families going through the same thing – MK and I are not alone.

Bee Sting

Most of my posts involve my son, Charlie, because he has such severed food allergies. I’m anaphylactic to shellfish, but that’s a food that’s easy to avoid – I just don’t eat at restaurants that serve it. I’m also allergic to wasps, and possibly bees. I had an ana reaction to a wasp sting when I was a kid, and haven’t been stung since, until today, when a bee stung me on the cheek. The four of us were at a local fun run, and Max and I were running along when the bee got me.

I had a huge welt, but no reaction. I don’t know if it’s thanks to the years of immunotherapy when I was a kid, or just because it was a bee instead of a wasp, or what. I was loaded with EpiPens and Auvi-Qs for me and for Charlie, so I as ready, but nothing happened. Go me.

Thank You for Your Cooperation

Charlie and Max

Charlie (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg) and Max, just outside the Lincoln Children’s Museum.

Being food allergy parents has made us particularly self-conscious when we’re out with the kids. When food unexpectedly enters the scene, we’re simultaneously guiding Charlie away from the food while politely pointing out that he has food allergies. I’d say that the statement “He has food allergies” makes sense to maybe half of the people in this scenario. They nod, apologize for bringing the food in (though we don’t expect or want an apology) and generally make us feel as comfortable as we can while we create (or move to) a safe place for Charlie. 

The rest have no idea what we’re talking about, or look irritated or embarrassed. Those people don’t understand where I’m coming from (and what I’m trying to tell them), but I don’t mind because I used to be exactly like them. Even though I have shellfish and insect sting allergies, I just plain did not realize what life is like for families that have members who are allergic to common foods. Things that are ordinary to you are poison – deadly and fast-acting poison – to a food allergy person. It’s hard to explain that to strangers, so I don’t blame them when they don’t understand. I usually don’t blame them when they’re hostile.

So, when a family took Goldfish crackers into the Lincoln Children’s Museum and set up an impromptu picnic at the toy train area, I decided not to explain to the dad, who looked like he had his hands full with the kids, that Charlie would be better off if the family moved to the cafeteria. I opted for the front desk, where the lady I spoke to (I wish I remembered her name!) immediately said something to the effect of “Oh, yes, we understand how serious food allergies are and we only allow people to eat in the cafeteria. I’ll have someone talk to them right now.”


Every day, I read stories from food allergy parents that end with the opposite outcome. So, I thought I’d share my bright, gleaming ray of sunshine for today.

Charlie Gets His Medic Alert

Charlie's Medic Alert Bracelet

The bracelet is just the right size for him. I wondered if it would work out OK, size-wise, but all they needed to know was his age and they nailed it.

Charlie is always with MK or me, but one of these days, he’s not going to be with either of us, and a Medic Alert might come in very handy. In fact, it might save his life if he has anaphylaxis while we’re not around. So, for Christmas, he and I got matching bracelets.

Rescuers can call a number on the Medic Alert badge and give his ID number to get emergency info about him. Also, the bracelet lists his allergens on the back. I’ve had a Medic Alert necklace for some time, but I like the bracelet more now that I’m wearing it.

C2I wondered whether Max would be jealous, and I picked up a watch for him for Christmas, so he’d have something for his wrist, too, but MK had a good point: Charlie’s going to be jealous of Max many times until he outgrows his food allergies. Max can eat anything and can go places Charlie can’t. It’s OK if Max is a little jealous of Charlie once in awhile.

It’s been a couple weeks, and so far, Charlie likes the bracelet just fine. Sometimes he likes to compare it to mine. Max never wears the watch, but he likes to turn it on when his room is dark. It has a little light. So, one more way to protect Charlie. Soon, he’ll have a food allergy challenge: banana. It would really be nice to be able to have bananas in our house again.

Matching bracelets

Who’s ready for an emergency? These guys!