Paint the town teal

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 1, 2017

By  Dr. Alicia  Stevens

After a long day at work, I nestled into my living room sofa with a decadent, delicious slice of pecan praline cake covered with icing pooled at the top and drizzled down the sides.

As I picked up my fork to enjoy my first bite, I heard ever so sweetly “up, please.”  My then 1-year-old, likely drawn over by the beckoning call of such a wonderful sight had found her way to my lap and with her yet still developing vocabulary opened her mouth and touched her tongue indicating her desire for a taste. 

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My heart broke as I told her, “no baby you can’t have this”.  I watched her eyes well up with tears just as my soul did likewise. 

She didn’t understand why not and I couldn’t help her comprehend even if I tried but the memory of what happened will not ever allow me to give way to her on this matter.  That event challenged my husband’s security as a father and forced me to put my medical training into action. 

Two years ago, in a matter of a few minutes, helpless to stop it, I witnessed my child’s cheeks swell like a balloon filled with helium and her eyes become hidden completely behind lids puffed like pillows. 

Before we could respond, her face turned red and her clear skin became obscured with a rash within seconds.  10 minutes prior, she had just experienced the tantalizing taste of chicken salad dressed with grapes and pecans for the first time.  It’s creamy, savory texture provided a short-lived pleasure interrupted by the discomfort of this reaction fortunately stopping either by grace or by the intervention of medications.

Subsequent allergy testing showed, she was highly allergic to pecans, walnuts, wheat, dairy and chocolate. 

According to the Food Allergy and Research Education organization, it is estimated that over 6 million children in the United States suffer from potentially life-threatening food allergies but even as a health professional it wasn’t until she was of age to participate in her first Halloween did I consider the limitations food allergies might place on children and their parents. 

Halloween has always been a fun day for me as a child and admittedly still is even as an adult as it brings happiness to many children. 

When my little one tried on her first costume, her face lit up fueling my determination to make this day not one that brings her a sense of isolation but one that brings the same joy, anticipation and excitement others experience.

The Teal Pumpkin Campaign, an effort started a few years ago to identify locations that were food allergy friendly, is designed to do just that. 

Homes and businesses pass out nonfood items such as stickers, bracelets, bubbles, glow sticks and little toys and identify themselves as a food allergy friendly location with a teal pumpkin at the door. 

This effort, started many years ago, has been championed by the loved ones of the many who deal with life threatening food allergies. 

Teal can be the new orange as we join together to make Halloween safer for all our children by offering at your door next Halloween options that includes goodies all can enjoy.  More information can be found at or searching for the teal pumpkin campaign on the internet.