RAWLINS — Lea Pace, a Rawlins mother of five, has two separate Halloween candy baskets at her house.
The first one, which contains the tasty usual suspects, like Twix, Kit Kat, Snickers, is reserved for her boys, who are free to eat what they want under complete impunity.
The second one, which contains candy allergy alternatives, is reserved for her 2-year-old daughter Harper, who was just recently diagnosed with having a peanut allergy.
Such an affliction, said Pace, is why she’s now advising people in Rawlins to provide in all their Halloween festivities this year food allergy alternatives.
Sparked by the TEAL Pumpkin Project, a worldwide movement to create a safer, happier Halloween for all kids, Pace intends to educate people so they don’t perhaps learn the hard way.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, 5.6 million children in U.S are allergic to one of the eight food allergens: soybeans, milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat. Of that figure, 2.24 million are allergic to more than one of these food products.
And if unsuspecting kids accidentally consume these products, sometimes they consequently suffer from anaphylaxis, which can restrict airways in the lungs, lower blood pressure, induce shock and eventually suffocate by swelling of the throat.
When this happens, people are forced to use an EpiPen, which is an on-the-spot injection of the drug epinephrine, which counters the effects of an allergic reaction.
Each year, however, the FDA states, emergency rooms fill with 30,000 anaphylaxis patients, overnight hospital visits see 2,000 patients… even allergy-related deaths claim up to 150 kids.
“That allergy reaction tends to grow,” Pace told the Rawlins Times. “It can, at the very most, turn into anaphylaxis, which is when the breathing pretty much stops, the heart rate drops.”
“That’s more than a hospital visit,” she added. “That’s a hospital stay.”
Pace had no idea what was wrong with her daughter.
At just 18 months old, Harper was still being nursed, but for some reason she exhibited ill reactions to the regimen of nutrients. Pace said her baby daughter’s stomach didn’t feel good and that she’d become backed up for days, while she’d also become gassy.
In response, Pace said she changed her own diet.
“I cut everything out of my system,” Pace said. “I was living off dried cereals, fruits and vegetables, yogurt and peanut butter.”
Eventually, Pace said, her daughter’s suffering didn’t let up, and a subsequent allergy “poke test” conducted in Casper revealed that Harper’s health issues were spurred from an allergic reaction to peanuts.
Within 20 minutes of being pricked by a small needle containing the allergen, Pace added, the reaction “swelled down (Harper’s) face.”
And ever since the diagnosis, Pace has had to deal with a bit more anxiety. Every food label must be read carefully. Meanwhile, since Harper is a wiz at finding loose chocolate, Pace’s fiancé, John Allen, has to keep a secret stash of Reece’s Pieces in his truck.
Because she now knows her daughter is allergic to peanut-based foods, maybe her family can now leave the isolation of their house a tad more often.
“If it means I can travel out of town with my daughter and not listen to her scream, or we can sit down and eat and have her not act like somebody is stabbing her in the stomach at 18 months,” Pace said, “I’ll take it.”
There is still one problem, however.
Per the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, food and candy companies are only federally required to label products that are made with either one or all of the eight allergen-based ingredients. On the other hand, companies are not legally required to label any products in which have been cross contaminated.
So if a type of allergen-free candy somehow comes into contact with milk or soy, it still won’t be labeled on the package.
Pace says that mothers with kids afflicted with food allergies have greater risks for increases in high blood pressure and social mental stresses.
She just can never fully know what’s inside the foods her daughter’s consuming.
As for people looking to purchase candy alternatives, Pace says they can visit www.orientaltrading.com, an online merchant that sells party supplies.
She said she just wants some kids to be more included and to have fun.
“I’m attempting to promote not necessarily a change,” she said, “but an addition to what people are already doing.”
By Ray K. Erku
Rawlins Times Via Wyoming News Exchange