Peanut Allergies - When Halloween Treats are a Halloween Fright

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Kid's Fashion Line Addresses the Dangers of Peanuts in Snacks to Allergic Children.

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Teachers, daycare providers and other parents may not know about nut allergies, or they may simply forget in the middle of a hectic snack time or party. The concern is simply more acute at Halloween, when children are tempted to sample the trick-or-treat candy they receive before adults can examine it.

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At this moment millions of pre-schoolers and kindergartners across the nation are looking
forward to celebrating Halloween, dressing up and filling their trick-or-treat bags with candy. For most of them, the worst they will suffer if they over-indulge is a tummy ache.

For others, however, the contents of their bags may turn out to be hazardous and, in some cases, even deadly. The culprit? The common peanut. Foods with peanuts, or even foods produced in facilities where peanuts are simply present, may be life-threatening for many children who have peanut allergies. The worry their parents face is constant, as they try to keep their young ones away from this extremely common ingredient.

Yet once the children are off to pre-school and away from their parents supervision, the worry increases: "How do we keep our children safe and healthy? How can we keep teachers and daycare providers aware of the dangers our children face from the most seemingly innocuous sources?"

These questions were what Darla Manninen asked herself when her young peanut-allergic grandson Gavin was ready to start pre-school. Worried about how to help protect him when he was no longer under his mother Heidi's watchful eye, Manninen decided to create a line of tshirts, sweatshirts and buttons that communicate to Gavin's pre-school teachers what Gavin is too young to explain on his own: Peanuts are dangerous for me. Please don't feed me peanuts.

"Dangerous foods are a year-round worry for parents of peanut-allergic children," said Manninen. "Teachers, daycare providers and other parents may not know about nut allergies, or they may simply forget in the middle of a hectic snack time or party. The concern is simply more acute at Halloween, when children are tempted to sample the trick-or-treat candy they receive before adults can examine it."

Manninen, who already ran a successful on-line shop selling t-shirts,and cards out of her Upper Peninsula, Michigan home, gradually added more designs to the nut allergy line. The expanded collection eventually became NutAllergyWear [(http://www.nutallergywear.com)] . Geared toward young children, the products feature bold, whimsical designs, many with cartoon elephants, and all sending a clear message about the hazards of nuts.

The [NutAllergyWear site also offers links for information and support resources about nut allergies.

Gavin's mother, Heidi Dawson, says the concept behind NutAllergyWear has been serving her and Gavin well.

"The shirts and buttons work because they are attention grabbing -- they serve as a reminder to those who need to know, and they alert the uninformed. It only takes one well-intentioned Halloween candy bar with peanuts to put Gavin in grave risk."

To the peanut-tolerant, peanuts do not seem like a big deal, especially considering that most of us see peanut butter as an ever-present ingredient in the average American child's diet. However,
consider these surprising statistics:

  • Peanut allergies pose the most common risk of death among all food allergies.
  • In the United States, allergy to peanuts affects 1.1% of the general population, affecting approximately three million Americans. One-third of these suffer anaphylactic shock.
  • Peanut allergies in children are on the rise; a 2003 report in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology stated that numbers of children under five with peanut allergies has been increasing significantly -- doubling from 0.4% in 1997 to 0.8% in 2002.

Peanuts are far more wide-spread than most people realize. Besides being present in the obvious foods like cookies and sweets, peanut butter is used as a thickening ingredient in foods like chili, stews, and soups. Peanut oil is used in many products, including ice cream.

While mild symptoms may include itchy throat, swelling tongue, gastrointestinal discomfort, rash or nausea, the most severe peanut allergies can result in anaphylaxis -- an emergency situation requiring immediate attention.

"Young children are particularly at risk because they may not be able to communicate how they are feeling," said Manninen. "For me, that is the scary part of Halloween."

Contact: Darla Manninen, [NutAllergyWear

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