Doctors, kids and parents spoke out at UC San Francisco on Wednesday morning to ask residents to think about kids with food allergies this Halloween.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, brought together the group at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus to highlight the need for awareness this Halloween because kids can die from food allergies. She and the others are asking residents to consider giving some non-candy treats too.
“We don’t want Halloween to become a nightmare,” Speier said.
Danville parents Louis and Joanne Giorgi lost their daughter Natalie to a food allergy when Natalie was 13 years old because she ate a Rice Krispies treat with peanut butter in it.
The couple is not telling parents they shouldn’t give out candy.
“We’re not trying to take Halloween away,” Joanne said, but the couple said they want people to be aware of the possibility that some kids have allergies.
To make more people aware of the problem and to help protect kids during Halloween, the Food Allergy Research & Education organization launched the Teal Pumpkin Project in 2014 to promote the idea of offering trick-or-treaters treats other than candy.
Some suggestions include glow sticks, bracelets, necklaces, pens with different colored inks, bubbles and bouncy balls so kids with allergies to some candy ingredients can enjoy Halloween too.
While many candies do not have nuts, traces of nuts on candy packaging can cause a reaction.
The parents of Mill Valley boys Ari, 11, and Aviv Shakked, 9, used to wipe down the seats on airplanes when they traveled so their boys wouldn’t get a reaction to traces of tree nuts.
“It’s often difficult to understand the vigilance required by many families,” UCSF Dr. Morna Dorsey said.
Dorsey is conducting a clinical trial of a drug that would desensitize people to peanuts. Ari and Aviv have now been desensitized and no longer have to worry about an exposure to tree nuts or traces of tree nuts.
The boys said they are excited about a medicine that could desensitize others.
Brisbane-based Aimmune Therapeutics is testing such a drug that would protect kids and others from accidental exposure to peanuts.
Some companies use peanut flour in tortillas for burritos, Aimmune Therapeutics CEO Stephen Dilly said.
Aimmune Therapeutics drug AR101 is in the third and final stage of a clinical trial and the drug could be on the market in two and a half to three years, Dilly said.
Charlotte Jude Schwartz, 16, who also suffers from a food allergy, said she thinks kids with a food allergy should also realize that there are non-food-centric things kids can do on Halloween such as play sports.
Schwartz is a junior at Lowell High School in San Francisco and the Teen Ambassador for the Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board.
She also supported the idea of a preventative drug and hopes one day there will be a cure.