Vaughan woman encourages community to support Teal Pumpkin Project

It has been nearly 10 years since Sabrina Cannella of Vaughan, Ont. fell ill and spent much of her teenage life in the hospital, for what seemed to be a series of medical mysteries. 10 years and a rare combination of 10 diagnoses later, Cannella finds herself living with one particularly dreadful condition: mast cell disease.

Mast cells are found within the bone marrow and are essentially responsible for the allergic reactions that occur even in the healthiest of people. However, in Cannella’s body, she explains that the mast cells are hypersensitive and can be triggered by the most harmless and minimal stimuli.

“I react to things like foods, medications, certain smells like perfume, cigarette smoke, gasoline, and I can be covered in hives from being too hot, or too cold, or by wearing clothing composed of certain materials,” says Cannella. “Simply being too stressed or in too much pain can send me into anaphylactic shock. I am allergic to the world around me.”

This terrible disease demands the awareness and vigilance of not only the affected person, but also of their family, friends and community. With Halloween just around the corner, this can prove to be a huge challenge for youngsters with the disease and anyone living with severe allergies.

Cannella is enlisting the help of the community to make this Halloween a safer one for children with severe allergies, through the Teal Pumpkin Project, an initiative that was originally founded by the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) to raise awareness of food allergies and promote inclusion of children with life threatening allergies in trick-or-treating.

The concept is simple: this Halloween, instead of offering up the traditional boxed candy and chocolate, opt for non-food items and register your home on the official Teal Pumpkin Project map. Fun, non-food treats can include small toys, glow sticks, pencils or other inexpensive items. These toys or activities can be picked up at your local dollar store, and will be appreciated long after Halloween has come and gone. Such a small change to your Halloween routine and your household awareness is a simple way to provide families of children with severe allergies the peace of mind they deserve.

Cannella also wants to remind children to carry their Epipens with them at all times, especially when out trick-or-treating.

“Six of the eight major allergens are in circulation on Halloween. Please be mindful that peanuts and nuts are not the only allergens out there — virtually any food can cause an allergy,” says Cannella. “Many popular Halloween candies contain eggs, soy, wheat, milk, and nuts.”

Photo Credit: Food Allergy Research & Education

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