August 25, 2010,
M.C. asks from Schaumburg, IL on April 27, 2010
Peanut Allergy and Schools
First I want to say, that I 'm fortunate not to have child with a severe peanut allergy. I can just imagine how hard it must be, to constant worry about your child having to go in to shock....
My son is in full time Kindergarten and has no children in his class with a peanut allergy, but across the classroom, is a child who is allergic to peanuts.
The kids are not allowed to have anything with peanuts, I guess for the next 7 years in school.Which is hard at times, because that is what they like,some kids are vegeterians, that must be even harder, to think of food without nuts in it....
One school in our district has a special room for these children, I had suggested it, but they came up with, well when the child comes back, the classroom would be contaminated,or the child could feel bad, if they have to eat in a different room...
I was just wondering, how your school is handeling that problem???
L.M. answers from New York on April 27, 2010
Unfortunatly, some allergies are so severe that if a child walks into a room that has had peanuts in it they could have a reaction. We were talking about this at work today. One of my colleagues said the school has requested that none of the children be given peanuts/peanut butter for breakfast at home because when they come to school they could breathe on the child and he would have a reaction.
S.F. answers from Madison on April 27, 2010
At my daughter's school they do nut-free in the classrooms depending on if the class has children with allergies. The classrooms that are peanut/tree nut free have signs posted on their doors. So any snack or treat that is brought in to share with the class must be nut-free.
As far as lunch goes, they have a peanut/tree nut free table. The kids who sit there can invite one friend who has an appropriate lunch to sit with them. All kids must wash their hands after eating lunch so as not to bring any nut residue back to the classrooms.
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J.F. answers from Toledo on April 27, 2010
I haven't read any of the other responses, so forgive me if I repeat what has already been said, lol.
I have always thought it was dumb to have a "blanet" rule at a school with 600+ kids (which ours is) when only a handful of kids are affected...until last June. When my then 14 month old daughter ate half of a peanut butter girl scout cookie and I watched in horror as her face QUADRUPLED insize and her tiny eyelids turned INSIDE out and she began coughing and choking. Her lips were blue...all within 60 seconds of her first bite (which she managed to get against all of my efforts to keep her away from it).
My point is that you will never understand the severity of this allergy until you experience it first hand. Yes it is a pain in the rear on your end...but imagine my end. My daughter can not sit next to someone who has a pb&j sandwich because the SMELL will send her into anaphylaxis.
Even if there is a separate room for kids with allergies, it is IMPOSSIBLE to be sure they are not contaminated. Think for a moment...Your child eats peanut butter crackers for a snack in his "regular" classroom. After snack time, he goes to gym class where he learns to dribble a basketball, then back to his classroom. My daughter then comes in for her PE lesson and also learns to dribble a basketball...using the same basketball that your son just inadvertantly contaminated. In come the EMS...if they make it in time to save my daughter's life.
My point is that its not just about kids not being able to eat certain foods or choosing to not eat meat. This is a life or death matter for some and until you experience it first hand, you really have no concept of what its like. I have had to call ahead and "investiate" every restaurant before we go. I have to constantly be on the look out even at family gatherings. I read EVERY label before she eats ANYTHING. Even the mention of something being manufactured in plant that processes peanuts is out of the question.
I think anyone who has to deal with the minor inconvenience of not sending in things with peanuts should consider themselves lucky...it could be much worse for you :)
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L.W. answers from Dallas on April 27, 2010
We have a penut free table at lunch on the other side if the cafeteria. At snack time if there is a kid with allergies in that class, we are not allowed to send a nut snack. Every yera is different for us. Last year there were no allergies, this year there are. Yes it's an inconvenience at times, but I don't mind. Think about how grateful the other mom is that her child is safe. You never know when your child's saftely will be in other parents and kids hands, so I say do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
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K.C. answers from Philadelphia on April 27, 2010
My daughter, who has a tree-nut, not peanut, allergy, carries a bottle of Benadryl and Epi-pen in her backpack at all times. There's another set of the same in the school nurse's office. At the beginning of the school year, we have a meeting with the principal, nurse, her teacher and myself to go over the allergy procedures. There is a separate peanut/tree nut allergy table in the caf, but since my daughter isn't allergic to peanuts, I can't have her sitting at that table if she brings in a PB&J sandwich for lunch (which has actually only happened once), so she sits with the gen pop. She's also a very social child and it was just too sad making her sit at that separate table. She has also been taught to be very wary of baked things and not take any food from any other person, even if her best friend offers her a cookie to share. She only eats what the cafeteria prepares, which is mostly nut and peanut free because of all the allergies around, or what I send from home in her lunchbox. She's had a couple of reactions, so she knows how horrible it feels to end up in the ER, so she's pretty careful about what she eats. I think the schools are in a tough spot because there are so many highly allergic kids these days. They need to balance a child's right to eat what they want with the possible death due to anaphylactic shock. More and more, you're going to see them err on the side of caution and the rules will get more stringent. But if those rules save the life of even one child, I'll happily give up my daughter's PB&J rights.
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M.C. answers from Washington DC on April 27, 2010
Our school is going room by room. This year there is a teacher with the nut allergy, and her room is nut free. She explained it to all of the parents. However, for some reason, all of the kids with a nut allergy were not put into her room.
My son has the nut allergy, and he is in public school. I don't have the financial freedom to homeschool him. We just have to be very diligent. Reminding kids to wash their hands and wash down their areas completely. While I understand that its a parent's freedom to send a peanut product to school for their kids snack, its also my kids RIGHT to be able to go to school and not have to worry about such things. However, the schools find it easier to bend to the majority. Everyday I pray that I don't get the call that I'm fearing.
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A.F. answers from St. Cloud on April 27, 2010
I don't have the school issue, but our church is nut free. There is a little boy in our church that if someone has had peanut products that day, has not washed their hands and touches him, he breaks out in severe hives.
The one poster who posted about "common sense" has no idea how serious it is for a child with peanut allergies and I just want to say that I would GLADLY give up making my child a PB sandwich for the sake of another child's safety.
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A.T. answers from Oklahoma City on April 27, 2010
Our school district has a nut-free table at lunch that the kids with peanut allergies can sit at. For class parties, they "suggest" for the younger grades you don't bring anything with peanuts. Older grades they believe the kids are more aware and diligent of what they can eat. It's just a suggestion, they haven't outlawed peanut butter. At the beginning of each year I check with the teacher to see if there are any with allergies. If so, I do bring something peanut-free as well. Guess it just depends on the school or district. It would be really hard for me to digest that a school would try to tell me what my child is or isn't allowed to bring for lunch. What's next banning children from bringing meat products for those few that are vegetarians or vegans???
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A.B. answers from Dallas on April 27, 2010
Wow. I couldn't believe some of what I was reading here. My daughter who is 9, and a very picky eater, has brought a PBJ sandwich to school every single day since she was in Kindergarten. If our school had a ridiculous "zero tolerance" nut policy, then my kid would starve. PB is a healthy, protein-rich, food for growing children, esp. those who aren't big meat eaters like mine. I understand that some kids are allergic, and those kids can bring their own lunch, but I don't understand why a school would be able to dictate to parents what their children can/can't eat. This would be the same if the allergic kids were told they HAD to eat peanuts... it is silly! In my daughter's class there is a kid with a severe nut allergy, so we are asked to provide the ingredients for all food that is meant to be shared in the class; however, if this is questionable, the child just abstains from eating that treat and is provided an alternative. Makes sense, right? COMMON SENSE.
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S.C. answers from Dallas on April 27, 2010
My daughter is anaphylactic to peanuts and tested allergic to most tree nuts. We started her in a private preschool and were planning to move her to public school for kindergarten, but they separate the allergic child during lunch and allow only one other child (that the teacher selects) to sit with the allergic child.
My daughter also has juvenile arthritis, ulcerative colitis, uveitis and asthma (all diagnosed over the last four years), so she has enough to deal with at her young age. If you look at her, you'd never know she has so much going on. I did not want her to have the added burden of being known as the kid that has to sit at the "special table" at lunch, and I didn't want to run the risk of other kids resenting her for having to sit at the separate table either.
I discovered right before we made the decision to stay with private school that another school in the same district has a "nut free cafeteria" meaning they make sure none of the foods they sell in the cafeteria contain nuts. So the allergic child sits at the end of a table surrounded by kids who buy their lunch. Then the kids who bring PB&J sandwiches can sit at the opposite end. I like that idea as long as hands are washed after lunch, but it would have required making changes at our public school and I didn't have enough time to get that going before we had to make a decision.
The private school has a "nut sensitive" policy in the preschool and kindergarten grades meaning parents are asked not to send nuts to school. It does not guarantee that nuts won't be on campus or at school functions, but it reduces the risk of exposure for those children with an allergy.
For 1st grade and older, there is no policy at the private school, but I think they are going to extend the nut sensitive policy to the 1st grade only next year and evaluate it each year. We have five children with nut allergies in kindergarten this year and a few others who have milk, soy, beef and other allergies.
One option for your child's school would be to see if they'd allow Sunbutter. It is similar consistency to peanut butter and many kids probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference, especially if there's jelly on the sandwich.
My child doesn't like to eat meat so we send meat-free options for her lunch. It is possible for vegetarian children to find enough varieties to keep lunch interesting and healthy, and then have all the nuts they want at home. Here's one site with some options:
For class parties and activities, I (and the other allergic children's parents) always send something "safe" to school so the class can have whatever the parents/teachers bring. I do not expect the campus to be completely nut-free.
One thing to think about as the parent of a non-allergic child is how your child would react if he/she brought peanut butter to school that caused an anaphylactic reaction in a child. Having seen my child have a reaction, I can say it is one of the scariest things I have witnessed. I had no idea what was happening because we have no history of food or drug allergies in our family. I would think it would be traumatic for a child to witness another child being rushed to a hospital or worse... if the child did not survive.
The public school that we decided not to send our daughter to DOES do an educational program for the kids in the classes that have allergic children so they can understand what it means to have a food allergy. The mother of a 1st grader at the school told me that the children in her son's class didn't want to take peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school after that program because they didn't want the boy to get hurt.
I should mention that our private school does not have a nurse, so it is more important to us to have a policy in place for no nuts because it is an added burden on teachers and school staff to try to figure out whether or not to administer an epi-pen.
I can understand both sides of the debate, and obviously as a mother who has seen her child go into anaphylactic shock, I am biased toward no nut policies, but if I didn't have an allergic child, I would still use the opportunity to teach my child about the importance of human life over a food item and help her understand that her sacrifice during one part of the day five days of the week is little compared to keeping her classmate(s) safe.
Even though there are often children with other food allergies in a class, peanuts are the main focus because of the residue that can be left behind (e.g. on hands, transferred to door knobs, toys, books, etc.).
On a side note, I have read the articles about parents "over-reacting" about food allergies and schools "going overboard" to accommodate children that may or may not have true allergies. Here are some articles that show why a parent of a food allergic child should continue to take the allergy seriously even if the child has not had a major reaction:
This might give some parents who don't understand why parents of allergic children try to put safeguards in place - especially when the children are younger and may not be able to communicate clearly if they're starting to feel strangely.
While my daughter has lowered risk of exposure at school, I still work on educating her in case she is exposed at school or after school activities. Some people may feel like having nut-free policies shelters a child, but my daughter's life is not spent only at school. At least while at school, the focus can be on education and interaction with classmates and not worrying about whether peanut butter residue is on the table or shared school supplies, books, toys, etc.
I look forward to the day when the sublingual therapies for eliminating food allergies are common practice. Right now, our pediatric allergist has spoken with clinical researchers who indicated they are still too experimental and should not be done outside of a clinical study. There is one allergist in my city who is doing them anyway (and apparently with success), but given my daughter's other illnesses, our allergist felt we needed to wait to see how the studies turn out before trying them on my daughter. Hopefully one day soon, this "problem" will no longer exist!
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