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September 2, 2006

Crazy Neurotic Parents and Child Food Allergies

I recently read an online article from Slate.com regarding overprotective parents of kids with food allergies.

It told an interesting story, yet I wasn't sure how to react to the following pieces of the article...

Parents who ask for more accommodation than their kids really need do a disservice, I think, by making the rest of us unsure of when we need to strictly comply. It's a form of crying wolf. Or at least that's how it has felt to me on occasion. One summer, my older son Eli, then 4, got sent home from preschool with a stern note, because the granola bar I'd given him for a snack was made at a factory that processed other products that contain tree nuts. The next day I sent Eli with a plastic baggie full of cheese crackers made by Annie's, the organic pasta company. Their factory stamped out organic macaroni and crackers, I thought—no nuts.

But the father of the boy in the class with the nut allergy wasn't so sure. He asked me to take the crackers home. I'm sure this seemed like a minor concession to him. But to me, it seemed unfair and a little ridiculous. My son and his son didn't sit at the same snack table. They'd never shared food. His son's allergy had never been triggered by airborne particles, and it was no longer particularly serious. And if I couldn't give Eli his crackers, then he wouldn't have a snack. For the second day in a row. So, there was a cost, however small, for doing as asked.

I left the crackers with Eli. They provoked no allergic reaction in his preschool classmate. When I got home that night, I checked the Annie's box. There was the telltale warning: "Produced in a facility that also manufactures products containing peanuts and tree nuts." So, what's the moral of this story—that I'm inconsiderate, or a reasonable risk-taker?

It's hard to justify potentially jeopardizing the health of someone else's child (even if it means your own kid goes a bit hungry). But it would be a lot easier to accommodate allergies graciously if I felt like I could tell the rationally neurotic parent with the extremely allergic kid from the crazy neurotic parent with the slightly allergic one. And I can't....

Now, our readers know that I am a proponent of good communication and education but not of sounding the alarm too loud regarding child food allergies. So, on that front we are in agreement.

What really threw me for a loop was the part about being a "reasonable risk taker". Risk taker? Now, that might apply if it were your own child but not someone else's. Hard to justify is an understatement. Let's see... if that child needed to cross the street alone would you just let them run out without guidance? C'mon, they may or may not get hurt. Of course you wouldn't do that.

Then the comment about getting home, seeing nuts on the snack label and saying "they provoked no allergic reaction in his preschool classmate" almost makes it sound like because he didn't react, the mother can say, "See, I told you this was going overboard." What if the child DID react? Then what would she have said?

I would feel terrible if I knowingly rolled the dice with the safety of someone else's child and lost. It's simply not worth the risk.

Posted by David at September 2, 2006 4:54 PM


Well said, well said!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Leslea at September 6, 2006 9:34 AM