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January 14, 2007

Banning Peanuts Due to Allergies is Not the Answer

If you have been reading our blog for awhile, you know that we try to take a reasonable, practical approach to managing our childrens' food allergies. Every time I hear about parents demanding a "peanut free" school environment for their kids, I just shake my head.

The concept of a peanut-free school gives a false sense of security.
It leads people to believe that the because the environment is "peanutfree," no exposure could happen. And when it does happen, it leaves the adults responsible for a child a bit... well, flat footed. "Is this really a reaction? Should we give the Epi-pen? Maybe we should wait." The result could be disasterous.

How would you really enforce a ban on peanuts in a situation where other kids bring their own lunch or snack? Peanut police? I can hear the radio chatter now... "Ah, that's a 10-4 there, we've got a 10-28 here in sector 15. It's time to move in."

Further, the concept of telling another parent that they cannot feed their children peanut butter at school is just asking for a fight. You want other parents to understand your child's food allergy and want to help. Telling a parent what his/her child cannot have doesn't exactly envoke a spirit of cooperation. Your goal should be to work with the school staff to raise awareness and provide education about food allergies and the truth about anaphylaxis.

So what could you do that is a bit more practical? Take common-sense measures to minimize the risks and to keep your child from feeling isolated. Asking for peanut-free tables in classrooms and the cafeteria is a good start. Most importantly is training school staff how to recognize a reaction and how to administer the Epi-pen in an emergency. That usually starts with the school nurse.

Also, you'll need to spend some time at the school. Look for new risk factors like the peanut free table being wiped with the same cloth that was just used to wipe down the other tables. Suggest a different color cloth (bright, easy to remember) and maybe even go out and buy them for the school.

Make sure any notes sent home to parents asking them not to send food containing peanuts is written with a concerned but not panicked tone. People don't really go out of their way to help "that mom."

And please show sincere appreciation to teachers and the school's staff for their efforts. They are your eyes and ears when you can't be there. Your child's safety at school depends on them.

Posted by David at January 14, 2007 8:00 AM


Hi there,

First of all, keep up the good work on this blog. It is well done.

I started a blog at www.NoPeanutsPlease.com late in 2006 as a result of our daughter's first anaphylactic reaction to (we think) peanuts.

I tend to be drawn to your line of thinking that moderation is needed when engaging others to help.

You may be interested in the ongoing series I have just started called 'It Takes A Village' ... the concept being that it is important to consider the impact on teachers, parents, school nurses and others when judging their perceived lack of cooperation with peanut bans, etc.

People all want to help but it is not an easy disorder to readily understand.

The first It Takes A Village Story is a first hand account from a teacher. More are to follow.

(Again, great blog. I have added a link from NoPeanuts to this site.)


Posted by: NoPeanuts at January 15, 2007 9:58 PM

While I suspect that we all have to be more aware of allergies, I also completely understand the request to make schools and other children's areas "peanut free". Some people have such a severe reaction to peanuts that even the most minute amount, inadvertantly transferred from one surface to another (like a child's hand to a friend) could mean a life-threatening allergic reaction. I think making a school peanut / nut free helps to ensure (as far as possible) that nuts will not be present. Yes, there will be slip-ups, but less of them than if the area was not nut free.

I also think that we need to educate our children who are allergic, without turning them into phobics. It's a tough job; I know because my son is learning how to manage his gluten and dairy allergies, and that line between proper care and paranoia is one that we wrestle with all the time. I can only be thankful that his allergies are not life threatening at this point, and that slip ups will not cost him more than an unpleasant experience with his allergy symptoms.

Posted by: Monique Attinger at January 19, 2007 5:46 AM

I have no problem with my son's school turning peanut/nut free. Only problem I have now is I am afraid to participate as I use to by bring goodies by for the class parties. (making a seperate treat bag with different items for the person who has the allergy..I would go out of my way to give him more). We were given a small,..and I mean a small list of products that are peanut free,..some of these items are not very frugal either! I wish there was more info on peanut free products and even what can I make myself?? (recipes). My son is also now in not only a peanut free,.but egg free classroom.
My only thought is just to get away from food entirely and maybe hand out stickers or trinkets. I feel I cant even make cupcakes for my son to hand out for his b-day,..I just skip over his b-day entirely when it comes to school. Even when the school wasnt peanut free,..I felt it wasnt right to for some kids to get the treats and for the other to sit out. But thats what has happened in the past. Now it seems like alot of the parents just do not want to participate because they do not know how exactly. or the requests from the teacher for food items are a bit pricey as the products have to be a special brand. (for instance we can have pretzels but has to be roled gold brand or not at all)just a small example.
I wish there was a website that would give parents who do have children in peanut free schools,.more ideas on what they can do food wise. and maybe what they cant do also. ideas,.recipes,..etc. I know there was supose to be a law passed?? that companies had to label thier products if they were peanut free or not. Not sure when that is supose to happen.
Now I just give my son the same lunch over and over a again varrying it slightly. If I put a homemade cookie in his lunch I have to write out whats in it etc. (so far all I know is that ginger snaps are ok). If a food product is not peanut free they will just take thier food away at lunch. I think its good to keep children with allergies safe. I think it would be nice if the schools actually would let us know a little more on what we could do foodwise besides provideing us with a small list of items. and not just buying fancy prepackaged foods,..seems some companies are making out here.

Posted by: christine at February 10, 2007 4:54 PM