Have you noticed the memes, social media conversations, and general attitude going around about banning peanut items in schools? It’s a mixture of “Back in my day…” sentiments, and a notion that kids these days are so entitled.
Apparently, there are people out there in the world who think it’s silly and fussy to ban food products with peanut ingredients from schools and social functions. Surely it’s just some new gluten-free, organic fad, right? Probably the result of helicopter moms and such.
It shouldn’t even need to be said, because people should learn about things before forming opinions about them, but: peanut allergy is serious.
It is not a fad. It is not something a person demands because they are picky eaters or because they are privileged or because they’re entitled.
Peanut allergies kill. Mere exposure to peanut residue from across a room can kill. Peanut allergy is not a personal weakness. It is a severe anaphylactic reaction.
In the 2014 instance of the Giorgi family, they had taken all possible precautions. When their family stayed at a popular summer camp, they warned the staff that their daughter, Natalie, had a potentially fatal peanut allergy. They warned the staff that something as simple as cross-contamination could kill her. They had told the staff “in writing and in person numerous times” about this issue. Their daughter was conscientious of avoiding peanut products. They were prepared with multiple Epipens. In addition to that, there were other children at the camp with the same allergy, which the staff was also aware of.
Thirteen-year-old Natalie Giorgi was attending a family summer camp with her parents and friends of her family, at Camp Sacramento near Lake Tahoe. Natalie was diagnosed with the allergy at age 3, when she had a mild reaction to nuts, but had never had a serious allergic reaction.
On the last day of her family’s visit, Natalie ate a Rice Krispie treat which had been prepared by workers at the camp. Peanut butter had been mixed into the treat in a way that was undetectable. But Natalie seemed to know immediately. She ran to her parents and said, “I ate something… and it didn’t taste right.”
For 20 minutes, she seemed fine. Then she vomited and almost immediately stopped breathing. They injected her with one Epipen, then another, then a third. Nothing worked. Paramedics arrived but were unable to save her.
Natalie’s mother explained, in haunting words that should show everyone how truly devastating food allergies can be: “She was suffocating. And she was frantic. There was terror in her eyes.”
The Giorgi family later filed a lawsuit against the camp, which they stated they “took no joy in,” but hoped it would help raise awareness about the seriousness of such allergies.
As Natalie’s mother said in an interview after Natalie’s death, “We had denied our daughter birthday treats in the classrooms. We read every food label looking for peanuts. This is not helicopter parenting. This was us trying to keep our children alive.”
Banning peanuts from schools, airplanes, and other functions is not helicopter parenting. It is not a millennial invention. It’s not a “precious snowflake” epidemic. It’s a life or death situation that some parents live in fear of their entire life. If being able to eat a peanut butter sandwich is more important than a child’s life, who is really the entitled one?
Image credit: Dean Hochman