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Peanut Allergies and Peanut-Free Schools

post #1 of 119
Thread Starter 
Why is this such a controversial issue? I was just speaking with an aquaintance about this and she is INCENSED that her ds can't take a peanut butter sandwich to school because 2 children are allergic.

Honestly, if it means the difference between life and death to someone's child, I don't see the problem!

Her argument is that the only sandwich her son will supposedly eat is PB and J and that these children need to get used to living with their allergies and need to learn what is safe and what is not. I understand her frustration to a degree, but for some of these children, they don't actually even need to consume the peanuts! They have only to come into contact with them. I have a friend who had a moderate reaction when she lent her watch to a lady who'd had a PB sandwich for lunch. My friend got the watch back, played soccer and, after working up a sweat, was on her way to the ER. This is scary stuff!

I'd like to hear all your opinions and veiwpoints as well!!


post #2 of 119
Hrm...I'm a little worried to answer first...

I don't think public schools can or should cater to every little thing. If you have a child who has such a severe allergy (like nuts) that it could really harm their health, you need to take responsibility for taking care of your kid, making sure his/her teachers know, and raising your kid to be aware of their own issue. I don't think it helps the kid any to have public school cater to them to the point of them not having to be responsible for what they eat.

I think parents need to be more active in public schools and be more aware.

I guess if a school wants to go peanut free, thats fine but it just seems like it's a result of living in a highly litigious world, and it's not teaching anything about responsibility.
post #3 of 119
I can see both sides of the issue.

I understand that for most, it's probably not a big deal to just not have peanut butter around for the safety of those allergic. It's scary having a child with severe allergies & I can appreciate that.

However, there is also the point of the other parents. What if your kid would only eat PB & J for awhile? We've all gone through stages with our kids where they only want one thing. Does that child then have to stay home from school or go hungry because of students with allergies. That doesn't seem fair either.

And what will happen when the kids with allergies grow up & go out into the workforce. Will they have to tell their fellow employees they can't eat peanut butter? They will have to figure out a way to live in this peanut eating society as they get older too.

It's a tough question. There are lots of ways to help people heal from their allergies......would we encourage parents of kids with peanut allergies to try methods to rid them of the allergies?

My oldest had life-threatening allergies and I do understand how difficult it is.....and yet I took it as my responsibility to find out what was in food, what people were serving when they invited us over, etc. I never expected that everyone would change their lifestyles for us.
BTW, we did NAET for our son & he is no longer allergic to anything!

I hope you get some interesting comments with this post!
post #4 of 119
I feel like you have not much choice about attending school...you have more choice about your workplace. At most workplaces you don't have to worry about sitting ar a desk just used by someone with peanutbutter residue on their hands...many jobs you have your own desk and your own phone. Elementary school children often believe some who tells the something has no nuts in it, and don't understand about hidden nut containing foods perfectly yet, but adults have learned not to take people's word. Ideally, schools would be well supervised enough regarding hand, face and table washing and monitoring allergic children that this could be well handled. We know it's not. Many schools don't even have someone who can or will, administer epinephrine in an emergency so children are dependent on the speed of an ambulance arriving and finding their classroom. At home, the parent could give it. Or even the child themselves. But most schools won't let a child carry their own epipen. So by not having any medical staff, or allowing children to take full responsibility by carrying thier own medication, peanut elimination is the most acceptable compromise to most schools.

If you can keep the peanut allergen antibodies low, apparently, some kids will outgrow it, for others it's lifelong. I've even been told that children that will become allergic only develop the allergy the second time they are exposed to peanuts. If you delay that first or second exposure, it might mean that their allergy might not fully develop, or will be less severe and life threatening. Many families know if they have a lot of peanut allergic people in the family, it's likely. Many kids are only allergic to one nut for instance,...like only peanuts or only walnuts. I don't have an allergic child, but this is what I've been reading recently.

Not having peanut butter for 6 hours never killed a child. Having it can kill
allergic children.
post #5 of 119
I think some of this might depend on the age of the children involved. Its one thing to expect a 10 year old to understand what they need to do for their health -- that seems completely reasonable. But I'm not sure if its a reasonable expectation for a 5 year old? Maybe the way schools handle this need to change for younger and older children -- that way the kids would be safe while they learn to manage things for themselves.

On the other hand, my kid only likes PB&J and I wouldn't even know what else to give him for lunch if he couldn't take it. Of course, some of that is my own reluctance to send stuff that might have questionable food safety without refrigeration between packing and lunch. If you won't send a meat-based sandwich, there aren't that many choices beyond PB&J for younger kids by the time you get past all the rules about not sending stuff they can't manage on their own (e.g. containers they can't open), can't be hot enough to cause burns if it spills, can't need assembly, can't.... whatever. Seems like if they have a no PB rule they should probably be certain that several other rules need to be deleted or the poor kids won't have any options at all.
post #6 of 119
I also feel that this is a tough issue.

Frankly, I think a picky eater is far less serious a condition than life or death. In other words, I'd rather some kid go hungry at lunch than my child fall into a serious anaphylactic shock.

OTOH, I think it is rather unrealistic to expect schools to conform to each and every child's issues. Ideally, every classroom and play area should have epipens at the ready, with staff trained to use them (there's nothing fancy about them). Instead, I feel that putting in a "no peanuts" policy is not only the easy way out, but it's giving a VERY false sense of security. What if a child had a PB sandwich before school? I simply cannot believe that it is possible to eliminate all peanut residue from a public place.

It is not easy finding food products that are totally peanut free or made in a peanut free factory. Placing that burden on all parents, rather than the parents of the affected children, doesn't really seem fair to me.

Mostly I think we need to figure out the cause of this peanut allergy epidemic. Peanuts have been food for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. What's going on?
post #7 of 119
e&a's mom - how about a chill pack in his lunch box? or another nut butter like almond?
post #8 of 119

I'm shocked at your responses!

My daughter has a high peanut allergy, and I have to carry around her epipen wherever we go. When I'm there, I moniter what is around her, but if I send her to school I won't be there to make sure that she isn't near peanuts! I know that some schools have Peanut Free zones, where kids with peanut allegies can eat their lunch safely. At least all schools should have that option!

This isn't an issue of just keeping kids from eating an allergen. It isn't even whether or not they touch peanuts (which can cause a reaction) but the Peanut Allergy is one of the only food allegies that is AIRBORN! So if your son won't eat anything else but PB&J (of the foods that you have tried!) and is eating it next to my daughter, and there isn't any staff to administer her Epipen, then she can DIE!

HELLOOOO! I never would think that having someone enjoy their lunch is more important than risking death!

Even most airlines have stopped serving peanuts on their flights due to the airborn nature of the Peanut allergy.

When children are older, and have the skills to know that they shouldn't eat lunch next to their best friend because her best friend is eating PB&J, then great! But in elementary school, that is very unlikely! I guess you people care more about your own kids than other children!

L.J. - what is NAET? My daughter is allergic to tons of stuff, and I've had to drastically change my diet so that my breastmilk is safe for her... I'd love to help her get rid of her allergies altogether.

post #9 of 119
dreadmama what a worrying thing for you, when my eldest was younger he suffered reactions from peanuts and prawns, we have been fortunate that he has grown out of these.
This year a boy with severe nut allergy started at our school, He is in my youngest boy's class and his mother teaches DS8. He is 5, and I think that for him to be made responsible for his own health is a hard call. He is lucky his mother is there every day. The school is trying to enforce a nut free policy. I have asked the school to maybe print in the newsletter some nut free recipies or the like to give parents some ideas on what they can pack for lunch. The kids in both my sons' classes are not at all concerned they can't have nuts, they are more concerned about this boy, which is great, it shows compassion, something that is sadly lacking in a lot of people.
post #10 of 119
There are tons of threads on NAET in the health & healing boards.

Short version: It's an allergy elimination treatment that uses accupressure points. It's completely non-invasive & safe. It uses Chinese medicine & the meridians and helps change the way your body responds to certain things.
post #11 of 119
"But like another poster said, what if the kid has peanut butter for breakfast and doesn’t wash his/her hands? What then? "

everyone wahes hands when they get to school (an exellent idea anyway...less illness in school) or you ask parents to remember to wash hands if they have peanut products for breafast. Our preschool does both.
post #12 of 119
Clarity -- actually, I would probably start with another nut butter, if that were permitted, and I was in this situation. For me, this is a hypothetical because I've never had to face it. I have heard, though, that some schools just ban all nut products to be safe.

A chill pack just doesn't work for me -- you still can't be sure of the temp. in the lunch box and lunches just sit too long for me. This is probably the one area where I am way too anal, but I worked for a company with an e-coli outbreak and food safety training and I know exactly what an e-coli death looks like in a child. If I can't be sure the temp. of a high-risk food (any meat product) never gets above 40 degrees (or below 160) while it sits, then we don't eat it. Especially not a child who, by definition, has a lower tolerance of food-borne illness.

If this were to be a problem in my kids school, then I would follow the rules because, of course a child's life is worth more than my child's comfort. And for little kids, banning peanuts is probably the only real recourse. But I also think that as the children get older, then other options make more sense. So, its not either or but both in the long run.
post #13 of 119

So my child's life is, like, an *inconvenience*?!?!

I am so shocked that mamas on this board would take a child's life so lightly!!!

My ds2 has life-threatening allergies to dairy and peanuts and possibly eggs. He also has lesser allergies to corn, fruit, soy, wheat, many veggies. We're hoping he'll outgrow some of them but it doesn't look good for the dairy and peanuts. He reacts through contact and from the air-borne proteins of his more severe allergies. There is no way on earth he's ever going to eat in a school cafeteria. We're homeschooling.

That said, he--and any other child with a severe allergy--has the legal right to a free, safe, appropriate education. The school is required by law to provide a safe environment. If a child can have an anaphalactic reaction by inhaling the air-borne protein from someone's peanut butter sandwich or by touching an invisible smear of peanut oil on a doorknob, then for gd's sake put the life of that child above your own conveniences!!! We had to entirely restructure our other kids' diets to keep our little one safe--and y'know what? they have survived w/out peanut butter. We had to get a little creative: humus, yogurt, cheese sticks, goat cheese on crackers (we don't cook with dairy anymore and the kids wash up after eating it--dairy is *not* as oily or pervasive as peanut butter), sunflower seed (not cooked in peanut oil!).

I can teach my child not to eat certain foods, but, if I send him to school, I can't control additional exposures. I can't stop him from breathing in a cafeteria where other kids are eating what amounts to an inhalant poison. Yes, it's about responsibility and I think that the schools and other parents need to stop whining and step up and take some responsibility!!! Um, it takes a village and all that jazz, right? Or is that just a nice sentiment until it gets too inconvenient and then it's every child for himself and I don't have to teach my kid to understand differences if, gosh, it means we have to change something in our own life for a few hours to accommodate someone else?!

AAAH! Ya'll just hit a nerve! But this is my child's life. It's great that I can homeschool, but some people just can't. And it's not fair to put a child's life in danger at school just because you don't feel like making the effort.
post #14 of 119
If I had a child who was so severely allergic to peanuts that exposure to a small amount of airborne peanut oil could kill her, I would either home-school her or have her in an extremely isolated special class (if one were available) and I would not take her to crowded public places in general, until the allergy became less severe or she was old enough to manage it. I consider allergies of this severity to be disabilities similar to that "boy in a bubble" immune-system disorder. Because of the popularity of peanuts, esp. as a food for children, it is very difficult to ensure a total absence of every trace of peanuts in any environment crowded with children. As sad as I would be about my child's missing out on so many social experiences, I would not be willing to take the risk.

I mean, "Peanut Free zones, where kids with peanut allegies can eat their lunch safely" aren't enough if the allergy is really severe. What if a kid who ate peanut butter for breakfast and didn't wash his hands then held hands with my child during the first morning activity, or he leaned close to whisper a secret in her ear? Unless I felt absolutely confident that school staff would be able to notice her reaction immediately and use the Epipen, I would not take the risk.

I'm allergic to dogs. During the most severe stage of my allergy, approx. age 14-21, I could not tolerate being in a room with a dog---I don't THINK it was life-threatening, but it felt like it might be, as my eyes and throat would swell to the point that I couldn't see and could barely breathe after about 5 minutes' exposure. Therefore, if I was riding a bus and a Seeing Eye Dog got on, I got off at the next stop and took the next bus. It was inconvenient, but I knew it was unreasonable to expect the school for the blind to relocate away from my bus route or the blind people to stay off the transit system just because of my allergy. Once, walking down stairs in a university building, I met an enormous poodle who was bounding up the stairs and rounded a corner suddenly and jumped on me. Its owner, who was running about one flight behind, pulled it off and apologized profusely, and I believed her explanation that Fifi had pulled away from her accidentally. I expected (and got) forgiveness from the prof of my next class when I arrived late after washing my face, arms, and legs and taking medication. I did not expect the university to ban animals from academic buildings in order to prevent this terrifying experience from happening again.

But if I were so allergic to dogs that I could die from sitting next to someone who played w/his dog this morning and still has dog hair on his shirt, I would consider that a handicap that prevents me from going out in public. Just banning dogs in public places wouldn't be sufficient to protect me; I'd have to ban people from having any contact w/dogs anywhere without going thru a decontamination process, and that just isn't reasonable unless a significant portion of the population is allergic to dogs.
post #15 of 119
Thank you Missy, for so elequently expressing what I was trying to say. Since I'm a single mother, I can't stay home and home school my daughter. However, I am going to school right now to become a preschool teacher so that next school year I can work in her preschool and we can stay together during that time. I also plan to send her to a very progressive small public elementary/junior high school in our area that has an organic food cafeteria. The school also stresses teaching children to be responsible, socially conscious citizens, so I'm sure that they will be respectful of her allergies!

But most people are not so lucky!

Most children are caring people, and I bet if you explained to your child that if they ate a peanut butter sandwich sitting next to a classmate it could kill them, they probably would choose to eat something else. That is unless they are raised to think that life is all about them and their desires!
post #16 of 119
But if I were so allergic to dogs that I could die from sitting next to someone who played w/his dog this morning and still has dog hair on his shirt, I would consider that a handicap that prevents me from going out in public. Just banning dogs in public places wouldn't be sufficient to protect me; I'd have to ban people from having any contact w/dogs anywhere without going thru a decontamination process, and that just isn't reasonable unless a significant portion of the population is allergic to dogs.
We're talking about peanut butter in a public school setting. Banning peanut butter is not going to turn the world upside-down or even cause sustained trauma to anyone; the presence of it, however, could kill my child.

Yes, a severe allergy is like a disability and, in fact, is covered by the ADA. But severe peanut allergies are not nearly as rare as the "boy in the bubble" immune system disorder. And accommodating it is not nearly as difficult. Or it shouldn't be.

As I said, I do plan on homeschooling--but that is not always an option. Nor is private school. Nor is a private school always accommodating. The law requires the public school system to provide a safe environment and it is beyond selfish for parents to insist that it's "too inconvenient" or "not fair" for their children to abstain from eating pb&j for lunch. Reading labels for safe food is not that difficult. I do it everyday and our list of allegens goes way beyond peanuts. Finding alternatives to peanut butter honestly takes minimal effort.

CK'sMama--of course no one came out and said that. Then I'd really lose it.
It was more the suggestion (and not from you!) of "gee, that's too bad but it's not *fair* if my kiddo can't have his peanut butter". It's not a balance of "fairness"; it's a life/death issue. It's not "fair" that my child has been dealt these allergies, but here we are.

Most children are caring people, and I bet if you explained to your child that if they ate a peanut butter sandwich sitting next to a classmate it could kill them, they probably would choose to eat something else.
Dreadmama--you are so right. The objections usually come the adult, huh?
post #17 of 119
1-2% of children...so for every 100 kids in a school 1 or 2 will have it. Not exactly rare.
post #18 of 119
Oh my goodness!
I can't belive that YOU mamas are making the WORLD responsible for one thing about your childs health!!!!!!!!!!

It's not about not caring for another kid. If your kid and mine are friends and we invite your over for a sleepover and you say "Hey, my kid is DEALTHLY allerigic to peanuts" we'd make all sorts of accomodations. And I'd be happy to do that in my home.

But your talking public school, some with hundreds of kids in them. And make a ban on a certain food...a KID food....for two of those kids??

(BTW, all the stats I've seen have said the instance of people in the us TOTAL that have a nut allergy is 1 percent
And the ammount of KIDS in that population who could DIE from it CLEARLY fall into the less than half a percent of all people in the US!!!!!!! It's not a ton of kids!!!!!!)

If they said "Hey, half the kids in school will get sick if we give em milk so we're cutting milk " I'd say "Hey that sucks but oh well.".

If they tell me that ONE PERSON of the MINISCULE population of people in the US has a deathly peanut allergy and their banning peanuts in school? Gimme a break.

At that point its on the parents...I'm sorry but it is. If something could kill MY child there is just no way I'd be sending them into an uncontrolled environment like that. Who knows if little Besty is going to sneak peanut M&M's in her lunch? Or what about Joey, who just transfered midyear and doesn't know and gets a PB&J for lunch?? If something could KILL MY CHILD I'd be a HELL of a lot more responsible for them then to expect a public school to cater to my child and make them safe. *I* make that child safe, if it means private school or going down there everyday when it's mealtime...whatever it takes. I mean, jeezus...it could KILL my kid. No one loves or cares for my kid like me and no one will watch out for her like me, including her very nice school friends.

The percentage of school aged kids who have peanut allergies so severe it could KILL them is about equal to the percentage of kids who have that disease where they can't be exposed to sunlight. So....what....if one of those kids wants to come to our public school, we should expect the rest of the families to have to deal with making their kids take recess inside and read in the dark? That would be ridiculous. "Oh! But my baby could die!!" cries the mother. Then put em in a different school or bring them up to take better care of themselves.

Don't lecture me about not caring about your kid when you clearly have no regard for the HUNDREDS of other families your impacting.
post #19 of 119
I kind of agree with the posters who think it is not fair to ban peanut butter. ALOT of kids eat PB &J for lunch. The child with an allergy should not even be in the cafeteria. There are SOOOOO many foods which contain peanut products, not just peanut butter. It would be dangerous to eat next to anyone I would think.

This is a serious question, what do you do in restaranuts, or grocery stores or ballparks?? Those places all have peanut residue, or even just out in public in general. I always see kids eating peanut butter crackers at the park and then touching the equipment.

I would not rely on other parents to send peanut free lunches, I would expect to isolate the child with the allergy to eat their lunch.

post #20 of 119
Don't lecture me about not caring about your kid when you clearly have no regard for the HUNDREDS of other families your impacting.
HELLO???Sorry you can't eat peanut butter b/c it might kill the kid next to you and you're, um, IMPACTED??? Are you for real? It's not that hard to take pb out of your life for a few hours!!

The world is not responsible for my child's health. However, if I were to send my child to PUBLIC SCHOOL, the school, by LAW, must provide a safe environment. Me, I don't trust that something won't happen; my child has too many allergies and his reaction to dairy scares me more than peanuts, so the public school system doesn't have to be responsible. But, even before these allergies hit our family, I would have been prepared to honor another child's life in his educational setting and done anything w/in my power to make it safe. I would never endanger someone else's child b/c over a little peanut butter. That's selfish and short-sighted and, for that matter, teaches the other children that their wants are more important than another child's life.
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