September 10, 2006

Nut Free Zone

Are your children allowed to bring peanuts to school?

Nut-Free America

Both of my children came home from their first day of school with notes declaring their classrooms to be nut-free. They are not alone. Children around the country are discovering that they can no longer bring peanuts, granola, or PB and J to school - apparently there has been a rise in dangerous peanut allergies. FAAN cautions that peanuts can be deadly. So no parent should be so callous as to send a plate of peanut butter cookies to school to share with classmates.

My daughter's school advises: "wash your child's hands carefully after eating nuts at home," lest she unwittingly kill a classmate with her little peanut-dusted fingers. Many of our foods are advertised as having been "processed in a factory that also processes foods with nuts," to aid us in our duty to be super-careful. We will be sure to hose off the kids after contact with such foods.

I am allergic to nuts too, but it's not like people have to wash their hands to be in the same room as me. The kids in our schools appear to be suffering from a very different disease. Their allergies are an ultra-extreme peanut hypersensitivity, of a magnitude that the medical community has rarely seen before. Why are such terrible allergies becoming so widespread?

Food Hypersensitivity Cause Discovered

This recent worldwide epidemic of food allergies has been studied. It is a recent phenomenon, and it is strange: there is no known reason that allergies should become more prevalent so suddenly - after all, food allergies are not contagious. Allergists have been searching for a cause. And doctors and moms everywhere are particularly hoping for a cure for "fatal nut allergy." (Curing a disease that is defined as "fatal" presents special challenges.)

But there is good news. Scientists studying the issue made a major breakthrough last year.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth now know the underlying cause for most reported food allergies. It is hypochondria. About 12% of families surveyed report having children with food allergies, but when physically tested, only 2.3% of children actually do. Thus it is unclear exactly what is being measured by a widely-cited Sicherer, Munoz-Furlong, and Sampson phone survey paper that claimed a dramatic recent increase in self-reported peanut allergies. That result was neither statistically significant nor were the telephone answers checked against physical tests.

Only a tiny sliver of people allergic to peanuts suffer from the kind of anaphylactic hypersensitivity that kills perhaps one peanut-eater in the U.S. each year (and zero in the UK in the last decade). In the hierarchy of lethal childhood risks, peanut allergies rank far lower than other hazards: 29 children die boarding their school bus annually; 250 die annually in the backyard pool. I eagerly await the school note banning pools.

The peanut contagion seems to be in the meme. And while this has not yet been studied, I will go out on a limb and suggest that the main vectors for propagating the disease are a particular species of institutional liability attorney and their medical expert bretheren. These subspecialists are often found infecting local populations of spineless administrators, who pass the disease onto fearful parents, who in turn ocassionally show up in court, on TV, in congress, or in PTA meetings to trigger an outbreak of more funding for more infected doctors and lawyers.

Trying To Be A Little Nutty

This weekend we were were not allowed to serve our tray of snacks at Anthony's birthday party because of imagined "health code violations" (so growled Arnold's manager "Keith" when we opened a box of some fresh deli roast beef croissants for the non-pizza-enjoying adults). So we all ate the undercooked plain cheese kid pizza from Arnold's greasy kitchen instead.

But we didn't go to Arnold's for the food. Arnold's is a Go-Kart place.

After signing a dozen liability release forms, our kids were able to have a good time being nuts on wheels.

Here is a video of the kids racing around the track.


Posted by David at September 10, 2006 09:12 PM
Comments

Hi,
My 5-year old daughter has a peanut allergy, so I can certainly appreciate the precautions schools take. Her preschool had a policy of no peanuts based foods in class, while her kindergarten said that they do have peanut based food in the cafeteria and she should bring her own lunch/snacks. We've had to teach her to avoid outside food and ask about peanuts if she does accept food from anyone. Her allergy seems to be moderate, in that she is not hypersensitive to being around nuts.

I'm curious about widespread the prevalence of allergies in the US too. We discovered her allergy in India(where we are from) when she was about 1 year old. The doctor there was pretty casual about it saying that she would grow out of it within a few months. Apparently, peanut allergies are pretty rare there. However, getting back to the US , when we brought it up with the pediatrician, we were given an EpiPen and educated about the life-threatening nature of peanut allergies. She's turned out positive in yearly tests since then.

Anyway, this link may be useful in learning more. http://www.allerg.qc.ca/peanutallergy.htm
It mentions 125 food-induced anaphylactic deaths each year in the US. Not sure how many of these are peanut related.

Posted by: anon at September 11, 2006 06:12 PM

The 125 number is FAAN's extrapolated estimate, but it is inconsistent with the estimate that there are 1000 food anaphylaxia sufferers in the U.S; at such rates, there should be few who survive past the age of 10, which is clearly not the case. Really instead of estimating, researchers should just do an exhaustive enumeration of all annual fatalities and put the number to rest. But it would probably result in a smaller number (and thus less justification for their work).

The problem I have with the peanut hysteria is the failure of school administrators to differentiate the 15% who believe they have food allergies from the 2.3% that actually have food allergies from the 0.0004% who can have anaphylactic reactions to food.

The published rate of incidence of food-induced anaphylaxia means that you need to have a student population of 250,000 to expect see one student with who faces acute risk from food. And yet every school of 100 students seems to be banning peanuts.

I am also frustrated by the scare tactics that are being spread by usually-sane school administrators. Today my daughter came home with a second pamphlet explaining "in some cases traces of nuts in one's breath is enough to provoke a potentially life threatening anaphylactic reaction."

This is a blatant falsehood couched in administrative language. I challenge anybody to find a single case of peanut-breath who has killed anybody. It is like claiming that you can catch AIDS by shaking hands. Wouldn't you be embarrassed to attend a school if it sent out such a message?

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=11150011

This study, which is the only one I can find which actually counted individual anaphylactic deaths in the U.S. (it could only verify 14 peanut deaths over a number of years) studied the fatalities carefully. It suggests there are three common ingredients in fatalities: people die from anaphylaxia when (1) they know they have anaphylactic peanut allergies (i.e., if your allergies are serious, you know pretty quickly); (2) they mistakenly ingest peanut allergens (i.e., they actually eat the stuff; they don't die from being breathed on); and (3) they did not have their medications at the time (this is a typical teenager mistake).

Here is my advice. If you have peanut-induced anaphylaxia (and you probably don't), you have a serious problem. So you should take it seriously: carry epinephrine and give it to your school nurse, tell everybody what you are allergic to, and avoid exposure to peanuts. But you should also not succumb to the fearful hysteria of your parents and teachers.

You should know the literature. I frankly consider it offensive that school administrators suggest that peanut breath can kill, that you live in constant peril even if you have your epinephrine, or that the peanut-allergic should keep their identity a secret.

Peanut allergies are dangerous, but life is dangerous. And if administrators and lawyers and parents are worried about rank danger, as I have mentioned before, we would be far better off banning bus stops and swimming pools before worrying about the smell of peanuts.

Posted by: David at September 11, 2006 08:35 PM

Yes, I agree this is a complete overreaction. You are right I haven't heard of a case where peanut breath is a problem and neither my daughter's pediatrician nor allergist has suggested this could happen.
My daughter's school simply warns parents that there is peanut based food in the cafeteria and kids with allergies should get their own food. They take reasonable precautions where they make sure that common classroom celebrations involve food without peanuts. I'm certainly happy with reasonable, common-sense precautions in the classroom.

Posted by: anon at September 12, 2006 08:54 AM

It turns out that with ICD-10 (the 10th version of the classification system that doctors use to identify diseases and causes of death), the CDC does count food anaphylaxia every year - it is now code "T78.0". The statistics for 1999 and 2003 (the latest published) can be found here:

So the CDC puts the total food allergy fatality rate at about 10 per year.

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/Mort99doc.pdf
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/Record_Layout_2003.pdf

On page 482 and page 238 you can find the nationwide counts: there were 9 food anaphylaxia deaths in 1999 and 10 in 2003. There doesn't seem to be a dramatic rise in the four-year period, and the number is quite a bit lower than FAAN's 125 estimate. The public CDC numbers break out neither peanuts nor children, so childhood peanut deaths are presumably fewer.

You don't hear much about these small numbers. In some FAAN presentations you will find that they believe the CDC's T78.0 counts to be "underreported."

Posted by: David at September 13, 2006 11:34 AM

I was glad to have found your article after receiving a call from my 7 year old. Apparently the teacher wants me to rush over with a toothbrush and toothpaste because she had a peanut butter sandwich at lunch -- at home! I am more than frusterated at the huge scare tactics and that I now have to monitor what is in my home in case my children interact with the growing number of children who 'seem' to be deathly allergic to nuts. At one point my daughter wouldn't drink milk because one child had an allergy to it - give me a break!! For some reason she is under the impression that she could 'make my friend die' because she has eaten peanut butter. I'm sorry - as long as she is not kissing other children (shouldn't be a problem in Gr. 2!) and she has washed her hands she should be just fine. Should I now take her home and wash her clothes too? She may have gotten peanut butter on them! I will be taking this up with the school administration and appreciate your many links to factual articles. The hysteria is overtaking us!

Posted by: Brooke at October 5, 2006 03:39 PM

I have a severe peanut allergy, and though I am 20 years of age now, I had a hard time in elementary school and even highschool at times. I still do. I don't know why people are reffering to schools banning peanuts as hysteria, because I used to wish that my school would ban it when I was little. They tried seperating me from my classmates and friends because many of my classmates ate peanut butter sandwiches. I was always devestated as a child to be taken away from my friends because I was different and didn't know why at the time. I am personally very happy to hear of the ban many schools have put into place now. I always hear, 'it's selfish' to other children but it can also be said that those who can eat peanuts are being selfish by putting others lives at risk and inconveniencing those with peanut allergies. I understand that those who do not have peanut allergies don't fully understand and never will understand what it is like to live with one, but it is not fun. Next time you are in a grocery store, read the labels of icecream and cookies, and granola bars, chocolate bars and popsicles even, and try to get an idea of what these 'few' people in society are denied. My favourite chocolate bar WAS Twix, but since I was 9 they have placed warning labels on them. I was even told by my allergy doctor to 'never darken the doorway of a chinese food restaurant'! I personally can't wait for the day when more people are aware of nut allergies and take them more seriously. I don't want to die because someone didn't feel like washing their hands, or something to that extent. My boyfriend can't eat nuts either, otherwise he would have to wait atleast 24 hours to kiss me again after injesting them. So please, don't feel that you are all being inconvenienced. People with peanut allergies I can assure you feel bad enough about having it themselves as well as inconveniencing others in society, or boyfriends, friends, family and husbands for that matter.

Posted by: Ashley at October 10, 2006 12:16 AM

Peanut bans are everywhere. Who is spreading the idea that banning peanuts in schools is a good idea? It is far from clear that instituting a rule banning peanuts improves safety.

The FAAN - the most vocal advocacy group for peanut allergy sufferers - actually recommends against peanut bans because they lead to a false sense of security. If eating a peanut can kill you, you simply shouldn't eat anything given to you by others.

No matter that your school does lunchbag searches and peanut sniff tests. It seems like a terrible idea to encourage an acutely anaphylactic food alergic child to even think about eating the snacks from his classmates in the first place.

Posted by: David at October 17, 2006 09:23 PM

I almost lost my 1.5 year old child from a single peanut butter cracker. So to say it is hesteria is speaking from a uneducated point of view.

He also went into full blown allergic reaction from picking a fully wrapped Reese peanut butter cup. We of course got it out of his hands as quick as possible. We thought it was wrapped so it should be ok, 30 minutes latter he had turned bright red.

Another incident, I flew on a plane. I did not have any peanuts, and they did not serve them. I did however touch the seats. I hugged my son after I got off the plane and left a hand print on his neck, as if I slapped it real hard.

It is not about peanut butter breath, it is about cross contamination. Your son uses a plastic knife to cut a peanut butter sandwich, then wipes it off. My son does the same to his sandwich, using the same knife. My son is in the hospital, your son is going home like normal. It's not hesteria, it is just basic precautions.

They are working to remove the allergen from peanuts, so hopefully in a few years this will be
a dead isuue.

Posted by: Chris at October 30, 2006 12:16 AM

Everyone sympathizes with children who have such allergies, but you cannot expect the rest of the world--especially children--to give up something they love and which is healthy and nutritious for them. Where I live there are a brother and sister who are allergic to sunlight. They have to be homeschooled because of the windows in the classroom. Do all of you want your children being deprived of sunlight which is essential for mental well-being as well as contributory to good physical being, so that the pair can attend public school? I feel very sorry for them, but the answer is not in depriving other children. I don't know what the answer is, but I know it is not that of deprivation!

Posted by: Pam at October 31, 2006 09:02 AM

I have a child that is severly allergic to all nuts. Unfortunatly she is the one that will have an anaphalactic reaction if you breath, touch, or ingest any type of nut product. Also, her skin tends to split open and react violently to all nut products. If my child can go to school with out the worry that a bully or someone inconsiderate to her health issuses will expose her to what may kill her. I would be happy and she would not feel like an outcast. Who is really being deprived, not normal healthy children, it is the ones who suffer from allergies of many different types.

Posted by: carrie at November 9, 2006 11:30 AM

Deprived? Are they really being deprived of peanut butter when we are talking about one meal a day or only during school hours? They can eat what they "like" at home during any other meal. Other kids and adults don't have to "give up" what they "love" for their entire life or even one entire day, and there are plenty of other nutritous and healthy alternatives for lunchtime. Peanut allergic children are the ones "deprived" and they don't have a choice -- they are the ones to be singled out and segregated at a separate table or room, to be bullied and teased by the "normal" kids because they are different, can't go to birthday parties, share in classmate's birthday cupcakes or have ice cream like everyone else. These kids are scared enough about cross contamination on a doorknob, on the table or the water fountain, do they have to be scared all day long so they can't concentrate on learning, which is what they are supposed to do in school? They have to "watch out" for themselves everywhere they go, in whatever they do, every single day. They deserve a "safe" learning environment like all the other kids. Banning peanuts from a school does not give them a false sense of security -- all the other precautions are still taken, at all times. Our society has become so selfish that consideration for others is uncommon -- it's really saddening. You can't do much about bees or sunlight except take extreme measures -- but you CAN control the instance of obvious food items in public places to help reduce the risk of exposing an allergen to a person who's life could be in the balance. It's a very small sacrifice to make to protect someone's life. Why don't people see this as the small inconvenience that it is, within the big picture of our lives. Let's not forget that a severely allergic child falls under the American Disabilities Act for people who are entitled to the same access, safety, educational and recreational benefits as anyone else.

Really, it's the parents' problem with this issue, not children who "love" peanuts and peanut butter. The parents are the ones who've allowed a child to be a picky eater so they "won't eat anything else." It's the parent who is concerned about "depriving" their poor child of PB during a school lunch. We've found that other children are very sympathetic and actually are very willing to help with the peanut allergic child to watch out for themselves when they understand the risk of what it could mean for them. It is our responsibility as adults to protect all children -- allergy ridden, handicapped, diebetic, "normal" or whatever. Wouldn't it be refreshing to see every adult as compassionate and concerned for others as our children are.

Posted by: For my PA son at November 30, 2006 01:12 AM

I have no problem with banning nut products at the schools where there is a PROVEN nut allergy my problem is with all the neurotic mothers who "think" there child is the special one. This is an extremely rare allergy, yet there is 3 or 4 kids in every damn class.........ya right, allergy, sure! This is exteremly detrimental to the poor people who actually suffer from these very serious allergies. One death a year in the country from nut allergies ....the U.S. has 130 million people in it?.........oooooh we better wrap the kid in saran wrap and tape an eppi pen to it.I am seriously running out of patience for neurotic women, there are far too many of them.

Posted by: rockongolddust woman at December 16, 2006 09:14 PM

I don't know why people would say they have a pa child if they didn't. As far as statistics, there are 1 in 25 children who have food allergies, including peanuts, so there very well could be 2 or 3 in a classroom. Would you be willing to be the ONE adult to send a pb sandwich to school and "test" the alleged pa child to see if it's a real allergy? NOT me. Have you ever seen one have such a reaction? Very scary indeed. I wouldn't want any child to suffer the consequences of having a potentially life threatening reaction if it can be avoided. How many deaths and near-death reactions would it take for people like you to take it seriously? People wear seat belts to protect themselves -- of course it doesn't guarantee that the person wouldn't get hurt if an accident occurred, so you always have to be careful. But taking steps to avoid getting hurt .... that is what banning peanuts from schools is about. Avoiding the potential that someone will have a life threatening reaction from an obvious threat. For elementary school age children, it is not the child's responsibility to protect him/herself. It is all of ours -- the teachers, the school staff, administrators, AND the parents. It is about social responsibility and taking care of your fellow man. Lets teach our kids early that we SHOULD look out for one another because it's the right thing to do.

Posted by: For all PA kids at December 24, 2006 07:20 PM

Sorry: you missed my point. I do not nor will I send a PB sandwich to my sons school for fear there may actually be a child in the school that has a legitimate allergy and I do not think the ban is excessive. My point again, is how do we "protect" the kids who really have a threatening allergy from all those who choose to ride on their bandwagon for sympathy? Please tell me you do not actually believe that there are 3-4 kids in every class that could suffer from a PB allergy? Do you know how many kids that equates to? Yet still only one death a year reported from nut allergies, out of 130 million people? Congratulations! Either those neurotic mothers are on the right bandwagon ...........or..........just maybe, there are not as many PB allergies as YOU would like to believe.

Posted by: rockongolddustwoman at December 29, 2006 09:23 PM

Two of my three sons are nut allergic. People seem to think that those with a "mild" allergy need not take the same precautions as those with a "life-threatening" allergy. What people obviously don't understand about allergic reactions is that they are NOT predictable. My mother-in-law is severely allergic to buckwheat. She went along making buckwheat pancakes for several years, feeling "a bit stuffy and unwell" every time she did, until the day she almost didn't make it to the hospital in time because she stopped breathing. It's true that neither of my children have suffered more than wheezing and hives so far, but to assume that the next reaction can't be anaphylactic just because the last one wasn't is just foolish. I would rather be called a "neurotic mother" than a "bereaved mother" any day.

Posted by: julie at January 8, 2007 11:02 PM

I don't mind not sending pb sandwiches to school but my kids are not allowed to bring anything that "may" contain traces of nuts. Also, they are not allowed to bring any products from restuarants that are not "nut" safe. I took my son a plain bagel and cream cheese and he had to eat it outside the school in the snow.

Are they really trying to convince me that my son eating a bagel from a place that "may" have used a peanut product is a threat to the health of other students.

All this banning is going to lead to one thing...a major backlash from parents fed up with the ever changing rules.

Posted by: lorie at January 15, 2007 02:38 PM

I'm terribly disappointed in all the parents here that are so annoyed by making very little effort to ensure a child's safety.

Try, for one moment to imagine its your child. Just try it. Your two year old that doesn't know the difference between safe and unsafe foods. Or, your seven year old that simply wants to fit in at lunch or a party. I know there are a lot of people out there that have made foolish decisions in their past based on wanting to fit in. Or, most parents worry about bullies at school when kids get older. These days, there are flat out sociopaths attending school. When these children get wind of your child having a potentially fatal allergy to nuts... What then? How easy could it be for them to slip a peanut into your child's meal, soda, etc.? Only to see what the reaction is, or maybe they don't like them, or for whatever reason they deem valid in their twisted little brains.

And, please make no mistake. There is no such thing as a false sense of security when dealing with a nut allergy. There is simple common sense that tells you, "If you do all you can to remove a harmful substance from your child's reach - then the chances of them ingesting said substance decrease."

And for those saying, "Tell them not ot eat it". I challenge you to set a plate of cookies laced with the poison of your choice in front of your child and tell them not to eat them. Leave them there for however long you like. Let's see just how comfortable and confident you are. Or, you could try not putting anything at all dangerous in them, but telling them THEY can't have them because of a potentially fatal reaction - then send other children in to eat them. I'm sure that's not confusing or hurtful at all for a little one.

And, Lorie - what exactly do you mean by backlash? What, are you going to rebel and send peanut butter to school with your child?

Please people, if eliminating nut products from a few meals a week out of simple courtesy is your biggest problem - you're doing better than most. You should be thankful its not you or your child at risk, and stop whinning about this issue.

By the way, my daughter has been tested so I'm not one of those crazy mothers some of you are assuming are out there.

Posted by: Patti at January 16, 2007 03:40 PM

I agree with lorie that "evicting" a plain bagel with cream cheese may be overkill, as long as lorie never sends unlabelled stuff like that for a shared treat for a class party. The really scary lunch foods are the ones that actually contain nuts. Seeing a child head for the drinking fountain after eating a peanut butter marshmallow square with his bare hands can make a parent pretty anxious. Our school only became "nut-aware" recently, before which I have had a son chased around the playground by a peanut butter sandwich weilding bully. Fortunately my son's friends caught wind of it and intervened before the kid could get too close to him.

On the other hand, that only happened once, and most of my children's classmates are VERY considerate. One even asked his mom, "is a plum pit like a nut? Because maybe I shouldn't take plums to school." Yes, he can take plums to school, but I will never forget the fact that he was thoughtful enough to ask.

As parents of kids with severe allergies, it can be pretty frightening how insensitive some parents can be. It makes me even more thankful for those who value the lives of all children.

Posted by: julie at January 17, 2007 12:59 PM

Thanks, Patti...

If those who complain about keeping peanuts (one of the most common and fatal of all food allergens) out of schools understood the imminent danger associated with peanut allergy, and they could imagine that their own children could be subject to such a danger, I highly suspect they would not be complaining but rather supporting efforts to ban peanuts and peanut products from schools.

Our son is almost three years old and we do everything we can to make him understand the danger with his allergy, but he's not even three yet and doesn't remember his first exposure. The first time we found out was after giving him a half of pea sized dab when he was around 14 months old. His face got all blotchy red, his eyes swelled shut and he seemed to be dizzy . We were extremely LUCKY that Benedryl cleared it up! The first exposure could be fatal and more than likely, we're told, each exposure would increase the risk and severity of exposure. He has been tested twice and was more allergic at his second testing this past fall.

Peanut Allergy is a Life or Death matter that lurks in pretty candy coated edibles, baked goods, chocolate, and countless other prepared foods. We do all we can to buy and prepare food that is safe for our son but until he is old enough to realize the danger, it does not seem like much to ask for folks to have some compassion for him and others like him. This is not an overblown anxiety.

If you are a non-smoker who believes or you have successfully quit because you believe what the surgeon general says regarding the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke, try to think of peanut allergy this way...

Peanuts and peanut products (as well as all products with new packaging requirements) are sold with "allergy warnings" that do nothing more than list common ingredients that people are allergic to. (Given this humble notice on packaging, I can understand why some folks do not respect it's potential harm.) Yet, instead of making a person sick over a longer period of time as most often the case with cigarettes, peanuts/peanut products could immediately cause anaphylaxis, making a person extremely sick, or could put a person into anaphylactic shock which "will usually lead to death in minutes if left untreated".

Exposure to peanuts can occur in three ways:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/peanut-allergy/DS00710/DSECTION=3

Most people with peanut allergy do not outgrow it, so please be sympathetic to the issue. I grew up loving peanut butter and knew nothing about peanut allergy until only a few years ago. I had no problem giving up the stuff. I wouldn't expect you (others) to give it, except for times that you are in a common environment where any ONE person (or more) could suffer.

Posted by: Dan O at February 10, 2007 11:12 PM

Even if there is One death in a school environment that is one death to many....
My son is ANAPHLATIC to a number of foods EGGS,PEANUTS and BERRY FRUITS are three that he has had to have the EPI-Pen and in two case was kept in hospital for a period of days due to the fact that he DID stop breathing. In one of those cases one of my friends had been eating a trail mix in the car and came to take my son out for afew hours, within minutes of getting in the car he went into shock. So don't tell me that Nut-breath, fumes or residue can't cause a problem

Posted by: Michelle at February 13, 2007 01:36 AM

Thank you Patti! You said what I have been afraid to say to the parents at our school. Very well put. I too, am very annoyed with the parents who are so inconvenienced by protecting a child's life. Hmmm, what could be more important than a life. Some people obviously don't understand and are not even trying to.

Here, here Michelle. Even one death is not worth the risk, but not everyone looks at it quite the same way we do.

People (including David in this blog) quote the stat's of how many deaths occur from an allergic reaction, but how about how many reactions occur that don't result in death, which could have been avoided? One in 5 reactions occur in school or day care settings. Isn't this more to the point?

Another statistic is that less than 20% of PA children will outgrow the allergy. That may be the case ONLY IF that child can strictly avoid the allergen and not have any kind of reaction or exposure for a very long period of time, how long I don't know, AND on many other factors. We have to take every precaution that our child will not be one of that 20%, that this is truly a lifetime allergy as it is for most PA people. I would like to keep the hope that my child might be one of that 20% and we are very diligent in helping him avoid any contact so that he can have that chance. Even if he doesn't outgrow it, the longer we can avoid contact that results in a reaction, perhaps the better chance he will have in the case of exposure that his reaction won't be life-threatening.

So based on this, we are not only avoiding a death resulting from a reaction, we are talking about avoiding a reaction altogether. Who knows when a simple reaction might become fatal - it is unpredictable. People need to get back to the core value of being a responsible member of the community helping each other to thrive -- and not be so self-centered. They also need to be more informed -- perhaps more open-minded when one of us "crazed" parents tries to help people to understand why we are so "neurotic."

My son was also tested officially after his first severe reaction, and is tested annually. Anyone who believes they may be at risk should be tested so they can take the necessary precautions. This isn't a guessing game. It's just not worth the risk.

Posted by: lapierson at February 18, 2007 09:28 PM

Since we are bringing up David's stats, I thought I'd mention that I followed up on them. According to the Food and Drug Administration, there are "new codes for reporting deaths from food-induced anaphylaxis (T78.0 and T78.1)" in ICD-10 from 1999. Notice that these are two codes, not just the one David mentions. The T78.1 number is 14, bringing the total to 24, not 10, for 2003. The FDA does note that reports show a lower number of food-related anaphylaxis deaths than expected, but allows that:

" * Death certificate data do not necessarily reflect all allergen-related deaths.
* The under-reporting may be associated with unfamiliarity of medical practitioners with the use of the ICD-10 classification system and the availability of the new codes."

For example, WHO lists
T78.2 Anaphylactic shock, unspecified
T78.4 Allergy, unspecified

The CDC gives numbers for these as 152 and 81 respectively. These codes are not supposed to reflect food allergy deaths, but unfamiliarity with the codes could result in inaccurate reporting.

In his book "Understanding Your Child's Food Allergies," Dr. Scott H. Sicherer (associate professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine), estimates "that in the United States more than thirty thousand episodes of food-induced anaphylaxis occur, and there are one hundred to two hundred deaths each year, including all age groups." He means for these numbers to be reassuring, in light of the number of childhood deaths due to injury...

The point is, the low mortality rates some people like to use to defend their "allergy-moms are neurotic" positions are not necessarily accurate. As we have seen on this blog, "rockongolddust woman" actually writes: "One death a year in the country from nut allergies" Some people like to invent their own statistics.

Posted by: julie at February 21, 2007 09:56 PM

I understand that this request makes life a little harder. I have a deadly tree-nut allergy that I have lived with for the last 25 years. Its hard and I do understand the schools point. I had an allergy attack were my throat closed while at an event with my children, I played a game where everyone holds hands. One of the children ate nuts and the oil was on there hands, I touched there hands, must have put my hand near my mouth and not too long after I couldn't breathe.
I wipe off the handle of my shopping cart in store before I push it, for the same reason.
I do think that is the school is asking you to send in nut-free snacks, than a list of approprite snack and brands should be given out and should have atleast 100 items for you to pick from.
All I can say is that if it were you or your child you would want the precautions taken. You would want other parents to be supportive of your situtation, feeling as though you may be sending your child into a death trap everyday is not easy.
I know people who home school, who will not let there kids attend camps all because of allergies. Its hard on the kids.
I remember never having a cupcake to celebrate a birthday in school, I still do not eat cake if I did not make it. I trust no one's kitchen but my own. Its not easy, and people do not understand when I do not eat their food, I have to explain over and over.
I agree with another post that says the parents are the problem, the children in classes are not bothered by thre request and are happy to help their classmates out with their allergy.
we need a more compassionate world, somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we lose a lot. things we were taught when we were 4 years old for some reason do not apply -- like no name calling, helping others, being kind and understanding, we lose a lot of good qualities.

Posted by: chellsea at March 26, 2007 10:48 PM

First up my son is anaphlylactic to milk, peanuts, eggs.

Let me just say that I have seen first hand in 3 different schools were they had a nut free policy and there were still nuts around. What was the worst was that the staff fell back on the policy and didnít even realise there were nuts around or take precautions to reduce risk because of this.

To those parents with kids that are going to a school which is peanut free, Iíd like to ask that you do yourself a favour and go to the school for a week and help out in the class, not just one day, but a whole week, and you will see I guarantee you nuts and nut based product coming into the environment with the potential to harm your child. And just see if the staff are even aware of it, or take precautions just in case like routine hand washing etc. I did this personally and was appalled at the results. The staff even brought in peanut based product for themselves.

All the anaphylaxis organisations donít condone nut free zones, and they are correct in doing so. You should ask yourself why they take this stance.

The answer is education of parents, staff and students, and putting into place checks and measures (like routing hand washing and clean up in the class, etc), and having a solid and easy to follow action plan (for emergencies).

Iíd like you also to think about the children that have other food allergies that you are discriminating against, like milk, eggs. Do you want to ban those as well?

I also believe that a school should sight and keep on record a doctors note from a qualified allergist that indicates that a child has been tested and found to have food induced anaphylaxis before implementing nut free zones.

Aaron

Posted by: Aaron at April 18, 2007 04:21 PM

I am a journalist writing about the "nut-wars" in American schools for the German popular science magazine "PM". Would you guys be willing to talk with me or email me your opinions about nutfree schools on the record?

Posted by: Nele Husmann at May 24, 2007 07:45 PM

My children are vegan and eat nuts as a protein source. Their summer camp just sent home notes that a child is allergic to peanuts and declaring camp a nut free zone. When I asked for more information about the allergy, I was told that the child was allergic only from ingesting peanuts, but they were still declaring it a nut free zone. The child that is allergic is going into 3rd grade. I would understand if the child had airborne allergies, but she doesn't. I feel like this is hysteria. Do people consider the effect of nut free zones on children who do not eat animal products? It seems like- no.

Posted by: alie at June 26, 2007 08:44 PM

I am the mother of a 8 year old girl who is SEVERLY , I repeat SEVERLY allergic to peanuts and
any tree nut of any kind, which there are many. She also has non life threating allergies to milk, eggs, cheese. When she was just 2 1/2 I brought her lunch to her that I prepared while I ate a pb cookie- which apparently some fell into her meal. Within the second/third bite of food she started crying hysterically and grabbing at her face.(This happened 5 1/2 years ago but I am reliving it like it was yesterday as I type) I being a "paranoid/norotic" mother anyway - which probably saved the life of my daugher rushed to the ER where by that time her
face looked like I had beaten her! Her eyes were
swollen shut, black and blue from the broken blood vessels due to how fast this reaction came on. I could live with the fact that she would look like the circus side show for a day or two, not as the grieving mother who would have lost her child if she had not been given the shot of epinephire. As we looked into sending our daughter to school and opted not to (partially due to the pure ignorance of school staff - in not wanting to change procedure!) I'm sure if it was the principals child the protical would have been revised) So anyway I home school her and am blessed to have the choice to do so. At least I "know" she is safe in my "peanut free home" I feel sorry for the uneducated people out there who think we "crazy" mothers/fathers are trying to change procedures. We just want the same thing you do- to watch our chilren grow up.... HEALTHY.
I explain it this way to the parents who just can't get the idea that the ingestion of a peanut can kill my daugher. If you had a child that was deadly allergic to bee stings- would you put them in a classroom/lunchroom if say there were two bees flying around in that room? What is the chances they would get stung??? Probably slim to none- I would not take the chance, would you?
In closing I just want to say I love my daughter and all those other "special" children out there.
Including the ones who are special and have no life threating illnesses/allergies.

Posted by: Leeann at July 6, 2007 12:08 AM

You can talk an comlin l yu want. When is your chid the ne in danger, youwill do averything yo can to protect herim. My daughter has a severe nut allergy we alredy had the tragic experience of almost losing her. She ate a tempura fish that the fisherman touch with gloves that he had use before touching a salmon with a filling with nuts. So believe it or not, it can happen. If you touch something with nuts you should really wash very well after if you don't want to kill a child like mine. Saddly teachers can't be carefull enogh, and kids are not responsable. It i safer to leave the nutsat home.

Posted by: Sonya Vantman at July 16, 2007 06:41 PM

David:

I feel so badly for your children who are growing up with a selfish father who can't take the safety of other CHILDREN seriously. Really...you're an asshole!

Posted by: brett harris at August 8, 2007 09:12 PM

I am absoultely outraged at some of the things I am reading. I am a mother of children that have severe food allergies and I am in support of a peanut-free school. Those of you that do not have children with food allergies should not even be able to comment. Unless you live with a food allergy day in and day out, you do not know what you are talking about. Would you want someone bringing a weapon to your child's school? Absolutely not. Anything with peanuts or tree nuts is a potentially life-threatening, real-life situation! It's not just about at lunch when a child is eating a peanut sandwich, but it's about what that child touches afterwards that is now a potential problem to the allergic child.

Posted by: Alison at August 16, 2007 09:50 PM

To the people for schools banning peanuts who are trying to compare someone with a peanut allergy to someone in a wheelchair....Accomodating someone in a wheelchair does not require EVERY SINGLE PERSON to make sacrifices. Usually it's just a few faculty members who make sure the kid can move around and go to the bathroom. As for the person who stated that bullies chased their kid around with peanuts, how will banning it solve this problem? Are the schools going to start bringing in police dogs every single day? The costs of that would be disgustingly high. I think it is time for the majority of people having to bend over for the sake of 1 person to come to an end. Expecting every single person in a 1000+ population to be able to avoid peanuts all the time is unrealistic and unreasonable. If you are so worried about your children, and if you realize that there really are selfish people out there, WHY WOULD YOU SEND THEM TO SCHOOL IN THE FIRST PLACE? Your children are never going to be normal, unfortunately, and there isn't much point in pretending. If it makes you feel any better, non allergic kids have to put up with lots of garbage too, such as children who come from families who are too poor to feed and clothe them properly, or from families who are mean to their kids and put them down or abuse them. Does EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the school change their lifestyle to accomodate these kids (who are in just as much danger), NOPE! By taking such extreme measures, all you are doing is ensuring that your child will face a lifetime of isolation and bullying from the other kids who will (unfortunately) view him as a freak. Get your kids EpiPens and teach them how to use it and avoid peanut products and be very careful of what they touch and what places they go to. That is the only way they will truly be free of peanuts.

Posted by: Basskiller at August 20, 2007 03:17 AM

Both of my sons are in nut-free classrooms this year, there are a few other forbidden foods too. Of course I'm going to do everything we can as a family to ensure that the allergic children in the classrooms stay healthy. I can't imagine how terrifying it would be to send your child into a potential death trap everyday. However, I have to admit to being off-put by the allergic child's parents in one of the classrooms who has an attitude that I have seen here in some of the postings.

It's an inconvenience, an inconvenience I'm more than happy to take on, but it's not as trivial as some are saying. It's been a huge education this week going through our pantry and store trying to figure out what's a potential problem. I had to look up pine nuts to figure out if they were tree nuts so I could know whether the leftover pesto could go to school. And it turns out that our favorite spaghetti sauce has a small amount of one of the other forbidden foods, our usual berry bars have peanut flour. And it's not just a few meals. It's 5 lunches a week, 10 snacks, and 5 breakfasts, unless I'm willing to bathe the kids after breakfast. Even dinner is involved because leftovers make such easy lunches.

We've got an ultra-strict classroom with no tree nuts of any kind or products with traces, check the labels every time you buy, bath after having any of the forbidden foods at home, no restaurant food.

Of course I'm willing to do it, and it feels good to know that our family could do a part to give these children as normal a childhood as possible. But the parents don't seem to have any concept that they're asking the other parents to completely examine their family's whole diet. It's alot bigger and more time consuming and more diet restrictive than a simple ban on pb sandwiches. It would be kind of nice if the parents understood what they were asking and then were maybe a little bit grateful. The attitude has been much like what I've read from some of the parents of allergic kids posting on this thread. Suggesting that a parent who packs a granola bar with peanut flour is equivalent to one who would pack an automatic weapon in their kids lunchbox.

I have a good friend who's son has a severe life-threatening reaction to eggs. She's always been so helpful in suggesting alternatives that would work easily for shared meals, baking, etc. It's always felt like a joy to accommodate her son. When I told her about the attitude of the parents in my child's class, she said, "Yeah, the nut-allergy people are like that. The rest of us know the parents would scream if we tried to eliminate eggs or dairy so we've learned to get along better."

Posted by: willing but confused at August 29, 2007 12:18 AM

My 7 year old daughter has life-threatening peanut allergy. It was discovered at 10 mos old when she had a saltine cracker and PB for her snack at daycare. Since then, her reactions have increased in severity. She now has reactions from smelling and touching peanut products. In fact, she had a reaction from smelling PB on a caregiver's breath when she was 18 mos old. In my daughter's case, and it may not be the case for all peanut allergic children, the severity of her reactions has increased with periodic exposure. According to section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, my daughter's anaphylactic food allergy meets the criteria for disability and requires federally funded agencies and organizations (public schools) to provide programs that are equal to those for students without disabilities. The main principles required under section 504 involve providing a free, appropriate public education - eligible students have the right to an education that is equal to that provided to students without disabilities; an evaluation is required before accomodations be made; the least restrictive environment for learning - as much as possible, eligible students may attend classes in regular classrooms and take part in school activities with children who do not have disabilities; and reasonable accomodations - students must receive opportunities that are comparable to those provided to children without disabilities. A section 504 accomodation plan is prepared by the school and is a legally binding agreement on the steps that the school will take to accomodate and safeguard the child with a disability under section 504. Each year, I have to provide medical documentation, to include her test results, illustrating that she still has the allergy. So, if a school agrees to a nut-free environment to accomodate a child with a life-threatening allergy, then they must comply or face legal consequences for not doing so. Maybe some of the parents who are so against the measures the schools must take should try putting themselves into the shoes of the parent with a child who has a life-threatening allergy. Most people with milk or egg allergies only have a problem with ingestion, not inhalation or absorption. The two most common life-threatening (anaphylactic) food allergies are nut and shellfish. Under the law, my child is entitled to the same education any child without allergies is entitled to and the school's must make accomodations to create a safe environment for her. If you don't like the laws, try to change them, but God forbid you ever have a child requiring accomodations due to a disability.

Posted by: Rachael at August 29, 2007 09:45 PM

Well said Rachael! And for "willing but confused" I'm so glad that you are "willing" to not have your child attempt to kill mine at school, sorry for the inconvenience it may cause you for my child to stay alive. Really, you people that are against a nut ban just don't get the seriousness and reality of a severe food allergy and you have obviously never seen someone experience a reaction. My 6 year old son is SEVERELY allergic to Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Peas, Eggs, and Garlic. He has had bad reactions from even touching eggs and suffered near fatal anaphylaxis from ingesting peas. He was 3 years old at the time, his face swelled up, he broke out in full body hives, started couching uncontrollably and gasping for breath and then got very dizzy as I was on the phone with 911 he nearly fainted several times, I had to inject him with his Epipen, and it saved his life. He had to spend several hours in the ER being monitored and to wait and see if the anaphylaxis would recur as sometimes happens. Then he had to take steroids for a week to get the symptoms to abate. Food allergies are very real and very dangerous, not just a nuisance for teachers and other children's parents. I suggest you get to know the families of the allergic students, maybe then you will finally see what they go through EVERYDAY just to stay alive.

Posted by: wonroseshy at August 31, 2007 12:36 AM

My 5 year-old-graddaughter lives in Berea, Ohio, and is extremely allergic to peanuts and eggs (per her allergist) and must avoid any contact with them - requiring others around her to wash hands when coming into her home (or classroom as the case may be) and not eating any foods or foods that contain eggs and peanuts around her. The school would also have to make certain that the children wash their hands after eating and that my granddaughter eat her lunch in a place where she doesn't feel ostrasized but isn't next to some child with a pj sandwich. Also no egg or peanut school materials eg making something out of egg cartons. Because the public school system will not accept the above conditions, she is being home schooled which to me flies in the face of Brown vs. Kansas 1954(?) where separate education is not equal and therefore unconstitutional. Anyone out there with some thought, ideas, etc. on the above - how to keep my granddaughter safe and give her the public school education she is entitled to by law. Thank you, Pat

Posted by: Pat at September 3, 2007 09:40 AM

As a parent, i understand the reasons for making campuses peanut-free, with no nuts or nut products being served. I also understand that for special events, in which children share a common snack, the snack or meal should follow the guidelines set forth by the school. What I don't understand is how a snack that does not contain nuts but is prepared in a facility that processes nuts--containing what one could only imagine would be an infintesimal amount of nut, if any--would pose any danger to an allergic child who is not eating the food. How could this iota, if it indeed exists, somehow create dust and become airborne. The statistical odds are off-the-charts remote. This, I believe, is what endangers ultimately the cause of those advocating for their allergic children. This lack of logic is so frustrating that it's hard to listen to the overall argument.

Posted by: christina at September 3, 2007 05:50 PM

Christina,
I am a parent of a child who has a severe peanut and tree nut allergy, as well as some other allergies. What the peanut allergic child is allergic to is the peanut protein. This peanut protein is microscopic - it cannot be seen by the human eye. This microscopic peanut protein could cause a potential fatal reaction of a peanut allergic child. As you said, there are foods that do not contain peanuts or tree nuts however the facility that processes these foods could also process other foods that do contain peanuts and/or tree nuts. This is called cross-contamination - something that is very dangerous to an allergic child. It needs to be treated as if it does contain a peanut or tree nut to ensure the saftey of the allergic child.
The bottom line is that I want to keep my child safe - and if it is a food that she cannot eat because of her allergy (and her school is nut-free) then that food that is processed in a facility that processes peanuts, etc. should not be served.

Posted by: Alison at September 7, 2007 09:54 PM

i am dumbfounded by these ridiculous statements! wow!! first off, no one addressed the original blogger who said that he was offended by those "pretending" to have a peanut allergy. excuse me, but who on EARTH would pretend that their child has a peanut allergy? why?? so they can sit at a separate table than their peers, be excluded from classroom snacks/festivities and generally ostracized??? COME ON! parents who say their children are allergic have allergic children, period. no one can qualify at any time how allergic someone is, which is why, when you are first diagnosed at the allergist, you are prescribed an epi pen, end of story.

basskiller ... peanuts kill some people. you are right, you cannot compare this to other "disabilities" that do not have life-threatening potential. and why do parents want to send their kids to school in the first place? BECAUSE IT'S THEIR RIGHT! we all pay taxes, right??!! how would bullies wielding pb sandwiches be stopped, you ask? it's a NUT FREE SCHOOL! at least if they go ahead and bring it in anyway, they're violating a school law and can be dealt with in a more appropriate fashion.

willing and confused, i'd say you're more confused than willing. confused in your position on the whole thing, that is. it's like you want to come off being all politically correct and empathetic, but it just doesn't work. at first i thought wonroseshy was being a little hard on you, but when i reread your post i saw how ludicrous it was. how would the parents of allergic children NOT KNOW what they are asking of you? they have to do that kind of label reading EVERY SECOND OF EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY! oh jeez, how on EARTH would they know what poor little ol' you has to go through?! and can you explain how they should show their gratitude to such a loving and caring person as yourself? maybe offer to do your grocery shopping or make your kids' lunch for a week?? they're too busy dealing with the day to day stresses and fears of this allergy to worry about showing you their appreciation, although you can be certain that they appreciate any help they can get in keeping their kid alive.

my daughter was recently diagnosed with peanut allergy, but is not school age yet. wow, i can't wait until i have to deal with you guys!!

Posted by: thisiswhats wrongwithusa at October 2, 2007 06:35 PM

Hoo boy. Cover story of Newsweek this week "Kids and the Growing Food Allergy Threat." Maybe there is some new research that shows how food allergies are growing?

http://www.newsweek.com/id/62296

Nope. It's Sampson again, not with new research, but enthusiastically providing interviews about the same old phone survey article about how in 2002 twice as many parents believed their kids to have peanut allergies as in 1997.

The summary of all this? 'The quest for a solution is more urgent than ever.' "We're desperate," says Sampson...

Desperation seems to be a defining trait for Dr. Sampson. Along with availability for a good interview.

Still I find it interesting that:

1. After all these years, there isn't better research about whether there is actually a "growing epidemic" of allergies or not. If busy peanut researchers are desparate for answers, why are we all still hanging our hat on a statistically noisy (and methodologically suspect) 2002 phone survey? We know that self-reported allergies can be 4x higher than reality. So what is really going on?

2. We also do not know if banning peanuts actually helps anybody. FAAN warns that bans can lead to a false sense of security and may actually increase risk. And Sampson suggests that peanut allergies may be caused in the first place by too-little exposure to peanuts in childhood. So here is a serious question: by scrubbing all our schools of peanuts are we actually causing more peanut allergies?

One thing seems clear: nobody knows.

Hysterical magazine covers and hyperventilating PTA members give me a sense that better answers won't be coming soon. The temptation of hucksterism seems too great. Preschool peanut bans are the SUV-driving suburban versions of megavitamins, magnet therapy, ginseng, and feng-shui.

There is a class of practitioners who profit off of fear, naivete, and powerlessness. And they find there is little need to show actual results.

But after coming back here to read the comments, perhaps I am only one on the planet who feels this way about peanuts?

Posted by: David at November 1, 2007 05:02 PM

My daughter has a severe peanut allergy and has been tested repeatedly to ensure a correct diagnosis. The next time she has an allergic reaction from being exposed to a peanut product I will have someone take pictures or a video so everyone who doesn't believe in peanut allergies can see just what she goes through. When you see her body covered by red hives on top of hives, raised an inch or more off her skin , you can say it is just our imagination, when her face is twice it's size and her eyes are completely swollen shut, then you can say we are just being paranoid, when you see her fight to breath as we try to administer the epi-pen into her thigh, then you can say she is simply fooling. How dare any of you judge my daughter and say that her life threatening allergy is false! All schools have a duty to protect children while they are at school. Every child deserves a safe school environment. With all that is wrong with this world is it really such a big deal to ask another child to wait until they get home to have a peanut sandwich? If you could save my daughter's life by not packing that PB&J, is it really such an inconvenience? Some people are hypersensitive to peanut products. It is a fact of life that my daughter and our family live with everyday. Please find something better to complain about!

Posted by: Diane at November 9, 2007 10:32 AM

David,

You are not alone. I absolutely agree that this HAS become a hysteria. It is impossible to create a bubble for everyone who has a disability or allergy or sensitivity to something or anything. I have one child with no allergies and I have one child with SEVERE peanut allergies. Our childs life is not worth sending her to school. I'm not willing to risk it and I'm not willing to infringe upon everyones rights just to accommodate us. We are the ones with the disability and we will adjust to it.

You CANNOT accommodate everything everyone has that may be fatal. Otherwise, we need to start a ban on autos, pools, all toys, stairs, streets, animals, outside play, inside play, cooking, etc. Where does it end?

To those of you who will bash this opinion that is o.k. I LIVE this disability every day of my life too. It doesn't make us warranted of total control of who eats what and when. This is NOT a selfish act by those parents who are against the peanut ban. They are angry as am I. It isn't simply that parents are pissed off because there kids can't have a PB & J. It isn't a little inconvenience for a child's life. If your childs life is worth that much pull them out of school!! You do have options and choices and freedoms.

But, David those of us that are against the peanut ban... what can we do?

Posted by: kpar at December 2, 2007 11:22 PM

I don't usually comment on blogs, but while researching foods to serve at my daughter's birthday party because of an allergic nephew, I stumbled upon these comments, and I have to say, the overall vibe I get from the parents of the allergic kids is not one of fear or concern, it is one of anger and jealously. I believe that a parent who would knowlingly put another child at risk for a simple inconveinance would be the rare exeception rather than the rule, so for those of you that are attacking people like "willing but confused" aren't expressing any kind of rational opinion.
I understand that you have to deal with a complicated, scary situation, and it isn't easy to send your child out into a world that you can't trust. My question to you would be, why do you think you are different from any other parent? Do you think it is easy for any of us to release our children from the protection of our own arms and put them in a school where their teacher might be a sexual predator, or put them on a bus with a guy who may have been drinking, or to a school where a child that has been bullied decides to strike back with violence. As an adult, I know that everytime I get in my car, it's a risk. Does that mean I have the right to request that everyone else stay off the road until I'm done using it?
And you don't even request that the world adapt to you, you demand it, and then fail to see why some feel you may be irrational.
But what bothers me most, is that most of the parents of the "severe allergy" kids don't come off sounding fearful or concerned, they sound pissed. Angry that not everyone has to struggle with the allergy. A mother at my son's preschool actually told me she wished every parent had a allergic child so that they would know what she was going through.
My dearest friend's young daughter is fighting a fatal disease, and it is obviously very hard on her and her family and friends. She is troubled not only by the fear of death, but by the certainty of it. And of course she is angry about the situation, and sad, and scared, but she would never in a million years wish that another parent should have to experience what she deals with every day.
Basically, I have two points for you to consider. Every breath, every step you take, in your home or out the door, every second of every day is a risk, and you cannot protect yourself or the people you love from harm, even if you think it should be preventable. It's just not realistic.
Secondly, by being angry about something you can't control, and trying to force the rest of the world to participate in your misery, you are doing your children more damage than wayward pbj residue ever could. You are setting them up for a lifetime of complacency and bitterness. You are teaching them that "it's not fair" is a viable complaint, and reasonable excuse to not try. I know when kids are young you can't expect them to take care of something as serious as you describe, but by pushing the problem off on other people (no matter how unfair your situation is) isn't setting the foundation that will keep them confident and in charge of themselves in the future. Instead, you are teaching them to be the adults that think that everyone else will look out for them. "It's not fair! The car salesmen told me the car was reliable" he'll say when the mechanic hands him the bill. "It's not fair that I'm bankrupt! The bank shouldn't have let me borrow money I couldn't repay" she'll complain when her mortgage rates jump. "It's not fair that I'm fat. Someone should make fast food illegal!" he'll say when the doctor tells him to loose weight.

If I suspected that there was something in my son's school that could possibly kill him, he wouldn't go. Period. As he got older, I would teach him to be in control of the situation, to question everything he was handed, to love and respect himself enough that he take care in how he treats his body. That his situation isn't something to be singled-out and made known to the world, that he wasn't different or weird. (To me sometime's it feels that we are so desperate for our kids to be extraordinary that we will even consider a rare medical condition some twisted badge of honor- to the kid it just makes him feel ostracized and freakish).

I'm not saying that I don't sympathize with what you have to go through. I'm sure it is horrifying, but think of what you are asking. In order to be "fair" to you, and to make life seem "fair" to your child, you are asking everyone else to experience the same struggles and inconviences that you do, that everyone else be "punished" because their children don't have the allergy. Why not take the noble path? Instead of telling your child that he is different and should spend his life being scared, distrustful and complancent, teach him to be in strong and in control, that his allergy isn't different and tragic, but that it is just something he has to deal with. Be an example of stregth, wisdom, nobility, love and compassion for other people, even if they are in a position of privilege. Don't teach him to be bitter and angry about his lot in life.

Posted by: viki231 at January 16, 2008 03:25 PM

I came back to check the blog after leaving it alone for some time and I just can't keep my mouth shut. This is the only blog I've ever participated in and it still disturbs me that people can be so self-absorbed. I guess most people today truly don't want to be inconvenienced for anyone else, even when it could mean saving a life. Disturbing!

I think you do sympathize, however, it's too bad that you really don't understand the situation and what we (in general) are "angry" about. It's not "jealousy" or anger at what we can't control, and ultimately it's not really wishing others to be afflicted (that may have been said as a point that people need to "walk in their shoes" to truly understand). It's anger at those who refuse to try to understand it and "pissed" at those who think it's annoying to be asked not to send PB to school or to wash their hands and face after they had a peanut snack. It's selfishness to demand choice for PB when there are other options they refuse to consider which would reduce the risk for pa children. It's not about "fairness". You must have an issue about life not being fair -- you're being ridiculous. I hear you saying "It's not fair to expect our kids to give up our precious PB&J." Our pa children don't choose to have a reaction when faced with exposure -- they may not even know they've had a peanut exposure if the facilities weren't appropriately cleaned. Ingestion can be avoided by watching out for himself, however, there are MANY instances where exposure can happen accidentally which can be avoided by simple awareness and peanut free rules at school.

It really isn't much to ask for us to take care of each other. Like you say, it is a "simple inconvenience" so it really shouldn't be that big of a deal, right? That is what social responsibility is about. I guess our society has lost that. Those of us who have peanut allergic (or other food allergies) family members would do anything we could to help them avoid the allergen, because it's not only compassionate, it's also responsible to do so and because he/she should not HAVE to do it alone.

Schools have the responsibility to protect our children -- its unreasonable to expect that an allergic child should be kept home and "separated" from his peers when that child has as much right to public schooling as yours does. Why don't you keep your child home if he wants a pb&J sandwich that day? That would be ridiculous too. Check out the scary everyday things that are life threatening risks that could happen at any time. The PA person cannot stop living and stay at home all the time -- we all weigh the risks on an individual basis every day. Would you put your child in front of a baseball bat so he could possibly get hit in the head? No, that's obvious. So asking the schools to be peanut free for just 6 hours of a day at school helps our peanut allergic children stay free from such a HIT that can be life threatening, that's obvious to some of us too.

Yes, there are many things that can cause injury or even death that we cannot control. Peanut-Free zones for a very small portion of a pa childs day could mean saving his life. That is controllable. Furthermore, despite what some people believe, it does not create an false sense of security. The pa child, families and trained caregivers are always aware of the dangers. That wouldn't go away in a safer environment; it would mean that the risks of actual exposure are reduced.

The PA child is constantly reminded to look out for himself, to do all the things you suggest. A child also needs others to look out for him. There are just too many what-ifs that the young pa child cannot possibly understand or remember. Adults SHOULD be looking out for him, parents & teachers alike. Younger kids are very understanding when asked to take care of each other. They learn from their parents about tolerating peoples differences, and they learn from their parents that it's ok to complain about not having their "choice" at noon. This is where they learn to blame the pa child too. Our society is all about complaining and placing blame. Lets go back to social responsibility.

We should all look out for one another on a daily basis, whenever we can. That goes for life threatening instances. It's not about asking others to share our misery or to "punish" everyone else. It's a simple inconvenience, yes, and we do understand what we are asking, and we appreciate those who help us keep our children safe. Asking others for help is not weak, it's not stupid, and its not avoiding our own responsibilities. It IS out of love and compassion for fellow human beings that we ask others to help us protect our children, as we would yours.

I challenge YOU to be noble with love and compassion, using your adult wisdom and strength to look out for others -- don't send pb and peanut products to school. Help your children understand differences, and tolerate a little inconvenience. God loves each and every one of us; He has a special purpose for each of us. We are not alone in this world -- He intended for us to look after one another.

Posted by: Disturbed at May 22, 2008 06:30 PM

The study being refered to here is being misrepresented as reflective of all of society. It is one study about teens and does not reflect what is going on today with infants, toddlers and elementary school children. If you are familiar with research -you know that that would be a really inappropriate leap. When we are agitated sometimes we can get an idea and erroneously run with it because it supports what we want to believe is correct.

Another thing to remember - is that people who have anaphylactic reactions do not always die from them- thank God for epi pens and ER nurses and doctors.

The number of anaphylactic reactions are unfortunately very large- just in the circle of people I've encountered in the past 6 months-year -I know of 4 adults and and 5 children under 5 whose throats close up and can not breath if they are exposed to nuts. And I don't travel in a nut free crowd.

My daughter also tested positive to peanuts and tree nuts. Prior to this test I was willing to give up nuts in public settings for the health and safety of other people. Sunflower seed utter is supposed to be a good alternative.

I know it is scary and frustrating - my hope is that love and compassion for our neighbors will direct our choices -especially on this one.

Posted by: Grace at September 18, 2008 12:25 PM

I am really shocked that in this day and age people really even argue the point of existence of such food allergies... Are you kidding me? Do you think we would even discuss such an affliction if it did not exist??? What person in the world do you know enjoys discussing the potential loss of their childís or own life??? Yes, I hope all the people above who judge and dare point fingers remarking this information is inflammatory scare tactics never watches a child or adult go through this most heart wrenching seconds of battle with death. I hope and pray you never come to pass this event. Shame on you for dismissing and mocking those of us that suffer with such battles for breath and life because of something so small and insignificant as a nut. Shame on you!

Think of us and our children the next time your water goes down the wrong pipe and you are able to clear it without epinephrine jammed in your leg and a trip to the emergency room. Yes, that happens in a split second but you are able to clear your throat for a clear breath while we are not and for some of us it becomes our last.

May we all have courage to stand up and be heard so we and our children can draw another breath and save another personís life by the act of nut awareness and understanding of food allergies.

Posted by: Gail at October 2, 2008 10:06 PM

My 5th grader has a life threatening allergy to tree nuts/peanuts and has a 504 Plan. In fact, he just had a skin test to test for the severity of exposure and his throat began to swell, so they had to remove all test items from his back. This is a dangerous allergy and nothing to jack with.

I have been successful getting our school district to be "peanut-free" for the elementary schools and working now on getting the entire district to be peanut free, including parents brining in peanut food items, esp for the risk factors of cross-contamination. Good links below to share with the uninformed about this allergy:

http://www.drpaul.com/library/08SEP2000.html
http://foodallergies.about.com/od/adultfoodallergies/i/504planprocon.htm
http://www.peanutaware.com/school_tips.html
http://www.foodallergy.org/school.html
http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/faan/27010/docs/TeenStudy.pdf
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/23019/peanut_allergies_can_be_deadly.html?cat=5

Posted by: KE at November 12, 2008 06:19 PM

My dad was right when he said that kids today have it too soft. That was over 30 years ago and today I am 42.

We live in a society that it predicated on fear and then we reinforce this in our children by allowing this kind of irrational behavior to occur in our schools. People need to get a grip and quit being a bunch of sissies.

Posted by: Layne at January 5, 2009 07:11 AM

WOW ..What a world.....You are so right, lets punish the innocent. Your child can't live w/o their PB&J at school RIGHT? My 5 yr old is so allergic to tree nuts that she reacted from walking by the nut stand at the mall. I have to have her Epi pen handy 24/7. God blessed your children w/ health. This should make you happy and not bitter. You and likely the intollerant children you will raise is what is wrong w/ society. Do you begrudge the handicap people of the world their parking spaces too?....After all , they have wheels to get around on and poor you has to use your 2 feet.=(

Posted by: SAD at January 7, 2009 10:23 PM

Does anyone have a lawyer knowledgeable about what the law is for schools and food allergies?

Laurie

Posted by: Laurie at January 15, 2009 09:22 PM

There are laws

Posted by: ruby at September 9, 2009 11:27 PM

I am amazed at what nut allergic parents think they can morally demand from others.
It especially shocks the conscience that they think they can demand that other parents go through the expense of avoiding traces of nuts.
The ADA only requires REASONABLE accommodations. Especially demanding avoidance on the part of parents of all traces of nuts is not a reasonable accommodation.
All this talk of social responsibility is simply beside the point. Asking others for help is massively different than COERCING others into helping. Mandating such inconvenient measures on the part of others tells the child (remember, he/she is in the minority) that he/she is the center of the universe. That is one of the worst lessons one can teach a child.
The fact is that if a child's allergy is that severe, he/she must be homeschooled and socialized with other nut allergy children. I would even support taxpayer assistance for that.

Posted by: Mike at September 17, 2009 05:51 PM

All im after is some advice on what I can put into my childs lunchbox 4 snacks as he is in a nutfree classroom. He is not nut allergic, but I would like to be aware for the sake of other children. As before school went back I bought groceries that read on labels may contain traces of nuts? Any help would be greatly appreciated
Thanks Toni - South Ausralia

Posted by: Toni Courtenay-Ralph at January 30, 2010 12:45 AM

Personally, I am severely allergic to peanuts/nuts. At the age of 12, I'm looking to travel out of the house to a summer camp but can't find one that suits me. If anyone knows a camp that would work please tell me.

Posted by: Lauren at April 30, 2010 08:53 PM

"In the hierarchy of lethal childhood risks, peanut allergies rank far lower than other hazards: 29 children die boarding their school bus annually; 250 die annually in the backyard pool. I eagerly await the school note banning pools."

You have no idea what you are talking about. Is it hypochondria when you watch a family member swell up like a balloon after eating peanuts? Is it hypochondria when one of your student's nearly dies after being exposed to peanuts and has to be rushed to the ER becuse their airways are swelling shut? You should be careful with your hatred, because allegies can hit anyone at anytime and any age. I pray that your kids don't develop allergies because you'll be singing a different song then.
Those kids are innocent and just want a somewhat normal life; they shouldn't have to be afraid of going to school and dying.

Posted by: liz at March 29, 2011 03:46 PM

Additionally, it's not just about the smell. It's about the trace elements and oils that are left behind.

"Peanut allergies are dangerous, but life is dangerous. And if administrators and lawyers and parents are worried about rank danger, as I have mentioned before, we would be far better off banning bus stops and swimming pools before worrying about the smell of peanuts."

You are talking about something you clearly don't understand and your punishing kids because of it.

Posted by: liz at March 29, 2011 03:53 PM

http://christakis.med.harvard.edu/pdf/publications/misc/023.pdf

Posted by: David at March 31, 2011 08:18 AM

peanuts=gun??? maybe to the nut allergic kids it is, but not to the rest of the world. Peanuts are a cheap and wholesome item to eat and it is yummy. So to say if a parent send his/her child in school with nut products or products with traces of nuts equals to sending him/her in with a gun, that is just ridiculous. My husband is super allergic to bee sting.. So do I petition my town to kill all bees, since they are just flying loaded gun?

My kids loves nuts, but they go to preschool which maintain a nut-free environment. Which I found reasonable, yet very inconvenient for us. My younger one doesn't eat eggs, meat (including coldcuts), or cheese or tofu, etc... Nuts are the only protein product he loves. And he has been always about 20% on weight since he was born, so giving him a balanced meal is my most concern. Sending him to the nut-free school, pretty much eliminated most of my lunch option, which will be pb&J. But I adpat as much as I can. And hope feeding him a solid dinner will balance things out for him.

What I can't stand is the attitude some of the parents whose kids are allergic to nuts. Read the above post. Some made it sounds like it is god's given right that the ban at the school should be enforced. It is YOUR kids... don't mean to be rude or insensitive. But what that has to do with me? I don't have the obligation to your children. I know it is unfortunate that your family has this situation. And I can be supportive or sympathetic...which I have been. But it is NOT required I am being nice. I think at least what effort I made to accomodate nut-allergic children should be appreciated (I don't need thank you note, just the attitude), but not demanded. I understand your life is complicated and tough having to live with nut-allergy. But I didn't cause it and it is YOUR problem. I know I should think what if my children have it, but the reality is they don't. But my family has our share of worries and issues, do I ask you to chip in on those? For those to say: you only give up one meal a weekday, and we have to do it everyday. Kids have about 2 snacks and 3 meals a day. So total 5 times 7 days a week =35. Give up the 2 snacks and 1 lunch at school for 5 days is 15 eating time. 15/35 about over 40% of the time. that is a LOT to adjust to an issue that is NOT MINE!.

Posted by: Lee at July 13, 2011 08:27 AM
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