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September 08, 2011

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Thank you for this. My youngest daughter lives with a life threatening nut allergy. Each day when she steps in the classroom her life is at risk. It's as simple as that.

There's a difference between an 'intolerance' and a 'life threatening allergy'. Upset tummy/bad allergies vs dead child potential. Parents who don't get this, I just don't understand them. They just strike me as incredibly selfish and more focused on convenience than the safety and well being and continued life of other people's children.

I've always been sympathetic to allergies in other people's children, especially those that can be life threatening. I hope I've developed good karma over it; just last week we discovered my youngest might have a nut alelrgy. It's a terrifying thought which may now be reality.

This is a tough one.

As the parent of a child with food allergies, I can understand both sides of the debate. However, I don't think the answer is to make other parents and children responsible for the safety and welfare of your own, allergic child. Because essentially, that is what we're doing when we insist that a school become nut free/dairy free, etc.

My child is 4 years old, and is well aware of her allergies. Everyone close to us is also well aware of her allergies. Yet, I don't expect her school to request that every other student change their lives to accomodate her allergies. I think doing that almost creates a false sense of security for my child, which to me, is dangerous. The reality is, when I'm not around, she is going to have to be alert and aware of what she is eating. Period.

That being said, I am all for schools being aware of what kids are allergic to and insisting on hand washing and even a "nut/dairy" table. I am even in agreeance with items which will be shared (cupcakes for a birthday) being nut/dairy free. But anything other than that, I'm not sure I agree with.

I agree that school should be safe for children who are not old enough to really know how to protect themselves, but there are other kids to consider as well. Our school didn't allow nuts of any kind. We weren't allergic to nuts, but we did eat raw and vegan for health reasons beyond weight. This means we ate nut butters - almond and peanut - and did have frequent nut and seed snacks. Try making a nut-free, dairy-free, meat-free, gluten-free, raw and vegan lunch for a kid who is opposed to carrot and celery sticks! We didn't get much help from the school, and it was very difficult to keep my son fed with enough calories to sustain him. That's when the peanut thing started to bug me. There are other people in these schools, and if a strict hand-washing regimen or a "nut table" can be the solution to allowing some kids to come to lunch with nut sandwiches or snacks, then there should be allowances made. I ended up sending sandwiches with sunflower seed butter (not his favorite, but I tried to cover it with lots of jam), and every time I sent it, all the kids were sent home with a "general notice" that peanut butter wasn't allowed, until I finally sent a note with his lunch that it was SUNFLOWER seed butter, and seeds are not the same as nuts and therefore my son should be allowed to eat his own lunch. There has to be some give for other people with other health considerations as well.

I agree with many of your other posters that there needs to be a balance of personal responsibility and collective compassion, within reasonable limits. There certainly are people for whom contact with peanut products can cause anaphylaxis, and a smaller number for whom airborne exposure can cause the same (I know a child who's had reactions to the lingering odour of fish in a home she visited, for example). OTOH, there are probably far more people with a minor intolerance of certain foods (many legitimate, causing GI upset, etc ... but some that are perhaps more anxiety/preference-based), and I suspect most of the "angry" comments come from people who've only met one of these folks, not someone with true anaphylaxis.

Guidelines should also be based on the best available evidence/scientific data. For example, it's my understanding that peanuts are actually *legumes*, not nuts, so insisting that a school be free of all nut products really isn't a logical response to a peanut allergy. And I've never heard of an airborne allergy to dairy products, so making a school dairy-free also doesn't make much sense. I like the reverse-policy others have mentioned of having a "nut table" (instead of nut-free table), so those who are consuming potential allergens can be more closely supervised (to ensure handwashing, etc), as long as the child in question isn't one of the rare kids with reactions to airborne exposures.

Finally, I wanted to comment on the "just eat bologna" suggestion - bologna is made from the remnants of factory-farmed meat (and it's a well-documented fact that eating more than 2 servings/week of red meat dramatically increases the risk for bowel cancer, heart disease, and various other diseases), massive amounts of salt (more than the total daily recommended intake for a small kid), and preservatives of various sorts ... so it's not something I'd be encouraging kids to eat on a daily basis.

Nothing like a good divisive argument to really show who sees the world in black & white: either you're "empathetic" or you're "an asshole." I think there is a lot of grey area in between those two.

I am not angry, per se, about my son's nut-free kindergarten, after two years of nut-free preschool. But I am annoyed. Preschool was private, so I essentially agreed to it when we signed up. But kindergarten is public, and we didn't know about it until after the first day. I might have requested that he not be in the nut-free class. He finally likes peanut butter after a period of thinking he was allergic to it, because it seemed no one he knew was allowed to eat it. So he concluded he must be allergic too.

But it's not just the PB&J sandwiches and the peanut M&Ms. (really?) It's almost every single other packaged snack that either "may contain traces of nuts" or was processed in a facility that also processes nut products. So yes, I can pack a cheese sandwich for lunch. But no trail mix, no granola bars, no kids' Clif bars, no goldfish, no many other kinds of crackers & snacks.

That's when it becomes annoying. Which is part of the grey area before anger. Does this make me an asshole? Maybe. It also makes me honest. But if you think that, then maybe you're being just as judgmental as everyone else.

Thank you for this.

There are lots of days that I wish with all my heart that my child didn't have to face the world with food allergies. I'm scared of getting "that" call from preschool and scared of when she's old enough to go to birthday parties and playdates by herself and I can't be there to help her know if the food around her is safe. We're all scared to some degree about sending our kids out into the world without our guidance, but parents of food-allergic kids (kids with other medical conditions or disabilities, too) get an extra helping of it. On the better days, I'm thankful that my daughter will grow up with an extra dose of compassion and understanding about the needs of other people because of this whole experience. And I'm thankful that for all the parents out there who throw a fit for their child's "right" to eat peanut butter, there seem to be an equal number like you who just want all of our kids to be safe.

So thank you.

My youngest has a peanut free classroom this year, which means no peanut snacks but peanut butter sandwiches for lunch are ok if they are wrapped up separately from the snacks. Snacks are eaten in the classroom. Also there this rigorous hand washing thing they have to do at the beginning of the day and after lunch & snack. And people are complaining.

About what? Their kid has to wash their hands? They have to have animal crackers or goldfish or god forbid an apple or carrots rather than peanut M&Ms for snack time?

@Melissa -

My daughter was injured last year at school at the hands of a professional. It cost us THOUSANDS of dollars to care for her medically as a result of her injury. It could have been prevented had the professional in question taken the time to investigate what my daughter's individual situation was. When my daughter spoke up and said, "uh, my situation is a little different," the woman blew her off.

When we started communicating with the entity whose responsibility it was, this woman turned it back on my kid and tried to say that my daughter didn't stop the situation and therefore she (the professional) was not at fault.

She was 8. According to this person's logic, my EIGHT year old daughter was expected to stand up to an adult telling her what to do, which my daughter actually did. The professional ignored her.

You say that the school's job is not to keep kids safe. By that logic, children who are physically harmed by another student - or worse, a teacher or other school professional - are not to be protected and the perpetrator is not to be disciplined because "it's not the school's job."

I deliver my daughter daily to a school with the *reasonable* expectation that her health and well-being will be at the very least guarded. It's why we have such laws as the Rehab Act of 1973 and ADA. They are in place to help protect the children, among others, rights.

A child with a peanut allergy has the right to an educational environment where they are not one step away from death at any given moment.

It's kind of strange how people equate eating peanut butter with somehow being American. I personally do not like peanut butter, I can't stand even the smell of it but I'm not allergic, nor thankfully are my kids. But when that subject has occasionally come up, people almost look offended and I've been told by multiple people on different occasions "What? That's un-American to not like peanut butter!"
My kids' school is not nut-free but individual classrooms can be, depending on if there is an allergic child in the class. I have no problem making sure my child doesn't bring nut-type snacks, or really any kind of snack if there was a chance another child in the class could get sick from it. It's kind of mind-boggling that other parents could have an problem with that, I really don't get it.

I'm not sure if this has already been mentioned in these many comments, but did you hear about the 26yo woman in Israel who died after being served Nutella on her Belgiun waffle---that was after asking "does this have nuts in it?" and telling the waitstaff that she could die if it had any nuts in it. She was told it was safe and it wasn't.

If a 26yo woman who knew what to watch out for & knew what questions to ask could still unwittingly consume an allergen, how can we expect our little children to "watch out for peanuts" and trust that the adults will know what to look out for? When my daughter was still allergic to milk, I explained this to the waitstaff only to have her plain pasta delivered with parmesan cheese sprinkled all over the top. We've had meat sent to the table with a pat of butter melting on the top. Oy.

It's frustrating, and even worse when parents "demand" their kids have the "right" to eat peanut butter in school. Are you kidding? Let them eat peanut butter for breakfast and dinner (at home), if they are that addicted.

My son is allergic to dairy, egg, nuts and shrimp. He suffers for it. He can't participate in some projects or eat the food provided at most birthday parties. He is 7. Of course I am teaching him to protect himself and he knows not to share anyone elses food. However, I do expect the classroom to be free of nuts.

I can't realistically believe the cafeteria to be safe since most parents don't check labels or are aware of the dangers of cross contamination - no matter how nut-free the policy may be. But in the classroom, where he learns and where food is NOT necessary, he should be and feel safe.

BTW- At his school there is a nut table. Anyone bringing peanut butter sandwiches must sit at that table. Imagine that, not making a child who lives his or her whole life being denied things being made to feel like a pariah.

The anger from these posters amazes me. Count your blessings and remember these are children. This is not a punishiment or a lifestyle choice and they suffer more then you can imagine. They deserve only compassion and kindness.

Melissa- Of course the world is not a safe place for people with allergies. But these are children, not adults. Children who want to play and have fun with friends and learn. Not constantly be afraid of what they are touching, what the people around them have been eating, or just being afraid in general of having a reaction. This is where we step in. We worry for them and look out for them, so they don't have to. This isn't so much about peanuts as it is about our need to stop living in such self-centered little bubbles, and start living as a community that looks out for one another. THAT is what we need to be teaching our children.

And as someone else was saying earlier, if it was a life-threatening allergy to garlic, should we make schools garlic-free? If it means a child can go and learn and grown with their peers, then YES. ABSOLUTELY.

I'm all for a peanut free classroom for a child that has a LIFE THREATENING allergy. And I agree with a peanut free table in every school cafeteria. And YES to the handwashing. These precautions seem necessary...especially at the lower elementary level when kids are likely to make mistakes. However, there has to be middle ground and I do not agree with a nut-free school. If our school contemplated going nut free, I would most definitely fight it. Asking an entire school to accomodate the one or two kids with an allergy sounds more like entitlement to me. Not the other way around. Because if your kid came home and said the entire school was no longer allowed to have recess outside because one student has a life threatening bee allergy, I bet EVERYONE would be frustrated and complain about the absurdity of that solution . Just sayin'

(Not to harp on this, but seriously -- to get where I am coming from just replace every instance of "peanut" or "peanut butter" with "arsenic." What's the harm in an older child trying to get your convince your little one to eat an arsenic sandwich? OH RIGHT. See how that works?)

Olivia, of course I have taught my son to stay away from peanuts, but he is only seven years old. If an adult at school hands him a piece of candy or some ice cream and tells him it's safe, how is he supposed to know it isn't? Adults don't always take kindly to kids questioning their authority; I have seen adults refuse to show him ingredients; I have seen them say "Why don't you trust me?"

And it's not always immediately obvious that a food contains peanuts. For example, some chocolate chip cookies are safe for him, and some aren't. Some chocolate bars are safe and some aren't. Skittles are safe for him to have but M&Ms aren't. Now imagine an Easter egg hunt where the teacher has told him "Don't worry, we got safe candy for you!" and some of the eggs have Skittles in them and some have M&Ms. Do you really think I should rely on my seven-year-old to have perfect judgement in a situation like that?

Also, all he has to do is touch peanut butter to have a skin reaction that causes him to break out in hives. And all he has to do to have a full-body reaction is eat a very small amount. Think about seven-year-olds and how bad they are about washing their hands and how often they tend to put their hands in their mouths. Think about what could happen if someone else touched him and got peanut butter on his hands at snack time and he didn't realize it and kept eating.

This is why parents ask for peanut-free classrooms and schools. Because it's just so easy for someone ELSE -- not the kid with the allergy but someone else -- to make a life-threatening mistake.

I didn't ask that my son's school go totally peanut-free when he developed the allergy, because I knew there would be major pushback from other parents and as the parent of a picky eater myself, I understand. But as I've witnessed one close call after another at school, I've come to understand why other parents ask for peanut-free. It's like sending your kid to a school where half the other kids happen to be immune to arsenic poisoning and so eat arsenic sandwiches for lunch every day, and just telling your kid, "Remember not to eat any arsenic!" It's very scary.

Kristen- thinking that it's untenable to make accommodations for every individual who has a special need is not lacking compassion or empathy. But there are lines that have to be drawn eventually, somewhere. Because as I said earlier: there is someone who is allergic to everything. It's excessive to create peanut-free schools even when there are no students with allergies present, just in case. Or taking the types of precautions that one would make for a child with airborne allergies, for everyone.

My husband happens to have peanut allergies. He doesn't expect a peanut-free workplace, or a peanut-free world. Of course not, they're HIS allergies (his words when I mentioned this post to him last night).

How many of the kids that "need" peanut-free schools make do in other environments that are not peanut-free? All of them! Because the world is not peanut-free. So then why can't they make do in school, too? Instead of making an unrealistic bubble-environment for these kids, wouldn't it be better for the schools to teach them how to live safely with their disability? Because the issue is this: the child has allergies. the world has peanuts. removing peanuts from the world is not a solution, so what IS the solution? Put a realistic solution for these kids in place in the school, not an irrational one that will never be realized outside of an institution that is terrified of being sued. That would be truly compassionate and empathetic; also tenable and helpful to building real life skills.

The school is not there to keep your kid safe. The school is there to teach: academic subjects and maybe some life skills. But the reality is that your kid is not safe: not in your house, not in your yard, not in your car or on the street or in school. If we could come to terms with the fact that we are not entitled to safety, then maybe schools could get back to the job of teaching: which always seems to be the last thing mentioned in conversations like these of "what schools SHOULD do".

I've never understood the anger, either. You may not understand food allergies if your kid doesn't have one--but why do they make you downright ANGRY?

The anger seems defensive, like how angry my eight year old gets when I've clearly caught her lying. I have a sneaking suspicion the anger may be out of some collective guilt, or collective resistance to the idea that we, as a society, have screwed something up.

It seems logical to me that allergies are on the rise because of some society-wide reaction to environmental changes. Too many carcinogens, too many pesticides, too much mucking with chemistry and nature causing unintended consequences in our children's bodies that we can't even understand or untangle yet. Something has changed--allergies are on the rise. And so is asthma. And cancer. We made that change, and now we're defensive as shit about cleaning it up.

Jaelithe, but you've taught your son to stay away from nuts, right? So how risky was the sundae bar or the peanutbutter sandwich. Wouldn't he have said no?

I agree we all are responsible for children's safety and should work towards that, and for sure the ANGER over schools being nut free is out of line. However, I see Melissa's point too. You can make the school nut free, but what about the rest of the world? At some point the child is going to just have to learn to ask the questions and be diligent on his/her own behalf.

@Jaelithe-I can absolutely see your point. The school should be doing their job to protect your child. It is the school's job to make sure every student is safe and it makes me angry to hear your stories.

Did parents make this much of a hubbub--when most public schools said no more homemade snacks to be brought in to share--but only store bought, wrapped snacks? I don't think so--even though homemade snacks can be safer (and lots healthier) because you can control what goes into them.

It saddens me that we aren't looking at this as a community but as individuals. I talked to the mom of the kid in my son's class who has a severe nut allergy, if she thought school should be nut free. She said as long as everyone worked together (as has been the case for 2 years so far) that she didn't have a problem with the class not being nut free. She feels that the school, teachers and other students and parents work together to make a safe environment---that is what it should be about. Working together to keep every one safe.

See Melissa, and I sort of see it on the other side, where we can't just be a little compassionate and understanding and pack something else for lunch for our kids.

I'm pretty sure parents of kids with food allergies aren't being entitled. I think they are really scared that their kids could have a reaction and die.

Thanks. I've been very deliberately avoiding the comments on the peanut alternatives post since it went up, because I knew what too, too many of them would be. It's beyond exhausting to have to deal constantly with people publicly wishing your child would just stop posing such a TERRIBLE INCONVENIENCE to people who like to eat peanut butter.

Let me tell you about inconvenience. My peanut-allergic son is not in a peanut-free school. And I worry every single damn day that I send him in to class that he may not come back to me alive. All it would take is one person making a mistake. There have been numerous close calls. Once an older child tried to hand my son a peanut butter sandwich during an after school activity. Another time a teacher staged an Easter-egg hunt -- which I had been assured would be conducted in a safe way -- and some of the eggs my son was TOLD to pick up were filled with Peanut M&Ms. Other parents are the worst, though. The head of the Parents' Association organized a sundae bar -- complete with nuts and several candy toppings that were not peanut safe -- for a school party, without even telling me.

Of course I think about homeschooling him. EVERY parent of a kid with a peanut allergy thinks about homeschooling.

But he doesn't want to be homeschooled. He wants to go to school with his friends. He doesn't just want to stay alive -- he wants to LIVE like any other kid.

So I let him. I let him risk his life every day, at a school that isn't peanut-free, because that would be too much of an inconvenience for the other children.

Having to spend your whole day every day feeling like school is the most dangerous thing your kid does -- THAT'S a fucking inconvenience, people.

My son's school (it's a private school-not that that matters) is not nut free. But he does have a classmate with a severe nut allergy. We all know, the kids know, and we make sure if there is a nut product in the lunch to tag it and make a note--they have a peanut free table and make sure that the kids wash their hands. We all try to be very careful when we bring in special treats that they are nut free. There is a list of approved snacks--and there are safe snacks for special occasions. It's not about--it isn't about being entitled--it's about teaching everyone to look out for each other.

It's interesting to hear everyone talking about how "entitled we are" in reference to the non-allergic majority. Isn't it the allergic minority who want to reshape a school population of hundreds or thousands of kids into the confines of their one allergy, that is entitled? There is someone allergic to everything-- when I hear about peanut&dairy&egg&&&&&-free environments, you can see how it is snowballing out of hand. It is PUBLIC school, just like the PUBLIC world, it is the one affected by the allergy who should be affected by the allergy, not the world at large. That's like asking the world to live in a bubble instead of the boy.... makes little sense to me. Would I be angry? I don't know. But i'm glad I don't have to deal with it (yet).

I really appreciate this post. I have long thought that the anger people display about nut restrictions is indicative of a collective lack of empathy. It's frightening that parents think their child's food preference trump another child's safety.

In Toronto, public schools (and daycamps and daycares) have been nut-free (not just peanut, but all nuts) for years. The kids (and parents) learn to adjust. So as a Canadian, the debate on this issue in the US always intrigues me (as do the back to school articles on how to make PB&J more interesting for kids' school lunches...)

My 4 year old daughter was in a daycamp for 2 weeks this summer which was nut-free, but then we were informed there was a kid with a severe fish allergy and another with an egg allergy attending, so neither fish nor egg products were allowed. Eggs are one of the few types of protein my 4 year old will eat in a packed lunch, so it was a bit of a scramble for us to find some other options (and we did speak to her about it as well). Inconvenient for us, perhaps, but the alternative for the other child was much worse.

ANGER? Really?
I mean, I'm so so so thankful that my kids are not allergic to nuts...it's really not easy. I once had a playdate with a friend of my daughter's and he had a tree-nut and peanut allergy and I freaked out for hours beforehand trying to make my house as nut-free as possible. It can be really scary.

SChools in Ontario are nut-free...which I can 100% respect and it's annoying, sure, but it's doable. The only catch for me is that my kids' school is also MEAT-free, which means that without nuts of any kind or meat of any kind...packing lunches can be tricky.

I think if schools make THIS many rules, they really need to provide alternatives for families...like a hot lunch program etc. so it takes a bit of the guesswork out for parents.

My earliest memory is seeing a monster in my mom's bed. My dad asked me to kiss "her" but I wouldn't b/c I was so afraid of the monster and didn't know where my mom was. Turns out, she was covered in hives from a peanut contact.

Many allergies don't work this way, but with peanuts, each reaction a person has is a multiple effect of the last one. Meaning twice as bad. These days my mom doesn't just have to worry about looking like a monster with hives, but has to worry about dying b/c she put her purse and Epi-pen in another room.

I keep a peanut free home just so she can visit. That means that much of the Halloween candy gets taken to Daddy's office. We cope. My kids are learning to understand that Nana is more important than peanuts.

My 5yo was in peanut-free classrooms for 2 of the 2 1/2 years he went to preschool. I have no problem with having peanut-free tables and/or rooms for kids with severe allergies, but what makes me nuts are people like the ones Camp Director mentioned. The people that blow a mild allergy so out of proportion that it's at a level where the CDC should be called.

An example of another type of parent that makes me crazy would be my step-sister. She doesn't allow her children to eat a lot of foods that almost everyone eats, and will eat the disallowed foods herself right in front of them while they are hungry, but have to wait until they get home.

I also think (and this applies to more issues than just food allergies) that parents in general need to accept more responsibility for their children and their children's welfare. All too often I hear stories of a lawyer being brought to school to discuss a child's grade, or the threat of a lawsuit over something one child did to another, or let's change the rules to make sure that so-and-so's kid doesn't get in trouble for acting up. The sense of entitlement (very often from people who don't need or deserve special treatment) has gotten way out of hand. It's time to get back to basics and start raising our own children instead of trying to force others to do it for us.

I don't have any "anger" with this issue but my mind always goes to the question "Where do we draw the line?" I have a friend who's child is severely allergic to apples. Yet, she doesn't expect there to be an 'apple free' table at the school. What about the kid who is allergic to wool? What about shellfish and grass? What about garlic? I actually know a woman who is in her 60s and so allergic to garlic and onion that she just simply does not eat out. She cannot risk there being onion or garlic in anything or even "too close" to her. What if she was a child and needed to attend school? Does the school go "garlic free"? Do make the school garlic free? Keep in mind garlic and onion powder are in TONS of processed foods. Not to mention most of the organic, free range, pesticide free foods I cook for my family and pack for my husband as leftovers!

I'm smart enough to understand that peanut allergies are more common and usually the most severe of all allergies, yet I like to think in terms of the greater picture. Do I want a kid to die or even be hurt because of their allergy and my mistake? Of COURSE NOT. At the same time, I think that in a PUBLIC setting (like a public school) there needs to be some common sense and more discussion (reasonable) and thought put into what kind of accommodations need to be made for each childs' "issues".

Anaphylaxis is some scary, scary shit. There should be a video screening of a person in anaphylaxis for all the asshole parents who want to roll their eyes about the kid with the peanut allergy.

THEN let's hear them complain about having to pack a cheese sandwich.

Sometimes people suck.

Growing up, my brother had a severe peanut allergy (still does) and never once did he receive any special consideration from his school or any other activities. He was simply expected to police himself, which he did well enough that he has only had one allergic reaction (he is 22 now). From the time he was 4, my brother has known to ask how something was prepared, etc.

My seven year old has a dairy allergy, which like my brother's peanut allergy is resolved by her policing herself and asking questions, which my husband and I have taught her to do vigilantly. We made a point to teach her, the same my parents taught my brother, that it is HER responsibility, for her health, not to consume dairy. We provided a doctor's note to the school detailing exactly what to do if she accidentally consumed dairy and the teachers are aware of it, but but beyond that no special considerations have been made. Our school's policy is that a doctor's note must be provided in the instance of an allergy, and, in the time I have been sending my kids to the school, there have been several EpiPens left in the front office, just in case, but never have there been any restrictives delivered to a class or the entire school. For me and for other parents of kids who have allergies, this policy is very effective and allows our kids not to be singled out for an allergy they can't control, provided they do their homework, with regards to the allergy.

So, while I understand and am on board with peanut (or other allergen) free schools or classrooms when a student has a VERY severe allergy, I think the responsibility falls to the parents and child in a situation where the solution is as simple as policing oneself and asking questions.

We have a niece who has a nut allergy. Prior to her, my family/extended family was not very educated on such things. Since then we've all come up to speed through information passed on by my brother (her dad) and we've also taken to it much like one would be considerate about any family health situation. However, as he put it, no one was asking us to change our way of life - it was more of a courtesy to her uniqueness. Be cognizant, be considerate and be yourself. What sometimes drives me crazy about people or a segment of society that has a specific issue is their intent to change everyone around them based on their specific situation. Many times, instead of simply asking in a kind fashion - they throw up their arms and go off as if A) everyone should know and B) everyone should care. Sometimes not acting like the world is against you and a simple thank you can go a long way.

We live in Vancouver Canada and most schools, if not entire districts, have a nut-free policy. If all the schools enforce it, there seem to be fewer attitude problems. Some parents grouse, but generally, it's good-natured grumbling.

Thank you for a great post :) My youngest is allergic to peanuts and every.time. I read *comments* to articles, I end up fuming at the idiots who write things to the tune of "survival of the fittest." I agree that these are the times we should teach children empathy and respect. It disgusts me that some parents model such terrible behavior to their children (see the Florida incident from this past spring).

I routinely ask about food allergies when we have kids over who've never played at our house before. It's become simply a matter of course for me, even before one of my own was diagnosed with a few mild/moderate allergies.

I'll admit though, when I had my oldest and first encountered peanut-free environments, I was not as compassionate as I ought to have been. Thankfully, a few patient mothers helped me understand where I was wrong.

I run summer camps. We are not peanut free. We once had 3 different families contact us ahead of time to request that our dining room be peanut-free for the week that their child attended camp. As people who love children, who work with children as a career choice, we were heartbroken! Imagine these kids can NEVER go to mall, never hold a stair rail or push an elevator button for fear that some remnant of peanut butter might have been innocently left by a sticky toddler. They can never EVER go see a movie in the theater because all sorts of nutty things are being eaten there. Families who deal with this sort of disability must really grapple with the right amount to hover; after all, at some point the child must learn to avoid this on their own or they will never make it to adulthood...

We consulted our camp physician about this, and he informed us that an airborne peanut allergy is real, although EXTRAORDINARILY rare. He said that if there were 3 children in our greater Metropolitan area who had an "airborne" (reaction to the smell of peanuts) peanut allergy, he needed to notify the CDC so that immediate studies could be done. So we told all 3 families that we would be happy to provide a peanut-free dining room if they provided us a letter from their physician stating that the child's allergy was sensitive to air molecules. None of them could provide this, and all of them attended camp without incident and ate at the nut-free table.

Perhaps there is some backlash because people see a few masters of exaggeration and wonder how sincere the other families are. They see a family who demands a peanut-free school for their child sitting at the Regal cinema a dozen feet away from families munching on goobers or reese's. So is there a bright line as Josette said? Yes. Would I be kind enough to eat my sandwich elsewhere if asked by a fellow human? Yes.

Our 5yo is in a "nut free" class, so packing her lunch was, at first, a pain in the ass (not that I do it, but Deb does), as she was used to PB&J sandwiches. Now, she likes turkey and mustard. I like that she has less sugar now when she eats a sandwich.

I'm eating nuts right now. It's the benefit of not being around allergic kids where I work.

We have food intolerances, so I don't mind taking other people's food allergies and intolerances into consideration. I do find it offensive that no one takes intolerances seriously just because we don't need an epi pen. No one cares that red dye makes my older son extremely mean and hyper. They also forget that red+blue make purple, and that red+yellow make orange, so I just provide alternative snacks for him when people bring in birthday treats in his class because people forget so easily. But that's really just an annoyance. What really makes me mad is that the school will not substitute his milk on his lunch tray, which causes GI distress, unless I pay extra. If he needed an epi pen for it, they would substitute no issue, but because he doesn't, they won't. THAT, I do find offensive, because they have alternative drinks anyway, it's not like they're ordering them for one kid. Or even, just charge us the difference between the other drink and the milk if it costs them more, but we must pay full price as if he's getting the milk, and then also getting the drink he can have.

The J-man had 2 kids in his class last year who were severely allergic to a bunch of stuff. Nuts were just the beginning. They ate at a separate table, and nobody else was allowed to touch that table AND it was bleached down before all meals and snacks (they ate lunch in their classroom). Not one parent was upset by this.

Granted, the J-man only eats 6 foods anyway, and none of them are allergic-type foods. He's never even tasted peanut butter for 2 reasons: 1) it would involve months of prep to even get it to his mouth, and 2) he doesn't have enough speech to tell us if something felt "wrong." He doesn't know how to say he's sick.

Hell yes I wish people would be compassionate instead of judging. But since I have an autistic son who doesn't look "disabled" I don't get that most of the time.

Girl Child's first grade teacher carried around a pack with an epi-pen in it for one of the students. The school had a peanut-free table in the cafeteria.

I'm failing to see how that is a big deal FOR ME.

Sunbutter was and is a perfectly reasonable alternative to peanut butter for us. If it isn't for you, find something else, because it could literally be the difference between life and death.

This post reminds me of your political correctness one, where what we're really talking about here is respect and consideration of others. Couldn't agree with you more.

I used to not get the big deal about peanut allergies - or just didn't think much about it at all - until my oldest was diagnosed with one. Her blood levels show she isn't 'severe', but she is allergic. She's never had one. I have NO idea how she would react upon having one. She's been near and been okay - so she isn't one of those dust in the air allergics - but I know that is very real. I've done my research. And yes, there are more allergies now than there used to be. At least that are documented and known. Part of the issue is just being informed.

I don't get why people feel peanut butter is a right, a need - not just a want.

Having said that - I'm not sure 'nut-free' schools are the 100% right answer. I do think that celebrations in a classroom can be food free and all food should be in a cafeteria that is very monitored with safe allergy tables etc. Whole 'nother issue about why celebration has to mean fattening sugary foods...

I do like that my kids have always been in nut free schools because it puts my mind at ease, but I also know that isn't the real world and I'm okay as long as there are policies in place.

Having kids allergic to foods is a huge stress for the parent. Even the grandparents who know about it, and see us struggle, don't get it. Just the other day they chose a carrot cake with nuts for their birthday and ate it right there next to my child. [Well she wasn't allowed near them - I mean I couldn't let her hug her cousin goodbye - that's just kind of hard for a 4 year old to get.] So its always stressful and the fact that we have to battle all the time doesn't help.

That story recently in Atlanta of the 14 year old boy who didn't have his epipen and died from eating a cookie he thought was safe - it just breaks my heart and hopefully at least it can help educate others.

I don't have answers, but the more discussion that is out there, the better.

I am nearly in tears of gratitude over here. We happen to have a severely peanut allergic kid in 2nd grade.

We're in a peanut-free classroom, but not a peanut-free school. Which is works for us. I provide very detailed variety (huge variety!) list of safe snacks for the classroom, but I have a "safe box" of alternatives left in the room on days when something questionable comes in.

That said, I'm all happy teary over here because you targeted the real ISSUE here! It's not about school and classroom safety. It's not about comfort zones. It's not about policy. Those are important, sure. But the issue here is the ANGER. The ENTITLEMENT. The LACK OF COMPASSION.

So, thank you for pointing this out in a fabulously candid, yet surely respectful way.

I work in a school cafeteria.The school I work in is a peanut free school. My school doesn't serve anything with nuts. However, kids who bring thier lunch can bring what ever they want. The aides and teachers are the ones who have to be diligent.

However, kids with gluten, egg, nut, melon and dairy allergies are sent in for a lunch and we are expected to accomadate, most times without notice. It's extremely difficult given the amount of processed food that is served. The rules that go into place for a reimbursable meal that are set by the government also add to the frustration

Some kids have one or two allergies - we can accomadate pretty easily. Some kids? Literally all they can eat is fruit and salad. If your kids have such severe allergies why not pack them a lunch? The reason why most of them they don't? They have FREE lunch because they qualify for benefits. So the expectation of "take care of my baby" is exactly that, EXPECTED. Where is the responsibility of the parent in this case?

We do our best and kids are thankful. Parent's? Not so much.

I understand frustration, but never anger. When in the hell did we get so entitled that we couldn't have compassion for others and what they are going through. Wait, don't answer that. M likes her peanut butter, and I am sure that when she starts school, if she can take it, that would be her choice. If she can't, we will be careful and explain how nice it is when kids in her class at daycare were nice enough to not bring ice cream treats because she is lactose intolerant. Kids have a huge capacity for compassion, and I hate seeing that some parts of our culture seem intent on beating it out of them and instilling this whole Me, Me, Me bullshit. If we work for the benefit of the greater good, our individual lives will be better.

My oldest child started kindergarten this year and she has 2 kids in her class with nut allergies. I was definitely concerned about how we were going to feed her because she pretty much only eats peanut butter sandwiches for lunch--no matter how many times we have tried to introduce other options--but I never felt ANGER about it. That is just so crazy to me.
Does it make it harder to prepare lunches and snacks? YES. But is it totally worth it so we aren't the assholes that make a kid sick? ABSOLUTELY!

I am a vegetarian, and I am raising my kids as vegetarians. And I have never faced outrage because of what amounts to a choice. Sometimes we go places that I have to make sure to bring food for the kids so they have more than chips or cookies (pig roast picnics, for example), but none of us has ever starved. Obviously.

I feel very much the same way as many of you here: that given the choice of a minor inconvenience (having to pack something other than PB for lunch) or a dead kid, I'm going to come down on the side of minor inconvenience. As to the comment about "less than sterile" environments, I understand that POV. Parents of kids with deadly allergies have to be vigilant and have to advocate for their kids. But I would find it hard to say, "Well now this is YOUR problem" especially to other children. I think that can rankle. But people should try TRY to check their anger and senses of entitlement. It's too rampant, and we're teaching our children bad attitudes.

The article is worth reading,Thank you very much! I will keep your new articles.

My cousin suffered from a severe allergy to nuts and dairy for the first umpteen years (that's into her teen years for those of you not familiar with my made-up slang)of her life. I remember my mom complaining about having to alter her holiday recipes to avoid certain death. But anger? Never. She would actually make two of any foods that originally called for nuts and just wait until after my cousin left our house to serve the nuts-filled foods. Apparently, THAT'S how much we loved nuts in our house.

I tried a few different soy butters since my 8 year old can't have nuts in school, but she didn't like them, so we just go without. Why wouldn't we? I really don't want to be known as the asshole mom who doesn't care about the other kids enough to make my kid eat something besides pb&j. Entitlement be damned, I just can't live with that kind of guilt.

My neighbor's little boy (2 years old) almost died at the swimming pool this summer...not from drowning, but from a nut allergy. Thankfully, another mom had an expired epi pen in her car that saved his life. He probably would not have made it until the paramedics came. I also used to know an adult w/ an extreme peanut allergy (before anyone ever talked about the topic) who could not even be in the same room as peanuts/peanut butter w/o getting a horrible reaction and becoming short of breath. It was scary how little exposure could cause life-threatening reactions in his body. I'm a huge peanut butter eater...I love the stuff...but it's not worth risking a child's life!

My concern is that if there is truly a child with a life-threatening peanut allergy - and I've been in situations where this has been the case - you are basically trusting that every other child is and parent is going to be responsible enough to stay "peanut sterile".

There are so many products out there with peanuts in them, that this can be next to impossible.

Accidents happen. We had a child in scouts who was allergic to peanuts, milk, eggs, preservatives in lunch meats. Several times, no matter how hard we tried, there was a scary situation. As long as parents understand that there is no sterile environment and assume the risk when something happens even with everyone's best intentions in place, then I'm okay with a peanut free classroom.

However, again, another school around here has enforced a peanut-dairy-egg free classroom for the benefit of one child. It is not going over well, and I can't say I blame the other parents. At some point, if a child is in such wide-ranging or extreme danger, then the parents of that child must take into consideration the child's welfare as well as the psychological effect it would have on a young classmate who accidentally harmed the allergic child.

I mean, I see regular kids every day. Kids who are beckoned and guilted and cajoled into washing their hands and not putting their hands on their face so as not to spread flu germs. Guess what? Kids are the most imperfect of humans - and I'm one to give them much more credit and responsibility than most. There are several immunocompromised kids in our school district who have to school from home for because the risk that there will be a mistake or breakthrough is too great, no matter how much hand washing and face masks.

So yes, mild peanut allergy, I'm on board. But there is a bright line for me on this when the risk of accident is too great, and that blame I firmly put in the hands of the parents of the child who can't live in a less than sterile environment.

My youngest has a peanut free classroom this year, which means no peanut snacks but peanut butter sandwiches for lunch are ok if they are wrapped up separately from the snacks. Snacks are eaten in the classroom. Also there this rigorous hand washing thing they have to do at the beginning of the day and after lunch & snack. And people are complaining.

About what? Their kid has to wash their hands? They have to have animal crackers or goldfish or god forbid an apple or carrots rather than peanut M&Ms for snack time?

Sure, I have to pay some attention to mix boxes when it comes time for his birthday cupcake party, or you know, make the things from scratch to be sure. But that is a once a year inconvenience. Imagine living every meal with that inconvenience & have a little compassion.

We had a brief moment yesterday where we thought Sage's class was peanut free and I immediately though well, here we go...she'll have to add a whole second food to her repertoire now. Turned out not to be the case. Which I admit, makes my life a lot easier.

But of all the emotions I might have felt about it, anger was not one of them. And I never for a moment would think that her "right" to eat peanut butter would be trumped by a classmate's right to be safe and healthy in school.

We live in an increasingly entitled society. It's awful to see people display outrage that their "choices" are being limited by some kid who dares to live with the risk of anaphylaxis.

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