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Peanut Free Zone: Allergies and the Classroom

Peanut Free Zone: Allergies and the Classroom

One in twenty-five American children have food allergies. But one parent’s nightmare is another’s nuisance when it comes to packing lunches and sending snacks and treats.

As someone with a peanut allergy, and a child whose school doesn’t have a hot lunch program, I am sensitive to both sides of the issue. It’s difficult to pack a completely nut free lunch when so many of my child’s preferences run towards foods that have the potential to ignite an allergy attack in one of her classmates. As someone who frequently has to decline snacks and is forced to eat off restaurants’ “allergy menus”, I know children with food allergies would gladly wish them away if they could. I also know that parents who ask for nut-free environments in schools are not just being overprotective.

School Policy

One thing I have found extremely helpful is when school staff have clear rules about what is, and isn’t, permitted in terms of food stuff. I also appreciate the efforts of teachers and classroom aides who enforce “no sharing” policies at lunchtime.

Preventative Steps

The advent of snack foods clearly marked with possible allergy triggers, and the fact some companies are now aware of the issue of cross contamination, has made it easier to send lunches and provide classroom treats, too.

Some things parents can do when someone in their child’s class has a food allergy include the following:

  • Ask for a list of “safe” foods for classroom parties or packed lunches.
  • Substitute non-edible treats like stickers or themed pencils for birthdays/parties.
  • Don’t be afraid of children with allergies and don’t exclude them from home parties or play dates. They can safely take part if simple precautions are taken.
  • Be understanding of food restrictions. No child wants to be allergic, and his/her burden is bigger than your food prep dilemma

Awareness and Sensitivity

Options for school lunches have gone beyond the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches of my youth, and with the greater awareness of food allergies, there are many more options for parents at the supermarket these days.

Read labels. Be creative and sensitive. Food allergies are real health issues and some child’s parent will be grateful for your help.

 

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photo credit: And cupcakes for all by popofatticus

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85 comments

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8:52PM PDT on Oct 11, 2011

There has to be a medium ground between completely eliminating nuts, peanuts and having an entire school's food policy revolve around one or two people yet creating a safe atmosphere for those with allergies. What about a peanut free table?

11:54AM PDT on Sep 25, 2011

I would hate to have my child be responsible for another child's death. Every child deserves to have an education. Teaching your children to respect others is a very good thing.

1:11AM PDT on Mar 24, 2011

The schools have a list of what foods are not allowed in the school due to a list of allergies from the parents -- a good idea.
Children, people at the school can eat the foods on the list at home. In most schools that would be the solution.

3:26PM PDT on Sep 19, 2010

It is easy to find substitutes that a child will eat! I would never want to cause another child to get deathly ill!

5:26PM PDT on Sep 14, 2010

poor kids who will never know the joy of PB&J

11:44AM PDT on Sep 14, 2010

my daugher is 2 and she can eat peanut butter. i can't give it to her in her lunch at school but it doesn't bother me. i just give it to her at home as a sweet treat

3:10PM PDT on Sep 9, 2010

God, it must be hard to be a kid with severe allergies.

4:25AM PDT on Sep 6, 2010

It is a pain but I certainly wouldn't want my kid's lunch to be the cause of some child's absolute misery...I'm kind of glad they have the rule b/c I make an attempt to homebake stuff in bulk and therefore avoid giving my kids all that chemical infused junk/snack food.

5:52PM PDT on Sep 5, 2010

Kids grow up to be adults, where there are no nut free zones. Teach your kid to be careful and only eat food that you have packed for them. Why should everyone have to feed their kids according to a couple with allergies? And why does the peanut allergy get special treatment? What about kids allergic to corn/sugar/wheat/dairy/ etc.?
I'm so lucky I went to school where kids were not bubble wrapped and could enjoy my peanut butter cups in the privacy of under my desk.

5:11PM PDT on Sep 4, 2010

I'm allergic to peanuts and remember when I was in Kindergarten when they were about to hand out those deadly peanut butter crackers, I had to turn them down. I knew from a young age that I was allergic to peanuts/peanut butter. My mom always made it a point for me to remember that because there would be times when she wouldn't be there and I would have to make the decision for myself whether I should eat this cookie or that cookie.

Unfortunately, I did eat the wrong cookie around last Christmas. I thought it was a sugar cookie - it looked like one and had no smell. But sure enough, one bite told me that was no sugar cookie. That sharp spiky feeling I get in my throat soon turned into wheezing, scratching, hives, redness, swelling, elevated heart rate, tremors...the works! since I didn't have Benadryl, which is the miracle cure for me nearly, I was going into anaphylaxis. I've had near misses but was always able to nip them in the bud with Benadryl. All I had was Claritin which didn't do a thing! I ended up in the ER that night, pumped up with more Benadryl, steroids, and loads of other stuff. I was put in front of somebody else who was there before me because of the severity of the action. I thought I was gonna die.

Needless to say, some kids don't grow out of their allergies.

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