Thursday, September 2, 2010

Peanut and tree nut free, is it pracitcal?

Over the past few months I keep reading and hearing about peanut free schools. I read a lot about people who think it's the worst thing in the world. It's something I think about often, as in just a few years my son will be in a classroom without one of us to make sure he is safe. Take the regular fears of a parent sending their child to school for the first time and multiply that by 100%. It's the stuff gut wrenching nightmares are made of. Mac isn't even in school yet and it keeps me awake at night. The school bus ride terrifies me most.

The thing that upsets me the most is people's ignorance of the actual issue. Actually it's not their ignorance, because it's just not part of everyday conversation. It's the lack of caring when they find out that certain foods can do serious harm or even kill a child. What's infuriating is that some people feel their right to eat peanuts and tree nuts trumps someones life. That is what scares me. It is my understanding that peanut and tree nut allergies are more likely to cause ananaphylaxis than other foods (not to say other foods don't or can't). It's not like you are outlawing nuts forever, just for a few hours. When you leave you can eat all the nuts you want.

Another one that bothers me is when someone says my child only eats peanut butter. I get so mad! Seriously only peanut butter? Unless your child eats peanut butter for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all snacks, than you are just being dramatic. And they say parents of kids with food allergies exaggerate. Ask any parent of food allergic children, and they can tell you a whole host of foods you can send your kid to school with. I think it's about the ease of PB&J. Trust me I get it. I wish that was an option when I'm running late and need to pack his food. We have to pack his food everywhere we go.

With that said, here is my take on peanut free schools. I think it's unrealistic. I may be the minority and you may be surprised considering my vent just now, but as of today I don't think it's necessary or doable at every level. As far as the older grades (middle school and high school), a child should be able to be his or her own advocate. It's the younger grades I worry about. I do think that the school and parents need to be sensitive to it. A school is a place where all the kids should be safe. They must be able to provide that as well as an education.

A peanut and tree nut free school is my dream but is it realistic? I honestly don't think it is. Do I have a solution to make it so? Not really, but I have ideas to make it safer. I think the lower grades especially kindergarten should have peanut free classrooms and restrictions on group snacks if there are kids who are allergic. Teachers and subsitues teachers should be educated on food allergies, how to read food lables, and how to spot if a child is introuble. I do think schools should not sell the offending food. I do think they need to work with the family's of the allergic kids to find the best possible solution.

I know many schools have peanut free tables, and in theory it's a great idea. However, I hate the thought of my son sitting at a peanut free table all by himself. I actually cry every time I think of that. Yes I want my son to be an individual. However to be singled out as different so blatantly, bothers me. Every kid is different and should be, but I want him to make his mark and stand out for what he does, not by what he can't do.

By school age I hope and pray that my son knows the rules of what he can and can't eat. Again I would love it if my son's school was peanut and tree nut free, but lets be practicle. The risk of cross contamination is going to be there whether there is PB&J or not. It may be a peanut free school, but are they going to check every kids lunch box everyday and read the ingredients on every snack? That's just impossible.

I know not all parents of food allergic children will agree here, so I apologize if this offends. I just don't think it's realistic to be a truly peanut and tree nut free school. There will always be parents who don't care and will send them to school with banned food. There will be parents who forget. There will parents who will try but just don't understand the risk of cross contamination. Plus kids will be kids. In the end I would rather my child be aware that the peanuts and tree nuts are out there, rather than have a false sense of security that he's safe because a school has a no nuts policy.

Cormac is not in school yet so I may change my mind on this. Who knows, maybe our school will have a great peanut/tree nut policy by the time he's ready to start. Or maybe someone with more experience will shed some light on this for me. I just don't think it's a s simple as a nut free policy when it comes to schools. Now if we are talking about a ban on air planes that's another story. There's no compromise there. No nuts ever in my opinion.



  1. Diane, great post. I just don't know. My Bubba does fine with PB, but he's in an under 2 room at daycare right now, so I've refrained from sending it. When he moves up, if they told me another kid was allergic I would continue to refrain. As a parent I just don't know how people could live with themselves if they harmed another child through blatant disregard for safety. So, I agree that as kids get older the rules can be less restrictive, but for the little guys we all have to watch out!

  2. I'm a peanut allergy mom, and I tend to agree with you. I don't think that a 100% nut free school is realistic. There's just no way that a school can enforce it to make it a true nut free zone. I think the idea of doing so for the younger grades is great though. I too hope that once my son is in the higher grades that he'll understand and know how to keep himself safe.

    As for the parents that say their kids don't eat anything but PB, I do think they're being dramatic. Before my youngest son's reaction, my oldest son ate a lot of peanut butter. Many days it was the main protein source for him. So he went from practically living off of PB, to not eating it at all. If we can handle that transition, then I feel any family can handle not being able to use PB for the one meal a day that they're in school.

  3. Diane,

    Boy do I relate! I will share that it gets easier once your son actually gets in school! I had so many fears and so many conversations going on in my head when my son was a toddler. Then, when we began preparing for him to go to preschool, things began to work out!

    The good news is that most preschools and elementary schools have dealt with food allergies. You may still need to educate them about the specific needs of your child though!

    My son (now 14 years old and in high school) had an allergen-free lunch table and classroom in elementary and middle school - no nuts, peanuts, sesame or fish - and he always had plenty of friends to sit with at lunch. It was important to him to explain to his friends about his food allergies and to ask that they bring safe food for lunch. It was amazing what these kids would do in order to sit with him! It still brings tears to my eyes that so many children want to be inclusive.

    Now in high school, most teachers don't want food in their classrooms, and those that say it's acceptable steer away from his allergens. He no longer needs an allergen-free lunch table, preferring to just sit with safe friends and not announce it anymore!

    Visit my Website - - and sign up for my monthly newsletter. My son writes a column about living with food allergies from a kid's perspective. We call it "Morgan's Corner."

  4. Hi Diane,
    Jane from the pediatricians office gave me your info, my son went into anaphylactic shock at 3 months when I gave him a bottle of formula, we were rushed to Nyack hospital and later that night transported to Westchester Medical after a biphasic reaction. We learned he was severely allergic to Dairy, Eggs, wheat soy, peanuts and tree nuts. It was surprising to us as our other two children do not have food allergies. Michael is now almost three and We have just started preschool, I have all the same anxieties that you have in regards to how safe my son is. Luckily the preschool I have him enrolled in is a peanut free school, not only that but his preschool teacher has a child who went into anaphylactic shock as a baby with a peanut allergy, so she really does understand the risks involved. The Elementary school that he will eventually go to has a peanut free kindergarten classroom. I'd you need any info regarding the preschool, please get in touch, Jane has my info,
    Best Regards

  5. Helen

    I would love to get in touch and pick your brain. I am also looking to start a support group here in Rockland if your interested. I'll call Jane this week for your info. Or you could e-mail me at


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