Thursday, April 30, 2009

Child Food Allergy Etiquette--PEANUT NAZIS

This is a story that I hear quite frequently and I would love for all parties involved to be polite.

I am aware that peanut allergies, as are all childhood allergies are serious. So please, no comments about me not being concerned or knowledgeable.

NUT AWARE SCHOOLS

My children go to a "Nut Free" school which has changed to a "Nut Aware" school since the school cannot guarantee that it is "nut free". So, more or less, no peanut butter sandwiches allowed--no vital protein (that doesn't spoil) at lunch. There have been stories about lunch ladies taking Skittles away from children because they are made in factory that also makes M&M's. We call the lunch ladies Peanut Nazis because they embarrassed and humiliate the children who bring in the Skittles too.

PEANUT TABLE:

The parents tried to change the peanut butter ban by politely asking for a peanut table so kids could have peanut butter and no one would feel left out. This proposal was turned down by the teachers. In our school, two children out of 350 have nut allergies.

SOME PARENTS ARE "NUTS"

About 80% of the parents of children with allergies behave in a very militant, controlling way. At one time, our school even hired an AIDE for a child ($35,000*5 years=$175,000) to follow this child around so he would not eat peanut butter. One mother even cried and said that if her child had to sit at a "peanut free" table, she might feel "left out." These parents would rather control the system to accommodate their child (348 people cannot have peanut butter vs. your child sit at a peanut free table) than educate their child to function in society. Think of the child walking around our school who is blind and really feeling left out--now doesn't the whining about being left out at lunch seem rather small?

HEALTHY PARENT RESPONSE TO PEANUT ALLERGIES:

We have several friends who have children who have sever allergies. At an early age, they taught them to read labels and never to eat anything given without the label attached. Their approach was teaching the child to function in society vs. have society accommodate their child. Doesn't this sound healthy?

Here are the PPPG guidelines on how to behave if your child has an severe food allergy or a friend's child has an allergy:

1. Stop worrying about how your child feels every moment. If your child feels left out, it is because you have made them feel this way by controlling the situation for them. Bring your own snack vs. making the entire class change their snacks to accommodate your child.

2. If your child is a guest at a birthday party, ask if it is ok to bring your own food. Do not expect the hostess to make a special meal for your child nor a special cake. Your child's social invitations may become limited because it is more effort to accommodate your child.

3. If you are having a party and a child has an allergy, make every effort to accommodate this child. It does not mean you need to change the special meal or cake that your child is dreaming about, just make an effort to show you care.

4. Do not ask the entire world to accommodate your child. My husband was on an airplane that the flight attendant made an announcement saying that they were not serving peanuts because a child on board had a peanut allergy. Basic safety is totally acceptable to request and having EPI pens around is necessary and all will be willing to help here. For our class snack, one mother sent a list of snacks her child may have--which included about three. So, the class will be eating crackers all year because this the only food allowed.

I do not mean to sound harsh and I do think it is kind to accommodate people with disabilities. I think the allergy issue craziness is from educated parents who want control and feel horrible about their child's allergy. A parent asked for kids not to bring peanut butter on the bus at our private school and guess what, the school said...sorry!

If it is so serious, why would you risk your child's life by sending them to school because there are no guarantees.

Would love your thoughts--I am sure my post will be controversial!

36 comments:

MG said...

Wow, that is crazy! I understand that nut allergies are very serious, but still these children are going to have to learn how to function in a society that will not always be accomidating to them. Just curious, are students not allowed to bring peanut butter sandwiches from home?

Preppy Pink Crab said...

My brother in law and sister in law (who we are very close to) have 2 out of their 3 kids with peanut allergies. The youngest got off scotch free. The middle child is also allergic to dairy, wheat and legumes so he has a pretty strict diet.
One thing that amazes me, is that they never make an issue of it..they just handle it. When she has birthday parties for the kids...she will make regular cupcakes and "special" cupcakes that are free of allergens for the ones who have allergies. This way they are not left out. Also..she usually has a lunch box with their own food. She has also taught the kids to never accept food that they are unsure of w/out checking w/ someone who knows what to look for.
I was over her house recently and she put a bag of pita chips in front of the child who has the most allergies and he just covered his mouth until she said it was ok for him to have.

Also..when we have parties here..I will ask her how I can accomodate her children and she always replies that it isn't necessary...if anything, please don't have a bowl of peanuts...haha!

At Thanksgiving I was going to get ice cream as a dessert for the kids...but since the one has a dairy allergy...I decided on popcicles...they are safe.

Steph said...

I'm kind of with you on this!
My sister had a neighbor that sent out notes to all the houses at Halloween and asked them to give out candy that had no nuts or had not been processed in a factory where there may have been nuts!
My sister said no way! Talk about extreme parenting!

Jennifer said...

I love this post! I have a life threatening food allergy to chocolate. I can't even use cocoa butter which is a problem in cosmetics. I have to carry two epipens at all times in case I accidentally ingest any chocolate since I will have anaphlaxis. I was never treated differently, nor did my school ever do anything about it. One exception was in high school when I politely told my home ec teacher about my allergy since we were going to be preparing chocolate ice cream and couldn't handle the food. She just let half the class make chocolate and half make vanilla. It worked out very well. Since I have had to live with chocolate birthday cakes, snacks, etc. throughout my life, I have just learned to make sure my hostess doesn't feel bad when I can't eat something they prepare, thank them when they do something to accomodate me, and suck it up when I can't eat something. I can bring my own food or make my own cake at home. No big deal. I think those parents are being ridiculous. Their kids are going to have a rude awakening when they grow up and their co-workers eat peanuts.

Lipstick said...

Thanks for tackling this topic!! I agree with the wisdom of teaching kids about reading labels, etc.

Preppy 101 said...

I totally agree with you! I taught school for years and dealt with many parents who were ridiculous in their demands. I had one threaten to sue us if we had flowers in the rooms since her daughter was allergic. Let me say this child has never grown up either. At some point these children who have been further crippled by their parents are gonna be on their own. They need to be prepared for that!! It appears many times that we accommodate for the teeny, tiny minority, and say the hell with everyone else. xoox

Mrs. K said...

I totally agree with you 100%- for the most part, I have found these parents are completely nuts and irrational and coddle (sp) their children instead of educating them and teaching them how to be responsible for their own well-being.

Case in point. For one year J became highly allergic to mosquitoes. YUP. Now what the hell was I supposed to do? Build a net and walk around the school to make sure she was wearing this 'net bubble'? NO...I bought her an epi pen...I taught her how to use it, I taught her teacher how to use it...and let's face it, other than putting insect repellant, I couldn't do much more but trust and have faith in her and others. I did. SHe eventually came out of it (thank God because we live in FLORIDA) and all is fine.

pink green & southern said...

I love this post! In fact, I think you may be my new best friend! I live in CT and everyone here is sooooo over the top about food allergies. As room mother the stories I could tell you about other parents and their insane requests would blow your mind! These parents are not doing their children any favors.

brown eyed girl said...

Seriously? Can't we go back to the old days where you were responsible for your own person and none of this politlcally correct overinvolvement overprotectiveness stuff occurred? Just educate your kids and it'll be fine!

Lou Lou said...

I completely agree with you 100% on this post. This sense of entitlement and irresponsibility for oneself is what is wrong with our country today! Instead of teaching children that the world will bend around their needs we should teach them how to be aware and responsible!

Cool Gal said...

I taught first grade for years and had children come through my classroom with various allergies.

One child had a very serious allergy to "nut products." His crazy parents set up a meeting one morning with just about everyone in the school(classroom teacher, principal, nurse, cook, janitor) as they wanted to educate us on the seriousness of his allergy.

The child did not eat lunch in the cafeteria, but rather had his own special table outside the nurse's office. He was allowed to pick one friend to eat with him every day. His parents were fine with this and did not feel like he was being "left out." Why should the lunch menu have to change for one child?

The children in my classroom were asked to bring "peanut free" snacks to school. They tried their best, but some snacks are made at factories where there are peanuts. But, you know what, that little boy knew and would avoid that student during snack time.

The child's parents taught him what to do if he started to have a reaction. He had a plan in the nurse's office and always carried an Epi-Pen. For as "nuts"(no pun intended)as they were, they did him a huge favor. He was very responsible when it came to his allergy.

Education is a powerful tool. Best way to help these children is by teaching them how to manage their situation. NOT do it for them.

Mom x 2 said...

I suspect people who call this issue a "politically correct" issue don't have children with fatal reactions to peanuts.

I very much agree with much of what you wrote. I see both sides. Neither of my children have any allergies, so I can't begin to imagine the 24/7 worry of my child encountering an everyday item like peanuts and having it strike them dead in minutes. So I try to be empathetic to such parents. On the other hand, I totally agree with teaching allergic children from early on that they must be vigilant with their health.

Our public school has taken a moderate approach. We have some classrooms that are 'peanut free' because a child in the class has an allergy. In the lunch room there are 2 peanut free tables. My child is good friends with a kid who has a severe allergy so my son never wants to take peanut butter so he can sit with his friend at the peanut-free table. In our school, the peanut-free kids now have a lot of power (which they wield over their friends) because the lunch ladies let each kid pick 2 friends to sit at the peanut-free table. My son gets upset if he doesn't get picked. Odd, I think.

In the end, our kids are in school for 6.5 hours a day. I'm not opposed to them banning peanut products at schools if there are children who have severe allergies. My kid can eat peanut butter at breakfast or dinner or after school snack, on weekends.

I don't know how I'd feel if I had a kid who could drop dead from touching peanuts. I might be one of those overly neurotic parents too. I'd hope not, but I can't say. I know compassion is lacking these days from all corners of our earth. Some are so consumed with their "right" to eat peanut products, they lose sight of compassion and empathy.

Mom x 2 said...

Gosh, sorry I wrote such a long comment! But I forgot to add that the most important part of this issue, I think, is finding out WHY this is happening. Why are kids developing such strong allergies to things like peanuts. When I was a kid, I knew of no one with an allergy like this. Environmental, I'm guessing.

La Plates Blog said...

My son has a severe peanut allergy, but I TOTALLY agree with your points made! I do not want to raise him with the allergy controlling him, but him controlling the allergy. We travel everywhere with an epi-pen and make every effort to avoid any peanut products, but come on...he's 2 & he's got a lot of adventures ahead of him! Hopefully we can all find a happy medium of safe, yet not obsessive!

Gifting Gumshoe said...

I certainly agree! Kids need to learn what they can and can't eat, because their parents can't be there with them all of the time. Boy, no peanut butter, I wouldn't have made it through Elementary School!

E said...

i totally agree with everything you said here- and i'm glad someone finally said it.

Pink Maple said...

My mother recently retired from teaching at a small Catholic school and she used to always recount to me the difficulties encountered with students with peanut allergies. Rather than ban children from bringing peanut butter sandwiches, the kids who had them would all have to troop down to the front office at lunch and eat picnic-style on the floor. Seems to be no easy solution as there will ALWAYS be demanding parents on each side of the issue.

My college even had a peanut-free dorm!

Pearls To Hide My Neck said...

I agree with you to a point but I will have to give the other side. I have an 18 year old who we found out was allergic to peanuts at 8 months because hubby gave him a taste of peanut butter. At the time, peanut butter was used in a huge number of products and was not included in the list of ingredients. Because of this, we taught him to ask an adult since the really young who cannot read are most at risk. Lucky for us, he can smell peanuts a mile away. The problem with peanut allergies is that because of the oil, they can have a reaction from touching anything that has come in contact with peanut products and believe me it's frightening to see. Just by touching a table where trail mix was not cleaned up caused him to break out with 32 blisters on his body at age 4. Imagine if he had ingested that small amount.
We never expected others to cater to him but we did ask that they be aware of what can happen. We asked the other kids not sit next to him if they were having anything with peanuts and everyone was great about it. It helped his teachers enforce the "washing hands with soap rule" before and after meals too.
Our only bad experience was when one bratty kid in 2nd grade wanted to see if he would really die and hid a peanut in his food and then blamed it on someone else. The ambulance to the school because he stopped breathing even with the epipen made a lasting impression on everyone at the school.
He has no other allergies other than peanuts but unfortunately, this particular one can kill him in about 20 minutes should eat the wrong thing. Using the epipen does not guarantee no reaction. He is proactive and asks about peanut products wherever he eats. Chinese food, Mexican and cafeterias all use peanuts in some of their cooking. We have raised him to be very careful.
I know this is bone of contention with many people and I hate that some have made it even worse by expecting everyone to completely cater to one child. I would hope that the family of the child with the peanut allergy would teach their child to be proactive and that others would also understand that it could be deadly. It's not a runny nose and hives kind of reaction. It is a swollen tongue and airway that makes an asthma attack look like a very slight breathing problem. The Pediatricians put the fear of God in the parents from the beginning so that we understand what can happen.
Sorry for the long post. I just wanted to let you know that in some kids it can be deadly and it's hard for the really young ones to understand or explain to others just how bad it can be.

9to5to9 said...

I'm assuming my previous point-by-point rebuttal wasn't polite enough - I always find it ironic when a blogger pleas for civility then proceeds to apply gratuitous labels such as "controlling" and "militant" - so let me try this again.

I find your guidelines incredibly condescending and, at times, ill informed. For example, there could well have been valid reasons the airline declined to serve peanuts. Perhaps the child's allergy was so severe that even peanut dust triggers a reaction. It can and does happen. That the airline needed to make an announcement seems small and petty and designed to inflame reaction such as I'm seeing in these comments.

Yes, my child is taught in a peanut-free classroom - he's contact allergic to peanut, and it's his right under the Americans With Disabilities Act to be schooled in a safe environment.

Yes, I take his food to parties and social gatherings - at times in the face of hostility from hosts who view it as an insult to their offerings.

Yes, I'm educated, but I can't imagine any parent wanting to "feel horrible" about their child's allergy - whatever that means.

You accuse parents of allergic children of wanting the world to cater to them. Not true in my case - we make far more adaptions than the world does for us. I don't think it's unreasonable at all to ask that children forgo for one snack a day something that can kill my child. I'm not aware of anyone ever dying from not eating peanut butter.

Tracy said...

I'm a mom of a 10-year old with a child severe peanut allergy and agree with almost everything you wrote, with a few exceptions.

I think younger children (i.e., younger elementary kids) stll need a peanut-free environment (or as free as you can get) because it's not reasonable to expect kids that young to have the judgement or ability to protect themselves. If you ever seen the results of a glitter project with kids that age you understand what I mean - just picture that glitter being a deadly poison and you know how a PA parent feels about peanuts in the classroom (I'm NOT talking about "may contain peanuts" but actual peanuts or peanut butter) I think the "peanut table" that was proposed for your school is a great compromise. We were happy with a "peanut-free" table and classroom for my son when he was that age.

I also really appreciate airlines like the one you husband flew on that don't allow peanuts on the plane. Because the air recirculated on the plane, the act of 250 passengers opening bags of peanuts can produce enough peanut dust in the air to cause a reaction in someone as sensitive as my son. Yes, we carry an epipen, but you need to go to an emergency room within 20 minutes because the epipen can wear off. 30,000 feet is really not the place to be dealing with anaphylaxis. So we are careful which airlines we fly and glad that many can accomodate us.

Preppy from Bay said...

I totally agree with all your points. My son has Celiac Disease and we don't let the other parties change their menu for him. We make arrangements for him by packing his own snacks, lunch, meal, dessert, what have you. I think todays children are totally hand held too much and therefore feel like the outcast. Love your comments and thoughts!!!

Kappa Prep said...

We are on the EXACT same page. I do not think parents should demand an exception to be made or something be changed for their one child. In a way it is sort of like visiting or living in a foreign country. I would NEVER expect people in every store I visit in Honrduras to speak English. Ugh, I am sure I would assess the situation differently if I had a child with a severe allergy. However, I do not think I would ever, ever, ever force a school to outlaw food, etc.

PS- Did you see Hartmann is having an amazing sale!?

Princess Freckles said...

I agree that parents are INSANE when it comes to allergies! I don't care if the kid feels left out (i.e. "peanut-free table")! That's much better than feeling like everyone is having a bad time at lunch because YOU (the one, or one of three kids with the allergy). Parents really need to start putting things in proper prospective.

Miss Janice said...

Oh Lord have mercy...this kind of stuff gets on Miss Janice's nerves! Why don't they just put their children in bubbles? We never dealt with anything like this when I was growing up!

A2Girl said...

Okay, I'm sure you have heard enough, but I just want to share my daughter's experience with our school's attempt at creating a nut free school. After lots of paper sent home and mailed over the summer, which I read carefully, my 9 year old went to school on the first day with a lunch packed with great care. Her favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich was replaced with sunflower seed butter and jelly. This was not a problem for her. She liked the taste and knew exactly what it was. The cafeteria monitors, however, did not take her word for what she was putting into her body, confiscated her lunch, and basically embarassed her in front of her classmates. The principal, noticing that there was a problem, offered my daughter a substitute lunch. But, let's face it, the damage was done. I think this story illustrates a problem with attempting to create a sterile environment -- no matter how much you try to educate people, there is always going to be someone who is not making an attempt to do the right thing. This goes for staff as well as parents. I'm sure there were a handful of kids carrying peanut products in their lunches on that first day because their parents didn't take the time to read the memos, and I'm sure not every monitor was disecting every lunch they oversaw.

I'll have another one, please! said...

Ok, I am not a parent and I do not know what disabling fear it is to have to worry about dying from a killer peanut but I am so tired..Exhaused tired of our nation of "soft children". The sentence you wrote of people not wanting their children to be left out of lunch. OM..my blood pressure shot right up. Lunch is not a huge deal to kids. It's kind of a noisy ends to a means time/place from what I remember. I could have cared less what I ate at lunch, I just wanted to get through lunch and go play outside. I think most kids think that way. It's weird to read that people feel that their child would be soooo left out. What about natural teasing (sometimes mean spirited too) that happens? That makes children feel even more isolated & alone. But it's part of being a child & life. I guess my point is, being "left out" at some point in your life is natural. Suck it up, Johnny & Mary can sit at the "appointed" lunch tables in the hallway.

MLG said...

You are so true. My son has a peanut allergy (very mild) and other parents GET ON MY LAST NERVE!!! I was also a teacher in my previous life before children and it was getting ridiculous then and is so much worse now.

Love your blog...I just found you and am glad I did. Have a great day!

SJN said...

what about kids that are lactose intolerant? Anything done for them? My daughter went to school with a girl that was allergic to eggs and wheat, she just brought her own food everywhere.
The nut nazi's should home school.

Duchess said...

I have an allergy to latex which includes balloons and rubber bands. So when my plot to remove all balloons and rubber bands from planet Earth failed I decided it would be easier to only use the really pretty mylar balloons and buy paperclips. I do have to ask people for help sometimes if I have to use a rubber band and if I go to a birthday party I make sure I have my inhalers and I try not to get close to the balloons.

Lord people take responsibility for yourself:-)

Needs Help said...

I agree with teaching your children how to function in society while being considerate of their needs. I have dyslexia and ADHD and while I have recieved counseling for these learing disabilities I have never been medicated and I am proud of that. Other than counseling I recieved no other accomodations in school until I reached graduate school and was simply overwhelmed with taking exams around so many others in such an intense environment.

Everyone who really looks closely at themself probably has some form of disability or at least trouble with something, its best to learn to deal with this in the world you live in.

I truly think it is poor parenting to teach your child that the world will change for you. I realize peanut and other food allergies can be very serious and need to be addressed but the children need to learn how to help themselves so when they do encounter an environment that cannot be made completely sterile by their parents they will know how to live in it and survive!

Jennie said...

I am allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and dairy, so i more than understand the issue at hand. I think that taking food away from kids at the lunch table is probably not the best way to handle it. I didnt develop my allergy until I was older so never had the problem at school, and I cant even begin to imagine how you would monitor a small child with allergies like this, it affects everyone differently. If a child is so allergic to peanut dust that it could kill them if they sat next too another child eating peanut butter, with peanut breath, I dont think the sandwich is worth a life. Its almost like when you tell people they cant have something, then they want it more. I think that they do go overboard with the "may contain" products, if they dont actually have the nut present then it should be ok as long as they dont ingest it. All the kids that i know that have these problems, know better than to eat food if they dont know whats in it. when I go to parties I eat before i go, I know i cant eat someone elses food. All I am saying is I know the fear that goes along with this and Im sure that if these other people had this problem they would want to steer clear of allergens as much as they could. If you thought your kid could die in a split second from food you might feel the same way and do whatever you could to protect them, have some compassion and think about a day in their life and you might begin to understand.

Jennifer said...

Wow. I'm continually amazed at the stupidity of people like some of the posters on this blog! Nut Nazis? I'm glad my kids don't have to associate with kids like yours who are so caught up in their own simple lives that they can't empathize with the plight of other people. I guess most of you voted for George Bush, too!

P.S. Scary that someone like "Needs Help" actually has a graduate degree.

Bulldog said...

For those of you who are saying for children to stay home and they need to learn how to function in the world. Did you ever ask how they are supposed control people from touching them everyday for the rest of their lives? I have a son who is allergic to nut and tree nuts and if someone ate peanuts and touched him 4 hours later he would end up in the er. What is the big deal if child does not eat nuts during a school day or has to wash their hands after they eat? You are saving a life. They ban smoking in some areas to save lives and that is ok. Even though you do not die in 20 minutes if you inhale smoke by walking by it. But a child that could die from a nut reaction is not important enough. Maybe some of you should actually research how fast a reaction happens and stop alienating those shildren or adults that suffer. I recommend doing some research on the FAAN web-site to educate yourself before writing these ridiculous blogs. There is no cure for food allergies yet. But when there is one maybe you would wish you took the time not to make that child or adult's life so much harder on them by fighting against ways to make their life safer.

e.m. said...

Amen.

Mom said...

I have a 5 year old daughter with a peanut allergy-I worry about her entering Kindergarten-I have taught her not to share, politley refuse food, she went to many b-day parties-we never made special requests , brought our own snack-I want her not to "feel different" or "abnormal". I am truly trying to teach her to be independent-her own advocate, to live safely in a "peanut-world"
I hear the bullying at schools sometimes is aimed at "the peanut kid" (which could be deadly)-I worry about that- maybe I'm being too sensitive but I kind of feel like I am being made fun of for being a Mom of a kid with allergies when I read some of the posts and hear comments made about the "peanut kids")
I also hear about great kids that really support and look out for their friends with allergies-
I hope that you lucky parents that have kids without allergies teach your kids to be the latter.

Allergy Free Mom said...

I thought this was a well written blog, and I enjoyed reading the opinions of everyone who commented on it.
I for one was always the parent that packed a PB&J, thank you very much, as a fast, high protein snack. Peanut butter was a definite staple in our busy household. That is until I had my peanut-allergic son.
I now feel the need to keep MY food-allergic child out of any risky environment, and that includes school, for now. He's also only 3-years-old. I think we have to look at this situation on an age-appropriate basis. For instance, I am teaching him what his food allergies are, he sees me and the rest of the family reading labels, and he knows what anaphylactic shock feels like, as well as a milder-type reaction. He doesn't know however, at his age, the difference between a cookie mommy makes and a cookie that has wheat (or one of the many other allergens he has to avoid) in it. When he's 10 or 12, yes...he will know to ask, and he will be able to make his own informed decisions.
So...that being said, I believe for parents who aren't blessed with the option financially to stay home with their allergic child and pay for the allergy free diet on one income, there can never be too much safety around in an elementary school or a pre-k setting. Keep in mind, a bag of allergy friendly pretzels costs my family 9 bucks. Yes...that's nine. Nine dollars for a bag of pretzels with no wheat and on a dedicated line. Most families already depend upon two incomes, and an expensive diet further clouds the crisis they've been faced with.
I agree with what Mom x 2 posted earlier when she said we need to focus more on WHY this is happening to our babies now and not so much on how we can debate the issue.
We're all human, we all have emotions and feelings, and those of us who have children certainly love them. As parents, I think we should support the children who are being handed this disability...together.
XO