Talking Allergies

Peanut/tree nut bans
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Author:  _Susan_ [ Sat Sep 06, 2008 7:35 am ]
Post subject:  Peanut/tree nut bans

I have split this topic from another because this seems to be taking over from the original issue. I this that this topic does deserve to be discussed but it is a contentious issue and I am concerned that it could become a heated discussion.

I want to say from the begining that I want to keep this forum friendly, imformative and supportive.

This seems to be the shift from an out and out peanut ban to an awareness. I think that the logic behind this is:
1. The realization that they cannot be 100% confident that there is no peanut in the school.
2. The concern that they might be liable if they state there is a peanut ban, a peanut sneaks in as a may contain and a reaction ensues.
3. That our hyper vigilence will somehow lessen due to the percieved safety a ban represents.

The legislation that we have in Ontario states the schools must have in place
Strategies that reduce the risk of exposure to anaphylactic causative agents in classrooms and common school areas.

I don't think we can get a ban and I'm not sure that we should put all of our energy into asking for one. I think we need to look at what the current legislation is, what our needs are and how we can use that legislation to address our needs.

When we are told what a school will not do, we can ask them how they plan to address a safety concern. If they are removing the allergen from the classroom and simply letting the sturent eat the food in the hallway how does that reduce the risk of exposure incommon school areas? Will that student not eat at the door? Is this not where your child is likely to place their heavy backpack when waiting to enter? Is there not a good chance that that same backpack might be momentarily placed on the desk? Hands on desk + rub the eyes = a reaction. It can happen as easily as that.

I have taken the trip to ER after giving the Epi-Pen to our daughter because her eyes swelled so much she looked like a character from Miss Sunnypatch Spider. ( ... show.jhtml) We can only think that she came in contact with residue at either the school or school bus as the reaction had started before she got off the bus. The daycare lady didn't figure it out but she did ask us to pick her up early as she knew something was happening. :roll:

I refuse to listen to the peanuts are all around us theory for JK because we don't send a 3-4 year old out into the world alone. We are aware of the world out there, we are armed with multiple auto-injectors, wipes etc. We are not responsible for 20-25 boisterous children and we are not focussed on a lesson plan.

I didn't read anywhere that your school planned to educate the family if a student was to bring a peanut product to school. I would expect that to be part of the response.

Remember that allergy awareness has a huge learning curve and the school administration does not live this 24/7 as we do. They are are learning, slowly. They might inform you of their plans but you have the duty to advise them of where their plans do not adress a need. Give them praise for the thoughtfullness that they had in what does work and offer suggestions for what doesn't.

Author:  ficbot [ Sat Sep 06, 2008 11:07 pm ]
Post subject: 

_Susan_ wrote:
This seems to be the shift from an out and out peanut ban to an awareness. I think that the logic behind this is:
1. The realization that they cannot be 100% confident that there is no peanut in the school.
2. The concern that they might be liable if they state there is a peanut ban, a peanut sneaks in as a may contain and a reaction ensues.
3. That our hyper vigilence will somehow lessen due to the percieved safety a ban represents.

I think this is exactly what's happening, and for exactly these reasons. I am someone with allergies myself and I deeply empathize with how much harder it must be to parent a child and feel helpless to protect them. But I am also a teacher, and I *know* that there is just no way to 100% guarantee. Our school for example shares space with a church and they often have cub scout groups and such in there. Could we 100% promise we could vouch for them to follow every precaution we do? No. I also remember reading about that school in York Region which used to inspect lunches, then stopped doing that, and a group of families sued the school. I thought this was unreasonable. I know I sure would not want to be the teacher who signed off on the day's lunches being safe, and then something happened. That is just too much of a burden to place on one or two people, especially if you are relying on parents (or kids) to give you accurate information on what's in the lunches. How many people really know every single ingredient in the bread they pack for sandwiches? Would you want to be the one to guarantee 100% that every parent has given you completely accurate reporting? It just can't be promised, not in a 100% iron-clad way. It is unreasonable to expect them to promise, and imho it's what makes them back off in fear and say they can't do *anything."

Far better in my view is taking a more moderate approach of a) what steps can reasonably be taken to minimize or contain the risk and b) what is the emergency plan if something does happen, and how can we best train the staff to implement it?

Author:  _Susan_ [ Sun Sep 07, 2008 6:36 am ]
Post subject: 

So then instead of asking for an outright ban (which they most likely can't/won't do), we can ask what measures they are putting in place to keep our children safe during these risky activities.

Supervision, confinment and removal of potential allergens as soon as possible after the snack/lunch period is over, teaching students not to use the straw from their milk container as a pea shooter and teaching empathy for others-these are just a few things that can be done.

Personaly, I would like to see all foods eaten in a cafeteria so that fewer staff could supervise the meal time and actually supervise (be in the room) while foods are being consumed. Having all of the food in one place would mean custodial staff could give intense, focused cleaning the area after the lunch period.

Once upon a time, society expected women to stay home while men went to work. The norm now is to have the adults working and no one at home during the day ( either both parents are working or it is a single parent household and the parent still must work). If the trend is going to be all students eating at school form now on, then for heavens sake, lets create an environment that allows for this. We have a clasroom, a washroom...why not a lunchroom?

Author:  ethansmom [ Mon Sep 08, 2008 11:28 am ]
Post subject: 

My son's school is "peanut and nut safe". On each school entrance and each classroom door there is a sign explaining that no peanut or nut products are to be brought into the school/classroom because the key to preventing an anaphylactic reaction is complete avoidance of the allergen. If it is discovered that a child has brought in a peanut or nut containing food by mistake, it is returned home with a note to the parent reminding them of the "peanut and nut safe" policy. No teacher is expected to inspect lunches or "sign off" that the environment is "peanut / nut free" guaranteed. I don't think any parent of a peanut/nut allergic child at my son's school is under the impression that the school can provide this guarantee -- at least I don't.

I do support a school environment that is "peanut and nut safe", like my son's -- where communication home to all students is clear. Peanut and nut products are not to be brought to school. Having said that, I realize that children can be and are allergic to more than just peanuts and nuts and I realize that we can't restrict all foods that all children are allergic to.

The reason I support the restriction on peanut and nut products is that we do know that the potency of peanut protein is extremely high, the transferability of greasy peanut protein is high, that the most minute amounts of peanut residue can cause a reaction in allergic children. We also know that children play intimately - sharing play equipment, etc., and that children are not the best or the most willing hand washers.

Being a stay-at-home mom, I have been able to volunteer at my son's school quite a bit and have had the benefit of seeing the day unfold and seeing "policy" in action. This is not a criticism of my son's school, it is more an observation on our school's limitations despite the best of intentions. My suggestion is that this might also be the case at your child's school.

There are 20 students to 1 teacher. Although they do their best, teachers cannot afford the time or energy to ensure that each child washes their hands before and after each snack or lunch break. For this reason, I make it clear to my son that he is responsible for ensuring that his hands are washed before each meal and after outside recess time. After snacks/lunch, proper washing of desks and sweeping of floors is not always possible (without volunteers) because a teacher's day is busy enough with planning, their lunch, duty, etc. Custodial staff do not sweep or wash in classrooms during the day - they only empty garbage cans over lunch (probably also union stipulated). I also understand that a teacher's day (time) is strictly guided by their union agreement. Teacher (adult) supervision is often shared between classes (due to union stipulations about teacher's duty time, etc.). Oftentimes a teacher wanders between two classrooms with older students acting as "helpers" in the classrooms of younger children. If there is a scheduling glitch, or someone is away and a supply or casual teacher is brought in for the day who doesn't know the schedule, etc. , adult supervision over eating breaks might not exist at all. I like the idea of my son eating snack and lunch in his classroom, because if he were to eat in a large lunch room, my concern is that he would be lost in the sea of students and quite honestly, I don't see the ratio of child to adult supervision during lunch times being sufficient enough for them to notice if my son was having a reaction. Supply or casual teachers are not included in the annual training at my son's school -- they belong to a separate union. My son's supply teacher could very well be "untrained" regarding allergies. Although I have worked with my son's school to work out procedures to account for supply teachers, who is there to make sure they are followed (or there to see that they are being followed?).

The point I am trying to make (albeit not very succinctly) is that despite every measure that you can think of to put into place on paper to ensure your child's safety at school -- we're dealing with people. People and administrations with the best of intentions who are confined by "union and contract" stipulations, make mistakes, run out of time, cut corners, get busy, just get through the day. Knowing what I know, (and seeing what I've seen) I think it would be unbearable for me to send my son to school knowing that children would be given the green light to bring in and consume greasy, highly allergenic, highly transferable peanut and nut products during school hours with a "hand washing" and "table washing" policy in place that "might" or "might not" be followed. It's just not safe.

Author:  katec [ Mon Sep 08, 2008 8:57 pm ]
Post subject: 

Ethan's mom, I totally agree with your points. Given the constraints of schools, staff and the behaviour of kids just being kids, it is completely reasonable to ask for a peanut and nut safe school.

Author:  _Susan_ [ Tue Sep 09, 2008 6:36 am ]
Post subject: 

Our school does send a note to all parents at the beginning of the year asking that they not send peanuts and nut products to school. I expect that this means peanut butter or foods containing pieces of nuts but I don't believe that all of the parents will read all of the labels thoroughly or that they could understand all the possible forms of nut on the labels, if they did.

Does that make us nut-free? No. I think it's a positive step in communicating to all parents the need to avoid this allergen but I don't think it does much really, because as has been mentioned, it can't be properly enforced.

Author:  ethansmom [ Tue Sep 09, 2008 10:50 am ]
Post subject: 

I'd have to disagree that it doesn't do much to communicate to a school community that a school is "peanut and nut safe". Aside from the obvious benefit of reducing the peanut/nut allergic student's exposure to their allergen, I think the actions my son's school has taken to communicate the policy throughout the year by providing signage, reiterating the policy at the top of every school newsletter and on the school website, providing links to information about anaphylaxis and taking the opportunity to discuss not only the peanut and nut allergies at the school, but all of the others as well has increased the awareness of life threatening allergies in the school community as a whole. All of the discussion, education, and visibility of the policy has done a lot to educate and although not "a guarantee", it fosters (and has created, in my opinion) an atmosphere of greater understanding and compassion towards all of the students at the school who are at risk of anaphylaxis.

Author:  gwentheeditor [ Fri Sep 12, 2008 12:05 pm ]
Post subject: 

Happened upon this discussion in the Wall Street Journal blogs - about whether peanut restrictions are necessary.

Comments are interesting: ... lenews_wsj

Author:  paige H [ Fri Sep 12, 2008 10:29 pm ]
Post subject: 

I just spent 20 min. reading some comments written in this article. I had to stop many of them were not so nice. Though I do not worry about my children (no allergies for them) I grew up with them my self. In the 70's the schools did not have peanut bans but I can think back and remember many reactions (no not all at school). It also seems that many of these people felt that the allergic children were not learning how to cope with their allergies. If they have had any time with their allergy they have probably learned plenty enough to know they should not be next to someone eating something they are allergic to!! Do we not take baby steps in all our learning? Keeping the environment as safe as possible for these very young children can only make sense. From what I read it also seemed to me that if nuts... were removed many people thought allergic families would be in a false sense of security. I don't know about other allergic people but I only feel 100% safe when I am in my own home and I have made the food my self. Family members have even put me in an allergic situation with their menu, must always be on guard. This is not to say that I hide in my home. Ban or No Ban If non allergic parents could just understand that allergic parents are just looking for a safe environment for their children. To all the non allergic parents who think it is unfair, I can only speak for myself but if I could avoid having to deal with this all together I would, I always have to muster enough courage to deal with each individual situation. I can understand when people don't understand allergies but they are not always nice when you have questions in restaurant, stores, airplanes...
I guess if you don't live it you don't get it :?

Author:  _Susan_ [ Sat Sep 13, 2008 3:02 pm ]
Post subject: 

I the belief that we will somehow stop being vigilant if there is an all out ban is false. There are allergy deniers who don't carry auto-injectors and who don't read labels believing instead that they will be able to tell from sight that the allergen is present; there are those who are extremely vigilant and there is wide spectrum in between. Those who are very vigilant will remain so those who are deniers will also continue. More liklely is that the staff might relax their vigilance and that is a scary thought.

Bans seem to bring out the worst in people (some people I should say but they tend to be quite vocal). What starts out as a discussion with the potential to teach and explain allergies soon evolves into an attack on us and our children. Concepts such as home school, allergy island and the worst that I've seen, basically telling us to accept the fact that our child is going to die of this because that is Darwinianism :roll: . It amazes me at how quickly it turns into hate propaganda.

Author:  walooet [ Mon Feb 02, 2009 1:24 am ]
Post subject: 

The irony of the peanut ban is that I have seen students come to school with peanut butter on their face from breakfast :shock:

My daughter's school does have a peanut and tree-nut ban but not all parents are vigilant. I am not worried about the student next to her eating items that have traces because she is exposed to far more at the mall etc. But I do think it is reasonable that students do not bring actual nuts into the classroom.

There is a different classroom that can not bring milk or eggs. And there is a staffroom at a different school where seafood is not allowed (teacher has airborne allergy).

The bigger concern for us now is the sports - she played soccer for years but now it is volleyball and basketball. We have asked that her team-mates not eat nuts at games or tournaments. Some may think it is not reasonable but she's still a kid! At one tournament they were selling Reese's peanut butter cups and I asked them to stop and they kindly did.

Author:  walooet [ Mon Feb 02, 2009 1:50 am ]
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Was just reading some responses to an article about Peanut and TreeNut Bans in schools and there were people who said their child would "only eat PB&J" so they could not accommodate the whiny parents whose children had allergies. hmmmm Let's see, your child, by choice and your actions, only eats one kind of sandiwch. My child, not by choice, can't eat it and could die from it. hmmmm Which parent is unrealistic???

Author:  _Susan_ [ Mon Feb 02, 2009 7:55 am ]
Post subject: 

I'd like to see a study done to see whatthe long term results of a diet of nothing but PB & J is on rats. Hmmm, I'd bet PETA wouldn't let such a study go ahead!

Author:  ZacharysMom [ Tue Feb 03, 2009 1:47 am ]
Post subject: 

This is an interesting discussion.

As the mom of a child with multiple severe food allergies, including having reactions to even the smallest trace amounts of contact with dairy protein, would other parents supporting the ban of peanuts/nuts in schools support the ban of dairy??? or dairy, sesame seeds, fish and all nuts???

Quoting from one of the comments (I don't know how you do that quote thing) so i just copied and paste:

"Knowing what I know, (and seeing what I've seen) I think it would be unbearable for me to send my son to school knowing that children would be given the green light to bring in and consume greasy, highly allergenic, highly transferable peanut and nut products during school hours with a "hand washing" and "table washing" policy in place that "might" or "might not" be followed. It's just not safe."

I totally feel the same fear, but for my son, this would also include making sure dairy was banned as well so he could be kept safe (and possibly his other allergens as those little sesame seeds are very dangerous for my son to be around and get everywhere)! Actually, my son is still only 2 so we haven't had to deal with real school yet but we are freaking out about how he is going to be kept safe with milk programs, and pizza days and just the large amount of dairy consumption by kids!

Also, there was another comment about making sure they didn't serve the reese peanut butter cups at the soccer game, what do you do when its cheese that everyone is eating?

For instance, my son just today had his face cover in hives and eyes start to swell up from attempting to play at a gym with other kids where there was no snack component but in which of course the kids probably had residue from cheese, milk or one of the many other dairy containing foods as it seems to be everywhere and touched the ball that he then touched and then touched his face before mommy was on top of keeping his hands wiped and washed at all times. We are trying to give him a normal life while balancing the risks with his allergies, its a difficult task!

Therefore, when there are children that have extremely severe life-threatening allergies to foods other than peanuts/nuts, can those foods be banned in that childs school/classroom? Going with the legislation that schools have to ensure to reduce risk of anaphylaxis, then maybe could safety including bans of certian foods be made classroom specific based on the children in that class and their high risk allergies? If you ban one highly allergic food, why not protect other children who suffer from the same risk but also to other foods? Don't they deserve protection?

I noted one of the mom's mentionign that their school had something like this with classrooms having different bans of foods depending on the allergies in that class. I would be curious to see how that worked out. Playing the other side of the coin, the problem however then is if you have several children with opposite severe allergies, there could be no food left for anyone to eat! Also, I would then fear angry parents/children not wanting that child in their class which could therefore cause more harm???

This is a tough subject. My husband and I are not looking forward to when our son has to start school, but luckly we still have some time. Its extremely scary issue as I'm sure we can all relate together with. It's nice to talk within a community of fellow allergic parents as to how best protect all allergic children in the school system.

Take care,


Author:  _Susan_ [ Tue Feb 03, 2009 7:44 am ]
Post subject: 

Jodi, what province are you in? This can make a difference in what the school is responsible for.

OUr daughter has severe milk allergies and yes reacts to the slightest contact. We were fortunate in that JK and SK were 1/2 day classes so it was really only a snack that we had to worry about.

Because the teacher also wanted to avoid a reaction (and traumatizing all of those little students), she sent a note home asking all parents to send either fruits or vegetables as the healthy snack. Those kides would crane their necks to see what their classmates brought in and the next day they too would ask for red peppers or green grapes or whatever they saw someone enjoying. It was a great way of using peer presssure to expand a diet in a way that it could expand (for us).

In grade one, we decided to request limits of foods not by ingredient family but based on the smearability of the individual food. PB was out as it is hard to clean off surfaces. Dd was kept home on schoolwide pizza days on the advice of her allergist. (He felt that contact reactions would continue to prime the body for milk allergies which at that point he hoped she would outgrow.

The problem was that Pizza Day was alway held on festive days or spirit days. She also missed Valenitnes Day(which was not held on Feb 14th but on Pizza Day instead :evil: ), the Halloween party and a few others. My mantra was "Isn't Pizza DAy special enough?)

The following year, we got a new principal who promptly did away with Pizza Day as a fundraiser. I have no problem with another student bringing in a slice of pizza or a cheese sandwhich because the level of classs contamination is minimal (as compared to every student and most teachers eating the ot greasy thing). Our school has the desks cleaned while the children play outside after eating.

It's not a perfect world, but for a grade 2 student, it's working for us.

Another thing that we do is I provide wipes daily in her lunch bag. She is able to wipe her hands before and after eating. I found that telling her to go to the washroom didn't work do to the time element for snacks. Too often there was no soap or towels. :roll:
This is a quick remedy that she controls and she isn't noticibly singled out as different.

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