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The Peanut Gallery – an allergic controversy

I have two children who have a nut allergy.  Which is fitting, since they are the more squirrel-y of my offspring…  (Not nearly enough caffeine, folks.)  Jensen is the kid that I worry most about, because he’ll dive headlong into a banquet table, not caring if nuts are among the fray or not.

Cailey, the more conservative of the two, will ask the hostess for all of the boxes so that she can peruse the ingredients list.  She might even make a phone call to the manufacturer.  This would be a result of her father’s DNA, btw.

I keep an Epi-Pen because Jensen’s allergic reactions are more severe than Cailey’s (and it’s rarely an issue for Cailey because of the above-mentioned paragraph).  If Jensen is close to, touches, or ingests anything with a nut, his list of possible reactions include nausea, garden-variety vomitting, or LIPS ARE SWELLING AND HE’S HOLDING HIS THROAT!

As I mentioned, we keep an Epi-Pen with us wherever we go as well as chewable allergy tabs.  We’ve never felt his life was in immediate danger, but there have been a few tense moments.

Since we homeschool, this isn’t a huge issue.  We do keep peanut butter in the house, and are careful about opening and eating it in his vicinity, and are vigilant about cross-contamination.  The allergy-related incidents occur when we are out of the house and he eats something at a party when I haven’t checked the ingredients.  (He’s much better about checking with me now since he knows that an allergic reaction will shut down his fun.)

There is one day a week when my children are away from my watchful eye.  Emme attends a co-op that offers those High School courses that SCARE ME (huge blessing, this co-op).  And on that same day, I send Cailey and Jensen to a very small private school/enrichment learning center.  They bring mostly their own curriculum and have the availability of other teachers.  They are also learning how to work in a group setting.  And the biggest bonus is that I have a few hours to keep up with business paperwork since I play the banker in our Dave Ramsey inspired financial situation.  In other words, I am the nerd.

Fiddledaddy is the free-spirit.  Which if you knew us would totally make NO SENSE AT ALL.

But whatever.

When I went to collect my younger two children from their day of enrichment learning this week, my young son bounded up to me announcing that another kid tried to kill him.  He’s not at all dramatic.  At the same time, I saw the director of the center having a pointed conversation with a young boy (the alleged culprit) and his mother.  Jensen’s allergy are well known at the center and he comes armed with his Epi-Pen and fresh Benadryl.  The director always reminds the children not to go near Jensen with peanut butter at lunch time.  It seems that one of the other students thought it would be funny to shove his baggie of peanut butter in Jensen’s face to see what would REALLY happen.  I don’t believe it was mean-spirited.  Just dumb kid stuff.

The second hand information that I received was that Jensen felt nauseous afterwards and his sister deftly administered a Benadryl tab.  Thankfully, he was fine.

The parent of the boy apologized profusely and made her son apologize.  The director was very on top of the situation and made it clear that a day like that would never again be tolerated.

Once again my thoughts drifted to those precious parents who have children with severe and life-threatening allergies to peanuts and the like.  Just recently I read of a child who died after exposure in a school setting.

Should peanuts be banned in a school setting?  I don’t know the answer.  I think if I were a parent of a child who might suffer a severe reaction, I would have to say YES.

It’s a difficult topic.

But one that requires open and honest dialogue.

DeeDeeSig

11 Responses to The Peanut Gallery – an allergic controversy

  • I struggle daily with this question. I live on both sides of the controversy. My son has no sense of smell, for genetic reasons. So he will never get a sense of smell. As a result he has a very limited pallet. He is a VERY picky eater to the extreme. He lives on PB, it is his main source of protein. If he couldn’t take it to school for lunch, I am not sure what I would feed him to get him through the day. He also has severe skin issues. His body makes too much skin and one result of that is that it skyrockets his metabolism and PB is one of the few things that keeps him full for more than 20 min. On the other side, my daughter has severe food allergies, thankfully not nuts, but other stuff, and I am well aware of that side of the coin. I don’t have an answer for you, I wish I did.

  • Sometimes I wonder if the money spent on deep space exploration were spent on exploring a cure for peanut allergies instead if peanut allergies would still be around.
    Call me crazy. 😉

  • Our Classical Conversations community is a peanut free zone. Someone there has a severe allergy. Everyone seems to just accept it and work together on keeping that child safe.

  • I am the director of an early childhood center and we do not serve nuts of any kind and we request that parents send nut-free lunches. However, schools have to be very careful of saying they are nut-free. It is impossible to control what children or adults may inadvertently bring in to the school–a stray peanut at the bottom of a purse, a child who has wiped his mouth on his sleeve after eating a pb and j sandwich, etc. Even if we are as nut-free as possible, we still have to remain diligent.

  • I have to make a picky, but important, point here. A peanut allergy is not the same thing as a tree nut allergy. It is important to make that distinction to others so they know if your child is allergic to peanuts (a legume), or tree nuts (like almonds, walnuts, etc), or both. I say this as the mother of a child with a life-threatening peanut allergy who has seen people freak out and want to inject him with an epi-pen because he ate something with an almond in it. He does not have a tree nut allergy, so almonds are safe for him.

    As far as banning peanuts in a school setting, I am not in favor of that. My other son has life-threatening allergies to milk and egg. My friend’s daughter is severely allergic to sesame. Another friend becomes quite ill if her food comes into contact with gluten. It is not practical to ban all of these foods from a school cafeteria. I do favor having a peanut-free table in the cafeteria (or tree nut-free, egg-free, etc), and I think this solution works well, if strictly enforced.

    I am encouraged to hear that the director of your son’s enrichment program took the situation very seriously.

  • Our 6yo Keller has a level 5 peanut allergy so yes, we are also quite familiar with the Epi-Pen drill. As well as all the other drills that go along with it… We have a lot of support at his elementary school, but one parental reaction we heard at our “Meet the Teacher” night was priceless: “This is a peanut-free classroom? But what if that’s all my little Bobby eats?!?!?”…

    • I will say in some cases that may be true. In our case Peanuts and Peanut butter keep my son full longer than most anything else, and he is a very picky eater. You can read my comment above for more info. Although his classroom is peanut free and the lunch room is not and we deal, but he does come home STARVING each day. I would never send a Peanut snack in though, that would just be rude!

  • Neither of my children has a peanut allergy but I am firmly on the side of no peanuts. My son is now in middle school and there are no restrictions (the peanut-free kids are old enough to know to sit at the peanut-free table, etc.) but I still don’t send peanut products with my son. Cheese is full of protein and fat and will keep him full. The consequences of him accidentally touching a kid with peanutty fingers is too hard to think about. We are blessed to not have this particular allergy so we can eat our PB&J sandwiches at home :).

  • I started a virtual riot on Facebook one time with this topic. Unfriending abounded. Fun times! Anyhooo! Unless there are very extreme circumstances (as listed above), schools shpuld be a peanut free zone (IMO). Those allergies are serious and life threatening (many others are not).

  • It is a very tough topic! If your child can die from “anything”, then you wouldn’t want that “anything” to be anywhere near him or her. Unfortunately, as Greta mentioned above, there are a lot of “anythings” out there from food to common germs. I know a family that had to pull their child out of school because the cold/strep/flu germs shared at school that land our kids at home for two days land her in the hospital for two weeks. As with most things, communication and understanding appear to be the most effective to me. Educate the allergic child as best you can for their age, educate the teacher/friends/class parents as best you can. If you are not the one with the allergy, be the gracious one that respects the needs of that person. Wheat allergy in class? Celebrate your child’s birthday with popsicles instead of cupcakes!

  • Interesting topic. We homeschool now, but when my kids attended public school they started a “no sharing rule.” No sharing at ALL. No birthday treats, lunchtime trading, nothing. You either ate school food or brought your own. No exceptions. I thought this was over the top, but with so many kids having allergies and restrictions I see why they did it. I did like that they made the kids clean their hands before and after eating. They used to have a nut ban but it had problems too. People forget, or grandma is visiting and doesn’t know, or they do it accidentally by not reading ingredients carefully. I guess it makes sense that if kids only eat what you send, they are about the safest possible.