Having a child who suffers from a food allergy can be so challenging. When your child starts displaying symptoms of an allergy, the first hurdle is figuring precisely what he or she is allergic to, which is not always a straightforward process.
And once you do figure it out, there’s still the issue of how to effectively prevent your child from accidentally being exposed to the allergen, especially if he or she is very young.
My oldest son had an allergy to dairy from infancy until the age of four. If he ate anything with either allergen in it, the result was vomit. A lot of it. So until he miraculously grew out of the allergy, we had to monitor virtually everything he consumed.
In my son’s case, the worst-case scenario for an accidental exposure to dairy was a very upset tummy. But for some kids, accidental exposure to an allergen can actually kill them. And the parents of children with severe food allergies need the cooperation of all parents to keep their kids alive.
One mom issued a public service announcement via Facebook post explaining why “just don’t eat peanut butter” & “just have her sit at a peanut-free table” aren’t effective enough to keep children with nut allergies safe.
Mom Stephanie Peterson took to Facebook to explain that children with peanut allergies are far more at risk than most people think. For those that don’t deal regularly with the issue, there is the mistaken assumption that merely avoiding consumption of peanut products or sitting in a “peanut-free” zone is enough of a deterrent.
But it isn’t. And not taking more thorough precautions can put a child’s life at risk.
Peterson explained that her daughter Stella began kindergarten this year. She had been in close contact with the school administration prior, ensuring that all staff was informed as to Stella’s peanut allergy & how to treat her should she be exposed to peanuts.
Three days into the new school year, a classmate brought peanut butter pretzels to the peanut-free table, forcing Stella to have to eat her lunch alone in the nurse’s office.
Any student that agrees to sit at the peanut-free table must have a waiver signed by their parent. The waiver is the parent’s agreement to not sending in ANY peanut products if their child opts to sit at the peanut-free table.
So Stella was seated where she should be, at the table designated to keep children with peanut allergies safe. Despite that, she was still put at risk, by a parent who was careless about the snack given to a child that the parent knew would be sitting.. at the peanut-free table.
Although Stella escaped that situation unscathed, Day 4 had a more serious incident. She returned to her classroom after recess looking lethargic- her teacher was concerned & brought her to the school nurse:
By the time she got there, her face and tongue were covered in hives, and her throat was itchy. They called me and administered epi.
If they had waited any longer, her throat probably would have closed up.
Despite eating at the peanut-free table, & only consuming exactly what her parents had packed for her, Stella was still somehow exposed to peanuts.
This most likely happened because someone else sent a peanut butter sandwich to school with their child, who then touched something that Stella touched, which caused a reaction.
If someone eats peanuts, and then plays on the same playground that Stella is on, she (and any other allergic kids) are at risk.
People often don’t realize that while some kids only experience symptoms if they consume peanuts and/or peanut products, other children can experience severe symptoms with the slightest contact from peanut oil residue.
Yes, there are a lot of different allergens out there. And yes, we can’t ban every single allergen from every single public place, because it’s simply not realistic. But as Stephanie pointed out, nuts are a particularly dangerous allergen:
Peanuts and nuts are especially bad, because they linger on surfaces, and can easily be transmitted.
Thankfully, Stella was quickly given an epi-pen injection and rushed to the emergency room, which probably saved her life. THIS TIME.
But what about the next time? What if the same thing happened again, but Stella’s reaction wasn’t caught in time? What if she, once again, did everything as she had been taught to ward off peanut exposure, but still somehow came into contact with it?
That’s exactly what Stephanie Peterson wants people to think about. As the parent of a child with a severe nut allergy, Stephanie has done everything in her power to protect her daughter, & to educate her about her own awareness.
But it’s the awareness of others around Stella -and children with her allergy- that can ensure that school is kept a physically safe place.
Stephanie isn’t demanding that parents help. She’s pleading- for the sake of her daughter’s life. She begs parents to reconsider sending peanut butter products into school with their children, even if they love their peanut butter:
I understand that some kids are really picky and it’s nearly impossible to get them to eat. But at the end of the day, I just want my baby to be alive.
Some might scoff at this request, & claim that since Stella is the one with the issue, then she should not be in a school where she could risk exposure. You’ve probably heard that argument before: a parent that vehemently believes that their kid shouldn’t be prohibited from bringing a lunch they love simply because of some “other kid’s problem”.
But it’s not just Stella’s problem. There are more & more kids being diagnosed with severe nut allergies each year. And while we don’t know exactly what causes such a severe reaction, we know that keeping EVERY child alive is our obvious goal.
Stephanie concluded her post with four basic ways to safeguard kids with nut allergies:
- Don’t eat high-allergen foods in public places.
If you’re heading to the park, keep the peanut butter snacks at home.
2. Encourage hand washing.
Kids should be encouraged to wash their hands regularly anyway (the little germ magnets that they are), & washing with soap and water can prevent nut oils from being spread.
3. Don’t feed kids that aren’t yours without checking in with a parent first.
Better safe than sorry!
4. Minimize the amount of food in the actual classroom.
Instead of having to worry if the snack you sent in is really nut-free, skip the snacks & send in some trinkets instead.
I don’t need to be the parent of a child with nut allergies to know that I’d never, ever, EVER want to put another child’s life at risk. Period.
If my kid can’t live without peanut butter, then my kid can eat it when he’s home. Even if there’s a sliver of a chance that my son’s PB&J sandwich could cause his classmate to DIE, why would I ever take that risk??
School should be a safe place for every single child, regardless of their allergies. And by heeding Stephanie Peterson’s words, we can all do our part to keep schools peanut-free.