How Much Avoidance is Expected?

By Heather Legg

The school year is settling in and we have been to open houses, getting to know our teachers and other parents. Some letters have gone home regarding children’s health, some from the nurse, some from parents. Some parents have spoken to the class during the open houses and some of the teachers have as well regarding allergies. Obviously I think it is tremendously important for everyone to be aware of allergies, and everyone needs to do their part, however, when do some expectations fall into the unrealistic category?

It seems there is sort of a standard in our school that if a parent requests a nut free classroom for their allergic child, it happens. That’s a good thing because you don’t want your child with a peanut allergy sitting next to a kid eating peanut crackers everyday in the classroom. Most of these classes and parents don’t have a problem if someone in the class brings a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, the child just knows to sit away from it. My daughter is in a nut free class (there is a boy with a severe peanut allergy in her class, along with her tree nut), but kids sometimes bring peanut butter for lunch. He knows not to sit near them, and the kids know if they bring peanut butter to sit far away from him. There are some classes with no special requests, the teacher is just aware as well as the child with the allergy.  Then there are also some classes with parents who request that kids don’t bring in the allergen for lunch. Okay, that’s understandable, too. Because then you get into hand washing and cross contamination and all that. But on the flip side, there’s always that chance if peanut butter is allowed anywhere, and that not only covers school, but playgrounds or movies or anywhere someone may have eaten peanut butter and touched something.

This one sort of got to me, though, and I haven’t heard this before. A parent in a friend’s class informed the class of her child’s allergy and sent out the request that no peanuts or peanut butter be allowed in class or lunch. Okay, understood and very acceptable. She also requested that every parent check every label and do not send in any food that may have traces or was manufactured in a shared facility. Well, that includes a lot of foods that kids without allergies and a lot of kids with allergies eat on a regular basis. And this class doesn’t bring in a shared snack, each brings their own. Personally, and yes, I have an allergic kid, I think that’s a bit overboard. My friend was at a loss as to what to pack, that took away the pretzels, the granola bars, the crackers that she usually packed for her son (who has his own dietary needs).

It’s an interesting dilemma we are now in, with all the allergies and the awareness. I came across an interesting article, about where to draw the line. Check it out here. I know it’s challenging to feed and protect our kids with allergies, but we can only regulate what everyone else eats to a certain extent, right?

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