Protecting a Child from Allergens Isn’t an Easy Task

By staff

As I was walking into our elementary school right before Halloween, I was with another mom going to her child’s class as well. We were both going for “Fall Centers” as I guess they don’t like to distinguish them as Halloween parties anymore for fear of offending someone. More to the point, the other mom expressed her concern, and I think wonder, at all the children in her daughter’s class with some sort of allergy. I believe she said there were two children with peanut allergies and one with milk allergies.

She had not had the experience of allergies yet; it’s her first year at elementary school and her children don’t have allergies nor has anyone in their preschool classes. I tried to give her a basic rundown as we walked into school; of course, there wasn’t near enough time. She expressed her fear for the other children, worry over the things she had brought, concern that allergies are affecting so many things at school, a multitude of valid emotions.

Now let’s switch focus for just a minute, my non-allergic daughter just turned six last week, and there I was again, bringing treats to her class. As our school is trying to go a more healthy route, I brought a cupcake alternative – chocolate covered strawberries (maybe not so much healthier, but certainly yummy).

As I was preparing them, I went through all the allergy steps. I checked my chocolate chips for peanut traces as that is the only allergy in my daughter’s class. I noticed Nestlé’s Tollhouse chips may contain traces, while Nestlé’s white chips may have been manufactured on shared equipment. Ghirardelli’s, on the other hand, only mentioned containing milk. I was confused, and I consider this my specialty! I tried to imagine how the other mom felt!

The little boy who is allergic to peanuts in my daughter’s class is lucky to have his mom working in the school. We checked with her and she gave the OK to let him have his strawberries. Everything was fine, all the kids, including my daughter and the little boy, enjoyed their treats.

I guess my point here is that allergies are confusing! It’s hard for parents to adapt everything for all allergies. I know many children, including my other daughter, keep allergy safe treats in their classrooms for those “just in case” instances. But what about traces on tables, on hands, on clothes? Traces on doorknobs, sinks and water fountains? You can’t guard everything, so it is confusing, it is worrisome. I think the bottom line is that education and awareness are key to helping everyone, including those in the know, understand about allergies.

I won’t even go into the Kindergarten Thanksgiving feast where the food was contributed by each student…

- Heather Legg

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