The number of peanut allergies in children has doubled in the last several years, according to WebMD. As a result of the increase in allergies among children, schools have banned peanuts and any nut-based foods from classrooms all over America. Some people think banning peanuts and other allergens from the classroom is a good idea and others feel it is a bit excessive.
Why Schools Are Going Peanut/Nut-Free
One of the pros of removing peanuts and nuts from the classroom is having no chance of a child having an allergic reaction. By not being exposed to peanuts in the classroom, parents can have peace of mind knowing their child is safe while at school. Peanut and nut allergies can range from mild to severe and in some instances, a reaction can quickly become life-threatening.
While many parents think banning peanuts and other allergens from the classroom is a great idea, there are several problems with this strategy. Banning peanuts and other nut products can create a false sense of security with parents. It is impossible to entirely remove the chance of peanut or nut cross-contamination from occurring, particularly when children bring in foods from home.
Peanut/Nut-Free Tables in the Cafeteria
Nuts are only one potential allergen out of many others. Banning peanuts and nut products can make a child feel deprived. It is important to offer differing solutions to manage peanut or nut exposure in schools, but it does not mean a child will not sneak a peanut butter and jelly sandwich into their lunch. A child with nut allergies could be singled out and bullied by others, which creates even more issues.
Another option schools are doing is electing to have a peanut and nut-free lunch table. Peanut and nut-free lunch tables are a workable compromise in banning these allergens entirely.
Having peanut and nut-free zones allow children to be physically separated from children with allergies. If there are enough children with peanut and nut allergies, having access to a table with others does not make the child feel singled out.
The con of a peanut and nut-free lunch table is the children sitting there may feel isolated from their peers. As with peanut and nut-free classrooms, children with allergies to soy, wheat, milk or eggs will not be protected in the same way.
Strict Sanitation Measures
Another con of making a classroom or lunch room peanut and nut fee is increased cleaning and hand washing. An increase in hand washing and surface cleaning may help prevent germs from spreading and can eliminate more allergens. However, time spent cleaning up and observing strict handwashing protocols will take time away from the classroom and lessens the time spent learning.
Should It Be a Case-by-Case Judgment?
Many schools are utilizing a case-by-case approach to banning peanuts and nut-based foods in classrooms. The pro of deciding in this manner is because it allows flexibility in designing a safe environment which meets a child’s individual needs. Not all children have a life-threatening peanut or nut allergy, so if there are no allergic children present in a classroom, there is no need to incorporate a ban.
The con of using a case-by-case approach to banning peanuts and nut-based foods is that a separate decision must be made for each child with an allergy and it is very time-consuming. Another con of doing a case-by-case approach is that it could lead to a child feeling as if they are being treated differently, even if it is for their own protection and health.
What Choice Will Work Best?
When weighing the pros and cons of banning peanuts and nut-based foods in schools and classrooms across the country, it is important to consider everything in the situation. If you are a parent and your child has a peanut or nut allergy, it could understandably make sense to you to ban these allergens in the classroom. However, if your child does not have an allergy to peanuts or nuts, going to the extreme of banning these foods from the classroom may not seem fair or could feel like a punishment to your child.