The seriousness of a peanut allergy can have a profound effect on a child’s life
A child’s peanut allergy and how it affects their life is difficult to understand for people without allergies. Parents of an allergic child know that even a miniscule piece of peanut in a cookie or brownie could cause a life threatening response in their child. The fact is that parents are not always able to monitor their child who may go to preschool or day care and then to kindergarten at age five. Educating those who are in charge of their child during the day so that there won’t be a problem is part of peanut allergy prevention.
Children’s well-being is in the hands of others at school
Although parents can educate their child about avoiding peanuts, a three-year old or even older child does not understand that invisible peanuts can be ingredients in baked goods, ice cream, and other foods that kids love. Parents can instruct preschool teachers and elementary school staff about the child’s allergy and place a bracelet on the child’s wrist warning others of the allergy, but at some point the child must be entrusted to others.
Controversy over schools banning peanuts
The conflict over whether or not peanuts should be banned in schools has been raging for years. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 4 out of 100 children have food allergies. These are not all to peanuts, but also to egg whites, soy, wheat, tree nuts, and other foods. Many parents of children without allergies want their children to continue packing their peanut butter and jelly sandwich in their lunches and do not believe that their children should suffer because of another child’s allergy. But young kids spread their food on the table and may have it on their hands when they go outside to play. Then, they touch playground equipment that the allergic child may later touch. If the allergic child then rubs his eye or puts his hand in his mouth, a life threatening allergic reaction could occur.
How schools have responded
A few schools such as one near San Francisco have removed peanut products from their lunch menus, but children are still allowed to pack peanut butter sandwiches. Other schools have a “peanut butter free lunch table” where allergic kids can sit to eat. It can be very lonely for a child to sit alone at lunch each day if she is the only one in the school with an allergy to peanuts.
Birthday treats brought to school can contain peanuts
Most young children love to bring a treat for the class to celebrate their birthday. Teachers may request that only peanut free snacks are brought to school, but there is no guarantee that a child’s parents will comply with this request unless there is an official school ban on peanuts. Parents can be proactive by bringing peanut-free products to school for their child to eat at party or snack time to avoid problems. Excellent communication with the teacher can help minimize times that your child is left out of celebrations.
Support groups can be very helpful to families with a peanut allergy
As a child gets older, it can be difficult for her to be singled out as being different from others in a group. It is usually very helpful for families to join one of the allergy support groups in their community. It makes it easier for the allergic child to see that there are others with the same limitations, and that they are not the only one in the world with this allergy. Hearing how other kids need to avoid all foods that may contain peanuts makes it a little easier for the allergic child to accept that they have dietary limitations.