Should schools ban, or \"reduce the risk\"?

Posted on: Fri, 04/23/1999 - 3:58pm
Chris PeanutAllergy Com's picture
Joined: 04/25/2001 - 09:00

Should schools "reduce the risk"? Some call it "banning" but this gives others the opportunity to say "banning doesn't work, you can't be sure someone doesn't sneak a candy bar in etc."

What I am asking is "your" opinion. Do you think there should be risk reduction (and how much and until what age) by working to try to keep peanut products away from children with peanut allergy? What do you know about reactions getting worse because of exposures? What do you think about children eating peanut butter sandwiches in the same classroom that a peanut allergic child will be sitting in for the rest of the day? Not all schools have cafeterias. What about peanut butter on the pencil sharpener, books etc.?
Some kids are eating by themselves in the hall or principals office, to then return to the same classroom where others were eating peanut butter sandwiches. With all the work parents do to keep their peanut allergic children away from peanut products, not even having a peanut product in their homes, what do you think about these children that then go to school and sit in a classroom that you can smell peanut butter in?
On another note: Do you think it is good socially for a child to eat in the hall away from others?

Would you let your guard down in your home because you try not to have peanut products in your home, or would you still educate everyone coming into your home about the allergy? Would you then not worry about having epinephrine around in your home? Do you think that you would let your guard down just because the school was supposed to be a "peanutfree place? Would you still insist the school read labels etc. for anything your child touched? Would you still be sure the people in charge of your child when you were not there knew how to keep your child safe, and how to administer epinephrine in case something did happen?

Let everyone know how it is being dealt with at your school. Is there a ban, is it working, what are the problems with banning and not banning. What problems have you run into? How did you deal with them? How many reactions happened at school?

Please let us know your opinion.

I know most of you reading this do not post yourselves. You know you may always send me email and I love to hear from you, but I am hoping to encourage more of you to post to the boards too. This makes the information much more usable, even if it is a question. If you sign up to the boards (just click on "register" and sign up!) there are many features that will make using the boards better, even ones that shows you the new posts since your last visit.

The thing is that everyone can learn from each other's mistakes and triumphs, opinions and information. Many people have learned something that they were doing wrong by telling someone else how to do something. The only reason they learned about it (and so many others then learned it too) is because they heard from others that they shouldn't be doing what was in their post. Don't be afraid to post something because you feel you don't know enough about it.
If you are questioning yourself about it, then there are probably others with the same questions as well, if you post it you help them as well as help yourself.
Stay Safe,


[This message has been edited by Chris PeanutAllergy Com (edited April 30, 1999).]

Posted on: Fri, 04/23/1999 - 5:34pm
Sue's picture
Joined: 02/13/1999 - 09:00

Please excuse my "soapbox", but I am so tired of fighting the school all alone! So here comes some frustration venting:
Schools and airlines both use the same lame excuse for not banning peanut products. They like to use the excuse that they can't guarentee 100% peanut free. They don't want to cooperate period.... NOTHING IS 100% - What we are asking for is some help. If they try to remove peanut products 100% and their success rate is 90% I would be thrilled and my daughter's life might be saved!
In our daughter's current preschool placement through the school district (early intervention) we have had an awful time - both with the preschool and the school district that placed her there.
The preschool does not have a seperate lunch room and the children were eating peanut products in the class room. This is a very big safety issue. We took our daughter out of school for about FOUR months as we told them that we cannot play Russian roulette with our daughter's life, PERIOD. It took them almost four months to decide not to eat peanut products in the classroom, but they finally agreed. The whole thing is still uncomfortable.
How many schools would put a rattlesnake in a classroom and tell the children not to touch it? Think about it! They are doing worse than that to our children.
A rattlesnake bite is not as deadly as peanut products are to our kids. The rattlesnake bite is rarely lethal.
Because peanut residue is not always visable; let's suggest that they put an "invisable" rattlesnake in the school and tell the adults and children not to touch it. They would think we were out of our minds!!! WELL, THEY are doing worse than that to our children.
Our children are set up to die every day that they go to school. Kids do not wash their hands. Some kids probably run a little water over their hands, but water does not remove peanut oil! The peanut residue is on all the tables, chairs, drinking water faucets, sink faucets, toilet handles, doors, door knobs, playground equipment, etc. I think that is more than enough places for tehm to put their peanut products - IT SHOULD NOT BE IN THE CLASSROOM.
I want the school to be peanut free because peanuts CAN KILL MY DAUGHTER. I would not let my guard down even if the school was "peanut free" as there will always be accidents. So, the way I see it is; when my daughter goes to the emergency room it needs to be an accident. It should not be something that was foreseeably PREVENTABLE. The school is fully aware that their actions or lack of safety protections can kill her and it doesn't appear to bother them one bit.
I think that we do need to get together as a group and get the federal government to take a positive stand in favor of banning peanut products in all elementary schools.
Thanks for "listening". I know I sound frustrated and I am!
Sue in sunny Arizona

Posted on: Fri, 04/23/1999 - 10:22pm
clara's picture
Joined: 01/17/1999 - 09:00

I think "reduce the risk" is a little less threatning. You have to work with the compassion of the children and parents to be successful. I heard of a great demonstration. Use a bit of blue washable paint. Put a drop on a desk and have a child touch it. (This could even be on a desk in the hallway). Ask the child to go to the washroom...You will see blue paint on the waterfountain handle, the door to the bathroom and the facet. This is if the child went to wash their hands...image if they didn't. Blue paint on a computer keyboard, pencil sharpener, other kids desks...
What A Great Idea!

Posted on: Mon, 04/26/1999 - 11:51pm
Mary Kay's picture
Joined: 01/25/1999 - 09:00

My first grade son is in a public school with about 700 kids. There is no realistic nor reasonable way to put a peanut ban on the school. Nor do I think it is necessary. My son has been in severe anaphylactic shock from peanuts so yes I am protective but not obsessive about keeping him safe. The school has been wonderful working with us because we are not asking for anything unreasonable and we aren't over the top on this.
Lunchroom: He sits at a peanut free table with 3 other children that have had their lunches checked. The table is the "special table" not the table that our son sits at. Everyone wants to sit there and they have to take turns. The table is washed before and after his lunch and no other students sit there. The custodians throw away his lunch garbage because they don't want him near the garbage can (their suggestion!). Each Friday there is hot lunch and I worked with the head of the hot lunch progam and called all the vendors that supply the food. Therefore, every hot lunch is peanut free. Probably the safest day for him to eat there.
He also has a wax paper "placemat" to eat on just to be extra safe.
Recess: After lunch the kids either go outside or back to the classroom for indoor recess. Outside I am not overly concerned, yes I know he could theoretically come in contact with it on the monkey bars, swings etc., but you can't put your kid in a plastic bubble. He is pretty careful about looking before touching. Indoor recess is another story. After lunch everyone in his class washes their hands before going back in, since that is a contained space where he is going to be the rest of the afternoon.
Eating in classroom: The first graders have snacks so we sent a letter signed by the Principal to request parents in his class not send in obvious peanut snacks. I don't care if he sits next to a kid eating a "May Contain Peanut" product, I just don't want him eating it. We supplied snacks for kids that inadvertantly brought peanut snacks, but I think it only happened once. No one complained and everyone complied.
Sometimes they eat lunch in the classroom, again he is at a peanut free table, that has been washed and then all surfaces are cleaned everywhere in the classroom after lunch. And kids wash their hands before coming into the classroom. By the way, even after outdoor recess the kids wash their hands before going back to the classroom.
Training: The District Nurse holds a school wide training session for the staff in the use of epi pens and what to do in emergencies. She also takes my son and a few others that have epi pens out of class periodically to train them on how to use the epi pen. Kind of like a fire drill. Of course any teacher or staff member that will be in contact with our son knows him and what symptoms to look for because we meet with everyone a few days before school starts and introduce him and they get a flyer with his picture on it.
School Parties: I either supply the food (school reimburses me) for his class or know who is and check all the ingredients.
We have had no complaints and everyone goes out of their way to work with us on it. Ultimately, it is our son's allergy and he knows he will be taking full responsiblity for it. He can read, so he reads everything even after it has been checked and always asks to see ingredients. I am not able to be at school very often to check on him, but I feel confident that everyone there is working together to keep him safe.
Hope this helps.
Mary Kay
[This message has been edited by Mary Kay (edited April 27, 1999).]

Posted on: Tue, 04/27/1999 - 2:26pm
Julie's picture
Joined: 04/27/1999 - 09:00

Thanks Mary Kay-I know I e-mailed you and got alot of your answers here. Sue, I feel for you! I know exactly how you feel. You have changed my outlook. My son and daughter both are allergic (4 and 2) and he will be starting pre-school this fall. At our initial meeting, I told the director about his allergy. She was a little aloof and said "Oh yes, we have that here frequently" , then it was like "Next question?" As we toured the school I noticed this JUMBO jar of peanut butter on the shelf. Now after reading your note, I am going to change that. They also have so many outside snacks on birthdays, etc. Why do they allow outside snacks so much now. When I was in school I never remember kids bringing in snacks for everyone. ALL FOODS should only come from the school, with the exception of school lunches in the cafeteria. I may just have my son bring his own snack for the two days a week that he is there no matter what and then make sure that parents know not to bring in peanut products. I feel bad though in having my son already looking like the "oddball". Also, is it true that they should be classified as "disabled" before entering school? Would like comments. Thanks for letting me vent as well. Remember everyone, "THE SQUEKY WHEEL GETS THE GREASE!!!"

Posted on: Wed, 04/28/1999 - 4:15am
Sue's picture
Joined: 02/13/1999 - 09:00

Most schools do not take this allergy serious - they treat it as such an inconvenience to them!!!
I don't know all the in and outs of this mess, but first: go to a good allergist. One that knows how serious peanut allergies are - they don't all have the same expertise. - the school refused to accept detailed information from the pediatrician.
Tell the allergist that you need a very serious and detailed written opinion from him on the Management plan and Protocol for accidental peanut exposure. I asked our allergist not to specifically write it to the school as I want it for daycare, YMCA, and other classes as well.
Our allergist takes this very serious and he gave great details on what to avoid how to avoid it and what to do when exposed. It was all very serious. He wrote that our daughter has a typical history for peanut anaphylaxis both with contact and ingestion. There is a big difference between an allergy reaction and an anaphylaxis reaction. The allergy/anaphylaxis puts these kids at very serious life threatening reactions. Our allergist even wrote that the children are not to touch or kiss our daughter unless they have completely washed off all peanut product residue. - He is very serious and so are we - we still hit stone walls at teh school, but you need to have him write a serious plan as when the school ignores it, you have some very powerful medical terms and plans for prevention in place. The schools will have to accept responsability at some point. When you get the allergists plan have the school include it in the kids 504 plan. Get it all in writing.
Accidents will happen. Our daughter has twice come home from pre-school with a swollen eye (not from ingestion but from skin contact. I wrote to the school district (copied a bunch of people) about the exposures and copied the allergist on each letter. The allergist called me and was very concerned because each exposure puts her at higher risk for anaphylaxis.
Good luck and lets protect our kids the best we know how!!!
Sue in Sunny Arizona

Posted on: Thu, 04/29/1999 - 10:45am
Julie's picture
Joined: 04/27/1999 - 09:00

Thanks Sue for your reply!
One question that raised my curiosity. I have heard from other sources that each exposure increases the risk that the next reaction will be worse. My daughter had her very first reaction last week and my son has had several. Her first reaction seemed to be much worse than his, although she actually ingested. I'm wondering what you know about this topic? Thanks.

Posted on: Thu, 04/29/1999 - 3:31pm
Sue's picture
Joined: 02/13/1999 - 09:00

I have read a few things on exposures and tests that agree with the things our daughter's allergist told us:
Tests may be false - both positive and negative. A low test result does not indicate a small reaction will occur and a high test results does not indicate a severe reaction will occur.
Our allergist basically said that there aren't "levels" of a peanut allergy. You don't know if the next exposure can kill.
Having a peanut allergy is kind of like being pregnant. Either you are or you aren't.
Each exposure - ingestion and/or contact increases the risk for anaphylaxis.
I do trust our daughter's allergist, so that makes it easier for us to ask questions.
Good luck and keep those little ones safe,
Sue in Sunny Arizona
[This message has been edited by Sue (edited June 02, 2001).]

Posted on: Fri, 04/30/1999 - 2:05am
SteveW's picture
Joined: 04/08/1999 - 09:00

I agree with Mary Kay. There is no realistic nor reasonable way to put a mandatory peanut ban on the school. Nor do I think it is necessary. If we banned peanut should we also ban tree nuts, milk, egg and other products which cause anaphylaxis?
That said, I do support measures that reduce risk.
- Instituting a voluntary ban
- Peanut free tables
- No food trading policy
- Regular handwashing
- Elimination of peanut from art or other classroom activities
The following is FAN's position on the issue (which I happen to agree with):
Education is the key to avoiding an allergic reaction and successfully living with peanut or other food allergies. Banning one product causes a number of problems. Specifically:
1. It creates a false sense of security. Peanuts are used in more than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Banning peanut butter sandwiches isn't enough. A FAN member admitted that in one school where peanuts had been banned last year, there were two identical ingestions due to peanuts in baked goods and candies.
2. A ban pits parents against parents. It is a divisive force when what we need is the cooperation of everyone in the school to form a safety net around the children at risk. A training program where everyone understands what foods cause food allergies, what are the symptoms of an allergic reaction, what action to take, and where medications are stored unites people to work together.
3. In order for a ban to work, one would have to have everyone in the school constantly reading ingredient labels and calling manufacturers to determine if products contain any of the offending food. That's not a realistic expectation.
4. While peanuts are a leading cause of serious reactions in children, milk and eggs can also cause life-threatening reactions.
5. The majority of allergic children and adults who are peanut-allergic want to be treated as "normal" people. Creating a ban that stigmatizes them is not what they want. It also doesn't teach young children how to live with this allergy, which researchers feel is a lifelong allergy.

Posted on: Sat, 05/01/1999 - 8:47am
terry's picture
Joined: 01/16/1999 - 09:00

Where is the double-blind,randomized,prospective study that shows bans don't work? I do believe in reducing the risk based on the individual needs of the child. FAN gets a secondary gain when bans are mentioned since it makes a good story for the press & it keeps the multi billion dollar peanut industry happy....False sense of security - anyone who has rushed their child to an ER lost that a long time ago...parent vs. parent.. pb&j sandwich vs. a child's life, with education that should be an easy much trouble to read labels- why is it not to much trouble for the parents to try & decifer labels on a daily basis... if a school decides to ban peanuts, I think everyone understands that this is risk reduction, & if you do have children that react to airborne, that may not be as unreasonable as it may first sound.

Posted on: Sat, 05/01/1999 - 11:37am
EILEEN's picture
Joined: 04/06/1999 - 09:00

Maybe should have a "opinion" on bans AND voice it to the media. (How would we get the media to ask for an opinion?) FAN is positioned to represent all patients with all allergies to many foods, life-threatening allergies may need special-consideration. Any thoughts?


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