Food allergies at school…what to do?

Hello my friends! Is it really August already? First, I am going to apologize, again, for being negligent in posting. But since moving to California my time has been consumed with getting my children adjusted by filling their days with play dates, camps, and trips to the beach and pool. It’s been exhausting, I must admit, but it was my promise to them and myself that my job and focus was to be there for them all summer. I’ve had to do some final work on my next book, but other than that I’ve held true to my promise by just being 100 percent there for them.

I’m slowly getting around to returning emails and comments on this blog, and one recent comment on Food Allergy Mama in particular struck a chord with me…it’s a bit long so bear with me:

Whlie (sic) i am aware of allergies, the concept, that i am struggling with is the demand of a preschool child to no longer eat peanuts, tree nuts granola bars, PB and J whole grain breads (made on equipment that also manufactures nuts). We received a note in our childs lunch box this week stating that there is a child in his class that has a peanut (severe) allergy, the only item left in his snack box for him to eat was his juice box). Why does the 95% of the class get penalized for not being allowed to eat their ‘normal’ snack and be straddled to ensure the parents purchase the correct items that are allowable for this one student. Why would not the parent of the child supply a list of those items allowed for the remainder of the class to eat. Dictating what children eat at snack is not easy, and for a new to class stranger to have such demands is absurd. WE have purchased our childs snacks for a two week period and have limited funds to do so, to now purchase nut free items will cost more and we will not be compensated for this extra burden…..How is this right? one rules the majority, i did not sign up for a dictatorship.

our child has allergies to cats, and breathing is limited when they are around them, is it right that we demand that all others in class remove the cats from their home so as to not let the dander be brought to school on the clothing, but hey it is limiting this childs ability to learn by not being able to breath easily……………

this craziness has to stop,

I re-posted this comment only because it is the sentiment that WE ALL have faced in one form or another over the years from other parents about snack polices or food policies in school. Every time I read or hear about a non FA parent get upset about classroom policy and food allergies, I have to take a step back and try to see it from their perspective. What are they are truly angry about? Inconvenience? Lack of control? The right to serve what they want, when they want, to their children’s class? Perhaps. I think more times than not, however, non -FA parents just want to make sure their children are happy, well fed and well nourished at school. I totally get that. And I want the exact same thing, but more than anything I just want my son with a life-threatening food allergy to stay alive. I don’t want him to facet the physical, emotional and social trauma of going into anaphylactic shock in front of his classmates. And I also don’t want his classmates to ever have to witness him gasping for his breath and life. I don’t want ANY child with food allergies, whether he is a 3-year-old attending preschool for the first time, or my soon to be 5th grade son going to a new school, to  feel excluded, different, or anxious in his classroom.

I’ve said it before but it’s worth mentioning again; classrooms ARE NOT secondary lunchrooms. They are a child’s safe haven, a place to learn and socialize in an inclusive, positive environment. I’ve never advocated for food bans, especially in school lunchrooms. My son also has a severe dairy allergy, and I would never expect any school to ban milk, or cheese from children’s lunches. John knows it is HIS responsibility in the lunchroom to eat at a peanut free table and to wash his hands and not share food. However, the gray area lies within the classroom. Schools should consider more food free celebrations, and snacks in the classrooms should be free of potentially deadly allergens. To the reader who posted the comment above, and to any other mom or dad who is annoyed at possibly having to buy certain snacks for the classroom only, I would hope they could try for just a moment to consider the food allergic child, and that no granola bar or cupcake is worth losing a child over. Ever.

When I read the above blog comment, it saddened me that we can’t all just come together and put these children’s lives first, and think about what’s best for them, not what’s best and more convenient for parents. We need to think more logically and compassionately about the issue of food allergies in schools. I respect and value the opinions of non FA parents who wish to fight these types of changes in schools, but I hope that they can respect our food allergic children’s lives and well-being too. Change isn’t easy, but it is possible to do with everyone’s support from the top down, as long as the right information is put out, and more people are educated that food allergies are not a choice or a dietary fad.

In the meantime, prepare yourself in the new school year by scheduling a meeting with your child’s new teacher, principal and school nurse NOW to write a 504 Plan detailing accommodations in your child’s classroom (this is your legal right, don’t accept a “no, we don’t do that here” because it’s against the law to say such a thing). I’m in the same boat as many of you again, facing new food allergy policy issues in our new district. My previous school district in Illinois developed what’s been called the “Gold Standard” of food allergy policy. Below is a link to everything you and your school district administration will need to get the ball rolling; sample classroom letters, 504 Plans, downloads, etc. No need to re-invent the wheel, and it is great to have when your school tells you ” we don’t have the funding or manpower to develop such a policy”. Tell them it’s already been done for them, they just need to enforce it. And remind them that this policy was drafted with the careful consideration of not only food allergy parents and doctors, but non food allergy parents and lawmakers. Here it is:

http://www.isbe.net/nutrition/htmls/food_allergy_guidelines.htm

Good luck everyone, stay focused and positive and keep me posted on how your school year is going.

 

44 Responses

  1. As the mother of a boy who is allergic to milk, eggs, nuts and shrimp, I find comments like the one posted by the reader above to be offensive and ignorant. What logical person could prioritize their own convenience over a child’s life? I admire your ability to try to see the non-FA parent’s point of view, but I simply can’t understand it myself. Thank you for continuing to be a voice of reason and helping to educate people, like the reader who commented above. I hope that someday people with these opinions will gain a little compassion and common sense.

  2. I would like to start out by saying good job at being so democratic in your response to this comment. The problem here is education. This person obviously doesn’t understand the biology of a food allergy. She/he is comparing a food allergy to her child experiencing some breathing discomfort from cat dander. Ok. She gets it a little. And obviously not all food allergies are anaphylactic. But those that are CAN CAUSE DEATH. That is what this person doesn’t get. Peanut allergies have TRIPLED in the last ten years. I have never heard of a child dying from being around cats. I have, however, heard of a child dying from eating a peanut. And you are right. The classroom is not a lunchroom. Bring whatever you like to lunch, but is it really that problematic to bring in peanut free snacks? Are goldfish crackers REALLY that more expensive? Please.

  3. I appreciate your dedication to food allergy awareness and all that you’ve done for your son and others. My son has multiple food allergies as well (entering 2nd grade this year).

    However, I’m still struggling with this post a little. I agree that we could all have more compassion toward others, especially considering it’s a child’s LIFE vs. a child’s snack preference. But in the person’s comment, I was hearing a few things and I didn’t feel that you addressed them adequately or offered solutions/suggestions:

    1) The FA-child’s parents could have provided a list of suitable snacks. I certainly have done this in the past, and it is a good suggestion. Now would that have appeased this parent? Not necessarily (seeing as they were voicing other complaints overall), but it’s a valid suggestion. I think we all know that people who aren’t used to dealing with FA aren’t accustomed to reading labels and may feel overwhelmed by the need to start doing so. Admittedly, I don’t think this commentator was offering any solutions, but more voicing grievances.

    2) You talked about classroom vs. lunchroom, but didn’t make any direct applications to the person who made the posted comment. (Again, perhaps you didn’t even want to approach it from this angle seeing as the commentator seemed to be voicing complaints more than trying to find solutions). Would a possible solution be to have the preschool class eat snack in the lunchroom? And the FA child to sit at his/her own table in the lunchroom?

    Finally, I’m just curious about your opinion. Assuming this class did avoid all snacks with peanuts/tree nuts, what’s your thought about items that are manufactured on equipment that process nuts? Should the whole class avoid those items as well?

    Thanks in advance for your time, input, (and of course, your pioneering efforts!) Blessings to you and your family.

  4. Thank you for this post. Some folks still don’t understand it is our childrens LIVES we are talking about. Their LIVES!!! You put into words what my heart screams when someone just doesn’t get it. Fortunately we have been in a great school system that does a great job. And we have made it a priority to educate our daughter on how to protect herself. She is going into 1st grade this year, her first year in the lunch room. I feel encouraged and ready. Thanks again!

  5. Great post Kelly! I just wonder though how much of her frustration is lack of planning on the classroom/school district’s part.

    My daughter had her school supply list mailed out a few weeks ago. Although we were released from the life threatening allergy, she still has minor reactions to milk. We chose this preschool because they seemed accomodating for everyone. Yet, when they sent the list out there were no mentions of snacks being peanut, tree nut, or allergen-free (just for the record, we are not requesting milk-free snacks). So, I e-mailed and asked for a list of allergies so I can buy safe snacks for everyone and was told “we aren’t aware of any right now.” I have this feeling that there is going to be at least 1 peanut/tree nut allergic kiddo in her school. We’ve already all bought snacks to bring in for the class … what do we do then?

    Maybe I’m asking too much, but let’s just go ahead and ban peanuts and tree nuts if the children are under 5. There are other snacks out there and it is not a necessary food. Also, let’s plan ahead and put the question on the registration form. The schools need to send a letter ahead of time (when they send the school supply list) so the parents can shop and plan accordingly. Then maybe it won’t be as big of a shock or surprise that there is an allergy in the room.

    It’s all about educating people and the school districts need to do a better job of doing that and get on board with it. The allergies are only getting worse. It seems as though the district may have failed this parent by not educating her on how to keep everyone safe in the classroom (instead just sending a note that her kiddo couldn’t eat snack after she sent it). In the end, the only ones that suffer from this lack of education are the kiddos. What a shame.

  6. Our school is building a new cafeteria – any idea where I can get info on best practices in managing food allergies when preparing food for food-allergic children? The children with food allergies will eat from the cafeteria, just figuring out the best and safest way to set it up.

    These are great links – highly recommend them! Agree that no parent should accept NO for an answer; you have the right to keeping your child safe at school.

  7. Thank you SO MUCH everyone for your advice and thoughts. Always LOVE it. Naisula, thanks for your suggestions. The reason why I didn’t formally address possible solutions to the poster’s comments is because 1. I’ve already posted solutions, etc. to these types of questions many times over the years, and didn’t want to rehash the same this time around. 2. I often get a bit of negative comments on my blog about classroom rights for the non-FA child, etc. and I don’t always address them because quite frankly, they’re silly, pointless, and not even worth addressing. I often don’t approve certain comments because they were insulting, pissed me off, and don’t want to offend y’all by others’ ruthless comments. There are many sites that I absolutely love for guidelines, advice and ways to handle food allergies in schools (FAAN, Allergic Living, Nut Free Mom, etc) and this post was more of a personal story than anything. However, I do feel that the link I provided at the bottom of the post is an invaluable resource and all you really need in approaching your teachers, and in my case, my new school district about updating food allergy policy. In fact, just today this story comes out of my former state of IL:

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-08-13/news/ct-met-epi-pens-madigan-20120814_1_katelyn-carlson-food-allergy-edison-regional-gifted-center

    I try my best to be as diplomatic and level-headed as possible, not easy to do when you’re talking about your own child’s rights and their safety at school. Many times I just want to scream “Don’t be an ass! Think!” But I think the more we, as FA parents approach this issue in a calm and logical manner, we’ll get more people on board. And then the people that post comments like the one above in my original post, will be the ones who look like they’re being over the top and illogical. ;)

  8. One more thing I forgot to address; my thought about snacks in the classroom that share equipment, etc: I’ve asked this very question many times over the years, and every pediatric allergist I’ve met has given me a slightly different opinion. I’ll give you mine, and it’s only an opinion: If it says “May contains”, then that product may contain traces of the allergen and should be strictly avoided. If it says, “shared equipment, caution should be used in purchasing. I never give John anything that says either of these two statements. However, if a non FA child has a seemingly safe snack with the “shared equipment” disclaimer, THEY may be safe eating it, but a FA may not. It’s up to the discretion of the FA child’s parents and their doctor’s advice on how to address such an issue, especially in a classroom. This is yet another reason why a FA child MUST have a Section 504 Plan on file at school to address his or her individual medical needs. I can’t answer what is best for your child, only you and your doctor can.

  9. It’s always interesting to me that people get so upset about food. Why it’s so important to some parents that their child have blue frosting cupcakes at every celebration in the classroom is hard for me to understand. I try to see if from their point of view but, as you said so well, it comes down to a child’s life. The comment mentioned her child had an allergy to cats and breathing was difficult when they were around. If the child/parent had been through the trauma of an anaphylactic reaction to cat dander (turning blue and purple, the epi-pen, the ambulance, the emergency room, the hospital stay, etc.) I venture to say this parent WOULD be asking for kids clothes to be brushed free of cat dander before coming into the classroom. You just can’t experience that kind of trauma with your child and then be so unsympathetic to the needs and experiences of others.
    I guess if you haven’t experienced such a thing you don’t know the impact if can have on on entire family, not just the child involved and I’m with you, the very last thing I want is for that horrible experience to be witnessed by an entire classroom of children. I also don’t want a teacher to go through the emotions/feeling that come days after the episode.
    I’m happy to bring my son allergy free snacks to school and enough for the other children as well if they would like. I DON’T expect other parents to get allergy free snacks for my son, but the issue isn’t just the food he’s putting into his mouth, it’s the environment he has to be in to learn – the classroom. The comparison would be – what if children/parents were insisting on bringing cats into the classroom everyday to play with? I wonder how the parent would feel about the child having to be in that environment every single day. I agree with you when you say children have the right to a safe learning environment and that is really what this issue is about. All we’re asking is to keep food in the lunchroom and learning in the classroom – is that truly so unreasonable?

  10. As a parent of a food allergy child I get so frustrated with people like that poster. If she were in our position she would understand. As a teacher, I come across parents like this who have no underatanding. This year my son will be in my class. I have already had words with one parent and school hasn’t even started. Now the trouble comes with me not only being mom but also teacher and not appearing as if being unfair. Thanks for posting and doing such a great job with the blog. Truly appreciate the work you put into this.

  11. Do you know if daycares have to accommodate allergies? My son has a peanut allergy and we are going to be putting him in daycare. When I asked the daycare how they handle peanut allergies they said they have peanut free snacks. BUT they said during lunch kids sit at the same table and could have foods that contain nuts. At 18 months it’s not HIS responsibility. Thanks!

  12. Thank you so much for being such a sound and clear voice advocating for these children. My daughter is 6 1/2 and severly allergic to dairy, peanuts, and treenuts. She’s starting 1st grade in a new school district and school, and we are very anxious about creating awarness and putting everything necessary in place at her school with her teacher, school nurse, cafeteria workers, in order to keep her safe. Appreciate all the information shared and your wonderful blog!!

  13. Beautifully said, Kelly. I get these types of comments, too, and you make an excellent case about why we don’t need food in the classroom. Thank you.

  14. In a way, I feel fortunate to be/have been on both sides of the issue. Before having a child of my own with food allergies, I taught at a preschool that had a number of children with severe allergies. It was a wonderful school that definitely tried to accomodate these children to the best of their ability, but I have to say that, until one has seen a reaction in a child with their own eyes, they really cannot comprehend what it means to be allergic to a food. As careful as many of the caregivers tried to be with these children, we just had no ability to comprehend what it really meant, and were often put in situations where allergic foods were present, so it was then our duty to simply protect the allergy children the best we knew how. Dealing with young children who can’t even comprehend the severity of their own situation is very difficult. We, as teachers, were expected to act as experts on a subject that we had never had any experience with, and therefore had no ability to relate to. Imagine if someone’s life depended on you solving an advanced physics problem despite the fact that you had never been exposed to anything more than basic math. As good as your intentions might be, it would simply be impossible. An odd analogy, but this really is how foreign food allergies are to the general population.
    The sad fact is, that the word allergy is thrown around so often to describe a number of non-life threatening sensitivities, and the public really has become de-sensitized to it. Also the idea that someone could die from seemingly healthy foods like nuts, milk, etc. is so foreign to people, that most do not even have a base knowledge to be able to compare it to, in order for them to understand. A word of advice to any parent that must try and explain the situation to teachers, other parents and so forth, is to put it into some kind of frame of reference that they can relate to. If you have to use some kind of analogy, then do it. I find that people can more easily relate when I talk about it being a poison to my child. I discuss how, of course, they would not leave a bottle of bleach or other cleaner within a child’s reach, or allow a child to touch this substance because the child could die. That analogy allows you to give a caregiver a better frame of reference to explain how these foods are just as dangerous as poison for your child. It really does help to give caregivers and other adults more of a clue about how dire the situation really is.
    At times I really do feel torn, because I understand the situation from both sides, and I do debate within myself about whether I really have the right to ask whole groups of people to change what they do just for my one child. To be honest, there is no perfect solution for anyone. In the end though, it does come down to a child’s life, and no snack is worth risking that.
    As a parent with a food allergy child, I must be willing to educate, educate, educate everyone who will be caring for my child. I must be willing to explain it as simply as they need, even if I feel they should have a certain level of understanding that they don’t have yet (for instance the word “dairy” holds many different understandings for many people and I am no longer shocked at how many people really have no clue what foods are in the dairy category). We must be the ones to be strong and ever persistent, yet with amazing amounts of grace and patience for those trying to understand our situation. I must remember that I am the one imposing my needs into their lives and forcing them to abide by my rules whether they care to or not.

  15. I can sympathize with the writer as I have had to abide by rules set for one of my students for an entire class of 32 and to say it was difficult would be an understatement. I have dealt with parents of children who are afflicted with allergies and have asked them why they decided to send their child to a school in which the policies are so lax, and staff so ill educated, that their child faces danger every day. There are alternatives to these dangerous situations and parents must be made aware of them but you would be surprised at how many take offense at the suggestion. To take a 10 year old child away from a safe environment, where school staff are aware and knowledgeable, and put him into an environment where he constantly faces danger and exclusion (three times so far), makes no sense to me.

  16. I really like how our preschool manages as a “nut-free” preschool. Simply, all preschool rooms are “nut-free” under the following presumptions:
    - severely food allergic children ALWAYS bring and eat their own individual snack NO EXCEPTIONS
    - the other students/families take turns providing a “nut-free” snack for the entire class; (but families can rest assured that if they mis-read a label no one is at-risk)
    -the school has replacement snacks on hand just in case
    -foods that are “processed on/may contain” are actually allowed, however it’s not expressly advertised that it’s permissible (but let’s face it, its tough to easily find the disclaimer since its not a standard label)
    - any and all children staying for lunch absolutely cannot bring nuts …. and its very clear that its the expectation BEFORE families sign up/pay to attend the optional lunch program.
    I have never heard anyone complain about the preschool being a “nut-free” facility. I think the reason no one complains is because it is an upfront, full-time policy that all parents are made aware of before they register. The policy is uniform to all classrooms regardless of who is enrolled, allergy or not.
    In contrast, in our elementary school, rooms are made nut-free only on an as needed basis. This has resulted in parents feeling resentful of restrictions. One parent actually told me, quite bitterly, that her child’s school year would be hell if he had to be in my child’s class.
    I truly believe that it is the responsibility of all administrations, preschool and otherwise, to inform families with factual frankness about how, when and why to comply with restrictions. I

  17. @Elizabeth,
    It is unfortunate that some families find themselves sending their children to schools with soft policies and under-educated staff members. National organizations such as FAAN and the CDC work hard to address these concerns.
    While there are always alternatives to this risky situation (home school comes to mind), it is important to remember that federally funded schools are obligated by law to provide a safe and inclusive environment for food allergic students. In other words, if a doctor determines that a child must be in an allergy free environment, then a federally funded school MUST, by law, provide that environment. That being said, I am not surprised if a family took offense well meaning suggestions for alternative schooling. Why? Because every child, regardless of disability, is entitled to a safe and free public education.

  18. Hi, Kelly,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to me. I understand how you wouldn’t want to rehash so much that you’ve already stated in previous posts. For that, I apologize if I caused you any frustration with my questions due to my not taking the time to go back and read — I know you have made some MAJOR strides for us FA families, and certainly not without tears, headache and frustration. And the link you provided IS a humongous resource. The article about schools stocking Epis is really awesome, too.

    As for foods that “may contain”, etc… I indeed was just asking your opinion about other kids having those items (and not the child with FA), so thank you also for responding to that. I know we parents need to make those decisions for our own children.

    I also appreciate you filtering comments for the rest of us. I can only imagine how many critical comments you receive on any given day or post from non-FA folks, and you have been incredibly diplomatic in all of your interactions! Thanks again for all your hard work and care. Your kids are blessed to have you! We in the FA community are, as well. Thanks!

  19. Hi Kelly,
    I just had to share the news with you that our daughter (8) just got her first 504 in place and that is due to you and the information you provided LAST year! I put that information in my “back pocket” in case I ever needed it. Due to several disasters during the previous school year, I re-read your 8/11 post again for help on the 504, requested the eligibility meeting, and we got every accommodation we asked for! Additionally, the big ruckus I made last year to the administration must have paid off because no birthday party food will be allowed in the classroom, and only 2 approved items! These 2 things are a win in my book and I am sharing that win with you. Afterall, without your blog, so many of us would be blazing our own trail without support! We appreciate you!

  20. Thanks for all you do, Kelly! Our work never stops — our 18 year-old daughter is off to live in residence at university in September and I am just about losing my mind worrying about how they will manage her food allergies. That being said, I think that because of the hard work of folks like you, things have improved exponentially since she was in preschool. Schools, restaurants, food manufacturers are finally starting to get it, i.e. that a life-threatening food allergy is not just a food intolerance. Just now, food labels in Canada have to show if any of the 8 top food allergens are included — t’s not enough to say “natural ingredients” anymore. Finally! So I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done and continue to do on behalf of all FA children and their families. xo

  21. I am a mother to twin 4 year old girls with multiple severe food allergies. I have a lot of anxiety on sending them to pre-school for the first time. I have luckily been able to stay home with them and manage and be in total control of their food. Although I struggle to send them this fall I know that it is in their best interest socially. Thank-you for all of your suggestions and posts. We talk to them about “safe” food and not taking food from other children, but I’m so afraid they will be tempted. (One of my girls tried to take a cookie at an event we were at recently, that was not safe.) I know that I will have to put my faith in their teacher and stress the importance of the situation. As a mom who loves to bake I am constantly testing and trying different recipes. I want them to enjoy the same treats that other children can enjoy. You inspire me! Thank-you!!!

  22. Sometimes I try to ask myself how would I have reacted if my son wasn’t severely allergic to peanuts, nuts, and eggs. I think the main frustration for this woman is that her child only had juice for snack, which would upset me also. I find that asking people to read labels for my child is for some reason it is too hard. Even people who really care about my child such as family often miss the peanut and nut warning. My son doesn’t eat things on the same line ect but he can be around others eating it, but maybe some kids can’t. I always want to support other allergy parents, because dealing with food allergies can be so lonely at times. It is an emotional subject for me, but I try to always ask what is absolutely needed for him to be safe and what is more of emotional issue such as being left out. These are both valid but the emotional issues can be negotiated where the safey can’t.

    I wish that parents who were upset with me instead of venting to others or giving me the cold shoulder, would at least come and talk to me. At the very least we could role model to our children appropriate ways to resolve conflicts.

    The end of the email states this craziness needs to stop. I was once like this woman and knew nothing about allergie. In fact, I ignored the egg allergy at first until it steady progressed to becoming worse and worse to where it couldn’t be ignored. When he was first diagnosed he kept having reactions from contact and others food, it felt like craziness to me too but it is my reality. We have animal allergies too and they are not the same. He is very allergic to dogs.

  23. My son started preschool a few weeks ago. I was so impressed with his teacher. She took the initiative to call us to talk about his cow’s milk allergy. We decided that we would provide all of his snacks and would be exempt from bringing snacks for the entire class. We put his snack in a special container that is labeled with his name. He hands it to his teacher every day as he walks in the room and then she puts it in another labeled container in the snack cabinet. We also provided a tub of safe snacks just in case we forget to send one or if there is a birthday celebration. The fact that this teacher called us and problem solved with us was so comforting to us. Especially coming from a daycare in which he was exposed to his allergen twice and they really didn’t follow through with what they said they would do to prevent it from happening again. I think educating people about the severity of allergies is so important and I thank you for being such an advocate for not only your children but others as well.

  24. Instead of getting angry, I think we need to realize that we all want the same thing for our children with allergies or without. We want school to be a safe learning environment for all kids to thrive and flourish. People need to respect that and know that as parents of children with life threatening allergies it’s a challenge. We just try to protect our children and teach them to make the appropriate decisions to protect their health. As a former teacher, yes it is fun to teach with foods but it is definitely not a necessary or integral part of their learning. There are certainly other ways to motivate and celebrate as a class.

  25. Another aspect to the poster’s complaint was convenience/inconvenience. It sounds to me like they don’t have a lot of money & she was mad about not being able to use the snacks she’d bought. Yet, she CAN use those snacks for mornings, after school, evenings, and/or on weekends! (I’m assuming she’s talking about granola bars and such vs. fresh fruit which would spoil over time. & since she bought a few week’s worth at once, it’s probably not perishable stuff, right?)

    If her kid has asthma, that too can be very severe. But if it was severe, procedures COULD be put in place for the safety of her child — just like for the food allergic kids. I think I read something about that once, where the preschoolers sat on carpet squares and the asthmatic kid needed their own special/non-contaminated carpet square, which was kept in a special place. ALL kids deserve to be SAFE at school! People ‘just’ need to be open-minded & caring & sometimes creative enough to find safe solutions. — People like Kelly! (Love your site.)

  26. I just want to say what a huge sense of support I get by reading these comments.
    To know we are not alone and most of us really know just how one another is feeling this time of year is helpful to me on some level. I totally agree with those of you who feel food belongs in the cafeteria…period. So many issues can be resolved and avoided by keeping food there and the classroom for learning. I think administrators need to get with it and put these safeguards in place without waiting for someone to ask them to do so with a 504 in place. It is ridiculous. I am one of those parents who never liked the idea of homemade baked goods coming in from who knows where, cooked under what conditions, etc and shared with my kids. I wouldn’t have liked it even if my child did not have severe allergies. I don’t know how school lunch requirements can be so strict, but there is such a drastic difference in regulating the outside homemade items that are allowed in. Okay…that is my rant.
    Wishing everyone a safe start to another school year!

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  28. I just wish that FA parents could acknowledge the accommodations that the world at large needs to make to keep your child safe. And without being defensive or nasty would be even better.

  29. Even though your reader wrote a post that upset many FA families and and non FA the families, the silver lining is dialog. We’re now all talking and educating.

    The bottom line is that Food Allergies are a medical condition, period. It does not matter if I, as FA parent, want nut granola bars allowed in a classroom or not. The actual professionally diagnosed required accommodations will dictate what happens. I personally feel constant gratitude for my children’s peer group who do understand and work hard to keep them safe. I feel sadness for those who are unable to be educated on the seriousness of FA and that includes our own FA parents as well.

    I think FA parents get defensive and their emotions run high since the disease is deadly and when a person mixes in “convenience” with death…it is very hard to get your head around it. Hopefully, the FA parent will realize the other person simply is not educated on this life threatening disease. Surely I did not understand FA until my own children were diagnosed.

    I appreciate the dialog and that everyone here is so concerned for children with or without FA.

  30. I have a 3 year old with a severe milk, egg and peanut allergy. They encouraged me to enroll him in preschool for he lacks alot of social interaction with kids his own age (he has 3 older brothers and sisters). I had an allergy action plan placed for him but when meeting with the school system they informed me that any special foods that he needed that I would have to provide for him. I have sheltered him because we have to many close encounters with family members and others trying to feed him foods he simply cannot have and I have tried to educate them on this but they don’t take it serious. So…we chose to keep him out of school for another year and he gets tested again next week and we are hoping for a different outcome because if nothing has changed I’m not sure on how to proceed on sending him to school…

  31. Just recently received the new issue of Allergic Living and was so touched reading about what your family has been going through. Your son is lucky to have you Kelly. We are all lucky to have you advocating for our children.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

  32. Kelly, thanks so much for this post, it couldn’t have come at a better time! A friend of mine posted some very insensitive comments on Facebook yesterday about the no-nuts policy at her son’s school and I was saddened by her lack of empathy and understanding. So many don’t understand that even a trace amount of allergen can cause a reaction that is deadly. I worry so much about my daughter’s food allergies and am thrilled that her school takes it very seriously, we also have some great friends who we can count on to ensure she is safe. Your post was very elegantly written, I hope that someday, we will find a cure for this but until then, educating others is a step in the right direction.

  33. I get the severity of food allergies. Still, some consideration for the 90%+ that doesn’t would go a long way.
    I happen to agree with no food in the classroom since there is too much emphasis on junk food as rewards and there is an obesity epidemic that affects far more children than FA do.

  34. I really do try to consider other children needs as well as my own. As a parent of a child with food allergies I am still learning how to deal with all of this. I do sometimes overreact to things. It feels like living in a slightly alternate universe then almost everyone else. I have a lot more to lose then those 90% + parents out there. I don’t want to be defensive. I don’t want to always have to be focusing on the worse days of my child’s life so others will listen to me. I don’t want to ban any type of food from the lunchroom. I think that we are all working on finding a solution that works for everyone and we will get there. Everyone has their own unique problems and peope who are different just help children learn to have empathy and compassion for others, which makes the whole world a better place. If I found out that a child only had juice for a snack because of my kid, I would feel bad.

  35. I think it is very useful to have allergists at schools, but is it expensive? Normally parents and kids have learned from allergist naperville, il what allergies they have, so I bet they would be able to know what and what not to eat. For more serious cases though, it would be very helpful to put allergists in schools.

  36. I understand the frustration that comes with food allergies. Until 2 years ago, my children could eat anything without thought and it was blissfully wonderful! :-) Now, with new diagnosis of celiac disease and other significant food allergies, I find myself in a strange place. My daughter has food issues with almost everything on the planet EXCEPT nuts!! We primarily homeschool (but not because of food issues, we just always have) but my kids attend an enrichment program 2 days each week and the facility is nut free. It is quite a task to find things she can take that will keep her full all day. I sincerely have great empathy for those with life threatening allergies and understand that caution must be taken to keep all of the children safe in any school environment but where else in life are you going to find ‘nut free’ facilities (or dairy free, or egg free or whatever the allergen is). Is it not better to teach our children how to navigate around the allergies that outside of school and home they are certainly going to encounter? I think it is a great idea to focus on non-food celebrations, require handwashing before and after eating. Perhaps go ahead and keep food out of the classroom in in the lunchrooms only (I never had snacks in class as a kid except on party days). Could this not be a better solution than banning particular food items? Teaching our children how to navigate and function around despite their allergy (and carry that epi pen) and helping teach others how to be thoughtful and careful of people with food allergies seems more responsible in the greater scheme of things to me than banning food.

  37. Well said! I was holding my breath as I read the bolded comment. Many emotions were running through my mind. I try to understand both sides, yet it’s still mind boggling that a few non FA parents place food over people, especially kids. Maybe as a FA parent, I’m hypersensitive to this issue. I think the answer is simple. Food free classrooms and continue to make the kids that need to sit separately at lunchtime due to food allergies feel included and appreciated. I’m happy that everyone does not have to deal with FAs and I’m sure others would agree, we as FA parents are trying to keep our children as safe as possible, which sometimes requires non FA parents to help keep our children safe. It’s not hard to take a moment and help come up with solutions rather than point out the inconvenience.

  38. Oh my goodness! My soon to be two year old was diagnosed as FA (to the top 8 and other food) this summer and was confirmed by an allergist yesterday. She has life threatening allergies to eggs, nuts, peanuts, seafood and fish. We’ve decided to homeschool her and the other kids because of the severity, complexity and sheer number of foods she’s allergic to.For me it’s the relatives who refuse to understand, be educated, etc. Their reactions are much like the poster and often very put out. To make matters worse, they are starting to sneak food to my FA toddler. I don’t want them to have to witness a reaction but they need to be considerate at least. I am trying to beconsiderate of them but sometimes I just want to throw their food gifts at them and scream. Ugh. Thank you for letting me rant :)

  39. My two grandsons have severe food allergies. they are only 3 and 4 years old. The 4 year old is aware of what he can and cannot eat, for the most part, but someone offered him chocolate the other day and I am glad I was there to intervene!!
    I wish more people had the compassion that is so badly needed for children with food allergies. More understanding and the realization of what parents have to endure with food allergy issues.
    I started a non-profit, Peanuts Are For Elephants,Inc. to help families and moreover, the children affflicted. I would encourage you all to look at my website (not completed yet) and offer suggestions for products. peanutsareforelephants.com and write to me at paulak412@aol.com. Thank you all for your support! Paula Kay

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