Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich Threat: Peanut Allergies at School

It was our first child’s very first year of school.  As first-time parents often do, my husband and I eagerly attended the Junior Kindergarten orientation.  Topics for discussion were curriculum, busing, and what to pack in our child’s backpack.  We went over the checklist: change of clothing in case our child had an accident, check!  Indoor shoes so the classroom would not get muddy, check!  Two peanut-free snacks and a peanut-free lunch…wait!  Our child’s school was completely peanut-free, we learned to our surprise!
What did we know about peanut allergies at that time?  Well, we knew that our son did not have this allergy, and of that we were thankful.  We knew that it meant that we would have to find peanut-free alternatives for snacks and lunch, which would equate to no peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, no nutty granola bars and the likes.  This was definitely not a big deal.  We went to our local grocery store and read the ingredient list of some granola bars, many had nuts.  The very few did not.  This was at a time before peanut-free items were clearly labeled as such.
We made our son a turkey sandwich for the first day of school, and paired it with a mini applesauce and baby carrots.  Our son came home from school and said that two children in his classroom had severe peanut allergies, so the teacher had to confiscate snacks that did not adhere to the peanut-free guideline.  Apparently some of the parents had not complied with the rules.  My husband and I wondered why they had not co-operated?  Was it that they just did not know, or just did not care?
I thought about this for a long while.  What if it was their child who had a life-threatening peanut allergy?   Wouldn’t they be doing everything in their powers to keep this child safe?  Why did this same logic fail in reverse for some parents?  I concluded that they were either doing what was the easiest for themselves, or purposely flouting the system.             
One note of many arrived home in my child’s backpack, in the attempts of educating parents of this serious classroom issue.  It outlined that two children in my son’s classroom had severe peanut allergies that could result in anaphylaxis.  In case the word “anaphylaxis” was not clear, the note clarified that coming in contact with peanuts could be deadly for these students.  The next day, my son told me that one parent had packed shelled peanuts as a child’s snack.  The lunch monitor had not noticed.
I began to wonder what would happen if an allergic child were to come in contact with peanuts in the classroom?  What would happen if no one noticed the anaphylaxis and the epi-pen could not be administered quickly enough?  I had a sick, sinking realization that a child could die in a matter of minutes just because of a parent’s negligence!
What must it be like for parents of kids with life-threatening allergies? To know that every day their child is at the mercy of uncaring others, for their very survival.  It is no sacrifice for me to pack my child’s lunch peanut-free so that another child may be safe and healthy at school.  So I ask you, what has to happen before all parents do the same?  Must a child die first?  Let’s work together to keep all our kids safe and educated, not just our own.   And to put an end to the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Threat once and for all!    
This article is written by me, Jenna Em, and appears in the Wednesday October 23rd, 2012 issue of the Kuklamoo Kids blog.

13 comments:

  1. I understand that it is frustrating to come up with ideas sometimes, but like you - agree that kids lives are on the line.....

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  2. I would be terrified if one of my children had a peanut allergy. This allergy is very serious and potentially life threatening, I have no idea why every parent would not comply. What if it was their child and other parents were not adhering to the strict rules regarding a peanut free environment??

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  3. It's not something I really thought of before kids but my son may be allergic (goes for testing next week) so now it's always on my mind!

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  4. I have a child with a peanut allergy. One of my biggest fears as a parent is her coming into contact with peanuts and no one noticing in time. This post is an eye opener.

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  5. What a thoughtful and well-written post! I have to admit, as the mother of two peanut-loving children, I sometimes feel frustrated searching for foods I can pack for them that they will actually eat and are also peanut-free, especially since neither of my children does have any children in their class that have peanut allergies. But better to be safe than sorry and to protect another child it's indeed worth the extra work.

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  6. Very eye opening post. My sons are still little and not in school yet but I will keep their lunches peanut free. Luckily snacks and foods are much easier to find clearly labeled now.

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  7. Yes food allergies need to be taken very seriously! Great post!

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  8. We have peanut free classrooms. I couldn't imagine how scary it must be to send your kids to school with allergies.

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  9. My daughter will be starting school next year, in a peanut free school. But they have peanut butter that doesnt have peanuts in it, like wowbutter, almond spread etc... Im sure its not hard to compensate for it. Its just for when they are at school, they could still eat it at home. sending your child to school with a bag of peanuts is downright offensive. And I feel real sorry for the child who's parent did that.! what is that teaching the child, that when someone tells you to do something, disregard what they say?! Ridiculous!

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  10. My son attends a school that is peanut free and I think peanut free schools are more the norm now. I completely understand the fear parents have if you have a child that is allergic to peanuts. But honestly though, I do miss the days when we were in school and it was bring whatever you wanted to school!

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  11. Even with the use of "WOW" butter most schools wont allow them because they cant tell the difference

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  12. Thanks,I really enjoyed this post.With more children having reactions to peanuts its very scary.All our schools here are Peanut & WOW butter free

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  13. I am reading this post again and its another school year and I am surprised to hear every year that there are more and more kids with peanut allergies .....sometimes i wonder why kids are having so many allergies and not just to peanuts but many other things.....I cant remember any kids ever having an allergy when i went to school

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