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Nuts About Nut Allergies, Revisted

Feb16

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesFor today, we have an update to a very popular recent-ish question, followed by a new question about the same topic that…well, you’ll see. CONFLICTING WORLDS AND OPINIONS COLLIDING!

First, an update from “J,” on the case of the peanut-happy-serving mother-in-law and the highly allergic toddler:

Dear Amy & Readers,

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your advice and words of wisdom and encouragement about the peanut allergy issue!

We basically took all of the advice that we thought would work for our situation and sat my MIL down after dinner at our house one night and said, “Listen. This is a big deal, and we need to know you understand. He could DIE if he comes in contact with this stuff, and we know you love him and would not want that to happen. Let’s go over what things he cannot have.” And so, we did! We gave her a laminated list to hang on her fridge of his specific allergies and what to look for with foods. She apologized and said she didn’t even realize it, and that next time we get together she will not make anything with nuts. My husband gave back the nut chopper (SERIOUSLY, WTF) and we all laughed! Because certainly our house could not use that! And the angels smiled and we were all great… for about 2 weeks.

Well, she made a sandwich for my nephew with peanut butter on it one day and I was not there, but my husband was, and she wiped the knife off, and tried to cut up some cheese for Miles (my son). My husband (thankfully, oh so thankfully) caught it and freaked out on her, for lack of a better term. She cried and apologized and said she just didn’t have to think about this when she was parenting and it’s hard to remember. Which, honestly? I kind of understand. I forget sometimes and order a salad with walnuts and then have to chase down our waiter and reorder (and apologize). It’s easy to slip up – especially when you are not the child’s main caretaker. So, we all talked AGAIN and decided that it is best if she watches Miles only at our house, and we leave all his food ready for her. It’s not the ideal situation, but I want her to have a relationship with him, but overall I want Miles to be safe.

We also signed Miles up for two days a week of Mother’s Morning Out next year, so I have a little bit of a break (SURPRISE! I’m pregnant and due in May and OMG you expect me to parent TWO of them all day long?) and that will help with how much she watches him too.

But, I wanted to say thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou. I needed to hear that I needed to grow up, to deal with this very important situation and get past any “hurt feelings” thing I had going on. I have to fight for my son and while it’s unfortunate it had to start with a family member, it gave me a chance to practice being all mama bear on someone :)

Thanks,
J

Thank you so much for updating us — there’s always a handful of situations we address ’round these parts that are just begging for a good, complete ending to the story, and yours was definitely one of them. I’m glad you guys stopped any and all sugar-coating and talked to her, and that she appears to be trying instead of fighting with you further. Though not to be alarmist and all…I’m still kind of startled by her claim that she didn’t “realize” she’d made food with nuts and how quickly and easily she forgot about the whole nut thing again. (Two weeks?) I mean, I appreciate that you sympathize that yes, it can be tough on us non-nut-free people to get it right all the time. BUT getting tripped up by a say, a jarred pesto sauce containing pine nuts is one thing, but not remembering to take some basic precautions after handling straight peanut butter is another. You made the right decision about immediately limiting her caretaking duties to YOUR HOUSE ONLY, but…hmm. I just can’t shake this wiggling worry that your MIL’s level of forgetfulness could start spilling into things beyond Miles’ allergy, and unfortunately, accidents from absent-minded caregivers can indeed happen at your own home, no peanuts required.

And now, another question on the other end of the peanut allergy spectrum. How much is too much when it comes to dealing with allergies in the classroom?

Hi Amy,

I’ve been reading your advice column for a while now and really love your advice, so I’m here to ask you — and your readers — about this issue which recently came up at my son’s preschool.

He’s in a class of 26 kids, and it’s a nut-free centre. I admit I kinda grumbled about it when they said we had to go nut free six months after he started — he was really loving peanut butter sandwiches and they are so easy and cheap! But preschoolers aren’t that good at understanding the implications of sharing, and it’s definitely not worth a kid’s life (or comfort!), so I of course complied. And I check ingredient lists of all the stuff I include too, to make sure it doesn’t have nuts. This isn’t always easy. My kid is a little picky (not seriously, but a little) and most of the granola bars he likes have nuts, so yada yada. Again. It’s a small hassle compared to a kid’s health. I know this. I’m not fighting it.

But.

The other day he got home and there was a note in his lunch on his granola bar. A granola bar I was SURE had no nuts. But I hadn’t checked the fine print, apparently, because they said “This says it may contain nuts, so we couldn’t serve it.” And I’m frustrated. Almost EVERYTHING these days says “may contain nuts” because companies don’t want to get sued. I can avoid stuff that HAS nuts, but avoiding EVERYTHING that MIGHT have been in contact with nuts, in the off chance that my kid shares that one item with the one kid who has a nut allergy … gah. This seems too much to me.

I don’t want to make a big stink over this, not when a kid is in danger. And to be fair, it’s not MY kid who has the allergy. Maybe I’m being too selfish. So: am I? Am I overreacting or is this a sensible precaution?

(Also, I should note: the child in question does not have a severe anaphylactic allergy. I know, because the allergy information is posted publicly. The teachers are not required to carry epipens, which they would if the allergy were life-threatening. An allergy is an allergy, I’m not suggesting that this really makes a difference. But maybe it might.

And secondly, the preschool is part of a larger system, but this isn’t a blanket policy — the individual centres make their own rules regarding allergies.)

So please: do let me know if I’m being an arse about this or not!

Confused Canadian

Noah is not even in kindergarten yet and I swear, he’s already had classmates with just about every food allergy under the sun. Nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, strawberries, etc. So far, though, the nut allergies remain the only ones we’ve ever been explicitly asked to alter our food and snack selections for. The rest of the time, it’s (presumably) up to the teachers to make sure food isn’t shared and surfaces wiped down. One little classmate Noah had last year had SO MANY food allergies that sadly, he always ate his snack at a different table, usually joined only by a teacher or aide. It always broke my heart a little to see, but when you have a kid who apparently can’t even come in contact with a baggie of dry Cheerios or stick of string cheese…well, I don’t really know what other options the school had. Because yeah, there has to be a limit to what other non-allergic families can accommodate.

And like you, my initial reaction is that yes, the school is expecting too much by including packaged food that bears the tiny fine print…mostly because we’ve always been able to personally send those sorts of snacks in. However, a little Googling reveals that indeed, a truly “nut-free classroom” also prohibits foods with those warnings. So actually, this isn’t that unusual. Our schools and classrooms have been much more laid back, asking us to simply avoid like, PB&J and other foods that OBVIOUSLY contain nuts and generally stick to store-bought, labeled snacks when it comes to classroom-wide parties and such. Your school is actually nut-free, like hardcore, and were indeed following that policy by sending your son’s snack home.

Whether or not the school has a legitimate NEED to be completely nut-free, well…that’s a can of worms I really don’t feel like getting into. On the one hand, nut allergies can change dramatically with each subsequent exposure. On the other hand, we’re hearing more and more about how often food allergies are misdiagnosed via both skin and blood tests. On the other, other hand, those warnings are more than a cover-your-ass lawsuit prevention — nuts contain oils that leave stubborn residues on a manufacturing line, peanut dust can indeed blow from industrial blender to another, and for severely allergic individuals, this small amount of cross-contamination can trigger their allergy.

The problem here, really, is that the school has obviously not done a good job at COMMUNICATING its nut-free policy to parents. And I’d go directly to the school director and point this out, honestly. If “MAY contain nuts” is off-limits, parents need to know that before they hit the grocery store. What about the “shared manufacturing facility” warnings? Are those okay? Not okay? This may seem obvious to anyone living with food allergies, but for parents not used to reading labels that closely, it really isn’t. The school should know that, frankly. Would it be possible for the school — working with the parents of affected children — to put together a list of recommended brands or snack ideas that you could refer to? (Kashi’s TLC Cereal Bars, while not technically a granola bar, have long been a favorite of Noah’s and are completely nut and warning free.) And what about unlabeled or homemade food products? It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for me to imagine an annoyed parent getting passive-aggressive and simply ripping snacks out of their wrappers and sending them to school in a plain Ziploc baggie to avoid getting food sent home.

Without a master list of widely-available brands, you could always make your own nut-free granola bars, which are easy as anything and great for anyone trying to cut back on those pesky single-use wrappers…unless of course the school starts getting nitpicky about non-store-bought, unlabeled food. Or, like the first preschool Noah attended that saw the pumpkin seeds in the homemade bars I made and thought they were a type of nut, and sent them back unopened until I explained the difference the next day, OH MY GOD. Here are a couple other nut-free recipes, depending on the style of bar your son prefers.

And now, for everybody in the (grooooaaaan) Peanut Gallery: Does your school/daycare include the disclaimer language labels in the no-nut policy? Does your school/daycare even HAVE a set no-nut policy? Parents of (severely and/or non-severely) allergic kids, what do you ask of or realistically expect of your school/daycare…and of the other parents in your classroom? And can you offer our OP some suggestions for lunch-packing alternatives, either store-bought or homemade?

__________________________________________________________________
If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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26 Responses to “Nuts About Nut Allergies, Revisted”

  1. Sonia Feb 16 at 6:05 pm Reply Reply

    Little one’s daycare has a no nuts, no chocolate (due to cross contamination), no homemade policy.  It’s not really an issue because they supply all the food.

    Big one’s school is not peanut free, which makes me a bit nervous because my son has a peanut allergy.  His teacher has an epipen for him, as does the school nurse.  He is separated from the peanut-eating kids at lunch, and they are good about having the kids wash their hands thoroughly.  Snacks (for birthdays/parties) are a free for all.  Most parents are really careful about what they bring for the class, which I appreciate.  There is no ban on home made stuff, which works well for me because I bake for class parties so I know there is something safe for him to eat.

    While I wish his school were peanut free, I am satisfied with the precautions.  He is 7; old enough to know to wash his hands, not share food, and go to the nurse if he is feeling funny.  The world is not peanut free, and he needs to learn how to keep himself safe.

  2. Jessica Feb 16 at 8:02 pm Reply Reply

    Seriously? A no homemade policy? I think that would make me consider homeschooling. For real. I’m proud of the fact my girl eats almost no processed foods, and of the considerable savings to my grocery budget and trash at the end of the week.

  3. Rachel Feb 16 at 8:17 pm Reply Reply

    Our day care is also nut free, so instead of pb&j, we send tahini & jelly sandwiches. Tahini is a sesame seed paste you can buy in the international foods section, and out picky 2yo will eat it. Good luck!

  4. Leigh Feb 16 at 9:42 pm Reply Reply

    Our preschool provides the snacks and we are not to send any food. Our backup daycare provides an amazing organic lunch and snacks or we could provide packaged foods. They will not even take premade formula bottles. The only exceptions are for severely allergic kids.
    Honestly I think for tiny ones it is a good system. they get the headache of providing a variety of healthy foods the kids will eat, that are safe for everyone to be around.

  5. Jessica Feb 16 at 9:45 pm Reply Reply

    Wouldn’t ANYTHING assembled in a non-nut free home technically deserve a fine print “processed in a facility that may have contained nuts” warning? So that even a tuna fish sandwich made at home would break the spirit of the law? — since there may be peanut butter residue on your knives and cutting board, etc. It seems hard to know where to draw the line, but banning everything with that fine print seems extreme.

  6. eva Feb 16 at 11:53 pm Reply Reply

    Our daycare’s policy is “we are NOT a no-nuts daycare,” and I for one am thrilled.  There are many many daycares that are nut-free, and I’m so glad I can send almond butter sandwiches and homemade peanut butter cookies!   

    At her old nut-free daycare, we did both tahini and sunflower seed butter and they were acceptable but only once I explained them to the employees, who were probably also unfamiliar with pumpkin seeds:)  

  7. Julie Feb 17 at 12:15 am Reply Reply

    At my son’s preschool, we rotate bringing in snacks for the whole class and must choose from an approved list based on the allergies in the class (the whole school is nut-free, but other allergies like dairy are on a class by class basis). There are literally maybe 15 choices – all processed c.r.a.p. in my opinion – plus any fresh fruit. It is…. not ideal. But I love the school in all other ways, so it’s my compromise.

  8. Stephanie Feb 17 at 12:17 am Reply Reply

    So I think daycares should make reasonable accommodations for food allergies. I know that peanuts and tree nuts are very common, but there are others just as life-threatening. Case in point, my daughter has a severe sesame seed allergy, so reading about those tahini and jelly sandwiches scares the crap out of me! Our previous daycare didn’t have any policy other than alerting the teachers and posting the list of allergies in every room. One day, a toddler brought in some crackers from home, which had sesame seeds on them. My daughter, being a TODDLER, tried to grab the crackers from the other boy. Luckily, the teacher saw them doing that and wrestled the crackers out of their hands, but not before my daughter rubbed her fingers on her eyes and caused them to swell. This was so avoidable! What’s the point of having a list for the teachers if food can still be brought in? And the thing with sesame seeds is that they’re so small, they can stick to anything. Anyway, I know I’m just voicing my own concerns, but the point I’m making is that the class should have rules based on the allergies present, not just a blanket no-nuts. The daycare wasn’t really willing to go that far, so we pulled her out and now she’s at an in-home care where the lady provides all the food. Much better peace of mind.

  9. Olivia Feb 17 at 8:52 am Reply Reply

    Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with this yet because my daughter’s daycare provides all the food. From what I can tell, I don’t think they are nut-free. I don’t look forward to dealing with this in the future if we have to since we have no allergies in our family and food is an easy and enjoyable thing we don’t have to worry about.

    I came across this subject yesterday, and people suggested sunflower butter as a good substitute for peanutbutter.

  10. Lindsay Feb 17 at 9:50 am Reply Reply

    My 2 year old son has a peanut allergy, and I thank God he goes to a peanut free facility. Until he’s old enough to REALLY understand how life-threatening this could be for him, there HAVE to be strict rules to protect him. I’m sorry for parents that are inconvenienced by having to provide nut-free options for their children as well, but frankly, when it’s about my child’s life, isn’t that more important than a temper tantrum about not getting a certain kind of granola bar at snack time?

  11. Christi Feb 17 at 11:45 am Reply Reply

    My 18-month-old goes to a peanut/tree nut-free school where the policy is that packaged foods must not have an allergy warning about peanuts or tree nuts (including “manufactured in a facility…” or “shared equipment”). And all home-made items must be labeled as to what they are, as should soy butter and sunbutter type things.

    When we picked the school we didn’t think we needed somewhere that was vigilant with allergies, it just happened to be the facility we liked the most. I was pregnant at the time and really (honestly) thought that the whole allergy thing was overblown much of the time. But I was willing to go with the school’s policies – they’re clear and up-front. Then came our baby’s allergies…

    By the time she moved up to the toddler room the list of foods she could not have was loooong and included, in addition to the Big Eight, unusual allergies like carrots, sweet potatoes and watermelon. Her teachers have a list of foods she cannot have and work very hard to keep her curious toddler hands from stealing food from other kids. I would never, ever expect other families to abide by my daughter’s limited list of foods…we have a hard enough time making her lunches; I wouldn’t wish that challenge on all the other families, too.

  12. Stephanie S Feb 17 at 11:53 am Reply Reply

    My nine year old son has a peanut allergy. He’s been tested twice, and his reaction the second time was more severe than the first time. His school is not nut free, and neither is our home. We are careful not to cross contaminate, and he knows not to share food and to ask questions before eating something he’s not familiar with. I don’t believe that schools (well, at least elementary level and up) should be nut free. As a previous commenter said, the world is not nut free, and it is ultimately up to my son to be make sure the food he eats is safe.
    I think that as long as schools take reasonable steps to make sure kids with food allergies are safe, they’ve done their job. But I also get very annoyed when parents don’t take the time to read labels or ask questions before sending in treats. My son cannot have ANYTHING that may contain peanuts, or was manufactured in the same facility with peanuts.
    We have gotten around the problem of his not being able to have a treat with the class by sending in a bag of special treats labeled with his name. That way, if there’s any doubt, he’s got a back-up.
    As for having a list of safe snacks, it can be difficult. Manufacturers change their facilities or product lines and suddenly, something that was safe is no longer so. It’s just safest to ask everyone to be a label reader.

  13. Ally Feb 17 at 1:15 pm Reply Reply

    I really like my son’s preschool. They don’t have a set policy, they take it by every year and circumstance. This year there are no kids with severe allergies, so we can bring whatever we want. Some years they will just have a policy for a specific class. I like the way it is done a lot. 

  14. Kristin Feb 17 at 3:25 pm Reply Reply

    My son is in first grade, and while the school does not have a no-nut policy, he does have a kid in his class that is allergic. Surprisingly, my son is not limited in what he packs in his lunch or for snack, but he obviously can’t sit near the allergic child if he’s having anything that does or might have nuts in it. Ironically, the school DOES have a NO BIRTHDAY TREAT policy. Their reasoning is apparently three-fold: Allergies, Obesity (WTF?) and Economic disparity… The kid gets a paper crown for their birthday and that’s it. He did just bring home a huge bag of valentines full of treats, so they are apparently not so great about applying their policies across the board.

  15. Rebilou Feb 17 at 4:13 pm Reply Reply

    As an aunt to a severely allergic children from both of my sisters, I was terrified of having my own child with the family history. We have been blessed with a daughter that not only loves every food, but can eat them all. But in support of my family we used sunbutter instead of nut butter products, have snacks in the house that are appropriate for all of the kids regardless of their allergy and support the requests of our daycare. We send foods to school in the broken down sandwich variety and fresh fruits. We look at every label, and although we don’t exclude nuts entirely from out diets, I make sure that I know the ingredients of the products I bring in so I can quickly exclude foods from school diets and home as needed. What breaks my heart is how much it has affected my nephew. He eats alone, he will never know what cake or rocky road tastes like, and as a society that focuses on food in any celebration, activity, or get-together he is constantly on the losing end. So to make sure that he understand he is always welcome and can feel comfortable in my house and with my child, avoiding foods/having things specifically for him, seems like such a little thing for me to do.

  16. JennyMooMeow Feb 17 at 7:42 pm Reply Reply

    Maybe I am just bitter and jaded, but nobody ever looked out for me or gave a crap about my food allergies as a kid. And now everywhere I go, people are (seemingly) overly concerned with other people’s food allergies. I can understand looking out for your own kids, or students if you are a teacher or care-giver, but to totally ban foods from school or daycare actually offends me. My kids are not allergic to nuts (thank God b/c their daddy is) and they aren’t at all sensitive to the things I am. But if they do get sensitive/allergic, I’m going to teach them that they have to look out for themselves and they can’t expect to be treated like babies.

  17. Jo Feb 17 at 8:56 pm Reply Reply

    I just wanted to point out that it’s super-easy to find nut-free granola bars in Canada (as compared to the US), so just look for the ones with the “no nuts” labels and send those to school. Save the other ones for at home. :)

  18. Kimm Feb 17 at 9:28 pm Reply Reply

    Some people say they will teach their kids to look out for themselves, but at 2.5 years old in preschool, I think it would be unrealistic for the kid to be self-sufficient in staying away from nut-containing products. When people talk about school on this post, a lot of them mean pre-school, with very young ages – I definately see the need for not allowing nut products in schools with very young kids. I wouldn’t trust any pre-K age child to not put something in their mouth to try it, even if they know it’s not good for them.

  19. Hillary Feb 18 at 9:32 am Reply Reply

    I think a lot of the no-nut school policies are for the teachers. I used to teach preschool and we had a kid with severe allergies. The thought of having to use an epi-pen on this kid was so horrifying that I very strictly enforced our no nut policy. I seriously had nightmares about him swelling up and me freaking out and using the epi-pen wrong and then having to explain to his lovely parents what happened. EEEEK.
    Now that I have a daughter in preschool, I’m acutely aware of how hard teaching toddlers is. I’d rather have her teachers focus on caring for the children as opposed to vigilantly watching the one kid with allergies in the room. It really seems like a small price for the parents to pay so the teachers can teach and not act as food police.

  20. Jan Feb 18 at 12:17 pm Reply Reply

    My 4 year old boy has a severe nut allergy – whatever that means. As noted by brilliant Amalah, the doctors don’t know what they are talking about. His preschool is nut-free, but the attached elementary is not – which strikes me as about as ridiculous as further allergy testing. Believe me when I say that I understand the frustration of the lunch packers who need to read their labels. I also SORTOF get the folks who say don’t baby the allergy sufferers (but them less so.) Ultimately, I guess I feel like saying is it really so hard to help other people? Do we really need to complain about it so much? Wouldn’t it be a better lesson to our children to make the companies fix their factories and provide safe and wholesome foods for our families? And to show them that we care about other peoples’ children too by modifying our own behavior when it keeps them safe? It isn’t THAT HARD to pack an allergy safe lunch and snack ok? You just have to pack it – you don’t have to pack it and then launch it to the moon.

  21. julie w Feb 18 at 1:05 pm Reply Reply

    My daycare is trying to be nut-free. It’s tough for them (they provide food after 12 months) to trust the lack of “processed in a plant with nuts” warnings which apparently aren’t required by law so they have to warn the parents that they are trying but might not be 100% true. I think it is CRAZY that so many children have these life threatening allergies and it is so difficult to help them stay away from the nuts. Don’t blame daycare, the parents, or the kids…blame the tone-deaf food producers and poor food regulation/labeling. If this were your toddler with the allergy what would you hope others would do? Let’s give each other a much deserved break. Some kids could die from this. It is worth your time to read the label and maybe mention to your congessperson that you’d like to be able to make better choices without a phd in food processing.

  22. Jay Feb 18 at 3:31 pm Reply Reply

    This is slightly off topic, but I am really curious about allergies and how they develop. It seems like there are SO MANY MORE allergies now than there were 20 or 30 years ago–is it just because they’re treated better and kids aren’t dying from them? Or what is going on? We have no family history of any allergies, and I’m really hoping that our kids won’t have any either. For any of the families that have allergies, if you know of any good articles on this I would love links. Thanks!

  23. HLC Feb 18 at 6:18 pm Reply Reply

    Jay,

    I’m pregnant and am concerned that my kids (I’m having twins) will end up with food allergies, as I have a few severe ones.  I talked to my allergist about it.  I didn’t ask why there are more allergies now, but he did give me some tips for preventing them.

    First, there is quite a bit of evidence that if the mom takes probiotics in the 3rd trimester, it helps prevent allergies.  The allergist said it can’t hurt to take them earlier either, so I started as soon as he told me about this (which was early in 2nd trimester).

    Secondly, he said that there is a very low rate of peanut allergies in Israel.  Apparently Israelis often feed their babies Bamba, which is a peanut paste.  He said that most doctors here recommend waiting until 9 months or so to try nuts, but that I should try feeding my twins Bamba when they are 6 months old, as the early exposure may help prevent peanut allergies.  He said other peanut products might work, but that since Bamba is sold here in Los Angeles, I might as well use exactly what the Israelis are using. Here’s a link about that:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2008/nov/19/peanut-allergy-research-baby-diet

    I know that breast feeding is supposed to help prevent allergies as well – however, my mom breastfed my brother and me and we both have food allergies (just like her) so it’s no guarantee.  

    And since there does seem to be a genetic component to allergies – I’m just hoping the kids inherit my husband’s genetics on that side (he doesn’t have any allergies) instead of mine!

  24. HLC Feb 18 at 6:33 pm Reply Reply

    I just wanted to give all you parents of severely allergic kids a ray of hope too.   My parents close friends’ daughter had severe food allergies as an infant.  Her shellfish allergy was so bad that you couldn’t touch her if you had eaten shellfish, as she would break out in a rash on contact.  She was also allergic to chocolate, milk, wool and I can’t remember what else.  Her allergist said she was the most severely allergic child he had ever met and he wrote papers on her.  Today she is in her 30s and has no food allergies, having outgrown them all.  My mom also had severe food allergies as a kid and outgrew hers.  I’m the opposite – no food allergies in childhood, but several that have developed as an adult.

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know that these allergies are not always life-long, so there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.  Good luck.  I know it’s tough to battle at times.

  25. Kim S. Feb 19 at 8:15 pm Reply Reply

    I have twins (3 yrs old) with severe food allergies (peanut, tree nut, egg, and sesame). That diagnosis, more than any other life event besides giving birth to them, changed our lives significantly. Trust me, you will never be the same after you see a paramedic hovering over your 18 month old who is laying on your floor unable to breathe, her eyes swollen shut. She was eerily calm. So was I until we got to the ER and the medicine began to work. Then I lost it. It was the scariest moment of our lives and we live with the limitations every single day in ways non-allergic families can’t even imagine. We don’t go to restaurants. We worry and prepare for every family function. If we go to parties, we have to hover over them lest someone try to be nice and feed them a treat. We can’t go on planes. We can’t go on vacation unless we make sure we bring most of our food in a huge cooler in our minivan. This is NOT fun. Let me tell you.

    Our preschool is wonderful about checking with us on snacks etc. But I’m terrified about elementary school. I’m not sure what other people’s experiences are, but my 9 year old is offered junk food ALL THE TIME at school. Skittles if they behave, popsicles if they behave, cupcakes at parties. That is a very dangerous environment for my twins to be in.

    On the one hand, I don’t want to put other people out and make them watch labels and think about their food as obsessively as we have to. On the other hand, I’d prefer my girls to grow into adulthood and not die at the school lunch table. I understand it seems annoying to other parents, but I can guarantee it is WAY more annoying for me and my husband. I just wish people would have more compassion. And I wish elementary schools weren’t in the business of shoving our kids full of crap food every two minutes. If I only had to worry about the lunch room that would be one thing, but class parties and reward food abound in our district.

    That said, I’m strongly considering homeschooling them.

  26. Jackie Feb 20 at 12:46 pm Reply Reply

    My son has a life threatening peanut allergy.  He is now 4 years old and was diagnosed at 1 1/2 after he had a severe reaction the first time he was introduced to peanuts.  I understand how hard it is for parents to try and accommodate these children as it limits many food choices BUT when you have seen a child whose entire body is swollen with hives and struggling to breathe, you get a full understanding of the importance of allergy trigger avoidance.

    My two closest friends who have seen my child in the midst of an allergic reaction, have both stated that if only all parents could see what happens they would truly understand and be empathetic to the no nut situation.  

    Not all people have the same severity of reaction and I am sure some people think the reaction is as simple as a rash or vomiting but in under two minutes, severely allergic people can lose the ability to breathe due to the swelling internally and die.  That is serious business.

    It can be annoying to look at labels and ensure peanut free products but there are many alternatives.  You can get “FreeNut Butter” which is a soy alternative to peanut butter and is fantastic.  Granola bars are often marked with the peanut free logo as well as many other processed snacks.

    The hardest part of parenting a child with a severe allergy is sending them off to a school/preschool where we cannot control the setting.  We have to trust that other parents are as diligent as we are about ensuring the food their children bring is safe.  We have to trust that the teachers are aware of the warning signs of a reaction.  We have to trust that kids have washed the peanut butter off their hands from breakfast.  We have to trust that the rules are not broken.  It is not easy for the child or the parent.

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