I’m Letting Down My Fellow Mothers Of Allergic Kids

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Last week I went to Back to School Night at my daughter’s school. I can not possibly express how pleased I am with this school. And I love the other parents I’ve met thus far. They’re smart, they’re nice, they’ve got their act together. It’s a nice crowd. The teacher has great command over the classroom for her young age. As she led us through a manual for parents she’d written up, the topic of nut allergies came up. I’m not sure I handled it well.

My daughter has a serious tree nut allergy. She’s deathly allergic to walnuts, pecans and filberts. And the other nuts also could cause serious problems. She even has a mild peanut allergy. Another girl in the class has a peanut allergy. We were talking about how the school doesn’t have a “no nuts” policy or something and I chimed in that I was very supportive of this. I hate that my daughter has this nut allergy but I don’t think that it means everyone in her path should have to alter their lives. We’ve pounded this “no nut” thing into her head daily for years now and we’ve sent the Epi-pens to school and all that. Sure, sometimes I want her to live in a bubble, but it doesn’t seem fair.

Anyway, after I went off on this tirade, I realized I’d Mommyjacked the conversation. What if the other mother of an allergic kid there was hoping for a no-nuts policy? Is there some sort of solidarity pact we’re supposed to form? How do I learn these things? I don’t want to let down my fellow parents of allergic kids.


  1. Hilary

    September 19, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    My kids don’t have allergies, but as we navigate the school years, I have had to become more aware of those children who do. My daughter has her birthday at the beginning of the school year. I wanted to bring in a small treat for her class. I was thinking banana nut muffins. Then I realized there was the potential for a nut allergy in the class. I contacted the teacher, who confirmed that there was. So, I thought about pumpkin muffins. Turns out the mix was made on the same equipment as milk, soy, and nuts. I don’t want anyone’s child to have a reaction, so we opted to give out foil covered chocolate coins. One of the kids in the class shouts, “I’m allergic to chocolate!”

    Oy. It’s not easy, to be sure.

    I think a no-nut policy is good so that all parents are aware and can plan accordingly. The children who have allergies know what they can and can’t consume. The children who don’t have allergies can eat along side their friends knowing they won’t inadvertently send someone into a fit.

  2. Nat

    September 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks Mollie for understanding that it’s not personal and it’s not all about keeping your child in a bubble..I don’t think I could navigate school lunch’s without good old PBJ (no refrigeration, high in non-animal protein, tasty, affordable). I do feel terrible and appreciate the additional burden of parenting a child with nut allergies but they can’t live in a bubble and it really isn’t fair to eliminate a healthy cheep food source in this economy..Option Nut free table..and of course when sharing snacks by all means require nut free if there’s an allergy. I always check for class allergies before sending in treats for class parties.

  3. Leigha

    September 19, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    This isn’t the same thing, since I would have had to actually have consumed it for it to have mattered, and they didn’t try and make me do that, but when I was in elementary school, they made me get milk at lunch every day despite being lactose intolerant, because “every kid has to get milk.” Even though I wouldn’t break out in hives from being near it or anything, it is baffling to me that I couldn’t even have the option to not buy something I couldn’t have, and now they have blanket bans where 2,000 kids (in some schools) can’t have any sort of nut because 3 are allergic.

    Personally, I think it’s ridiculous, especially considering how picky some kids can be. What if peanut butter sandwiches are literally the only thing a kid will eat for awhile? “Sorry, there’s a kid four grades above you that you’ve never met before who is allergic, so you don’t get to have lunch today”? I understand that there are kids who could go into anaphylaxis just from being in the same room, but there have been for quite some time and the idea of forcing everyone to avoid something that has no affect on them personally or anyone they know is a very new thing, and kind of a dumb one in my opinion. Even if your school does try and keep nuts out, what about other people’s houses? Restaurants? The mall? Walking down the street? They WILL be around someone who is eating/has recently eaten nuts at some point in their lives. They’re in so much, there’s just no way of getting around it. Get them an Epi-pen, teach them what to avoid, inform the teachers and school nurse (and friends’ parents, scout leaders, etc.), and leave the other kids alone.

  4. patti

    September 20, 2011 at 9:11 am

    My child has multiple deathly allergies to a lot of foods, anything dairy, for example. However he can eat nuts, and they have been life saviors because he is allergic to some meats and fish. I wouldn’t even consider depriving anyone of “MILK” because my child could die if a drop touched him, it’s him and I that have to be careful. That is the problem with our country, that a “few” expect the world to conform to their needs instead of them trying to adapt and in order to be more “normal”….just saying

  5. Diana

    September 20, 2011 at 10:28 am

    I am so sick of this debate and tired of people whining about how inconvenient it is to not be able to send their kids to school with peanut butter sandwiches because “some kid” has a nut allergy! Kids eat 35 meals a week, and it’s too much trouble to NOT have peanut butter for 5 of those meals so that another kid at their school won’t have a severe reaction???? Where is the empathy for the parents of these children who would have to worry on a daily basis whether their kids are going to have a reaction at the lunch table because their classmates “need” to have peanut butter? And, for the record, families that have to contend with nut allergies don’t go to restaurants where peanuts are prominent, they have to avoid certain aisles in the grocery store, have to pack special lunches and snacks for any outing or event, and often the parents go to every field trip and social event with the child to help reduce the risk of exposure. Children with dangerous or deadly allergies certainly must be taught what to avoid and how to avoid it, but they aren’t capable of navigating this in, say, kindergarten or maybe even all through grade school. Older kids, yes, will have to be responsible for themselves, but when it comes to younger kids, the adults have to watch out for them. And for those people who keep saying “carry an Epi-pen”, please know that this is not a TREATMENT, it is a LIFE-SAVING MEASURE. The medicine in an Epi-pen is supposed to reverse the anaphylactic reaction FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME SO THAT YOU CAN GET THE CHILD TO THE HOSPITAL. It’s not “oops, you ate a peanut…here’s your epi-pen, now run along” it’s actually “oh no! her throat is closing…call 911…get the Epi-pen!” A friend of mine posted this on Facebook last year and it really touched me “I just finished training the teachers at our school on how to use an Epi-pen. I wonder what it is like to send your kid to school and not worry that he might die there.” I find THAT pretty inconvenient.

  6. xobolaji

    September 20, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    i have so much to say on this topic! and it’s kind of driving me “nuts” because i have severe nut/peanut allergies, and i have 2 children with varying degrees of allergies and food sensitivities to this and other foods too. i have also carelessly and recklessly risked my life too many times trying hard to “fit in” and “normalize” the severity of my allergies, so i just might be in a position to speak to both sides of the fence.

    i think that rather than focussing on this being a personal “rights” issue, it might be useful to shift focus and think of it as an issue of compassion, sympathy, empathy, or whatever it takes to take the focus off people, particularly children with fatal food allergies as seeking “special treatment.” i mean, really?

    when my then 2.5yo came in contact with a dairy item at her previous montessori school, she was given her epi-pen and rushed via ambulance to the emergency dept of the nearest hospital. the previous day, i had asked the school if i could please appeal to parents to see whether or not we could forgo having a diary snack item for the short time she was there. my exact words were this: “i’m sure no parent would want to have their child see another child expire right in front of their eyes.” the school said “no! it’s a major food group.” and sure enough the next day we had “the incident.” [interestingly the vitamins and minerals that can be found in the “major food group” can also be found in vegetables, but no matter].

    shortly after i withdrew my daughter to a “safer” environment where the school was more compassionate. there’s also the plain fact that more than a few children have these allergies. it is not uncommon to have at least 2 or 3 children in a classroom with severe food allergies. yes, they are the exception. but they do exist.

    what i’ve come to realize is that there has to be a meeting of the minds, and a middle ground needs to be established. those of us with severe life-threatening, i-can-actually-die-on-your-watch-food allergies can’t “expect” people without this issue to fully comprehend what “might” happen until it happens. on the flip side, those of you without the issue have to be a little bit more flexible when it comes to keeping the world a little bit safer for people who may not be able to live “normal” like you.

    in canada, we are incredibly fortunate to have something called, “sabrina’s law.” it was established because a young junior high school girl came in contact with a food that she was allergic to and died. i know that no such law exists in the US and i think that’s sad.

    every day that a person with anaphylaxis walks into a public environment is a day that he or she might potentially expire. the very least we as a society can do is to do whatever it takes to minimize the occurrence—particularly for children who innocently assume that adults have their best interest at heart. what a concept!

  7. beth

    September 20, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I too am tired of this debate. I think you did the right thing. You cannot make everyone happy. The entire school should not be affected if your child has an allergy. IF your child has an allergy, then it is up to YOU to ensure he/she knows what he/she can and cannot eat. I am so sick of parents expecting schools to do a parenting job. Our elementary does not allow birthday treats so that takes away some of the allergy issues. They also have a “nut free” table for those few that do have nut allergies.

  8. Taz

    March 19, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    And to top it all off I break out if I even walk into a hospital cause of all of the latex in the air! Allergies happen. They suck. The world isn’t going to change so that it’s easier for the allergic few (though I wish they would get some new gloves just for me!)

  9. sweetpea

    March 21, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Its def a touchy subject….at our school they have pictures of the kids who have allergies posted in their classrooms. they do ask that parents dont send snacks and lunches that contain peanuts/nuts. My children dont have allergies, but when i shop i do try to get nut free products; the nutty stuff is for home snacking.
    Sometimes tho, i have to be honest, if im running low before shopping time i do send the potentially nutty stuff (the ones that state on the box: MAY CONTAIN NUTS), because its all i have.
    What they also do, is if a child comes to school with a nutty lunch, including Nutella, that child gets sent to the office to eat,…i get it, but i feel bad for that kid, made to feel like an outcast because of their lunch.

  10. Rae

    April 25, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Back in the day the sicklings would have been weeded out by nature before they got to screwing up others’ lives

    • T.

      May 15, 2012 at 11:27 am

      Sad but true.
      And it is spreading. At least in the US.

      Do you know we, in Italy, don’t have nut allergy? No really, we don’t. Trust me, if kids started to die like fly in random place for being in contact with nuts, I believe somebody would tell us.
      And nobody does.

      So… Why the US?

    • BBJ

      May 16, 2012 at 11:49 pm

      T, I would love to take your word for it, but searching under ‘allergia alle noci’ seems to indicate that, at the least, Italian-speaking people are aware of nut allergies, and do not seem to specify that this is something that only happens to Americans.

  11. Vicky H

    June 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Children are not adults.
    It is the responsibility of the adults caring for them to keep them safe.
    Some children die if they are exposed to their allergens.
    Children have a right to an education, and to be safe while they are being educated.

    How hard is it to take the above facts and reach the logical conclusion?

    If a child will DIE if they are exposed to something, then how is it “inconvenient” for the other children to pack something else in their lunch?

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