August 18, 2008
Peanut allergies and blanket bans

I confess to being a little puzzled by the sound and fury over peanut allergies and the steps some schools have taken to deal with them. I understand that schools overreact to things all the time (two words: "zero tolerance"), and that they sometimes don't listen to reason about that. I definitely sympathize with any parent of a picky eater - if peanut butter is one of the three only things in the whole world your kid will consent to eat, then being told you can't send PBJs to school any more is not going to be good news. But we are talking about a situation in which a kid may suddenly go into shock, stop breathing, and maybe die. It shouldn't be too hard to understand why the schools want to err on the side of caution.

I suppose one reason for the backlash is that it seems like the hypervigilance to peanuts has come out of nowhere. It's true that more people these days, children especially, have peanut allergies, but no one knows why the number is increasing. Maybe over time people will be more sensitive to it, as public awareness increases. Or maybe we'll get a better handle on causes and treatments and we won't need the schools to take such a hard line. Either way, I don't see this as a long-term problem.

We had our first brush with the peanut allergy thing this week as we had a parents' orientation for Audrey's new preschool class, which she'll be starting next week. They're enforcing a peanut ban at the school, but if no one reports a peanut allergy for their kid in a given class, then it can be dropped for that class. Not a big deal for us - both our girls like peanut butter, but they eat a fairly broad assortment of things, so it's not a staple of their diet - but a lot of questions were asked when the point came up.

Has this affected you or your kid in some way? Leave a comment and let me know.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 18, 2008 to Food, glorious food

I'm sure that most parents aren't like the ones I've heard complaining about this, but kids die from this. Nobody ever died from not eating PB&J. Especially in lower grades, this doesn't seem like a disproportional response.

I know that parents have lots of opportunities to fight things out with their kids, and that picking your battles is important, but I wish some of the parents who I hear complaining about this would take this as an opportunity to teach a lesson about "the relative importance of your preference versus not killing little Jimmy."

Because if the parent doesn't teach that lesson, the world will, but it might be sad for Jimmy's parents.

Posted by: Michael on August 18, 2008 8:24 AM

I suspect I have a very mild peanut allergy from my response to peanut foods (the smell of peanut butter nauseates me). I know I've eaten peanut foods many times without becoming violently ill, never mind anaphylactic shock, so obviously I wouldn't need a peanut ban, but it's been kind of scary to realize I have something that could end up there.

I sometimes wonder whether we really have more peanut allergy or just better reporting. 75 years ago, kids with a severe allergy probably just died.

Posted by: Ginger Stampley on August 18, 2008 3:12 PM
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