Saturday, February 11, 2017

Peanut/Nut Allergies in the Classroom: 6 Things Every Parent Needs to Know

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Classroom parties are supposed to be a time for fun and laughter.  But what happens when treats are brought in that threaten the health of some of the students? For a student with peanut/nut allergies, unsafe treats can bring about tears, embarrassment, the feeling of being left out or being "weird". As the parent of a child with a nut allergy, I will tell you that classroom parties frighten me.  Because all it takes is one nut-contaminated cookie or one super cute, nut-laced cupcake and my child will get sick or possibly die. Sounds overdramatic, right?  But right now, nut allergies are still not being taken seriously. Would you be upset if someone brought a loaded gun to a classroom party and sat in on a plate in front of your child? That's what it feels like for nut-allergy parents.  We're playing Russian Roulette with food.
So, what can you do to help protect kiddos with nut allergies in your child's class? How can you be sensitive to the potential embarrassment they will feel at not being able to enjoy the treats others have? Here are some tips:
Talk to the Parents
If you have questions regarding safe/unsafe snacks, please reach out to the parents of the nut allergy student.  We would much rather you ask questions, get products okayed, etc than to risk our child being exposed to an allergen.
Don't Exclude
If you were at a party and everyone was eating one thing, while you were singled out and eating another, how would you feel? Awkward? Though the consideration in bringing a nut-free item for an allergy kiddo is appreciated, there are multiple repercussions that need to be considered.  The first being how it makes them feel. The second and more important, is that some children's allergies are so severe that even being around allergens can cause a reaction. For instance, nut-laced cookie child touches a game, peanut allergy kiddo touches the same item, then eats one of their nut-free cookies.  They've just potentially ingested allergens that could cause an anaphylactic reaction. So what do you?
Bring Treats Safe for Everyone
If there is a nut-allergy kiddo in the classroom, then refrain from bringing items that are labeled as:
  • “May Contain Peanut or Tree Nuts”
  • “Processed on shared equipment with Peanuts or Tree Nuts”
  • “Contains Peanut or Tree Nut Ingredients”
  • “Manufactured in a plant with Peanut or Tree Nuts”
You can find treats that are safe to bring at Mommity's Ultimate List of Peanut/Tree Nut Snacks for School. Also, most Wal-Marts carry cupcakes and other treats that are peanut/tree nut free.
Avoid Bringing Homemade Goods
Many schools don't allow homemade goods. But on the off chance, that yours does, the intent is appreciated, but please don't. Peanut/tree nut allergy kiddos cannot eat homemade treats because they aren't certified as allergen free. For example, did you know that wooden and nonstick cooking utensils can harbor allergens even AFTER being ran through the dishwasher? Again, we appreciate the thought, but it does not outweigh the risk.
Don't Complain
I understand... It's a hassle.  But the last thing that nut allergy moms want to hear is that it is an inconvenience for you to choose a snack that won't kill their kid. If we could, we'd surely pick another allergy for our children... pizza, chicken nuggets, you name it. But please don't comment on it negatively to us. It hurts. (Seriously. It's happened.)
Don't Ignore the Threat
Lastly.... Please don't ignore or underestimate the threat that peanuts/tree nuts are to allergic kiddos. "It's just a peanut butter cup. It's individually wrapped...." That doesn't cut it. I'm just gonna say this, and I know I'm risking offending, but I don't care because kids' lives are on the line. If you are aware that there is a peanut/nut allergy present in the classroom, and you choose to bring an allergen into the room, you are blatantly choosing to put convenience over the wellbeing of a child.

So there you have it. And here's the disclaimer I've given in so many of my posts where I take a stand on a topic... I by no means mean any offense. Nor do I mean to come off as preachy or condescending.  Text doesn't convey tone, so just know that I speak from the heart of a momma who is scared to death for the safety and well-being of her kiddo and others like him. Many blessings to you.

**Side note: If you have a food allergy kiddo and carry an epipen, you can download my "Epipen Inside" tags here.

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