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Lab Assistant
Original Poster
#1 Old 27th Dec 2011 at 8:58 AM
Blanket Bans on Peanuts in Schools For Kids With Allergies
Today, I was reading an article somewhere on about.com about banning peanuts in schools in order to protect children with severe peanut allergies.

As many of you know, schools will sometimes put blanket bans on some foods so other kids that go to the school aren't allowed to bring certain foods in their lunch (such as nuts, fruits, etc.) because one or a few are fatally allergic. Some schools have even gone as far as banning fake peanut butter because it's too hard to distinguish from the real stuff.

Should all nut products (or in some cases wheat, milk, fruits, etc.) be banned from schools if a select few have allergies? Who's responsibility is it to control the allergy: the child's, parent's, or school's? What do they do in the future when they are no longer able to control their surroundings (such as in the workplace, in public, and in stores)?

I feel like both sides of the argument have very good POVs, so I'd like to hear what you have to say! I personally don't have any severe allergies, but I do know a few people with them.
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Top Secret Researcher
#2 Old 27th Dec 2011 at 9:12 AM
If an allergy can cause death then yes it is reasonable to ban the allergen.

A child can't be held responsible because they are a child, a parent can only be responsible while the child is in their care. If the care of the child is given over to a school then the school is responsible.

Once a child becomes an adult they should be able to look after themselves. They don't need to be put in a life or death situation at school to learn that.
Scholar
#3 Old 27th Dec 2011 at 9:27 AM
No, a blanket ban is not reasonable. It isn't fair to other children to disallow them from having peanut butter and jelly, just because one kid in the school is deathly allergic to peanut butter. There are plenty of other steps that can be taken to prevent the child with an allergy from having the allergen. The parents can stress the importance to the child of the child not having the allergen. Some children are capable of understanding that something will be seriously harmful to them, particularly if they've had a bad reaction before that they remember. The school can be apprised of the situation and administrators can make sure that the child doesn't take anything in the lunch line that contains the allergen and can watch the kid at lunch to make sure he/she isn't trading with others to get it. All of the schools I've gone to have had enough administrators present in the lunch room at any given time to give personal attention to one or two students, so I'd bet that this is pretty doable.

Considering that it is possible to be allergic to pretty much anything, and that it can be difficult to avoid certain things (such as wheat), it really isn't practical to force the whole school to avoid allergens. Some parents can't afford to buy different types of food for a child going to school with another child who has coeliac disease. And it's not like one kid being allergic to something means that it's unhealthy for others. The only kid who needs to avoid it is the one with the allergy. I always have to roll my eyes when health food nuts try to eliminate gluten from their diets, thinking that it's bad for them, but not realizing that it's only bad for people with coeliac disease.
Top Secret Researcher
#4 Old 27th Dec 2011 at 9:34 AM
But if you have coeliac disease you won't have an anaphylactic reaction and die from one bite of something that has touched wheat. Some allergies are more deadly than others and should be treated as such.
Scholar
#5 Old 27th Dec 2011 at 9:44 AM
Those allergies can still be handled properly without telling hundreds or thousands of other children that they can't have a common food item, though. Yes, it makes sense to ban the allergen from class parties, but a kid who doesn't even know the kid with allergies bringing the allergen in his/her lunch isn't going to expose the kid to any unnecessary risks. Most children are responsible enough when it comes to things they know can cause pain/death, and the backup measure of informed and attentive administrators covers any indiscretions the child might have.
Mad Poster
#6 Old 27th Dec 2011 at 11:37 AM
This is insane. If they have an allergy, they should inform their classmates and keep a first aid kit nearby in case of emergency. If we ban peanubutter in schools then maybe we should also ban it in supermarkets and restaurants because it's possible the person with the allergy might possibly come in contact with the peanutbutter or peanuts or any other food that contains peanuts. How about people who are allergic to pollen or dust? Should we ban pollen or dust? I had a classmate who had a pollen allergy, so every spring she would spend a month inside a salt mine.

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Mad Poster
#7 Old 27th Dec 2011 at 12:28 PM
The peanut allergy can be very scary and quite deadly. I don't know how someone who has this seriously can get along with it. How can they ride on a plane or go to the theater? A teacher once told me that she saw a young girl going into anaphylactic shock to the scent of peanuts as someone ate peanut butter somewhere near her during a school lunch. She said it was horrible to witness and very frightening. It's hard to imagine, but you have to remember that if you can smell something, it's because there are tiny particles (molecules) of it in the air wafting towards you. The tiniest particle can set off a fatal reaction in those who are severely allergic to peanuts.

The school handled this allergy for one of my son's classmates by assigning one table in the cafeteria for the allergic child. There were always other children there, but I'm not sure if they were there as friends or because they were picked to keep her company. They also required children to put their lunches brought from home outside the classroom and the students were required to wash hands before entering the classroom after lunch or snack. I thought there might have been a ban on peanut based snacks since snack was eaten in the classroom. None of these is a perfect solution. An assigned table at lunch time can feel isolating when other children can pick where they sit. People can mess up and bring a snack into the classroom that could have peanuts in it. As the mother of a child who ate very little and peanut butter was one of the few things he ate, I found the restrictions difficult. On the other hand, I wouldn't want the death of a child on my conscience.

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Inventor
#8 Old 27th Dec 2011 at 12:50 PM
When my brother was at primary school (ages 5-11), there was a child in his class with a peanut allergy. I'm not sure if it's the same across the board, but at this school, we ate our morning tea and lunches inside the classroom and then went outside for to play. School sent home a letter that no other children in that particular class were to bring nut products in their lunches. FWIR, the class teacher was also taught how to use an epipen.

Croc - informing classmates can sometimes backfire like all hell. I have an allergy to a lot of perfumes and deodorants. Luckily it's become a lot less serious as I've got older but the kids at high school (age 12-17) used to think it was a huge joke. I came close to ending up in hospital several times because of -usually- boys in my year thinking it was funny to creep up behind me and give me a faceful of their aerosol deodorants.

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Mad Poster
#9 Old 27th Dec 2011 at 3:35 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by longears15
Croc - informing classmates can sometimes backfire like all hell. I have an allergy to a lot of perfumes and deodorants. Luckily it's become a lot less serious as I've got older but the kids at high school (age 12-17) used to think it was a huge joke. I came close to ending up in hospital several times because of -usually- boys in my year thinking it was funny to creep up behind me and give me a faceful of their aerosol deodorants.



I think it's important to inform classmates if the health issue is so serious it could be life threatening. They should be able to at least know about the condition so that they should be able to give first aid in case of anything.
As for perfumes and deodorants, your classmates were quite dumb. Things like that can cause an asthma attack and damage your eyes, not just an allergic reaction.

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Theorist
#10 Old 27th Dec 2011 at 5:41 PM
I agree with the ban to a certain extent - if a child is severely allergic, they should be accommodated in school.
I had a appointment with a doctor a few weeks ago. When I arrived there was a new sign on the door - This Is a Fragrance Free Office. Please refrain from wearing perfumes, etc. I was wearing perfume and I thought, wow, should I just turn around and go home? Very irritating. I have mild asthma - what irritates it? All the pollution that blows over this state and lodges here, adding to our own air pollution (August is the worst). Does anyone say gee, I have to stop polluting the air because a lot of people can't breathe? No, it's like get Advair or an inhaler and suck it up. But some people have to make a big deal about someone wearing perfume. Whatever.

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Inventor
#11 Old 27th Dec 2011 at 5:59 PM
Rose/Croc - in all fairness, at my worst, just somebody wearing strong perfume or deodorant was enough to trigger an asthma attack for me. I came close to pressing charges because of it. Like I said, I nearly ended up in hospital several times - had to be given medication and oxygen by the school nurse/first aider more than once - so if someone in that office had a perfume allergy, I think it's quite reasonable to ban it. That said, they should send out a letter, or call patients beforehand and make the request that perfume not be worn.

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Theorist
#12 Old 27th Dec 2011 at 7:27 PM
I realize that offices often are hermetically sealed, so it probably increases the effect of perfumes on people who have to sit there all day. I don't want them to be ill - it just put me in a bad mood because I hate being told what to do.

Without music, life would be a mistake. - F. Nietzsche
Theorist
#13 Old 27th Dec 2011 at 11:57 PM
Yes it's reasonable. As has been said simply being near peanuts could cause a life threatening reaction. It's illegal to keep kids out of public school so I'm not sure what else they could do.

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#14 Old 28th Dec 2011 at 12:42 AM
On one hand, I can see where it would be an inconvenience for parents to not be able to provide peanut butter sandwiches and the like for kids in their lunches - it's a cheap and easy source of protein that most kids enjoy. I'd kill for a Reese's cup right now.

On the other hand, there are few allergies that are as common, and commonly life-threatening as peanut allergies, and I don't think the inconvenience of not being able to have a peanut butter sandwich with lunch (there are other nut butters that are just as delicious, btw - like cashew butter - maybe not as cheap, but 300% more yummy) compares to the potentially life-threatening danger to an allergic child. Partial bans (per classroom or the like) or some accommodation (a separate table where allergic kids and their friends can sit if the allergy is not incredibly severe) seems reasonable to me as well, if such measures would ensure an allergic child's safety.

With severe allergies, though, there may simply not be enough time to administer first aid in the case of accidental exposure. Children are often not allowed to carry medication with them during school hours (including items that are essential in an emergency like an asthma inhaler or epi-pen). If a child has a severe allergy, their teachers and other staff should be informed and know what to do, but even with someone trained able to respond immediately, it can still be a life-threatening (and terrifying) experience, requiring hospitalization. I don't think that really compares to another child's "right" to have a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.

FWIW, my son is allergic to peanuts - his allergy is not life threatening, but continued exposure could mean it can worsen to the point of being life-threatening. He is also not old enough to understand that he cannot have certain things because they contain peanuts. I'm glad his preschool doesn't do anything with peanuts in it (not even so much because of his allergy, but because peanut butter is not really a big thing here like it is in the US, nor are peanuts terribly common present in cookies, chocolates, and candy), so I don't have to worry about something that is currently a minor inconvenience potentially developing into a serious health issue.

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Theorist
#15 Old 28th Dec 2011 at 1:01 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by crocobaura
I think it's important to inform classmates if the health issue is so serious it could be life threatening.

I'm not sure if young children would grasp the seriousness of the situation if they were told that someone had a serious allergy to something. I could see them purposely threatening to put that foodstuff near a child/feeding it to them etc. without understanding how serious the situation would be if that child were exposed to it, just to tease a child. I think a child could easily be exposed to the food anyway.

I guess if it is a serious allergy then a blanket ban is fair. Yes, it is inconvenient but it's not the end of the world if you can't give a child peanut butter sandwiches (or whatever the allergy happens to be). They can still eat the stuff at home, it just means that they won't be having it at lunchtimes, and it's a small sacrifice to ensure the safety of another child. I don't have any serious allergies, but I can imagine how I'd feel if my child had a life-threatening allergy. I'd feel a lot more reassured if I knew that the likelihood of them being exposed to the food in school was slim.

A girl in my high school had a latex allergy and they banned people from bringing balloons in on birthdays in case she brushed past them in the hallway. I remember people being really irritated at the time, but in hindsight it does seem fair. It wasn't a big deal to us not to bring the balloons in, but it probably was to her.

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Mad Poster
#16 Old 28th Dec 2011 at 1:22 AM
I wish I had thought of other nut butters as HP suggested when my son was little. Frankly, going without peanut butter at lunch time meant going without lunch for him. The other choices of foods that he would eat were limited to things that I made at home and needed to be served warm. I have no idea how I got such a picky kid when I eat a large variety of foods and tried to introduce him to them as well. Oh well, it was what it was and he was the way he was and nothing was going to change him. Luckily, there was a solution at school because he didn't eat near the little girl and washed his hands before he went back into the lunch room. But maybe the other nut butters would have worked.

Again, I cannot imagine what it must be like to live with a severe allergy like this. As HP said, it's not always possible to access an epi-pen when needed. The teacher who described to me the incident of the child going into anaphylactic shock said that she was at one end of the cafeteria and the student was at the other - tables away - and she saw the child's face and could not reach her quickly enough. I think another adult did. Thank goodness!

I always wondered what life was like for that little girl. A school can work within its own community to protect one member, but that isn't as likely in the rest of the world. Again - travel becomes difficult as does going to any enclosed space like the theater. I really wonder what all the ramifications of that allergy are to one's life.

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Top Secret Researcher
#17 Old 28th Dec 2011 at 8:06 AM
It's important to think about this in terms of the educators and school system too. When is it ok to provide a potentially life-threatening, easily corrected environment for minors entrusted into your care? Are all your teachers going to have to go to take a course on correctly identifying allergic reactions to peanuts and how to apply treatment? That's great if you've got the budget to do that, not so great when you have to put up signs in the restrooms because basic plumbing maintenance can't be afforded because you've got to send employees to training. And you HAVE to prove that you've provided training, or else you're just opening yourself wide up to "You had things there to keep my child from dying, but no one knew how to use them?" liabilities. The same cost issues arise with separate accommodations - peanut allergies, I understand, are insidious. You'd have to have a separate "peanut free" building, and you'd still have to have the training, and duplicate facilities, double your menus, etc. It's simply unreasonable unless you're paying out the ass to send your kid to a swanky private school.

Basically it's the same reasoning though, that's led to no smoking signs. When it is ok to kill a child because another child's mother decided to feed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to another? Your child has been trained in the safe use and carrying of firearms, should it be a matter of liberty and freedom to allow your child the right to carry the gun onto campus because with your crystal ball you're positive that nothing untoward could possibly happen to anyone as a consequence? Would it being an accident make it ok for someone else to carry something potentially lethal onto school grounds and kill your child? How about just send them to the hospital?

No. It's just simpler to regulate what's allowed into the school and at least be able to clearly point at the offending person as breaking a rule when they kill another child by bringing dangerous things onto school grounds. Maybe it's convenient and tastes good, but no child is going to die from lack of peanuts the way they can from peanut exposure.
Mad Poster
#18 Old 29th Dec 2011 at 11:53 AM Last edited by crocobaura : 29th Dec 2011 at 12:05 PM.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phoeberg
I'm not sure if young children would grasp the seriousness of the situation if they were told that someone had a serious allergy to something.


If they can't understand the seriousness of the situation and why they can't have peanut products at school, then how are you going to prevent them from smuggling a Sneakers bar, for example, into the classroom? Or perhaps buying one from the cafeteria or a nearby shop? Or coming to school with a peanut butter stain on their shirt cause they had it for breakfast and didn't notice the stain?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mistermook
Basically it's the same reasoning though, that's led to no smoking signs. When it is ok to kill a child because another child's mother decided to feed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to another? Your child has been trained in the safe use and carrying of firearms, should it be a matter of liberty and freedom to allow your child the right to carry the gun onto campus because with your crystal ball you're positive that nothing untoward could possibly happen to anyone as a consequence? Would it being an accident make it ok for someone else to carry something potentially lethal onto school grounds and kill your child? How about just send them to the hospital?


Smoking and firearms are a danger to everyone, you can't compare peanut butter to them. Peanuts affect just the person with an allergic reaction to them, no one else. It would be much wiser and more efficient to put forth a plan that protects that kid. Having a school wide ban on peanuts, will only protect the school from a possible lawsuit, not the kid, because if someone wants to have peanuts they will have them at home right before coming in to school, or during a break outside of school grounds, then if they come in contact with that allergic kid, they may still cause an allergic reaction.

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#19 Old 29th Dec 2011 at 12:11 PM
You can't stop all potential exposure, but by saying "We don't sell or serve peanut products at school. Don't bring peanut products for lunch or snacks, and please try to avoid having peanut products for breakfast - or if you do, make sure you clean up properly, wash your hands, and brush your teeth after," you can minimize potential exposure for seriously allergic children. They may not be old enough to understand exactly why (besides "it may make some of your classmates very very sick if you don't") and there is still the possibility of it happening anyway either by accident or just not caring and doing it anyway... But taking some fairly small steps can mean that -most- exposure is avoided, and teachers and staff can still be trained in what to do in case of accidental exposure and have epi-pens readily available. It's not a terribly difficult or expensive amount of steps to take to greatly reduce the chances of a child's exposure to a potentially-fatal allergen.
Mad Poster
#20 Old 29th Dec 2011 at 12:18 PM
I don't believe it needs to be that extreme, and it is entirely doable. Kids can have peanut butter for breakfast. When the children of my son's class arrived for class, they put their snacks and lunches into a bin outside of the classroom, then lined up to wash their hands. The teacher took them to the washroom. After lunch, they washed hands again. These simple measures were enough to help the student with the allergy and helped to keep teachers and students mindful of what they did with their hands after they ate.

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Mad Poster
#21 Old 29th Dec 2011 at 12:36 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by HystericalParoxysm
With severe allergies, though, there may simply not be enough time to administer first aid in the case of accidental exposure. Children are often not allowed to carry medication with them during school hours (including items that are essential in an emergency like an asthma inhaler or epi-pen). If a child has a severe allergy, their teachers and other staff should be informed and know what to do, but even with someone trained able to respond immediately, it can still be a life-threatening (and terrifying) experience, requiring hospitalization. I don't think that really compares to another child's "right" to have a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.


So, not allowing someone to carry an epi-pen or an asthma inhaler or an insulin shot at school, even though they have a health issue serious enough to require them on hand, is supposedly a better decision and contingency plan than to train the kids and staff involved in dealing adeqately with the situation. Like I said, these type of bans are only meant to protect the school from possible lawsuits, not to protect the sick person who needs most to be protected. In fact there is a lawsuit case righ there, for not allowing someone right to medication. After all people can get an allergic reaction even in a restauant in their free time, yet there is no ban on peanut products in restaurants. But, with this mindset, it is just a matter of time.

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Mad Poster
#22 Old 29th Dec 2011 at 12:43 PM
You have a point there. It's problematic that students aren't allowed to carry their own medications. The school is afraid of abuse since they are responsible for students during the day, and if you think about it, that could easily be abused. But, as you are pointing out, it would be very useful to be able to carry your own epi-pen or inhaler. It's also ridiculous that a student with a lactose allergy has to leave a classroom party, run to the nurse, ask for a tablet that needs to be consumed with the food containing lactose, take it in the nurse's office, run quickly to the classroom and try to consume the food before the effect of the enzyme goes away and all before said food is gone, cold, or melted.

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#23 Old 29th Dec 2011 at 1:28 PM
I never said it was a better solution - but it IS what schools are often doing. They're not allowing kids to have their medication on-hand. Staff -still- needs to be trained to deal with an emergency situation and things need to be done to protect the child from accidental exposure (not necessarily a full ban in the case of milder allergies, but for the -extreme- allergies, a full ban may be necessary), because having a serious allergic reaction requiring administration of an epi-pen is not a minor event - it's not like the kid's going to be able to sit back down and finish their lessons for the day. They may need more than one epi-pen to stop the reaction, and hospitalization and further treatment... And continued exposures can worsen the allergic reaction even further. A ban on peanut products in schools -does- protect the allergic child by reducing the chances of accidental exposure - it doesn't remove it entirely, but if I could potentially die from being exposed to an allergen, I'd -much- rather attend a school where there was a 1 in 100 chance of being exposed to that allergen because someone slipped up, vs. a much higher chance because the allergen was freely allowed and served in the school, with no measures taken to limit exposure... Especially when the measures taken to limit exposure do not have to be a major inconvenience or expense - don't bring it, don't serve it, wash your hands after you eat it at home if you're then coming to school.

So it's a combination - limit a seriously allergic child's exposure by limiting or removing the allergen in schools, allow them to carry their own medication as long as they are old enough to know how to administer it to themselves properly, and train teachers and staff to know what to do in case of emergency in case a second injection is needed, and how to react until actual medical professionals can get there to take over.

I'm not in support of full bans in cases of kids like my son, whose allergy is not life-threatening (his face and hands swell, and he gets hives all over his face, but his breathing is not affected), but I -do- expect that his school take reasonable steps to limit his exposure, like not serving him peanut products, not allowing peanut products near him, and asking any children or adults near him who have consumed peanut products to wash their hands. For children with more serious allergies, more serious steps are needed.
Field Researcher
#24 Old 29th Dec 2011 at 4:33 PM
A child at my son's school is very very allergic to peanuts. The school sensibly has a blanket ban, there is emergency medication at hand, the kid has still had to go to hospital a couple of times in the last few years. "Oh, but you said peanuts, how was I to know that my snickers bar could cause any trouble..."

Another variation on the same theme: a child in my son's class has a sister who has a genetic sensitivity to a particular type of semi-rare stomach virus. The sensitive girl has to be hospitalised for up to three weeks if she catches this particular virus. Her parents want to make a rule that no child can come to school for 72 hours if anyone in his/her family has had any type of nausea or diarrhea. We already have a rule that a sick child has to have been completely free from symptoms for 48 hours (to stop general contagion), but the girls parents are not satisfied with this.

I understand that they want to protect their daughter, but it's against the law in Sweden to keep healthy children at home, not to mention employers taking a dim view of parents staying home from work to mind their children when they aren't sick. And it's not even the sensitive daughter who goes to this school!

If you have any helpful input on this it would be appreciated. We have not been able to reach a compromise.
Theorist
#25 Old 29th Dec 2011 at 4:58 PM
^ Wow, that's just mind blowing. Because I would say that this child should be home schooled, but it sounds like the parents would also want to prevent the sibling from bringing home a virus.
I just quickly looked up viruses and contagiousness(don't know if that's a word) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stomach-flu/AN01758, and it sounds like their plan could never really work, given the information about rotavirus.
Maybe they should home school all their children.

Without music, life would be a mistake. - F. Nietzsche
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