Beside Myself - Peanut Allergy Information

Beside Myself

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My DS who just turned 3 has been in preschool for 2 months now, and when I picked him up yesterday afternoon found out that another parent had sent in apples covered with peanut butter for a snack!! I've worked closely with the school (sent out letter explaining allergy and requesting no nut snacks, drafted action plan for them, checking snacks, etc.) and they have been accomodating up until this point. The parent was late with snack this time, so I just told the teacher to give DS one of his backup safe snacks. The school is not nut-free, but the school policy *requests* that no nut snacks be sent in. I should also mention there is another child in DS's class with an allergy just to peanuts. That child's mother never checks snack. First, I was appalled that the peanut butter snack was served. However, my action plan with the school doesn't actually address this issue, since I really didn't think a parent would do this!! (Come to find out after calling her, she thought she was being careful by cutting DS's apples with a seperate knife from the peanut butter apples!! Not sure what to say to this!). The teachers followed the plan as it was written (for cross-contaminated snacks) and DS sat at a seperate table with the other allergic child, they washed everything thoroughly and washed all the children's hands after. Luckily, DS did not have a reaction, but I'm still concerned since he's so young and they're eating in the classroom. So I tried to be collaborative and called the school to say I would bring in backup snacks, and if this happened again, would they please remind the parent that they shouldn't send in peanut snacks, and use the safe backup for the class. The teacher was very defensive, and said "But that would hurt the feelings of the child bringing in the snack, and [DS] was fine yesterday!". I'm appalled and feel so betrayed, I don't know what to do. I'm waiting to hear back from the principal, but I think I need to find a new school. Until then (or if I can't find anywhere that will do a nut-free classroom), I'm going to pick him up early before snack if it happens again. My mistake for not staying to check this time, but that WON'T happen again!! I don't want to penalize DS by taking him out of school when he can participate, but I don't think it's unreasonable to ask them to enforce their OWN POLICY of asking parents to not bring in nut snacks!! Am I crazy? I'm not even asking for a nut-free school, I just want his classroom to be safe for the short time he's there. This is also my first go-around with all this, anyone have any advice on dealing with the anger, frustration and betrayal I'm feeling? I get that people mostly don't "get" food allergies, but I thought I'd done all the prep and education and these people were understanding it. I can't believe they would risk 2 children in a class of 10 having a life-threatening reaction just because they're afraid the child bringing in the snack will feel sad? What sense does that make? Please help!!!

By BestAllergySites on Nov 14, 2009

Boysmom--I am so sincerely sorry to hear this happened. It's not an uncommon situation-but none the less a scary and hurtful one.

Many of us, myself included, have been there.

I don't know all the details of your situation or what you've asked of the school so can only offer my opinion and advice from my own experiences.

My son is 6 and now in 1st grade at a public school. We attended and paid for public prek at his school.

1. Be very sure of what you want by way of accommodations and be very clear and up front about it. Don't waffle, don't give in, don't make exceptions because it's "just this one time". Because just this one time turns into many and also sends a mixed message. I learned this the hard way.

2. Get a "written" plan with the school that addresses what you want. Wants and needs change so if your current plan does not address something--be sure to have it added.

3. Explain to the school that you are not asking for a peanut free school but are asking for a peanut free classroom. (I'm assuming this is what you want.) Explain that the classroom is where your child is immersed and it should be safe for him. He should not have to sit aside. He should be able to sit and enjoy snack with ALL his peers.

4. Don't be afraid to get an allergists letter outlining your son's allergies, how severe they are, and that he needs to be kept away from peanut protein.

5. Do not be afraid to tell the preschool that life threating food allergies are a hidden disability covered under law and that they are required to accommodate him in a reasonable manner.

6. Try not to be a bull dog-but be firm and educate them. It's clear the teacher doesn't get it.

If this is a preschool that receives money from the federal government then you are also covered under section 504. See article at my site regarding this.

Also--do all parents bring in snack for all the kids and take turns? If so then I honestly believe that it's a must for the classroom and snack to be peanut free and I'm hoping the staff reads labels and makes sure. Honestly in my opinion I would only allow packaged foods with labels.

If this is the case--all parents take a turn sending in snack--then the snack should be one that all can enjoy safely. That is only fair. The kids could have had just apples. No big deal.

If the school doesn't work with you positively on this--I would start looking for a new school. It doesn't have to be peanut free (though many preschools are due to the age of the kids) but I would ask what their allergy policies are and if they are in writing.

Also--a school can NOT turn you away due to your child's allergy. Keep that in mind. It is discrimination.

I hope this has helped. If you want to chat more about it feel free to email/contact me through Best Allergy Sites.

I have been where you are. It's overwhelming and frustrating. It just takes some advocating and educating.

Best of luck! Ruth

By lakeswimr on Nov 14, 2009

I would not let my child eat things from others homes. It sounds like normally yyou do but you check the snack first. That can work well if there are prepackages snacks but otherwise anything anyone brings in including fruit can be x-contamed.

I akgree that first you need to get very clear on what you want to have happen and then put a plan in writing. I would not be OK with peanut butter in a preschool setting because it is so very messy. Good luck with this.

By boysmom on Nov 15, 2009

Thanks for all the tips and responses! Usually the parents sign up for bringing snack in on a given day. I try to sign up for as many days as I can to alleviate the issue.

I actually don't allow DS to eat prepared food from other homes -- only pre-packaged items that I first review at school. In the cases where the person is bringing snack late, and I can't stay to review it, I have asked the teachers to give DS one of his safe snacks from the box we keep in his class just for him. The flaw here, I think, was that I assumed we'd be dealing with cross-contamination issues, in which case I'm fine with DS sitting at a separate table with his own safe snack. It didn't occur to me that someone would actually bring in peanut butter since we've sent so much info home to the parents asking them not to send in nut products. I think the cross-contamination issues are too intricate to entrust to someone who's not familiar with the food allergy world, which is why I'm fine with parents bringing in possible cross-contaminated snacks as long as DS is not eating at the same table. I just feel that actual peanut butter is a different issue, especially since all it takes is one kid wiping his hands on his clothes, and then all the hand- and table-washing in the world isn't going to make a difference!! My mistake was definately in not thinking that someone would send in nuts, and now the schoool is taking the stance that "well he was fine", which I don't think it acceptable.

Thanks for all the advice and support -- I will be looking for another preschool. If I can't find one that will go nut-free in his classroom, I'll be staying until snack arrives EVERY day and picking him up early if it's peanuts/nuts/peanut butter. Unfortunately, since it's a private preschool, they only have to make "reasonable" accommodations, I believe? Their point is that this is reasonable since he was fine on Thursday. I don't think it's reasonable that he was lucky this time!!! And I don't see why they're more worried about the snack-kid being "sad" than my kid possibly going to the hospital or dying. Completely baffles me!! I would think for liability reasons they would want to ensure a reaction doesn't happen. Heaven knows I signed enough waivers to have the epi-pen and benadryl in the classroom!! OK, I'll stop ranting now... :)

By lakeswimr on Nov 15, 2009

Oh, you shouldn't have had to sign any wavers and in the future you should not sign them. That's not legal. They HAVE to admit your child. There was a case at Le Petit Academy where the school refused to give epis and the parents sued and won. You can google the case to get info or go to and see the info they have there on this.

In the future don't sign any waiver.

I would recommend you explain to them more about the danger peanut butter poses and as you said, that it just takes one child wiping their hands on their shirt and later your child touching that smudge of pb then then eyes, nose or mouth to have a life threatening reaction.

Additionally, even if they are perfect in their clean up, etc if your child mouths the same toy another child did who ate pb that is a huge risk and can cause anaphylaxis. Children of that age generally do still mouth toys so even groups opposed to banning nuts generally recommend it for preschool and primary grades for this reason.

There is a terribly tragic article you can also show them to explain the dangers of having pb in a preschool setting. This is the story of the death of a young boy who died from being in the same room with his father who was eating nuts. They touched the same tv remote and then the boy must have touched his eyes, nose or mouth and that was enough exposure.

I'm sorry you are dealing with this but in a way this is a GOOD thing because you will be much better prepared when your child goes to kindergarten. This is practice for the big stuff. :) YOu sound like you are doing a fabulous job and you are thinking very clearly about all this. I agree with everything you have written. I think your plan is good. Hopefully they will see that having your child have to miss school isn't fair. If it is just a matter of you educating them about risks, etc then you might make good change here.

By boysmom on Nov 16, 2009

Thanks so much for the links -- this is exactly the article I want to bring in to them, and send home to the other parents in class. Initially I didn't want to come across as too alarmist and have everyone stop listening, but now I'm thinking I should have been more forceful. I'll let you know what they say on Tuesday...

By BestAllergySites on Nov 27, 2009

Boysmom--how did things go?

I wanted to add that from here on out be sure that you keep a folder and keep all things in writing back and forth. It's sad but true--that this will keep them on their toes and gives you back up in the event something happens.

You said they only need to make reasonable accommodations. Does the school receive government funding? If they do then they are required to follow the section 504 law and "reasonable" does not always apply. I can get you more info on this if you want.

Last resort is your child does not have to go to preschool. If you are worried I'd pull him and wait it out. But you'll need to address this in Kindergarten. If you are going to public school you'll be covered-private schools are a little more dicey.