Peanut \"Free\" School - yes or no?

Posted on: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 2:58am
FridayMom's picture
Joined: 09/22/2006 - 09:00

Hi all,
We are in the process of looking for nursery schools for our PA DD. We are fortunate to be able to look at private that would start in nursery and be ongoing through middle or high school.
A few schools have told us they are completely "nut free." One school that has a nut free policy serves a lunch to all students -bringing lunch is not normally an option for students. Another school says they are not peanut free but that teachers and nurses are epi-pen trained and students with FA sit in seperate areas during lunch. (PB IS allowed)
My question is this: while the "peanut free" environment seems attractive, who can really guarantee it, especially with the food coming into their cafeteria? As nervous as it makes me, might it be better to be at a school that doesn't limit the types of foods there - but that takes the allergy seriously, so there is constant vigilance? Or do you all feel a supposed "nut free" environment is better overall?
If anyone has had any experience in this, I'd welcome your thoughts.
Thanks very much!

Posted on: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 3:06am
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

Since you are looking into nursery schools, I am assuming that the children in question are 3-5 yo, correct?
At that age, there is NO WAY that I think even the most vigilant supervision can control peanut butter contamination if it is allowed.
The ideal situation is the nut-free one that doesn't allow kids to send their lunches. Provided that you trust them to feed your child [i]or[/i] that they are willing ot hand you a menu and let you duplicate what's on it. (We were reasonably successful at this latter strategy.) If you try to make it fairly low-key to other kids/parents that you are sending food for your kid, it makes it easier for everyone.
As your child gets older, of course, things change. But you aren't there yet. As long as the center with the nut-free policy knows that this is not a guarantee that they'll never deal with a reaction, then it seems fine. Are you concerned that if they are nut-free they will assume that they don't need to be watchful for reactions or trained in handling them? (This is seldom the case.)

Posted on: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:18am
saknjmom's picture
Joined: 04/02/2003 - 09:00

DS was diagnosed when he was four and had been attending pre school for 2 years. He had 3 months until public school. After diagnosis, I kept him at the same school, but they served lunch. I did not have a full education about xcontamination etc. they served the pre packaged PBJ sandwiches and I trustingly allowed them to continue to care for DS.
BUT, if we could turn back the clock, no way in heck would I send him to a preschool that was not peanut free. NO WAY. Only because of the fact that kids are messy, they play with toys, touch everything. I just couldn't do it. I was blissfully igorant back then.

Posted on: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:19am
saknjmom's picture
Joined: 04/02/2003 - 09:00

Not to mention, the turnover at many preschools can be very high. Here one day, gone the next. That means that every time staff changes, you have to be sure they are informed of the allergies, protocols, etc.

Posted on: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:53am
amartin's picture
Joined: 02/22/2006 - 09:00

I have a two year old that is PA. The childcare he WAS in at the time of his diagnosis was not peanut free. They promised me that he would never even be in the same room as the children eating peanut products. They also had other kids in their care with peanut allergies and they appeared to "get it". We went along fine until I arrived to get my kids one day and there was a peanut butter sandwhich sitting on the table in plain reach of my son. Long story short - in a facility that allows peanuts, it is my opinion that there is no way to absolutely control cross-contamination, let alone accidental exposure via a well-meaning 2 or 3 year old child that doesn't (and shouldn't) understand the severity of this allergy.

Posted on: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 5:01am
amartin's picture
Joined: 02/22/2006 - 09:00

Sorry, one more thing to add....
As we searched high and low for a peanut-free facility, I also found that some places claim to be peanut free, but upon further examination, aren't really peanut free. A lot don't exclude shared lines or processed on same equipment products. Most didn't read all labels. I was amazed...
I actually found a caregiver who is severely peanut allergic herself (she has airway compromise). I thought I had found the perfect person, until I questioned her further and found that her way of dealing with the allergy is to avoid peanuts and drink a glass of milk if she starts to feel her tongue swell up. She has never had an epi and doesn't feel she needs it because she has made it this long. She doesn't read labels because she quote "already knows what is okay and not okay to eat". I honestly felt that my son's risk of accidental exposure and/or cross-contamination was quite high with her based on her loose comfort zone because she has "managed to live this long". Yikes!!!
I have seriously been in the trenches with finding a new preschool/daycare that is peanut free for the past two months. I am thrilled with what we came up with, but I truly had to call everyone I could find and spend an enormous amount of time interviewing and asking questions.
Best of luck to you!
[This message has been edited by amartin (edited November 07, 2006).]

Posted on: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 6:00am
turtle's picture
Joined: 12/10/2004 - 09:00

My son is in a nut free daycare. No peanuts or nuts are allowed. All lunches and snacks are prepared on site and the chef is very very allergy aware and anaphalactic to several foods herself. She is very stringent in what is allowed. On the rare occassion that a teacher wants to bring in food for a project, it has to go through her. I feel completely confident that they are really nut free and that they understand it like one of us understands it.
That being said, I would not have allowed him to go to a daycare that was not peanut free where people bring their own food. Too much chance of error on the part of uninformed parents. Kids are messy.
Once he goes to kindergarten next year, there will be peanutbutter in kids lunches. I have no choice in the matter, but for when he was small, I wanted to maake sure he was protected.

Posted on: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 6:39pm
hopechapel's picture
Joined: 12/11/2005 - 09:00

My preschool is peanut free/nut vigilant.
My son sits with children whose parents committed to sending a nut free lunch. No peanuts for everyone.
You'd think it was great. BUT. First week we discover there are walnut trees all over the palyground. I saw a picture of their "nature table" - acorns. The art teacher told me the Director suggested making "ink" by boiling walnuts for an art project. The hostility does not end. (And some of it is unconscious, some habit on their part, and some hostility).

Posted on: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 11:13pm
JacksonsMom's picture
Joined: 07/21/2002 - 09:00

My DS is 4 and is in his second year at a fabulous preschool. They are nut free, and VERY allergy aware. Since it is preschool , and only for 3 hours in the morning, they only serve snack. Snack is provided by the school (I send in DS snack due to his other allergies). They don't allow ANY baked goods for birthdays, only prepackaged safe treats. The staff is regularly trained on epi-pen administration. They have all of the children wash hands when arriving to class. I've even heard of a kid being sent home who "smelled peanutty"!
I consider his school to be ideal, we are so lucky to have found them. Although I am starting to worry about kindergarten next year. Dealing with the public school is going to be a whole diffrent ball game!
But to answer your question, no place can guarantee to be 100% nut free. In my opinion the odds of a reaction are much less in a place that tries their best. Thats all we can ask for. No matter where you choose to send your PA kids, the teachers should be educated on reactions and how to treat them. Because ultimately they are the ones responsible for the situation if any contact does occur.

Posted on: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 1:04am
momll70's picture
Joined: 09/26/2006 - 09:00

My son went to a small private pre-school. They don't serve nuts or peanut butter but one day it was ice-cream day and they had 2 boxes of mixed ice-cream. I read the labels. One box was safe and the other box had one type of ice-cream with peanuts on top. Imagine if I just walked out telling them not to give ice-cream to my son and not even looking at the boxes. All the other kids around eating peanuts around him. I told them that if they served the one with peanuts that I would have to take my son home and that they would have to clean up very well. They did not serve that ice-cream.

Posted on: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 1:20am
BriandBrinasmom's picture
Joined: 10/20/2006 - 09:00

Had an interesting experience with this just last week. My daughter is not PA but is in a "nut free" classroom with a child who is, by the mother's account, severely PA. My husband was a room parent for the Halloween party. Part of the mix the others parents brought into the classroom were plain M&Ms and Jelly Bellies.
I emailed the group (including the teacher) and told them that neither was safe based on what I knew from my son. I received back the equivalent of a gigantic group shrug, and the party went forward with those items in the classroom.
The point? Schools may say they're "peanut free" but I think that's mostly to reassure nervous parents. It's very hard to be truly peanut-free without training, and it's impossible to get other parents to comply even when they say they will.
I would focus on the specific precautions the school and teacher will be taking with your child when choosing a school, not on the overall environment.


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