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Allergy restrictions gone too far

Original post made by Not a Nut on Oct 11, 2007

There is a boy in my child's class with a nut allergy. I'm OK with letting the kids know, asking the kids in the class not to bring nuts in their lunch, and asking parents to provide nut-free items for class parties...those all seem like reasonable protections.
Here's where Walter Hays has gone too far: all 1rst through 3rd graders are forced to use a wipe at the end of lunch (regardless how whether there were any nuts in their lunch), adult volunteers in the class are asked whether they've washed their hands, and we're on the fifth letter reminding all of us of this boy's allergy.
What is a reasonable policy to protect the boy that does not intrude on everyone else's lunch and privacy?

Comments (87)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Unfortunately, these nut allergies are serious and can be fatal.

We had nut allergies at our school and also at our church. The perineedle had to be kept by the teacher who had to be taught how to use them.

As far as using wipes at the end of lunch, I applaud that and wish the teachers in every room made the children do that before and after they ate lunch.

Washing hands, either children or adults, is a good habit to get into. I have no problem with that.

Having the child sit at the same table and the same place for lunch each day with extra wiping down is also a good idea.

The problem I did have was a very complicated list of all the foods that did and did not have nuts that we were allowed to bring in. There were brand name snacks that were made at facilities that did or did not use nuts or nut oils in the manufacture of some of their problems. The list was endless and it was a chore checking every item on the list all the time.

It is a chore, I agree. But there is no simple alternative solution.
Hope this helps.

Posted by not-a-nut, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2007 at 4:05 pm

There's a child in my daughter's joint PE class who has a grass allergy. All their PE activities, therefore, are limited to the blacktop. Isn't this excessive?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2007 at 4:43 pm

not a nut

This is not funny. How can you have a pe class not on the grass for a whole year. There are many skills that cannot be done on the black top. I trust that you will request your daughter be in a pe class without this child for next year as more than one year of this must be detrimental to your daughter's overall pe experience. This is infinitely more serious to your child's education than just not being able to take peanut butter sandwiches to school for lunch or nut brownies for a birthday treat.

Posted by Frankie, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 11, 2007 at 4:43 pm

Yes, PE on blacktop only - DEFINITELY excessive. As is having the kids sit at the same place at the same table every day. These are kids we are talking about! It is one thing to make the facilities accommodate a handicap (fine) or the adults (fine), but to severely restrict the behavior of many kids to accommodate the need of one - sorry, that seems wrong.

If the child with the special needs needs to have lunch somewhere on there own; or the child with grass allergy can't participate in PE - ok, that's too bad, but that's not a tragedy.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 11, 2007 at 4:58 pm

One of the Ohlone kinder teachers has a severe nut allergy and gets the serious allergy kids.

There is a no-nut table for them. No food sharing and the kids cook the birthday cakes in class from no-allergy recipes. No restrictions on what other kids bring for lunch. So simple rules and minimal hysteria. And the parents with the allergy kids know they've got a teacher who knows how to weild an Epi-Pen.

And this has been going on for years.

Posted by Frankie, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 11, 2007 at 5:14 pm

Sounds much more reasonable. Someone (parent? principal? teacher?) maybe over-reacting a bit at Hays?

Posted by it can't be true, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2007 at 6:05 pm

I am in shock over the blacktop must be mistaken..I can't believe an entire class would have to forego all the grass activities because of a special need..

That is unacceptable...way too far. If it is really true, ( surely you have misunderstood??) you really need to bring it higher. It is detrimental to your child's PE.

Next thing will be that because my son falls down a lot everyone will have to have PE on foam mattresses.

Posted by not-a-nut II, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2007 at 7:22 pm

I checked with my daughter and things have improved. They sometimes do PE in the grass now, and when they do the allergic child sits out. I don't know if common sense prevailed or if other parents complained.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2007 at 7:49 pm

I wouldn't want to be the one who's child forgot, or made a mistake, (or whatever dumb moves kids tend to do), and caused another child to have a serious or fatal episode. Heaven forbid.

If the school wants to take the extra minute to monitor MY kid to that extent - then they're doing the peanut allergy kid AND my kid a favor, as far as I'm concerned.

Would you rather pay for that kid to go to private school because PAUSD can't provide adequate special needs services? Don't kid yourself - that's next.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 11, 2007 at 9:12 pm

From what I've seen, kids with severe allergies are very careful and if other kids have the seriousness explained to them by an adult, then mistakes aren't an issue.

I had a child over with a severe nut allergy. I didn't wipe down my house, but I cleared everything I planned to serve with the mom. And she gave me Epi-Pen instructions.

Too many restrictions and I think it's hard on everyone. I was impressed when I heard about the class-made cakes--no one feels deprived or excluded.

Posted by Palo Parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 11, 2007 at 9:56 pm

Funny, when I was a kid, there were no kids with food allergy problems? And I went to some pretty large public schools in the Bay Area.

Posted by something nutty about this, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 11, 2007 at 11:11 pm

why is it we never heard of stuff like this when we were kids, and we all had nuts, now people are dropping from nuts, this is nuts

Posted by Anamika, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2007 at 6:30 am

I don't get why washing hands and using wipes would intrude on anyone elses lunch and privacy ??

When my child was in elementary, I went over once during the lunch time .. not too sure how many kids had washed their hands prior to the lunch - but during the lunch, they were routinely making rounds to the structure, going on the lawns and running back to the table to grab yet another bite of their lunch.

Now, if the school is going to take up the responsibility of 'making' my children wash their hands prior to the lunch .. I would welcome it with open arms.

A lot of pre-schools are 'nut free zones'. Unless you have seen what a child goes through when exposed to the elements causing allergies - its very easy to make adverse remarks and think this to be a hassel.

A niece is allergic to nuts - fatal allergy. The family roams around with the shots. At someone else's house, one day, the host had made peanut butter sandwiches prior to my niece reaching their house. I am not too sure if the hostess didn't wash her hands - or - what exactly happened. My niece got a mild allergic reaction immediately (thank god it was not the severe )... and she had not eaten anything in that house. Her mother thinks, the hostess shook hands with my niece and gave her a hug - the traces of peanut butter caught on to my niece's skin .. when you see an allergy like this and knowing the worse that can happen ... hey, I would gladly mop my whole house before a allergic kid comes over ! The same applies to the school.

As parents, we need to make the surroundings safe for these young children ...

That being said - I have never been able to figure out where these allergies are surfacing from. While I was growing up - there were no nut allergies at all !! (or atleast they were not so prominent . wonder what happened to the kids who were allergic but maybe didn't know ?)

Posted by Just a Parent, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Oct 12, 2007 at 8:02 am

At Hays, all first to third graders have to use wipes on their hands and around their mouths. My child is revolted by having the wipe smell and chemicals on his face. It is upsetting to him because we never send nuts and he is required to use the wipes, anyway.

Posted by Menlo Park Resident, a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 12, 2007 at 9:38 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by JSD, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 12, 2007 at 9:44 am

A few comments, from the mom of a food-allergic kid:

-This is one of those areas where a little of education (but not brow-beating) helps everyone, faculty/staff, parents, kids.

-Yes, very few kids had severe food allergies when we were all kids, so most of us have no experience with it. I admit to being skeptical of our preschool's "no nut policy" before discovering our son's allergies and getting myself a little educated.

This is a huge area of research right now, sadly because food allergies are on a dramatic rise. (According to one study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), peanut allergy in children _doubled_ between 1997 and 2002.) Theories include under-challenged immune systems (from our ultra-clean, antiseptic environment), overuse of antibiotics in childhood, exposure to pollutants, earlier and increase exposure to likely allergens. . . Of course, there may be some element of increased diagnosis, as well.

-Hopefully, current research into causes and also possible vaccines (to raise the exposure threshold for allergy) will crack this nut (sorry, couldn't resist!) in our kids' lifetime.

-Would you let your kid bring a loaded gun to school? Yes, that's a dramatic/overblown analogy, but when you've been told that your kid could die from exposure, that's how it feels to some parents, especially when they are first dealing with a diagnosis.

-Advice and approaches seem to vary greatly from doctor to doctor. Our allergist takes a very common sense approach. Others are more drastic and (in my own opinion) alarmist in their instructions to parents. Also, (again, my own opinion), the recent food labeling act has somewhat backfired: fearing litigation, most food processors slap an allergy warning on everything, thereby diluting the substantive value of the warnings.

-We have been a part of the Ohlone classroom mentioned above by OhlonePar. It's a truly inclusive, levelheaded, safe approach to dealing with food allergy in young children (K/1st grade). All the kids learn about food allergy (in an age appropriate way) and really look out for each other. The birthday cake becomes part of the curriculum (math, chemistry, home ec, reading. . .) as well as a celebration, and the kids love it.

I don't know if your particular situation is from school-driven policy or increased vigilance on the part of the district administration. I would suggest that you approach the teacher in a spirit of cooperation - how can we work together to keep this child safe while meeting the needs of the whole class? Rather than complaining/venting among Town Square or verbally with other parents in the classroom (which can just foment ill-feeling towards a family that's probably stressed out and worried), try to help solve the issues and make suggestions.

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) has a lot of great resources for families and schools.
Web Link
Perhaps poke around on their site and even suggest that your class view one of their videos. A little education in this area goes a long way!

Sadly, this is something that our school communities have to deal with now and for the foreseeable future. We can complain about it and feel put-upon, or we can get a little knowledge and be a part of the solution.

Thanks for starting this discussion.

Posted by Palo Parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 12, 2007 at 9:51 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2007 at 10:51 am

I can't quote the research, but I have read that there is a growing theory that all these allergies are in part due to the way we are giving babies so many shots so that they don't get sick and built up immunities coupled with the tendency to start giving babies adult foods too soon and not enough breast milk. I personally didn't start weaning my children with anything other than rice cereal until six months and very slowly introduced other foods. They all breatfed until 12 months and had no foods like honey and peanut butter until after the age of 2. None of my children have any type of allergies except for penicillin which they had for the first time before the age of 12 months.

I can't say that this is always the case, but I believe there is some evidence to this.

Posted by Dad with Allergies, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2007 at 12:00 pm

It is ironic that the reaction to an allergic student is to require everyone to wipe themselves and the tables, when it may be the overuse of such techniques that is causing the allergies in the first place!

Posted by sohill, a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2007 at 1:57 pm

You wonder what happened to kids with alergies say about 20 years ago?

I was taking care of the son of a friend on vacation who together with my son had a weeklong baseball camp at stanford with some of the Giants . Said child had a severe life threatening allergy to bees - he almost died at 6 years old with an anaphylactic shock and was lucky that his physician father was with him when it happened . Even today he carries a seringe to be able to act quickly in case he needs.
In the beginning of the baseball camp I talked with each of the coaches and the nurse on site to whom I gave the injection kit and typed note on what to do and not one of them payed any attention to what I said about the fact that a bee sting would surely kill patrick even before an ambulance was called.
I was not able to impress upon any of them that before paramedics would be called the injection should be administered (immediately). So, I stayed close by, terrified by the prospect that Camp management thought that I was exagerating and wouldn't do anything in case of a bee sting . There were other adults with children with food allergies who were also staying around watching the kids for the whole duration of the camp. That's how people did it when there wasn't the alert to allergies that exist today. And yes, people died after they ate something to which they were allergic to. Allergies sometimes will decrease with age I learned.

Posted by Gloria Wallace, a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2007 at 3:02 pm

Here's something to think about. Schools generally don't waste time sending extra letters home without good reason. While you may be remembering the safe strategies, others may be forgetting. Also, while you may think that lunches are peanut-free, it's quite possible that some processed foods include peanuts that are not obvious. Many children have many different allergies and the number of them are increasing. Kids can have serious allergic reactions to milk , or wheat, or egg, or soy, or fish if they touch it. Hand washing protects many children from many things in a very simple way. This problem is not going away. It's getting worse, so it's time to consider ways of dealing with it instead of turning it into an "us and them" situation. We look at it as a good way of teaching our own kids about respectful ways to take care of each other, and help those in need. About the hand washing with the wipes, doesn't that seem like a minor strategy to ask people to do in order to protect the life of a child? It's hard to imagine why wiping hands or being reminded to wipe hands is such a sacrifice. If you are annoyed or insulted by the idea of someone double-checking to make sure you remembered to wash, try to turn your thinking back to the big picture. If it were your own child, you can be sure that you'd feel that they should not be isolated from school because other people didn't want to use hand wipes. While you might not like to be reminded or asked if you remembered to wash, it's really less important than the actual need to get it done. Plenty of people forget to do it, so it's always good to double check with someone if you think they may have forgotten. Trust me, once you see a child experience anaphylaxis, the reality of this hits you, as well as the simple reality that being able to socialize and learn with your peers can and should be safe and accessible to any one and everyone if there are simple ways to make that possible.

Posted by Peanuts can KILL, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 12, 2007 at 4:52 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 12, 2007 at 5:59 pm

There is a big difference between asking kids to wash their hands with soap and water and forcing them to use baby wipes full of chemicals on their faces and hands.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 12, 2007 at 6:15 pm

And yet, somehow the allergy class at Ohlone manages without wipes and food restrictions.

This says to me that there are ways to handle this without going hogwild. Have a no-nuts table. Make sure the children with the nut allergies sit there. Make sure the allergies are known and understood by both the kids and the adults--and that you can trust the teacher and the TA to recognize allergic reactions quickly and to use an Epi-Pen.

And, yes, wash hands. But I think the wipes are a bad idea--they can cause reactions and, really, soap and water is better at removing nut oils.

Actually, it's probably not a bad idea to discuss precautions with people like the teacher at Ohlone who have a severe food allergy. I think they know what they need, even more than the parents--who are often just kind of thrown into it and scared to death about their kids being okay.

Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 12, 2007 at 7:13 pm

I think "parent"s comment about breastmilk and introducing solid foods slowly needs to be corrected. The tendency towards food allergies is inherited, and usually families with food allergic members are the most careful to breastfeed for extended periods of time, and introduce solid foods very slowly. I, for one, breastfed my son for well over a year, gave no solids until he was over 6 months, and no highly allergenic foods until after 2 years, and he still has a severe peanut allergy, noticable from the very first time (at 3) we tried to give him peanut butter. Research on what's causing the increase in peanut allergies, or whether it even is an increase, is limited. Most severe reactions in peanut allergies come in asthmatic kids, and more asthmatic kids used to die from asthma even 30 years ago than do today. Some of these may have been peanut reactions, and some of these deaths may have eliminated peanut allergic kids from the population before school age. Other popular theories are that the proteins in peanuts have changed with modern farming methods, as well as that our current methods of preparing peanuts differ (dry-roasted are more allergenic than the boiled peanuts commonly eaten in Asia). Also, while hopefully now eliminated, for years diaper and nipple treatment creams contained peanut oil, often under a different name, which was being ingested by babies while breastfeeding, and through their skin.

Let's tried to be a bit less judgmental about how parents have caused these problems, and more sympathetic for the parents and children who have to deal with them, as well as the educators who are trying to provide a safe environment for all the children at their school.

Posted by WUOGKAT, a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2007 at 8:21 pm

So... we're anti good hygiene? We should really all wash our hands with soap and water after lunch regardless of allergies.

Posted by Dad with Allergies, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2007 at 9:27 pm

WUOGKAT, there is nothing wrong with soap and water, provided the soap does not have triclosan or other antibacterial agents in it. Regular soap will remove nut oils and kill most bacteria without helping to generate strains that are immune to antibiotics. Using the antibacterial wipes all over kids' hands and faces, tables, etc. is counterprodctive in the long run. Remember the old Russian saying "That which does not kill us makes us stronger"? That definitely applies to germs! Nobody dies from a cold, so why all the attempts to avoid non-lethal infections? People can die from nut allergies, and we should make serious attempts to avoid that, but too many parents try to keep their kids from getting sick at all. That just leads to adults with puny immune systems, leaving them more vulnerable. Eliminating the "common cold" was once considered to be a goal of medicine, but now we realize that it would be a public health disaster.

Posted by Another Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2007 at 10:10 pm


If it's the chemicals in the wipes you object to, ask the school if you can use a different, unscented, chemical free brand of wipes. My child goes to a school with a similar policy, and I have never heard anyone complain.

Posted by Martin, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Oct 12, 2007 at 10:13 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Stacey, a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2007 at 11:23 pm

I have a deadly peanut allergy and have had potentially fatal reactions just from people eating peanuts around me. As I try to explain to most who do not understand if there was a deadly poison out there that could kill only 10% of people and you were one of the 10% wouldn't you want people to wash there hands which might be a slight inconvenience in order to save a life!
Wash hands / Kill someone
Have people really become so selfish that washing hands is not worth another person's life?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 13, 2007 at 3:49 am

No one is objecting to hand washing. It's the baby wipes that are the issue, if you read the comments.

Posted by sohill, a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2007 at 4:20 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The children with severe allergies have a "gun" pointed at them all the time-one just has to pull the "trigger".
I have to say that all people before and after lunch should wash their hands with soap and water.The problem with wipes is real also: wipes shouldnot be used, not only because of the chemicalls but badly used they "spread" particles and germs ALL OVER. One of my children attended a foreign school when we were abroad and the school body considered americans pretty unhygenic creatures despite their many showers. Not only do they eat with their naked hands as if they can't manage cutlery as hand washing before touching food is not taught or praticed.

Posted by Traffic Partent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 13, 2007 at 7:21 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Having kids forego peanuts for 5 out of 21 meals or said another way 6 hours a day for 5 days a week just does not seem like a disproportionate accommodation to protect a life. Similar to having crosswalks, speed limits, stop signs, signal lights, etc…. while these may be inconvenient for some in the whole it is not too much of an accommodation for the lives that are saved by having those precautions.

Posted by Disbelief, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 13, 2007 at 10:21 am

I find it hard to believe that you have asked them to use unscented wipes instead of the scented ones and they refused. So perhaps before spending time complaining about things one should politely ask if they would accommodate.

If you truly have asked, I would be more than happy to call on your behalf and make the argument. Given people can be sensitive to smell there is no way that a school would argue that the wipes that are intended to help allergic children stay safe must be scented.

Posted by Libertarian Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2007 at 10:52 am

My kids all went to Bright Horizons Day Care, and they currently have a very sensible policy regarding food allergies there. The allergic kids sit at a special table at an assigned spot with their picture and a description of their allergies. All of the kids are coached not to share food and are taught about allergies. All the staff know how to use epi pens. Food brought in for parties is cleared with the staff. There are no restrictions on what you can give your own child for their lunch. If you tried to restrict all the allergic foods in the class it would get ridiculous very fast...peanuts, dairy, eggs, wheat, tomatoes, fish...

I was shocked when I heard that the CCLC summer camp would not allow peanut butter sandwices. I could accommodate that with my 7 year old...but that's the only thing my 4 year old will eat for lunch...not sure what we'll do next year when it's time for her to go to camp.

Actually, the rules tend to change room by room depending on the demands of current parents. I found out from Bright Horizons that they have made additional restrictions at the demand of a parent. There was a time when no pizza was allowed in a particular room because of one parent's demands due to her child's tomato allergy. I imagine the CCLC policy is only due to a current parent's demand.

I can see making reasonable accommodations, but there has to be a limit.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2007 at 10:54 am

Buy your own wipes and donate them to the school.

I am slightly allergic to fragrances in wipes, and detergents. I only need to walk down the detergent aisle in the supermarket and start sneezing big painful sneezes. True, it isn't life threatening, but it is annoying. As a result, I was the parent who laundered the preschool baby blankets, etc. because I couldn't stand the brand being used.

If the school has a surplus of smelly fragrance filled wipes, just donate the type you like. Most schools use what they have because there is no money to go out and buy more. It is down to Dollars and Cents, and nothing else.

Posted by mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2007 at 11:07 am

Ah, but you have to pay extra to have unscented wipes. A lot extra, if they are getting the scented wipes from Costco. There's the problem. I'm sure if someone donated the more expensive natural unscented wipes, the school would use them. That said, I'm on the side of handwashing with soap and water.

My kid has an allergy to something commonly used in classrooms. The teacher was accomodating in a way that makes it a non-issue, by switching out the allergenic for non-allergic replacements. We paid for them, and were glad for the option. Most teachers in our experience would have just separated our kid and made him feel different on a daily basis when all he needed was a simple accomodation. But it required time on the teacher's part to get educated about yet another allergy, and money - though not a tremendous amount for what we get in return. We were more than glad to have that choice.

Posted by Anon Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2007 at 11:14 am

The theories about what cause the increased allergies are just that: theories.

The hygience hypothesis in particular has captured everyone's fancy because it has almost an urban legend ring to it - isn't delicious to blame someone else's problems on their cleanliness? - and because there is a dearth of other explanations. I'm not saying there is no merit to it, just that it's far from proven and some doctors have written with concern about public health compromises that result because more people are not taking ordinary hygiene seriously because of this theory.

There are no public health recommendations based on the theories because nothing is close to conclusive. There are a lot of conflicting studies, and I personally feel a lot of the work that is concluded as applying isn't rigorous enough. Everyone seems to want to jump on the bandwagon.

Posted by Disbelief, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 13, 2007 at 11:21 am

It is comparing tomatoe allergies to peanut allergies that show how much education is needed on the subject.

How many children die of tomatoe allergic reactions in school. I would venture to guess that you cannot find a single documented instance in the last 10 years.

Peanuts not only kill every year they are easily cross contaminated via spreading of peanut butter which is sticky and how it is contained in so many products that you would not naturally think of. Thus the big difference is that a small child (5, 6, 7) can accidently expose an allergic child quite easily.

Besides, death. Many many emergency calls rushing children to the hospital occur every year. And believe me, your child will be dramatized if they know they were the cause of sending thier classmate to the hospital. This is often tramatic for the children, teacher and school and when death does occur it is more heartfelt and impactful on entire communities than you can imagine.

Schools accross the country and not by and large doing crasy, irrational accommodations for the one off events. They are figuring out how best to reduce the risk of what is an occurance that kills more people than any natural disaster ie huricanes, tornadoes, lightening. So I think one really needs to understand peanut allergies versus other allergies as the probablistic risk for a child that is trusted to the care of a school.

Posted by Babs, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 12:04 pm

I appreciate the way the class at Ohlone is handling this. I had to take my children out of a preschool in Palo Alto because in their efforts to protect allergic children they had reduced the snack list to one kind of crackers and a couple of kinds of fruit. My active growing children simply couldn't get through the four hours with so little sustenance. I felt this was just way over the top. Also, having never been acknowledged for the many pains I took over the years to make sure snacks, treats, etc. were nut or wheat or lactos free, I'd like to remind parents of allergic children that it is a kindness when other families make accomodations for your child's safety and it wouldn't hurt to thank them once in a while for their efforts.

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 13, 2007 at 12:20 pm

Babs, if it is infact kindness that people do it then why is their such protests accross the country on this subject. I think the reason it is done is because schools are becoming educated on the subject and are making common sense recommendations to do what is required by law and to ensure that they do not expose themselves to liabilities.

If it was kindness by which people do it, there would not be such strong opinions or protests on blogs such as this (ie my child cannot go without a peanut for 4 hours). So I guess in that sense I do thank those that obey all rules set by the schools allergy related or not.

Posted by J. William, a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2007 at 12:21 pm

There is one comment about having to send a child to a private school because the special need could not be worked with. My daughter is very allergic to peanuts, deathly allergic. We tried public school and got hositlity from other parents over precautions. The school had decided to go with the majority. We had to take our child out and enroll her in a private school that will have kids wipe hands. They even banned peanuts. Private religious schools have a better educated class of compassionate parents and were glad to help a sick child. The public school can't help this kind of need and the other parents do not want the need in the school. The taxpayers should be responsible, right? Sadly, I am paying my own way-glad to do it for my daughter's safety. There is one last point that must be made. In the public school was a child with an "acceptable" handicap. The school had did above and beyond to make this child mainstreamed. I think what it boiled down to is people do not like being told what they cannot do. They feel entitled to do what they feel is their right and it included feeding kids foods chosen by them. In most cases, I find this is the really reason behind the anti-peanut ban movement. Most parents do not want to see a child sick or dying from allergies, but darn it, YOU WILL NOT TELL THEM WHAT THEY CANNOT HAVE. It makes you wonder who the children involved really are.

Posted by Babs, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 12:40 pm

Actually there were no protests in our preschool. Parents simply tried to accomodate the many demands of allergic students' parents. I left because I needed to feed my children. It is absurd to prevent any child from taking in adequate sustenance in a school setting. It is inconsiderate of any parent to make these demands of the group and have no appreciation of the sacrifice others are making. Some of these parents were reasonable and considerate. Others were rude and unappreciative. It made all the difference in my attitude toward the restrictions.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 13, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Banning peanut/nut products is difficult. Parents of kids with allergies learn to be hyper-vigilent, but I don't think you can realistically expect families with kids who don't have allergies to develop that sort of hypervigilence. Seriously, any idea how hard it is to buy a loaf of bread that hasn't been made in a bakery where there are nut oils?

And then you get into depriving your kid of whatever three foods that she or he will eat that week.

As one parent pointed out above, there's a big difference between food allergies. Nut allergies are dangerous because so little of a nut oil is needed to cause a reaction. Other food allergies--chocolate, milk, tomatoes, etc. don't have the same sort of accidental residue issue.

I think sensible precautions, like in the Ohlone allergy class (and there are some amazing allergy combos that run through there.) decrease resentment (and if you don't have to worry about making 20 cupcakes--well, who among us is really going to mind that?). I mean, crackers and fruit are not a good snack combo for my kid either--that's pretty much a sugar peak-and-crash. Nuts are a convenient and portable protein source. Since I was a parent at one of those no-nut preschools, I know how to work around it, but I did have to work around it. However, I do buy products made in factories which process products with nuts.

Once again, wipes aren't nearly as good a solution as soap and water. You need something to cut the oil--and that's what soap does.

Also, besides a no-nut table, keep the food consumption outside at outside tables. This keeps the classroom free of potential food allergens. I suppose if you really wanted to be extra careful, paper table cloths would be a way to go.

I think also, like it or not, kids with allergies have to learn as they grow how to manage their own allergies. They don't live in a world where they can demand that no one around them eat peanuts or nut products. So, what are the sensible ways they can protect themselves?

That's what I like about the Ohlone teacher's approach--I think she's sharing what works for her as someone for whom this is a lifetime issue.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 13, 2007 at 1:07 pm

J. William,

Out of curiosity, what sort of accommodations did you ask for? Was it no-food sharing, a no-peanuts table or was it more?

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 13, 2007 at 2:48 pm


My point is that I do not think this is an accommodation for the parent and that is what is misunderstood. Schools have obligations and laws to abide by and if they are negligent then they will be sued. Not taking reasonable precautions based on a known threat would be likely considered negligent in a court of law.

If a school knew that a part of a roof was not too stable and they were "told" that the roof was not stable, yet they seated your child under it and it subsequently hurt your child you would be right to be upset and the school would like have a liability on their hands. Schools are public institutions not private family houses. They have an obligation to serve all those that pay taxes and to make reasonable accommodations for those that have handicaps or disabilities.

I think to blame the parents of a peanut allergic child is wrong. I think that schools do their best to abide to the laws and what they feel is in their best interest. That is why many schools come to different conclusions as to what to do about various risks. As a school is informed of issues, problems, risks, etc...they make the determination of what to do. NOT THE PARENTS. Parents can only educate and recommend. Somehow this reminds me of the american way, where people are encouraged to advocate for their points of view. It is the hostility towards the PARENTS which is misplaced and the notion that the PARENT of the child is suppose to thank people for obeying school rules and not bringing in substances that the school says is of harm to its children whether that substance is a gun, peanuts or some other item.

By the way, agree to indemnify the school and take personal responsibility for any consequences of any mishap and you too might influence them to a different course of action.

Posted by In this together, a resident of Escondido School
on Oct 13, 2007 at 3:25 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Midtown Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 3:54 pm

I took a look at the scientific literature to see if there was support for casual contact with peanuts eliciting a severe response, and was suprised to find only one study published on the subject.

This paper (abstract below) indicated no respiratory symptoms were found in their study after casual contact - suggesting that a separate table and care to prevent sharing food would be sufficient precaution:

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003 Jul;112(1):180-2.
Relevance of casual contact with peanut butter in children with peanut allergy.
Simonte SJ, Ma S, Mofidi S, Sicherer SH.

BACKGROUND: Casual skin contact or inhalation of peanut butter fumes is reported and feared to cause allergic reactions in highly sensitive children with peanut allergy but has not been systematically studied.

OBJECTIVE: We sought to determine the clinical relevance of exposure to peanut butter by means of inhalation and skin contact in children with peanut allergy.

METHODS: Children with significant peanut allergy (recent peanut-specific IgE antibody concentration >50 kIU/L or evidence of peanut-specific IgE antibody and one of the following: clinical anaphylaxis, a reported inhalation-contact reaction, or positive double-blind, placebo-controlled oral challenge result to peanut) underwent double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized exposures to peanut butter by means of contact with intact skin (0.2 mL pressed flat for 1 minute) and inhalation (surface area of 6.3 square inches 12 inches from the face for 10 minutes). Placebo challenges were performed by using soy butter mixed with histamine (contact), and scent was masked with soy butter, tuna, and mint (inhalation).

RESULTS: Thirty children underwent the challenges (median age, 7.7 years; median peanut IgE level, >100 kIU/L; 13 with prior history of contact and 11 with inhalation reactions). None experienced a systemic or respiratory reaction. Erythema (3 subjects), pruritus without erythema (5 subjects), and wheal-and-flare reactions (2 subjects) developed only at the site of skin contact with peanut butter. From this number of participants, it can be stated with 96% confidence that at least 90% of highly sensitive children with peanut allergy would not experience a systemic-respiratory reaction from casual exposure to peanut butter.

CONCLUSIONS: Casual exposure to peanut butter is unlikely to elicit significant allergic reactions. The results cannot be generalized to larger exposures or to contact with peanut in other forms (flour and roasted peanuts).

Posted by Babs, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 3:57 pm

Dear Concerned Parent, I have to disagree with you. First of all nothing I said blamed any parent. Secondly, my children and I all have allergies as well, and yes, they are life threatening. We've taken responsibility for them rather than putting the responsibility on others. Third, we were willing to accomodate peanut allergy issues, see my note re Ohlone, but felt that to indulge every sensitivity of every child in a class simply left my children with too few nutritional options during the hours at school. Finally, yes it is a kindness to accomodate a child's needs rather than to apply to the school for a change in policy, to be hostile to the family, etc., or to ignore the rule altogether. It takes a lot of time and effort to make sure there is no hint of peanut anything in foods that are brough to school from a peanut friendly home. Please don't misread the things I say. I choose my words carefully and believe me, I know what they mean.

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 4:06 pm

Banning foods that one kid is allergic to is like insisting that all kids use sign language to communicate because one kid is deaf. It's an unreasonable accommodation, since it impacts everybody. Moreover, by insisting that certain foods are banned, the school may increase its liability by creating a reliance on its policy on the part of the allergic kid's parents - "but they told me there would be no peanuts!" Oops, what if grandma is visiting and packs a PB&J? What if the kid has peanut crumbs in her jacket pocket when she comes to school in the morning? Besides, what are they going to do - expel a kid for bringing a peanut butter sandwich?

Peanut free tables - sounds good. Washing after lunch - why not? Banning foods from the school - probably too far.

Concerned, maybe you can provide a reference, but I doubt schools have an legal obligation to provide an allergen-free environment for every child as an accommodation. I could not find via a quick Google. They may be required to have epi-pens and know how to use them, if informed by the parent. So sure, somebody might sue - but fear of baseless litigation is a bad reason to impact what every kid in a school can eat. Or so it seems to me!

Should the parents of the accommodated kid thank the other parents? Of course they don't have to - but if they don't want to be resented and want people to actually try to comply, it sounds like a good idea. Kind of like you don't have to thank your kids teacher or send flowers on appreciation day (it's their job!) - but it just good manners and good sense. And it doesn't cost a dime.

Posted by Babs, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 4:16 pm

Thank you Terry and Midtown Mom for your reasonable comments.

Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 13, 2007 at 4:17 pm

My children attended elementary school at a private school where one child was highly allergic, peanuts PLUS. I recall the parents of this child were involved in a positive fashion, enlisting cooperation within reason, such as having each family receive an annual letter about the allergy situation; student hand washing before lunch required; separate table; otherwise a low-key environment. Treats/birthday in the child's own classroom had restrictions of some sort. The kids did NOT have to use wipes-yuck!

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 13, 2007 at 5:35 pm


I never said that a school has a legal obligation to provide an allergen-free environment. In fact, I do not believe a school has to do anything. I think bannning could well be appropriate, I think a seperate table could well be appropriate, I think simply washing hands might well be appropriate, I think doing nothing but simply letting people know might well be appropriate, in fact I think doing nothing might be appropriate in some circumstances.

My point is that at the end of the day a school looks at all factors and makes choices for what it feels is in their best interest. I just do not think it is right to blame the PARENT of the child for what the school believes is in its best interest.

And as for "thanking". I think politeness is always warranted. I also am always thankful and appreciate of anyone that would go out of their way to be sensitve and helpful to others. In your analogy, I would also ageeagree you should thank teachers. They often work hard with low pay and low recognition. Although, I am not sure how I would feel if my child teacher demanded that we thank her, which is how I interpreted Babs comments. For again, I think the decision to impose whatever rules a school decides should not be blamed on the PARENT of an alergic child. Which Babs request to be thanked certainly implies that she feels that it is in fact the PARENT to blame.

Babs, don't you feel it is infact the PARENT of the allergic child that is the cause for the rules? and is that not the reason that you are asking the PARENT to "thank you" for your sacrifices. For if it was not in your mind the PARENTS fault, then why ask for them to thank you.

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 13, 2007 at 5:52 pm

Terry, one more thing.

Your comment that "Banning foods that one kid is allergic to is like insisting that all kids use sign language to communicate because one kid is deaf". The difference is that banning and/or limiting and/or educating one about peanuts allergies can potentially save a life. Banning language would not save a life.

Thus I do not think that it is at all the same thing.

Look up anaphylactic reaction. You obviously have not seen a child have one for you would understand how weak your comparison is and how easy it is for an allergic child to get one and how many times it happens every year.

Posted by Babs, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 6:01 pm

Dear Concerned Parent,
If you look above you'll see that what I said was actually
"it wouldn't hurt to thank them once in a while for their efforts."
Really with all due respect for your views I ask that you not misquote me and refrain from reading things into my comments that aren't there. Thank you.

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 13, 2007 at 6:07 pm


Do you not think it was the PARENTS fault that there were those rules that were imposed on you and inconvenienced you to need to make the accommodations with regard to food?

Posted by Babs, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 6:11 pm

Dear Concerned Parent,

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 13, 2007 at 6:31 pm

Given that you chose your words carefully. You did say

"I'd like to remind parents of allergic children that it is a kindness when other families make accomodations for your child's safety".

It was not the it "would not hurt to thank" comment that I reacted to but the above statement which certainly seemed you were lecturing PARENTS on something. If you do not blame the PARENT why are you feeling compelled to "remind them" of things.

My point, it is not the PARENT that needs to be reminded. If it is a school rule then it is as a result of the school rule that the child and PARENT has to thank for its safety. For many people are not that kind on this subject and they do very much blame the PARENT.
If you do not, then I am pleased.

One more thing. Since you praised Terry's post. Do you also feel that a school making rules on peanuts is an unreasonable accommodationas the same as banning language to accommodate the deaf?

Posted by AllergyMom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 13, 2007 at 6:47 pm

This is a great discussion. Our child has life threatening peanut allergies, and also is allergic to many other foods. He is very sensitive to peanut nearby; for example, when my grandmother visited once, with peanut dust on her clothes after eating peanuts, he had a reaction a few minutes after she entered the room - his eyes swelled up, and we had to give him benadryl and take him away immediately. More commonly, if he touches objects that have some allergen residue (e.g., another child with some allergen residue on his hands had touched that object earlier), he will have a reaction that is not life threatening, but very uncomfortable, such as having severe itching that lasts for a few days, even with our best efforts (benadryl, creams, etc.). This leads to sleepless nights, irritated skin that leads to a vicious cycle of more scratching, etc.

Part of the confusion is that there is a wide range of peanut allergy conditions - some of our friends have kids with mild peanut allergies, but those kids can tolerate exposure to minute amounts of peanut, and don't have to worry about whether the factory that processed the food had peanut in the facility. So, just because certain classrooms have a set of policies that worked for that particular set of kids, doesn't mean that it's the right policy for all classrooms. Each situation is different.

Regarding wipes - as far as I know, the unscented wipes from Costco are the cheapest that you can buy. If there are scented wipes that are cheaper, please post which one that is. Also, if parents object to using wipes because of chemicals or because they think soap/water is better, it would be a great idea to leave it up to each parent to either wash hands with soap/water, or use wipes. It makes it more complicated to monitor, but seems like a good compromise.

Regarding expressing appreciation to other parents - I agree that schools are implementing these policies partially out of liability concerns, but I also think that schools and also many parents of non-allergic kids are doing it out of a spirit of caring. Our preschool has many caring parents who recognize the severity of our child's allergies and the dangers, and do their best to make sure that he is safe and not excluded from activities. We are very grateful to the preschool and to these caring parents. So I think that being thankful and being polite is a great idea, here as well as elsewhere.

Posted by Babs, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 6:48 pm

Concerned, At the risk of being further misunderstood, I agree with Terry's more general statement that banning a food because one child is allergic is comparable to the too general banning of language in the case of the deaf or words to that affect. Further along she also said that banning peanuts might be appropriate. My point all along has been that in our class there was a preponderance of banning for every sensitivity that led to what I found to be a too narrow set of foods. Truly, if I'd gone ahead and requested a ban on the things we're allergic to they would have had to close the school. I appreciate the sane reasonable cooperative respectful approach, respectful of all concerned that is exemplified in the Ohlone classroom.

Posted by Babs, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 6:51 pm

PS Thank you Allergy Mom. I'd bed there is very little objection to measures taken to protect your child. Good luck!

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 13, 2007 at 7:16 pm

Babs, I do not have not disagreement with your last statement and I think Allegy Mom has it right as well.

But given you chose your words carefully. Terry said. "Peanut free tables - sounds good. Washing after lunch - why not? Banning foods from the school - probably too far". So I did not hear her saying that "banning peanuts might be appropriate."

So I am still trying to understand what you liked about Terry's post. I think it is clear from his writing that a ban is wrong, seperate tables maybe? Sounds like you do not agree with that and thus I am puzzeled as to you support of his comment given that was his main point. He thinks that there is no difference between a school that bans a life threatening allergy and a school that bands language because of a person that cannot hear.

The point that I am making and Allegy Mom made is that each situation needs to be judged on its own merits. A school needs to weigh the risk versus the sacrifices they are asking of others and determine the correct balance. I think a sensitivity to a food should absolutely be treated differenly than a life threatening allergy. And even if it is a life threatening I think specific allergies might warrant different actions by the school. A life threatening shell fish allergy probably can be dealt with differently than a peanut allergy which is different then a sensitivity to grass. These and other difficult decisions of what to do have to be made by a school i.e. dealing with slow learners, disruptive children, bullies, fast learners.

So all I am saying is do not blame the PARENT of a fast learners for a school's decision (for example) to take the best teacher to isolate on a group of such kids. It is the school that makes the decision not the PARENT.

Posted by Babs, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 7:24 pm

Dear Concerned, Sorry I'm getting tired but this has been a terrific and enjoyable discussion and I appreciate your input. So I'll just cut and paste Terry's remark that I was referring to.

Terry says above, "I think bannning could well be appropriate,"

To me that suggests Terry is also suggesting the reasonable case by case response by the community rather than something too stringent and reactionary. Have to sign off for now. Thank you all!

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 13, 2007 at 7:33 pm

Babs, again for a person says "I choose my words carefully and believe me, I know what they mean".

The quote you have above is my comment not Terry's. Terry's quote was "It's an unreasonable accommodation". If you read my comment it does show a reasonable case by case response. Terry's post on the other hand could only be intrepeted as believing that a ban on food is never appropriate .... which is why given we are actually seem to be mostly in agreement, I was curious as to your complement of his post as being "reasonable".

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2007 at 8:53 pm

Wow, this is more confusing than "who's on first"!

I'm not a big fan of banning foods from school. Maybe there are circumstances, but one kid in the school, even with severe allergies, doesn't seem like enough for me. I just don't like the idea of accommodations that restrict the many for the very few - that is a slippery slope that goes to a bad place. It seems to me that the few can be accommodated by reasonable precautions (nut-free tables, hand-washing, care with classroom snacks) plus epi-pens and training on how to use them. I don't see why the school should be in the difficult business of setting and policing carried-in food policy and why parents should be responsible for following (possibly) quite complicated rules.

The stats on this are interesting btw. Here's a link Web Link . This says that 125 people (adults and children) die each year in the US due to food-induced anaphylaxis. Note that is a lot more than in other countries - Canada has 6-8 (about one-ninth our size, so equivalent of 54-72), the UK 5 (about one-fifth our size, so ~25), France 2 (equivalent to ~10), Australia 2 deaths among children recorded in the last 10 years. The mix of adults to children is not given for the US; in France, about 70% of the cases of anaphylaxis were in adults. If that were in the case in the US, about 36 children would die each year. There doesn't seem to be data on how many of these occur in school or how many are related to nuts (vs. shellfish, flour, etc.); again, comparing to France, there about 30% of incidents were related to nuts; if applied to the US, that would mean about 10 kids die each year from nut allergy reactions, some portion in school. For reference, there are about 75 million children under 18 in the US.

Those stats don't tell us the answer to anything, but it does provide some context. The incident that we are guarding against is quite rare; if we guess 50% of all nut-related deaths are in school, and use the French %'s, that's 5 a year nationwide.

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 14, 2007 at 6:38 am


First of all, the countries you mention especially Canada and the UK are way ahead of the US in understanding this issue and they are much more progessive on dealing with this issue. Canada and the UK actually have laws on this subject.

Second, those stats are as low as they are because we are taking the apporopriate steps and schools are addressing this issue whether it be by banning, seperate tables, education, and/or whatever the school deems appropriate. (By the way 70%+ of deaths are from peanut or nut allergies).

Third, there are many many more emergency trips to the E.R. than there are deaths. (deaths being saved by the quick action of schools and doctors). And unless you have witnessed such an episode and the impact on a childs class (death or no death) you would likely trivialize the incidents as you do.

Fourth, the incidents of food allergies have doubled in the last 5 years and this problem is getting much worse. 5% of the Children that are born this year are estimated to have severe food allergies. So this is far from an rare incident isolated to only few individuals.

Fifth, more people die from anaphylactic shock than we had last year from tornadoes. Are you against evacuations when a tornadoe warning is given. More people die of this than lightening strikes. Are you against having school kids removed from the swimming pool when thunder is heard. The point is that this is not a national ban. These are schools looking into the issue and determining what they feel is their best interest. The only times that schools do something is when they feel that they are at risk.

Lastly, the only accommodation that is typically asked is some form of restraint on the eating of peanuts for 5 out of 21 meals, some 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. It just does not seem like an unreasonable accommodation to require of people in order to avoid a tramatic ER visit and/or saving an innocent childs life.

Posted by joyce, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 14, 2007 at 7:07 am

I agree that considerable care should be taken, no one wants a child to die, but using chemical wipes instead of washing their hands does not seem right to me. Those things practicaly take my skin off. Similarly playing on blacktop instead of grass exposes all the children to the possibility of injury - falls much more severe, etc. Someone is not thinking.

Posted by Interested Reader, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 14, 2007 at 7:45 am

No one in this entire post has been pro scented wipes. There has been suggestions for the cheaper non-scented, there has been suggestions for soap and water and then there was a comment or two that seemed to be anti-handwashing in any form.

I think by and large most agree that someone simply should talk to the school about the use of chemical wipes and I suspect accommodations would be made.

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 14, 2007 at 8:43 am

Thanks Concerned. On the tornados - about 90 people a year die from tornadoes in the US vs 125 from food-induced anaphylaxis. But tornado evacs don't seem like a good analogy - it would be more like if all the kids had to evacuate because one only were susceptible to tornados. In that case, I'd say the suceptible kid evac only.

And of course I'm not saying there shouldn't be accommodations (I list the ones that make sense to me) - I think the only point of disagreement (so far!) is whether the school should ban the allergan all together. Maybe you can make a case on why they need to beyond that it would be safer? At some point we need to balance cost with benefit, right?

Moreover, there is a principle involved - how much do we restrain the many for the needs of the very few? No nuts - but what about nut ingredients (and the parents are now responsible for checking all the labels)? And what if the child is so sensitive that everything needs to be from nut-free processing plants (as I'm sure the parents provide at home)? And what about other allergies (since there are other allergies plus asthma, etc.)? Those steps seems excessive, but they are logical extension when you get going on policing food restrictions based on allergies. Beware the slippery slope!

Here's a link from the Calgary Allergy Network (in allergy enlightened Canada!) on why peanuts should not be banned in schools. Makes sense to me: Web Link

Posted by Katie, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 14, 2007 at 8:43 am

Allergies can be a school legal responsibility when the family decides that a 504 Plan may be in the best interest of the child. This is connected to a Special Education plan. Families that are facing allergies, did not bring it upon themselves. it is very scary for those families. My child has a wheat allergy and every time I see an ambulance go from the direction of his daycare, I have chills, scared about if my child is all right.

As a teacher, I did not believe it was so serious for my students until my child was found to be allergic. Allergies changed our lives in our house and classrooms.

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 14, 2007 at 9:35 am


The anti-ban web link you provided ends with "Let's work towards helping our schools become "peanut/nut-safe and allergy aware" is all that most are advocating.

I am not neccessary pro-ban. I think each situation is different and thus there can be reasonable conclusions that take on many different actions. Nancy Wiebe arguments are probably better made at the high school level and even then I would have issue with many points. So not to argue all of them here, the idea that a 5 year old is suppose take responsibility on their "own" allergies and protections seems on the surface absurd. The idea of a false sense of security is also absurd. In fact, I would argue the emotions surronding a "ban" cause more discussion on the subject and more education on the subject compared to the situation if schools never imposed a ban. In fact, your reseach is likely caused by your reaction to a "ban" and this and other blog dialogues all accross the country are having similar effects.

Terry, would you not agree that you more educated on the subject now because of your negative reaction to the idea of a "Ban". Would you have searched for those links if we were not having this discussion?

Most parents of allergic kids are school polcies do not hold out for 100% guarantees or fail safe environments as is implied with Nancy Wiebe arguments. They simply are looking for public schools to take reasonable steps to ensure the saftey of their children. Depending on the amount of children, the severity of the sensitivity, the history of compliance in the past on obeying rules, the imposition on those that are being asked to obey a new set of rules, etc...are all factors that should be considered.

If such factors are considered and a school feels it is in their best interest to make a "ban" then so be it. If you do not want to leave those decisions to the school, who would you suggest makes that judgement. Or should we just have one set of rules that apply regardless of the situation, such as "never upon any identification of risk". I personally would rather these decisions be done at the local level on a case by case basis.

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 14, 2007 at 9:59 am

Terry, as for the tornado analogy. I agree it is not a good comparison and there are many inconsistent parallels.

Only point it does make, however, is that 1) we spend lots of money, planning, alert system, government reseach, etc.. every year tornado's (and other naturural disaster) and they do cause less deaths than food allergies and I do not hear people saying that such efforts are wasted and that we should not spend the energy, time and money on tornados for example for it only kills 90 people a year and 2) when there is an identified risk that has a probability of harm we do as a society spend money, create rules and do what we can not to minimize the risk.

Posted by sohill, a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2007 at 12:33 pm

dear disbelief,

Just do an internet search "died peanuts allergy" and you will find some of the documented deaths fom allergies that you so "disbelieve"

Posted by sohill, a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2007 at 1:00 pm

I am sorry to say this but it is beyond belief that some feel that not eating nuts at school is a life threatening accommodation for them. Something that stops them from the most minuscule and de minimum petty exercise of their choices ( nut eating is not a constitutional right) is considered enough for a fuss to be made about the people who can have an anaphylatic reaction (who cares,right ? ). May all that one day will be old/sick and and in need of ALL sorts of accomodation encounter from those youngsters for whom you would deny accomodation( no peanut butter? I'm gona go hungry...) a better response that you are willing to provide.btw, though they are not entirely understood anaphylatic reactions are like gravity-you get to decide if they exist or not by popular vote.
An individual may be ask to be reasonably accomodated ( americans with disabilities act) but a child with a disability has the right of a public and appropriate education by law (Section 504 FAPE). So no need to thank anybody (though you can). It is a right and it has been settled by a Supremme court ruling.

Posted by Disbelief, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 14, 2007 at 1:40 pm


I searched hard under both "died peanut allergy" and "died tomato allergy", which is what I am assumming you realy intended. Could not find one case of an accidental exposure to tomato that killed a child at school. That is not to say that there are not such cases but clearly it is much less common than death by peanut which accounts for 70% of all allergy deaths, which was my point. Same for shell fish, while people do die of that allergy as well, my guess is the number of times that an accidental exposure killed a child while at school is quite small and certainly much smaller than that of peanut.

Posted by sohill, a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2007 at 2:53 pm

Disbelief, I had not mention ANY allergies other than the ones I know can cause and have caused "anaphylactic shock" or anphylactic death, that is bees and peanuts so you must be confusing me with another post.. There are in fact many allergens in food, that can provoke a "mild" allergic reaction in which case the "grin and bear it" attitude, the hand washing or the table separation solution might be adequate depending on the severity. But in the cases in which the reaction is severe (epi pens are not always effective and may produce habituation rendering them unfecctive) and maybe lethal, I think the loss of a very negligible privilege (which eating nuts at school is) is hardly an "intusion"; certainly there isn't a "right to nuts". If i was your child would you say that one death in a decade is a small exposure? Thankful there are good developments in biomedics that promise good results (check bbc) for treatment so that those severely affected can live a better life. Unlike you, my search found a lots of references ( I am giving you two examples, I don't really do searches for other people-they can do their own), for example: "Only 12% of adults in one set of necropsy findings died of anaphylaxis, 20% had severe and 42% mild atherosclerosis and about one-third had pulmonary oedema." and Web Link

Posted by sohill, a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2007 at 2:55 pm

sorry for reason this was cut from the end of my post:
Web Link

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2007 at 3:35 pm

What amazes me from this discussion is the aversion to hygiene before meals that some people have. Whether it is soap and water or wipes, scented or unscented, washing and cleansing hands before meals and after meals makes sense. I am not sure of the sense of handwashing the whole class before lunch in case one of them has nut oil on their hands to prevent cross contamination in a nut allergy, but I can see it would help if they washed hands afterwards.

However, I really think it makes sense to keep our kids hands and faces clean for health reasons for everyone. I know the teachers can't physically watch if every child uses soap and water every time they use the bathroom, but they can make sure they wash their hands before lunch in the classroom and every time they come back into the classroom after lunch or recess.

I know of one teacher who always insists that any child who sneezes in her classroom uses hand sanitizer and also insists the whole class use hand sanitizer before lunch. It is habits that these children learn in the classroom that will really help them be more hygienic in their daily lives as a life lesson that I appreciate.

I really think we should be educating our children better in hygiene, particularly with the amount of food that is now served to them without any type of cutlery, eg pizza, burgers, fries, etc.

Posted by A.L., a resident of another community
on Oct 15, 2007 at 11:57 am

This is an interesting discussion.

I think asking kids not to bring peanuts to school and to wash their hands before and after eating is a reasonable accomodation given what is at stake. Kids seem to do this gladly for the benefit of an allergic classmate, it's parents who seem to have all the issues.

There's another aspect to this that I wonder about. When people wash with "soap" and water these days or use handwipes, they are invariably using detergents, not really soap. Soaps are made in a very specific way with a very narrow end result chemically, in a way. Detergents generally are made to be far more hydrophilic and oleophilic than soaps; they have been shown in research to increase membrane permeability in a way that soap and water do not, and they have been shown to "increase antigen penetration."

That last point makes me wonder whether using wipes that don't really remove the peanut residues well, but do coat children's hands with detergents (that naturally subsequently slough off with skin cells, traces of peanuts, etc. and become a constituent of classroom dust) - would this actually pose a greater risk to the allergic kids than having everyone wash with soap and water? By that I mean real soap, but I would expect that even washing with detergent and water would be better than the wipes because at least most of the offending substance ends up down the drain.

That's not a question anyone could answer, I'm just wondering if it's a factor in all of this.

Posted by got nuts?, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 15, 2007 at 12:44 pm

Education is a major factor. Our school has a nut-free table for the first time this year. One kid with no allergies sits at it to keep a friend company. Another child was instructed to sit at the table because she has a mild peanut allergy listed on her emergency form. Her parents were never informed of this decision. She sometimes brings foods which contain other nuts, or which were processed at a peanut-containing factory since her allergy is only mild. The kid who is keeping company is probably bringing all sorts of food in.

The kids and parents aren't being educated about what's allowed and what's not. Having a nut-free table doesn't solve much. Without educating the families, it can lead to a false sense of security.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 15, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Got nuts?

I wouldn't assume that the friend of the allergy kid is bringing nuts. If you know kids with allergies, their parents will give you the run-down. I know a lot more about reading labels and looking for that semi-hidden allergy warning than I did because of that. (Which is also why I think it's unfeasible to make a school truly nut-free, let alone allergen free. Sometimes one heavily allergic kid is surviving on something that's totally toxic to another child--i.e. the kid with a milk allergy drinking soy may be in the same class with a kid allergic to soy.)

I mean, I don't think this sort of thing works on the preschool level, but in grade school, kids try to do the right thing. It seems to me that it comes down, in part, to trusting the teacher to let the kids know how serious the allergy is and how to handle it--i.e. no food sharing, no nutty things at the no-nuts table even if you can eat them.

It seems to me that the Ohlone class works because parents of allergy kids trust the teacher because the teacher's in the same boat.

One thing that I think causes resentment is that the term "allergy" is misused a lot. People will say they're allergic to something that upsets their stomach. The result is that people don't realize how serious real food allergies can be. People confuse allergies with food intolerances. The latter, while unpleasant, aren't potentially deadly.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 15, 2007 at 5:06 pm


I do not think any parent of an allergy kid ever feels a false sense of security. No one is that naive to believe that a 100% secure environment could ever be created, even in the home.

The point is that you do your best to lower the risk of exposure to those allergens that a child has identified as deadly.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 15, 2007 at 11:11 pm


Where did I say parents felt a sense of security, false or otherwise? Simply that I think they trust a teacher with severe food allergies herself to understand how serious the matter is and to know what kind of precautions need to be taken.

And how to use and Epi-Pen--and when to use it.

Posted by Another Hays Parent, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Oct 15, 2007 at 11:13 pm

I'm astounded at the extent of this thread and yet, with this, I add to it. These children's health issues are not an encroachment on Not-a-nut's freedom. As so many people point out, there are practical work arounds that have been adopted at various schools that seem to be working just fine.

In my own experience at Hays, this hasn't been a hardship for us or my children. My children have broadened their palates far beyond PB&J and pre-packaged granola bars. Being Omnivores, they do adapt... You can call me old-fashioned; but I expect my kids to eat what I prepare (within reason), I know they will eat when they are hungry enough, and they know that whining won't make me jump to prepare a different meal just for them. (Gee, I sound like my parents AND grandparents.)

As for those moments when a holiday/birthday happens in class and the treats are not on the approved list, their friends with allergies always have a stash of safe snacks/treats that the teacher pulls out just for them. Honestly, the safe treats are always enormously healthier and, who doesn't want that for our kids? Aren't we the generation who needs to think about childhood obesity?

I think a good, old fashioned, proper hand-washing is what we should be teaching our children... not just for allergies, but for basic hygiene to protect everyone from bacteria, viruses, and, yes, even allergens. It's what our parents told us to do when they called us in for dinner and when they sent us off to practice piano or whatever (no sticky keys, please). It's what we expect of medical care professionals, restaurant workers, and grocery handlers, to name a few. To NOT teach our children to do so is plain wrong.

If you spend any time at school and you watch the children, it is a rare occasion to see them ever wash their hands, even after using the restroom, picking/blowing their noses, sneezing/coughing, etc.. Yuck.

As for using wipes, I disagree with the wipes approach partly because of all the chemical cocktails in them (which didn't exist when we were kids and, who knows, maybe they are part of the cause of the problems of our auto-immune systems?)... but also because of all the extra garbage they generate, which is hardly a convenience.

Hays is not dictating what we do in our own homes. They are setting rules of basic hygiene and safety while at school which actually benefits the whole community.

Posted by One More Hays Parent, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Oct 16, 2007 at 5:59 am

Hays is dictating the use of wipes at school, for all lower elementary students. Regardless of what is in their lunch, the students are required to use wipes on their faces and hands. It does seem like overreaching the school boundary to me.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2007 at 9:10 am

Sorry OhlonePar,

The "false sense of security" comment was from a previous post with regard to Nancy Wiebe arguments. I correctly attributed it to you

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 16, 2007 at 5:49 pm

Thanks Jane, I couldn't figure out quite what was going on.

I'm curious, since this thread did take on a life of its own and has had major lurker-ship whether Not a Nut got anything useful out of it.

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