Peanut Allergies…coping strategies

January 29th, 2010 1:29am

When I initially set out to write this series, I was a little disheartened by the lack of information available through my school. But I was most impressed with the outpouring of information from the many people who handle kids with peanut allergies on a daily basis. With all the information out there though, nothing can compensate for a childs own ability to self-manage their allergies. Parents with allergic children need to prepare their child for life in busy crowded situations like school by giving both the child and their teachers as much information as possible to be prepared.

A teacher with ample information to send home to a child’s classmates parents will be able to provide a much safer environment than a teacher with no tools to supply their parents and students. As Elizabeth Cowles Johnston, a member of School Nutition Association states, “schools want to ensure that sutdents are also cognizant of their own allergy risks – another reason tables or areas of “peanut0free” are more prevalent than complete bans as they are more manageable to monitor.” Elizabeth offered us two great printouts entitled “School Foodservice and Food Allergies: What We Need to Know” and a comprehensive “Food Allergy Action Plan” that parents can fill out for their kids to take to school and give to their teachers, parents or other involved faculty members.

Lor Aronsky from Food Allergy Ally shared some more suggestions of “nut free” treats and alternatives to send to school:

  • Instead of Peanut Butter, try Soy Nut Butter (IM Healthy) or Sunflower Butter (Sun Butter).
  • Treasure Mills Allergen Sensitive Snacks make school safe treats such as brownies, chocolate chip treats, oatmeal raisin cookies, etc. and are sold at Whole Foods Stores.
  • Divvies makes delicious treats for school.
  • Vermont Nut Free has amazing candies, treats, etc.
  • Entenmanns makes several nut free deserts and many popsicles and water ices are safe but a caution with these products…READ LABELS as not all of these products are made without nut contaminants.

Lori also offers some suggestions on home safety should you have a child with nut allergies over to play. It is fine to have nuts and peanut butter in your home but keep them out of reach and even out of sight if possible. If you have prepared peanut butter sandwiches on your table tops, simply wipe them down well. Remember to check labels before giving any food to the child. Recognize that they can safely eat fruit, vegetables, cheese, yogurt and MOST Mac and Cheeses and MOST pizza snacks but again…CHECK LABELS! Be sure the parent leaves 2 epi pens and they train you how to use one in case.

Other suggestions for classrooms are to make sure if you have a child with allergies, to bring a bag of “safe” treats to school for your teacher to keep on hand should someone unexpectedly bring questionable treats to school for the kids. Most teachers prefer kids bring in pencils, markers, stickers or other school supplies as an alternative to treats anyway.

Always wash hands after snacks or lunch to make sure that nut contaminants are not transferred to classroom materials.

A great web find was the Stuck on You labels. They offer many customized stickers, bags, labels, bracelets and school supplies that will help parents protect children by alerting caregivers to their specific allergy. They have some very fun ideas and supplies worth checking into.

Another suggestion came from Alana Elliot, Founder and President of Nonuttin’ Foods Inc. She suggests providing a large, color poster to the school with a picture of the allergic child, their food allergies, and no more than 3 simple steps to follow if an allergic reaction is suspected. Make enough copies for the child’s classroom, the staff room and the office. “While some people may be concerned about their child being labeled,” Alana says, “it’s advisable to have all in the school aware of your child so they can respond accordingly in an emergency and not all staff will know the child so must have a visual to refer to.” She adds,”Safety trumps privacy in this situation.”

Alana also recommends keeping your child’s epi-pens on their person. “A teacher in the playground with your child will not have time to go get an epi-pen in the school and return to your child.” Kat Eden, an employee at Education.com and mother of an allergic child, suggests a “teaching” epi-pen is worth having around so that parents can take a moment at the beginning of the school year to educate a teacher or other faculty member how to use the pen correctly without fear.

Kat also ¬†has taught her son some choice phrases to help him communicate with the other children about his allergies. Politely refusing treats with a “no thank you” or even a more direct “I’m allergic to peanuts” will alert kids but may also invite teasing. So Kat suggested her son try a little humor of his own by saying “my body doesn’t like peanuts and if I eat them or touch them I’ll get very sick. But my body LOVEEESSSS chocolate!”…she adds, “I’m not sure why but that cracks him up every time!”.

Here are a few more helpful links worth checking out…

We hope you have found our unfortunately rather long blog posts this week helpful as we strive to keep our kids safer in school. It is also our hope that you will take this information and share it with as many others as you can so that we can continue to understand this allergy better, with less fear and with more understanding. As Jessica Cohen, a parent of a child with multiple food allergies, states “the more the people around him understand the seriousness of it, the more we can all work together to keep children like mine safe.” Mike Spinney, another concerned parent, adds “clearly communicating the reality of our daughter’s situation opens eyes, and when they know there’s a potential for death, they pay attention.”

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