Allergies in School

My little man is starting preschool next Tuesday!  I can’t believe that he’s old enough to go, but he’s certainly ready.  We have visited his classroom and met his teacher and he is very excited to start.  There are 10-12 kids in his class and three of them have some type of food allergy.  We received a letter before open house telling us that one student will be expected to bring snacks for the class for that day, but due to the food allergies they aren’t sure what will be allowed.  OK, I totally understand that.  Well, school is next week and there has been no other communication.

My girlfriend’s daughter, Ellie, happens to be in my son’s class.  Ellie also happens to be one of the children with a food allergy.  Her allergies include egg, all dairy, and nuts.  Um, that rules out a lot of food!  One child has a peanut allergy and the other child has a milk allergy.  I only found out this last night when I was talking to my girlfriend, and she said, you haven’t gotten any letters?  I said, no, just the first one, why?  Turns out the parents came up with an approved list of foods that can be brought as snacks and those foods are the only ones allowed in class.  OK, that makes things a lot easier for the rest of us!  I said, what about the milk allergies?  What are they going to serve them to drink at snack time since it was going to be milk?  She just looked at me with that look.  Ellie is so allergic to milk that if someone drinks milk and touches her or kisses her, she’ll have a reaction.  So much so that if her epi pen is not right there, it’s not good.  She said, they are going to serve milk anyway.  Um, excuse me?  But, they are going to put the three kids with allergies at one table and everyone else at another table.  Um, excuse me again?  She is not happy.  She doesn’t agree with that, but she said, what am I suppose to do?  I said, how does that even make sense?  How is the teacher going to be able to watch 12 3 & 4 year old’s to make sure they wash their hands and face after snack time before they touch anything else? 

I understand why they want to separate them during snack time, but I don’t agree with it either.  What is that teaching these little people?  Oh, little Johnny can’t eat what I’m eating so he has to sit over there ha ha ha.  We all know how kids can be.  On the other hand, everyone in the class has to understand how serious it is.  I think the easiest thing would be to get rid of the milk and have 100% juice or water.  The kids are only there for 3 hours so really, what do they need snack for anyway?!!  Does anyone else have these issues or dealt with allergies at school?

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15 Responses to Allergies in School

  1. Jennifer says:

    Hmmm….That’s really tough Sue. I can totally see both sides of the issue.

    As the parent of the child with the allergies you are concerned about your child’s safety and you want to be sure they don’t come into contact with allergens. You have to ask that allergens not be in your child’s presence. You also are concerned about their emotional wellbeing and don’t want them constantly separated.

    As the parent of the children without the allergies you may be miffed that your choices for treats are limited and that choices for beverage are limited as well. You may not want your child to drink juice. You may be annoyed that the alternatives that you must purchase are more expensive than a lot of junk foods, depending on the number of students in the class this may be financially problematic for some.

    And then what about the student that eats peanut butter toast at home before arriving and fails to clean up their hands well?

    I honestly don’t know how any parent, teacher or daycare provider does it.

    A lot of schools, preschools, and daycares in our area have similar policies. A lot of them in our area have banned parents from bringing in snacks at all for fear of contamination with peanut products. The daycare my kids attend does not allow the parents to bring in snacks. She does serve snacks daily, but she purchases them. However, since she’s a small in-home daycare she serves the children in shifts. I think she’s subtle enough about it that the kids have no idea why they’re doing it. It’s never been announced that particular students eat first or last because of allergies. She changes up the order on particular days. That way she can clean up the snack area and make sure the kids and area are clean and she can control 6 kids at a time instead of 12. The other kids enjoy a longer playtime in a smaller group for the few minutes with the assistant in the other room. They’re none the wiser.

    I think I’d serve water though over juice….water’s so good for you and it’s free….

  2. Tosha says:

    the public school here has always separated the children with allergies from the children with out allergies. They only serve milk at school and allow very limited juice.. Its so bad that you have to have a drs note for your child to have juice at lunch instead of milk because they claim too much juice isnt good for kids and they are fighting obesity. Its ridiculous really(the milk issue). We had to get a drs note for my daughter to get juice at lunch instead of milk because milk upsets her stomach. I think they should have a “lesson” for all the kids in the class to participate in and learn what the kids in their class deal with. Not only will that teach the kids about the safety precautions that need to be taken but it would also teach the children what to look for if another child is having a reaction. Even kids at that age are capable of knowing when something is wrong with a friend.
    All that said.. If a kid in the class has an allergy here.. they give us a list at the beginning of the year of acceptable and not acceptable foods to bring for the snacks.. Each child in the class has to bring snacks for the entire week 2 times a year..

  3. K. Trainor says:

    Wow, that’s a toughie. I sure would hate to see the “other” table–how hard for those kids on a social level!

    If they’re going to get involved in policing what food the kids have access to, I think the best course of action would be just a simple list of allowed snacks without all the other politics. “This is our class list of what parents may bring if they wish–other food items will not be permitted due to a number of classroom allergies.” That’s all that needs to be said, no need to single these poor kids out. And it should be across the board—which means no milk.

    The other option is the one I’d choose. It’s almost impossible to cover every situation with every child every time. So why try? Personally, I think the educational system food police should butt out and parents should be expected to provide their own healthy snacks for their kids. Our school has always done this, so I guess I’m just used to it.

  4. thegoddessanna says:

    Back in the ’80’s and ’90’s, when I was in school, barely anybody had allergies. I was quite allergic to peanuts, treenuts (almonds, although I avoid all nuts), and egg yolk. I’ve outgrown the peanut allergy – my pregnancy with the twins helped with that, although peanut oil still gives me hives. I’ve never had a flu shot due to the eggs. In any case, I was never separated, it was up to me to make sure that I didn’t imbibe anything that had these ingredients. It was hard, but I got used to it, even though I was very young (I started kindergarten at 4).

    I agree that making a list of permissible snacks is the best thing to do, and really, milk does not need to be served. Heck, my kids drink very little milk, and they can drink fortified orange juice instead at the preschool. When it comes to severely allergic children (I was not one of those), I think a choice needs to be made. If the school cannot reasonably accomadate a child that is deathly allergic to common foods, the child should be educated elsewhere. The needs of a handful of kids are not more important than the majority – not saying they’re not important, but if the allergies are disruptive, it’s easier to move one child out than restructure the 20-odd others in a class.

    I’m sympathetic, but I do believe with a bit of practice, you can teach a small child how to be responsible (washing their hands, not sharing, etc), even at preschool age. Also, though, I’d question putting the child into an environment where the allergen is so readily accessable – is there another preschool available? There are so many variables, here, aren’t there?

  5. SKL says:

    When I was in KG, the teacher used to provide the snacks. They were usually little handfulls of dry cereal.

    Personally I find it irritating that they ask parents to do this. What if a parent forgets it’s his/her week or unintentionally buys a forbidden ingredient? Wouldn’t it make more sense for parents to fork over some dough at the beginning of the year and have the teacher pick something up during her personal shopping trip? I think I’d prefer that if I were a teacher, versus having to police what each parent sends.

    The other option is for the kids to bring their own snacks.

    And I agree that they probably don’t need a snack at all for a 3-hour class.

    Outside of meals, I only let my kids drink water. I would prefer that only water be served as a drink with “snacks.” I haven’t met anyone yet that was allergic to it.

    The allergies are a tough subject. They are a lot more prevalent nowadays and I’ve read that some exposure actually helps many kids get over their allergies over time. But then there is that exception where the child will have serious problems if they come in contact, and you can’t really mess with that. In KG you can control the situation by being smart about snacks, but what about full-day school? I for one want my kids drinking milk with their lunch every day. I don’t serve them juice at all – I don’t believe it’s a healthy choice for most children. In a case like that, I think it makes sense to provide a separate section where certain foods aren’t allowed. Maybe it would make sense to allow non-allergic kids to come and sit there too, provided they don’t bring any allergens with them, though that would be pretty complicated to police.

    The only other alternative I can think of is to send all the kids home for lunch. Really, it makes no sense to me to change the whole world’s healthy diet to accommodate a few kids.

    To me, a more important question is why are allergies increasing in our country and what can we do about it? I feel a lot more work needs to be done in this regard. At the rate we’re going, our grandkids won’t be able to eat anything.

  6. Sue says:

    Thanks for all the input. I didn’t really know what to say to my girlfriend when she was telling me this the other day. My son thankfully doesn’t have any allergies. I am glad that they have a list of approved foods put together for us though. I, however, would rather send snack to school for just my child off of the approved list than to have to provide for everyone.

    And what is so wrong with the kids drinking water? I don’t think they get enough of it anyway so I’m for water. Ellie is very good at knowing already (she’s 4) what she can and can’t eat, but will that stick with her when she’s in a room full of kids, I don’t know. At least in preschool it’s a more controlled environment since the kids don’t leave the classroom, but KG and up will prove a challenge. I don’t think they should take milk away from everyone else at lunch just b/c of a few kids. I just feel sad for them that they have to sit at a different table, BUT I know it’s for their safety. There’s just not one great answer is there?!

  7. Joy says:

    I feel this is really sad. I’d also like to know why there seem to be so many more allergies now than there used to be. Honestly, I can’t remember any like this years ago. There were so few, it wasn’t even an issue.

    I agree in pre-school, why do they need milk? I’m thinking the whole snack idea might be used as getting them used to eating lunch for next year. I don’t know for sure though. But these kids are young and I can see one child wiping away his milk moustache and then touching Ellie without even meaning any harm. I’m hoping the teacher uses this opportunity to explain we are all different and we need to respect the differences in others.

    I will come right out and say I hate the idea of separate tables. Being a former lunch lady, it sends a message of “different-ness” and kids really play that up and there could be teasing and making fun. Once the kids go to K though, there are no different tables. I’ve had lunch there and there is no other table. The kids eat with their class. Unless they plan to change that. I still don’t like the idea of it. It will be up to the child who has the allergy and the lunch people would never be able to keep track of these kids. All it takes is one kid to start something and the attention is taken off the kids who are allergic.

    We did have a “naughty” table for kids who misbehaved and I’m afraid if these kids are forced to eat alone, they will be made fun of and picked on outside. They will start to feel like outsiders and will only socialize with the other kids with the allergies. Lunch to kids is all about socializing. Trust me, I’ve been there and seen way more than I’d care to remember about bullying.

    Also, as kids get older, you really can’t tell other parent’s what not to put in lunches. To many people would balk at that. What if your kid only ate peanut butter sandwiches? So in the end, it’s up to the kids who are allergic. Kids do not wash their hands when they’re done eating. They run right outside and. I sure wish someone could come up with something.

  8. Joy says:

    I forgot to mention how I feel about my baby grandson starting pre-school tomorrow…..Baaawww, sob, sniffle sniffle, sob, sob………..I told him not to get bigger but he won’t listen…baaaaaaww, baaaaww, sob, sob…….sniffle……

  9. SKL says:

    Joy, I like your reasoning. I guess the question is, are today’s kids learning enough responsibility to be careful about their allergies? I have no doubt they can learn if they are taught from an early age. And maybe schools/parents could make it easier with some logistical planning, like boxing the child’s lunch and making it clear they are not allowed to touch any food that doesn’t come from their own box. But now you’re talking about putting the responsibility on the parent and the child. I think that’s a great idea, but nowadays many parents refuse to accept that.

    I do feel that if a child has a really extreme, deadly allergy to contact with a common food, the parents need to find alternative education for that child or at least keep him out of the cafeteria. Just like any special-needs child, there’s a limit to “reasonable accommodation” and sometimes it’s the individual who has to accommodate.

  10. SKL says:

    I’ve already told my daughters that they are not allowed to grow up, ever.

  11. Jennifer says:

    I totally agree with you SKL, both of your comments. When I think back to my own childhood we brought in our own snacks. Parents were expected to provide a snack for their child each day. If your child had an allergy, which was rare in those days, then you were assured they had a snack that was appropriate. We never (except on the rare special occasion) brought in a treat for the whole class. Honestly, if as a parent I had to provide snacks for the entire class for a week straight as Tosha mentioned above AND try to keep track of everyone’s allergies on top of it there’d be a whole lot of swearing in my kitchen (I’m an awful cook to begin with). While I wouldn’t mind doing it occasionally, every day for a week sounds like hell, even if it is only twice a year. (Sorry Tasha!) I suppose though that parents are less likely to forget their turn that way vs. the random way many classes do it….

    I also wonder why there’s such an increase in allergies as well and subscribe to several of the theories about our culture being too antibacterial. I also have wondered about the age that we first expose infants to foods. I won’t delve into beliefs here though. 🙂

    As SKL mentioned, an allergy so severe that a reaction is deadly is a far different matter than a simple rash or reaction. I’ve wondered how many kids with allergies to foods really are as severely allergic as to require such special treatment all the time? Not to sound harsh or to make it out like most parents are dishonest. I just wonder if all too often if asked the question on a form, “Is your child allergic to the following….” if parents check off items like peanuts, milk etc because their kids have REACTIONS and so they think they’re allergic to it. I’m not denying for a second that there are kids out there with severe allergies that require them to carry an Epi-pen. I know there are many. I also know though that there are many that are not. I speak of the latter.

    As a complete aside…I’ve been finding it disconcerting how many more kids in the world are allergic to natural items like milk, eggs, nuts…but NOT to artificial colorings and flavorings. Why is that? Seriously…can someone tell me?

  12. Joy says:

    That’s a really good question Jen. I wonder too what all these allergies are about.

  13. thegoddessanna says:

    Count me in on wondering about where the allergies are coming from. Like I said, I was a rarity back in the day myself. Although, my mom has a nasty allergy to onions and milk – but she was not born with it, I think it happened after she was ill.

    Also, about being allergic to natural but not artificial – I think it’s not truly an allergy in that case, but a sensitivity, and kids are sensitive to dyes and the like. My boys get sick from drinking regular milk, but not organic – the docs think it’s a sensitivity to the crap they give normal cows.

    And thirdly, water is awesome (even though I hate it). My kids would rather have ice water over milk or juice any day – the key is the addition of ice cubes. Makes it more special I guess. : )

  14. Tosha says:

    its twice a year for 3 different kids so I end up doing it 6 times a year..LOL…

  15. Jane says:

    I’m with the rest of you in wondering why all the allergies as time goes on. I didn’t know anyone who was allergic and now it seems to be the norm. Dylan starts pre-school too and we only have a list of “please, no peanuts.” We are to send them for our kids only. They also don’t get milk and we are to send what we choose. I also feel for children to eat at separate tables really makes them stand out as “different” and I never think that’s good. I don’t see why anyone would have to send snacks for the whole class. The only time we did that was for our birthdays.

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