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Gluten-Free, Vegan, Dairy-Free: Children & Their Food Allergies

It is hard enough managing food allergies, sensitivities and preferences in our own households.  When a child has celiac or other diseases/allergies, how do you manage to maintian this diet even outside the home?  Even if you pack his lunch for school, he will still have exposure to other children's foods. An urbanMama recently emailed:

I am looking for a "preschool" that accommodates gluten free.  In searching, I have only found Urban Roots.  But I wanted to post asking others if they knew of any childcare/preschools that run gluten free.  I have a celiac who, despite us packing his lunch, keeps having an exposure...correlating with EVERY time he goes to "school". 

Do you let others know, when he goes to birthday parties, school, playdates?  Do you ask that children do not share food?  Impose other rules or restrictions on children in these other environments? Going out to eat, do you only eat foods that your son can tolerate, to minimize chance of exposure?

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My daughter attends Sunnyside Mennonite Montessori in SE Portland. She has a milk allergy. She has her own tray at snack time and they keep a stash of "safe" snacks in the kitchen for her. Kids bring their own lunches and are not allowed to share food from home. There is another child in her class who has a nut allergy and he has his own tray as well. I've found them to be very conscientious.

Have you investigated smaller, in-home programs? You might be able to find one that is more willing to adjust the whole place for you, particularly if they already trend towards whole foods, etc. For instance, my kid attends a small, in-home Waldorf school (http://www.spindlewoodschool.com/) in NE with no more than 5 kids at a time. Pam, the teacher, is very sensitive to food issues. The school snack is generally gluten and dairy free and I am sure she would do gluten free 100% of the time if she had a Celiac in the class. The kids do bring their own lunch, but I don't get the sense that it is ever shared. With only 5 kids, I'm sure the teacher could watch and make the appropriate adjustments. I would also be searching for someone who wouldn't just police the no sharing but who would help the child learn how to self monitor.

My son goes to New Day in SE. They are vegan, and they are very good about accommodating allergies.

Kenilworth Cooperative is peanut & gluten free.

www.kenilworthcps.org/about.html

We send our son to Joyful Noise's downtown location, and they've been really great about working with us. Our son is gluten-intolerant but not celiac. We bring gluten-free foods in and store them in their kitchen. They make the necessary substitutions at snack and lunchtimes, and let us know when they're running low.

A lot of kids in his class have food restrictions. The school makes a "stop sign" for each kid, with a list of the restrictions on it, and those are on the food cart so teachers won't serve the wrong thing to a kid. They're also a nut-free facility.

My son has a sever sensitivity to dairy and food dyes, and has since preschool. We were fortunate to attend Little Fruit Farm montessori for preschool where they served organic fruits and veggies for snacks. In kindergarten, the parents took turn bringing snack for the entire class but we just packed extra each day for him.

He knows how we feels when he has dairy or food dyes and it's bad enough that he won't eat anything that is questionable. For parties or special events, we bring his own treats or snacks and it's never been a problem for us. When my daughter enters kindergarten next year, we'll probably continue to bring her own snack of her choosing so that we can ensure it's a healthy snack.

I understand that Celiac is a serious disease, and this will probably anger some, but I have to say it. I think it is wrong to place rules and restrictions on other children because of your child's medical problem. My opinion is, if your child is not old enough/ responsible enough to not share food / ovoid things they are not supposed to have then they probably are not ready to be at school with other children. If I didn't trust my child to make safe choices then I would just keep him/her home with me. I'm referring here to pre-school / school, which is optional until age 7. An age I think most kids can make safe choices. If what you need is "daycare" then a small environment where a caregiver will closely monitor his intake would be appropriate.

I would also recommend smaller home based preschool, especially one where lunch is not served and snack is provided by the school. Check out Dena at We Gather Together in the NE and Ms. Claudia at Morning Glory also NE- neither serves lunch. My son's preschool is Willow Tree in N pdx and we go have kids with allergies- all the kids know that we don't share food (and why) and a gluten free snack is provided but parents make lunches (not gf). sadly this issue will be lifelong for your child so learning to protect themselves is important.

"I think it is wrong to place rules and restrictions on other children because of your child's medical problem."

Wow. This is the kind of statement that only a parent of a child with no "medical problems" could make.

I recently read the story of a six-year-old girl in Florida with a life-threatening peanut allergy. Her school has accommodated her disability [a life-threatening allergy qualifies for protection under the ADA] by asking other kids in her classroom to wash their hands three times a day, and to not bring outside food containing nuts into the classroom. But a whole group of parents is angry about these accommodations, and they organized a public protest at the school. They want the girl removed from the classroom and home-schooled.

I'm quoting an essay (http://bit.ly/h2hO59) by Rachel Cohen Rottenberg in response to this article:

"One parent, who has never had to deal with a moment of disability in his child's life, was quoted as saying that he would never request such accommodations for his child. "If I had a daughter who had a problem, I would not ask everyone else to change their lives to fit my life," said Burr.

Oh, yes, you would, Mr. Burr. Oh, yes, you would. And you'd come up against exactly the kind of resistance you're creating.

What disturbs me most, though, is what's missing from the entire conversation: the understanding that it's an honor and a privilege to assist a fellow human being in creating a safe, welcoming, loving environment. Nowhere, in any of the articles I have read, has anyone talked about the fact that the disabled child has given all of her classmates an opportunity to act out of their highest ethical selves. As a society, we've clearly forgotten that it is more blessed to give than to receive."

In response to the original poster's question: my son attends the MECP preschool at Grout, and they are very careful about only allowing kids to eat the snacks they bring from home (and don't allow any nut products in the classroom). They do occasionally have snacks with wheat at holiday parties, but parents are notified in advance and asked to bring an alternate snack if necessary.

We love peanuts, too. I have to say, maybe it would be better for these kids with the life-threatening allergies to stay home until they could police themselves better.
Do you know that most daycare workers only make minimum wage? You are placing a lot of trust here on complete strangers to keep your child safe.

Sarah, I couldn't agree with you more. In 1980, I attended one of the only schools in our district that accomodated severely autistic children. The school developed a program that partnered non-autistic kids with the autistic kids for things like lunchtime, recess and even different study subjects. I was part of that program and it absolutely made me a better, more compassionate, more accepting person. I have always been so appreciative of that formative experience for me and all of the children at that school. As you say -- it was a privilege to have that opportunity. I realize that food allergies and sensitivities aren't quite the same thing as autism, but the overall concept is the same -- there is nothing wrong with learning at an early age that we all live on the planet together. It's so not a big deal to eliminate gluten and nuts from preschool snack time, for heaven's sake.

My daughter goes to Kenilworth Community Preschool. http://www.kenilworthcps.org/ Their classroom is gluten and nut free.

We accomodate all diets, allergies, and food sensitivities at Montessori Children's House (childrenshousepdx.com). In the Primary class we are currently dairy, gluten, peanut, egg, and sesame-seed free. It gives us (and the children) the opportunity to prepare and taste new things! We make sure that all food that is available is safe for everyone.

If you have any concern about your child's diet at MCH, please feel free to share your concern with us and we can discuss it on a case-by-case basis.

To "we love peanuts" and "trillium mum:" In our family I'm the one with the worst of the food sensitivities and I spend my life trying to advocate for myself and explain to people what I can and can't eat. And I *still* run into people *who serve food for a living* who are so clueless about food that they don't even know that white flour is a wheat product.

This isn't a problem with kids sharing food, it's a problem with adults being completely clueless about where their food comes from. And from the tone of your comments, completely lacking empathy for other people!

My youngest daughter has a severe bee sting allergy. Should I lock her in the house all summer? Of course not! I should be able to depend on the other adults around me to have the courage to jab her in the leg with an Epipen and call an ambulance if the need arises. Fortunately, I do have those people in my life. They know my kid's presence is worth a little extra planning.

And to trillium mum, do you not realize how deeply insulting your comment is to daycare workers? As if their paycheck determines their willingness to take a child's safety seriously. Come. On.

-Katherine "Not Afraid to Sign My Real Name" Gray

The Portland Jewish Academy's Early Childhood Learning Center, where my son attends, is vegetarian and is happy to work with gluten and milk allergies. One of the little girls in his class is extremely allergic to both, and there have been no problems--they buy special snacks for her.

My kids go to SW Parent Child Collective (ages 1-5) and they are VERY accommodating to all kids. We pack snack and lunch, but everyone is great about monitoring to make sure that no one is sharing food.

I highly recommend Childswork Learning Center. They are large, but very allergy aware, and are willing to accommodate any child's needs.

To the posters lamenting allergy accommodations - shame on you. Imagine what it would be like if your child could become gravely ill or worse from a bite of food. Imagine not being able to eat at restaurants. Imagine having to read the ingredients of every food you buy, and having to avoid anything that contains a laundry list of foods. Imagine having to bake your own cupcakes before every party your child attends so that they can bring one along. Imagine the feeling in the pit of your stomach when the school calls during the day - Because parents of kids with food allergies don't worry about their kids falling off the playground and getting hurt at school. We worry they'll be rushed to the hospital unable to breath because a friend spilled a glass of milk near their lunch. Just imagine it and try to empathize.

Parents of children with food allergies are not trying to make your lives difficult by asking for awareness. We are trying to raise healthy happy well adjusted children. And food allergies should not prevent that from happening.

To the original poster, I highly recommend Kids with Food Allergies, and the Oregon Food Allergy Network. Both are wonderful resources on living well with food allergies, navigating school, etc.

The wonderful school we use is already listed on this thread, so no need to repeat it. I would just recommend talking to a few schools. You'll know whether they can handle it just by talking to the staff. Good luck!

I meant to answer these questions, too:

Do you let others know, when he goes to birthday parties, school, playdates?

Yes, I do. I don't ask for accommodation, but my child is always with an emergency kit, which includes two epi pens, her action plan, and benadryl. I talk to the adult in charge to make sure they are aware and willing to give her an epi pen if needed. She brings her own food. No exceptions. Again though, I don't ask for accommodations.


Do you ask that children do not share food?

My child knows that she is not to share food. I don't care of others do. The only exception to this is when she wants to bring enough snack for the other child at playdates. Funny enough, I've been asked by the other child's parents several times where to buy the snacks I provide because their kids are asking for them (usually things like pumpkin seeds, and just tomatoes dried fruit, etc).

Impose other rules or restrictions on children in these other environments?

Nope - just that she only eat food that she brings. I also asked to be warned in advance when food is involved (i.e.: class party) so that I can supply a safe treat for her so that she doesn't feel left out.

Going out to eat, do you only eat foods that your son can tolerate, to minimize chance of exposure?

We don't eat out with her. She can't eat in restaurants, as there is too much chance for exposure. However, when we are out for dates, we eat what we want, and just wash our hands after to avoid exposure to her.

There's a child at my daughter's preschool who doesn't eat gluten (I don't know if he has celiac) and I've seen accommodations made. It's Open Minds at https://sites.google.com/a/openmindspreschool.com/www/

I don't think it's unreasonable at all to expect that a childcare provider will strictly monitor a child's food intake and prevent sharing of food, provide an "uncontaminated" space for a child with a severe allergy, etc. In a school/childcare setting where parents send lunch, I do think it's asking a little much to forbid all parents from sending lunch with wheat products or dairy products for their own child. If a school prepares food for all the children and can accomodate gluten- or dairy-free, that's awesome (and should be clear before one enrolled their child). But I wouldn't trust parents of every classmate to not send gluten foods (as someone mentioned above, many people don't even know what is in their food!).

Emily: I am not sure I was clear-- the lunches prepared by parents for at my school are not prepared gluten-free. People send whatever they want for their kids for lunch, it's just that the school provided snack is gluten-free (or at least a gf option is available). I think that the answer isn't so black and white (as usual): certainly some accommodations should and can be easily made for a child with allergies, but the child must also learn to manage their environment, which (to me) sounds like this parent is doing very well at to have a kit and action plan which the adults in charge know about.

of course kids need to learn to manage their own needs. that the work of growing up, isn't it? but the notion that kids shouldn't go to preschool or public school (really?!) until they can self-manage is outrageous. if your kid has needs you don't trust anyone else with and you have the flexibility to stay home with them - great! i mean that.

but prostestors in the florida school who think they shouldn't have to be careful with peanuts in an environment with kids affected by life-threatening allergies astound me. i love peanuts, too. and nobody i know is allergic. but i can eat peanut butter in my house and think of something else to bring for lunch. fortunately, gluten and dairy problems typically require more exposure than peanuts to present serious reactions - so we mostly have to keep kids from sharing food until they can self-manage. how difficult or unreasonable is that really?

My child does not have a life-threatening food allergy (thankfully!), but he does have a great number of severe food intolerances that affect his behavior and his ability to function socially with others. His preschool is great -- kids all bring their own snacks and kids are not allowed to share food. They tell us ahead of time if any group food will be served. And they keep a special stash of treats for him (which we provided) just in case a parent drops by with a surprise treat for the other kids due to a birthday or other celebration.

The challenge we have faced (and still struggle with) is getting people to understand that even a *little* of the offending food is a problem. Because his major problem food is corn and corn by-products (and corn is in *everything*) we have recently had to restrict all his eating to only things we provide, even when he is with grandparents and his long-time childcare provider. The truth is, no one else truly understands, and I haven't found a way to help people "get it." Maybe if I lied and told people he has a life-threatening food allergy? I am curious to know what others in this situation have done? How do you get family members and others to take it seriously when the allergy isn't actually life-threatening?

just wanted to clarify that i understand even a tiny amount of gluten, dairy (or corn, as above) ingested by an intolerant person can be a big problem. wasn't suggesting it's ok if celiac kids eat a little gluten, for example. just that being near gluten isn't life-threatening like being near peanuts can be. or at least, i haven't heard that it is...

the kids i know who have serious intolerances do seem to have figured out quite young that they need to look after their own needs. so, to anon above, i don't have experience getting others to take intolerances seriously, but hopefully your son will be increasingly careful as he gets older and really notices how he feels when he eats foods he shouldn't.

My daughter went to Childswork. The teachers are extremely attentive to any food allergies or food issues.

I am so disheartened by the posters here who think that children who have allergies (children! small, developing human beings who are not perfect and shouldn't be expected to be able to exercise total self-control) should be excluded from basic life experiences like education and friendship and exploration in a school setting. I am also totally dismayed by the assumption that we all, on uMamas and in society in general, could actually *afford* to stay home with our children in this economy. Is it really too much to ask other parents to care just a little bit, as in please don't bring something to school that could KILL my child, about children who are not their own? I understand that PB&Js are a part of the fabric of American childhood. Could it possibly be true that this small piece of nostalgia and individual preference would be worth a child's life?

I don't have much to add to the eloquent responses to several of the parents of kids with severe food allergies, but I will say this - not every disability is visible, and expecting a preschooler who has food allergies or intolerances to monitor their own intake is a noble goal... with serious consequences if an error gets made (unlike, say, potty training?). Many kiddos are also wrestling with issues like adhd, autism and sensory disorders, which are usually compounded by their exposure to restricted foods. So while my then-3 year old learned to ask with suspicion "does it have soy in it?" when someone pulled out a food box, it was difficult to explain that no, french fries weren't safe because they'd been fried in soy oil. (We found this out after he vomited and had GI distress for 3 days.)... His list of restricted foods is now so long he simply turns to us and says "Will it make me sick?" His pre-K was wonderful and understanding (with a Celiac teacher!), and yet he still got the wrong plate a few times, or had another child give him something (he has a hard time saying no). That does not mean that he should be kept apart from other children, tho it might have been easier for us - it means his friends have an opportunity to learn inclusion, tolerance and appreciation for differences at an early age. Given the issues with bullying, cliques and other dysfunctional coping skills poorly-socialized older kids develop in our over-crowded classrooms, I would think one would appreciate the chance to have their kids learn something positive and powerful so early in their lives. (This is, of course, besides a an expectation to show some basic human compassion....) Good luck on finding a good school fit and make sure to find at least some online support - it's a hard lifestyle at first, but it becomes easier, and even the most skeptical indulgent grandparent can become an advocate for food sensitivity issues!

Children needs to be guided in term of choosing the right food for them. they do not know what are those right food and they do not know the balance diet.

My son is severely allergic to tree nuts, as are two other children in his preschool class, and his school has been very accomodating in excluding nut products from the classroom. When you are dealing with preschool-aged children, you simply cannot expect them to fully understand their allergy or the potential consequences of exposure--which can include death. Given the gravity of the situation, I really don't think it's too much to ask of other families to keep an allergy-causing food out of their children's lunches. My child should not have to miss out on vital childhood experiences because of his allergy, and his life shouldn't need to be at risk because someone had to have granola with cashews at lunch. People who feel otherwise need to gain some perspective.

I learnt recently that food can effect on child's behave. The root of child behavior lied in the brain and the real reason of kids misbehave is in the child's brain chemistry. . If the child's nervous system is stressed by any kind of stimulation, then the brain itself may not function as best as it should be and the result can be what people have called a "naughty" or "bad behaved" child. There are some foods will help in child's brain health and some will break the balance of brain nerve.

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Thankfully, no one in my family has food allergies or sensitivities but children in my son’s school do. Peanut allergies, in particular, are dangerous as the oils from peanut butter can easily transfer from a kid’s hands to toys or playground equipment unnoticed. It makes perfect sense to me, therefore, that we not be allowed to send any food products to school that contain nuts. Why would I ever want to do anything that could put another child’s life or well-being at risk? For the love of a PB&J no less.

We have our peanut butter sandwhiches for breakfast and after school snacks. And when my son asks me about it, I welcome the opportunity to teach him about tolerance and accommodating others. Someday, my son will need someone to accommodate his needs- whatever they may be. We all will.

Shining Star will work with families who are gluten free. All their food is not gluten free (they make spelt buns) but they will make sure that your child has his/her own supplies so as not to contaminate. Our class this year has been nut free too.

Hello, I have a small in home preschool. I provide the snack, which I am happy to accommodate allergies and serve something that everyone can enjoy that is also gluten free or dairy free or whatever the case may be. Children bring a lunch from home, in order to accommodate every child's personal needs, but do not share these items. The last 2 years I had a child in my class with celiac's and diabetes, so I do have some experience. My own children are not intolerant but have some food sensitivities/allergies as well.
Not sure what area of town you are in, but I am located in southwest near the SW community center/Gabriel park area. Best of luck to you...
Brynn Anderson
Lotus Heart Preschool

please tell me that all these last few comments are being posted by the same person? please? it's not nearly as funny otherwise.

To suggest that a child's food allergies is the fault of a parent is not only insensitive, it is misinformed. I am not a clean freak, let my kids get dirty, play outside and get sick. However, our oldest had numerous food allergies from an early age (7 months)--all of which she has outgrown except tree nuts/peanuts. She is careful, never eats others' food, and even asks candygivers at halloween about ingredients. Our family has found a way to cope and we don't let the food allergy be a salient part of our lives.
As a parent it is frustrating that despite varying hypotheses, we don't know why food allergies are on the rise. All we have in our arsenal is to avoid the allergenic food and carry the epi-pen. It has been a tricky road to navigate these past 5 years, but she survived preschool for years and will head to Kindergarten in the Fall well prepared on how to be a kid first, and eat safely too. To all the parents dealing with food restrictions, you can do this, it's all about having clear conversations with teachers and your kid.

Obviously a majority of the last postings are from someone just trying to cause a stir with hurtful words.
Is there any kind of moderating on urbanmamas? Because to those momma's with kid's that have food issues this is REALLY abusive.
Our children's health is nothing to make light of.
Seriously.

"Our children's health is nothing to make light of."

OK. I agree, but I also think that allergy-paranoia as expressed in this thread is way over the top. There's a balance to be struck that I think is lost on many (most?) on this board.

It's easy to say that "food allergies are on the rise", when in fact reality might be that "food allergy diagnoses are on the rise". There IS a difference. Do you really think that in the span of one generation, our species has somehow mutated to be violently reactive to some basic food ingredients that were relatively benign to numerous prior generations?

Think back to when you were growing up: there wasn't the paranoia around food allergens that there is today. People who were allergic were taught to manage it themselves, but whole classrooms of kids weren't forced to adapt to the needs of a single student. At least in my case (in Oregon in the 1980s), no one fell over dead or violently ill from a food allergy in my school.

The only thing that could have possibly changed is the approach that we take with our children. Are today's kids really more sensitive? Perhaps, but if they are, I think it's far more likely to result from insisting on a sterile environment for our kids than some biological shift in our bodies or our surroundings. It's a behavioral problem on the part of the parent: if you keep your kids in a virtual bubble all the time, then of course they'll be allergic to what's outside it.

In the end, in my opinion, the problem isn't the peanuts or milk or processed food or inattentive school workers or naysaying board trolls. It's the helicopter parents that insist on controlling every aspect of the lives of their children every second of the day. If your kid is really more allergic than they would have been otherwise, look inward, not outward for the cause.

I agree that kid's health isn't something to be made light of, but I think that it's ridiculous that everyone here seems to look for solutions and accommodations from everyone else rather than being a bit more introspective as to why this is a problem to begin with.

We were spammed, and I believe several of those comments have been deleted. We are so sorry that it happened. We do try to keep an eye on the conversation without over moderating or censoring.

An actual diagnosis of severe food allergy has absolutely nothing to do with a child being sensitive, coddled, or having an over protective parent. A true life threatening allergy is something no one wants to have. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) is an organization where one can go to get reliable information about this, not just somebody's opinion, experience or anecdote. It is easy to label a discussion as paranoid from your keyboard. This issue is no different from wearing a seatbelt, taking note of recalled toys, or keeping your child safe in any other way that life in 2011 requires. Could we all be less alarmist about food allergies? probably. Knowledge will lead the way, not hot headed rants.

I guess the difference in my mind comes when we are talking the difference between limiting snacks (makes sense) and limiting lunches (less so). Our last school did away with shared snack all together for this reason. But at a certain point in the year between the peanut, milk, soy, egg, and gluten allergies in the school there were very few options left for the children's (especially the vegetarians) lunches. Everyone wanted their offending food excluded but it was unworkable. It's the same with the Florida story. A treenut- free policy inside the classroom and hand washing is completely reasonable, but forced mouth-rinsing before entering the classroom seems over the line. If a child is so medically fragile that people have to rinse their mouths before safely being in the same room with her that seems to put her situation well beyond 'peanut allergy' and I wonder how fair it is under those circumstances to make a teacher or other children responsible for her well being.

"I think it's far more likely to result from insisting on a sterile environment for our kids than some biological shift in our bodies or our surroundings. It's a behavioral problem on the part of the parent: if you keep your kids in a virtual bubble all the time, then of course they'll be allergic to what's outside it."

If you want to talk hygiene theory, then read up on it, because you are sadly misinformed. Hygiene theory says that there has been a shift in our environment - through vaccines, and all the comforts of living in a first world country. People in small villages in Africa don't have as many food allergies, and it's been theorized that it's because of their environment - less sanitized overall, prevalence of intestinal parasites, less vaccines, etc.

It's not about a house that's too clean, or keeping a child in a bubble.

It is a fact that food allergies are more prevalent.
It is a fact that they are more severe than they used to be.
It is a fact that they are taking longer to outgrow.

You can find these facts by doing a search of the archives from FAAN conferences and studies of board certified allergists presenting at the annual AAAAI conferences.

As a parent of a child with severe food allergies, the ONLY thing I try to do is give my child a normal childhood experience. My kid is not in a bubble. My kid is in kindergarten, does sports, goes to parties, sleepovers, playdates, etc and is a normal kid. Perhaps more importantly, at age 5, my child, because of the food allergies, has learned more compassion than several of the adults on this board.

One point where we agree is the importance of teaching children to manage their allergies. We have never asked for accommodation. What we do is inform my child's caretakers of the allergy, and surround ourselves with people who have the compassion and willingness to look out for my child, and to help my child learn to self advocate. But children are that - children. Mistakes happen. Is it too much to ask that the other adults in their lives help to minimize the chance of those mistakes?

We are talking about children here, as well as other mamas who are just trying to do their best. I hope you never have to walk a day in these shoes, but please at least give other mamas the benefit of the doubt. We may not be as perfect as you (clearly not, since our kids have allergies) but we are doing our best.

i think the original question in the post was about gluten, but since we're talking about life-threatening allergic reactions...

asking children to rinse their mouths out after lunch doesn't even sound like a huge imposition to me. though, what i read about the florida story is that kids wash hands and wipe faces after lunch - without any limitation on bringing peanut products. is that really a big deal? it could SAVE A KID'S LIFE.

do you remember the girl who died in canada a year or 2 ago because her boyfriend ate a peanut butter sandwich a couple of hours before they kissed? that girl's parents could have been munchausen cases - i don't know. but their muchausen didn't kill her. peanuts did. hard to argue that we shouldn't be careful with some allergens where kids are concerned.

I just read that they had to drop the twice a day forced mouth rinsing. My point was, if she is so fragile/allergic that being in a room with someone who ate a granola bar at home has the potential to kill her that seems a great deal of responsibility for the teacher and other children to take on. It's a big step above the completely reasonable nut free space, wash your hands and wipe your desk idea. I just wonder at what point it becomes too much.

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Our son goes to the Alberta Early Learning Community (aelc at gmail.com) in NE. They are a very small preschool that is completely off the radar. They have been amazing at accommodating his allergies. Now that we are really clear about what he can't eat, I pack his lunch and snacks. He still sits around the table with his peers and his teachers (who also own the school) and they make sure he doesn't eat the other stuff. They have been amazing every step of the way - from "we think he can't eat X" to "no popcorn ever, amongst all the other stuff".

For birthday parties, we bring our own cupcakes and food. Sometimes we eat at home beforehand, also, just to be sure our appetites are satisfied. We never expect others to meet our needs. I should add, though, that our son doesn't have life threatening allergies. If that were the case, I probably would think differently on that. My son and I share the same allergies, so I don't worry about minimizing exposure.

Our son,now 4, has a delay in his speech development and a diagnosed communication disorder. It has taken awhile to have him understand and communicate that he cannot eat gluten, corn, soy, cow's milk, eggs, wheat, oats, and cane sugar. It has also taken ME awhile to navigate this. While I share these allergies, I am now in a rather unfortunate position trying to cook every meal and snack (eating out is rarely an option for us).

To the poster(s) who suggested we keep our kids at home until they can police themselves: I need a break to 'put my oxygen mask on first' and fill my cup back up, which is why he is in preschool two days a week. I simply cannot parent my child solo six days a week while my husband runs his business to support our family - while cooking every single meal and snack. Cooking has become a full time job. While I am really gifted at this (I'm actually starting a food blog & coaching business), I wouldn't wish this on anyone. It is isolating stuff. Kids and their parents deserve inclusion and compassion.

This food allergy stuff is a great way to feel really isolated in an urban place. In our culture, food is social. It is what a lot of humans bond over. So when my child, who already has learning differences, has to eat a different meal than his peers, I not only worry about cross-contamination. I also worry about his self-esteem around being that much more different than his peers. It gets murky for him.

And then there are times like the other day, which was his birthday. I forgot his lunch and snacks because I didn't want to forget to bring his birthday cupcakes (which the school normally provides). By the time I arrived at a coffee shop for down-time, I realized this, rushed home on my bike, and rushed back to his preschool with his lunch sack. The poor kid had such a worried look on his face because he knows that he can't eat anything else. When I left, I broke down in a puddle of tears because the pressure is too much to bear some times.

Just fyi, Jojo, that peanut butter kiss story turned out to be untrue. Christina Desforges died of an asthma attack that was likely related to second hand smoke at a lengthy party, not peanut butter. The coroner in the case said that research shows there are no traces of allergen in saliva an hour after ingestion, and in that case nine hours had passed since her boyfriend had peanut butter on his toast. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-500486_162-1614851-500486.html

aprpa, one reason that food allergies are on the upswing involves some faulty scientific recommendations that held sway for several years and are only now being corrected. Based on some flimsy evidence, well meaning public health folks strongly advised moms to withhold certain foods (wheat, peanuts, etc etc) from babies. They thought that early introduction of those foods would make children allergic. I pasted one of those handy dandy charts to my fridge to make sure I didn't feed anything too early. The trouble is, now they think that withholding those foods actually fostered some severe allergies, and the recommendations have completely switched to favor early introduction. The trouble is, all those children who have these accidentally caused allergies are now in preschool, K, grade and middle school.
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/02/07/110207fa_fact_groopman
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1968474,00.html

anonymous, thank you for the correction about the reported death related to peanuts. i hadn't heard the follow up.

That death turned out not to be a result of peanuts. However, you can find lots of deaths of children of food allergies. One of the best known is Sabrina Shannon of Canada, which spurred "Sabrina's law". Info here: http://allergicliving.com/index.php/2010/07/02/sabrinas-law-the-girl-and-the-allergy-law/

And one closer to home...a boy who died in WA from a lunch provided on a school field trip...http://www.spokesmanreview.com/news-story.asp?date=052403&ID=s1354896

I could provide more links to others, but I think this makes the point. Food allergy deaths happen. Common? no. But they do happen. And they can be avoided if we all show a little compassion to those children who have them.

You gals are a hoot.

mamatothree, I wasn't suggesting that there aren't food allergy deaths. However, the reason the "peanut kiss" received so much attention is that initially, people thought Christina died because someone ELSE ate peanuts hours earlier, which seemed very unlikely - that's why it was so newsworthy - and which also turned out to be untrue. I can't imagine how terrified parents of peanut-allergic children were while that story had its moment. In reality, as the coroner said, she probably died because someone else was smoking around her, aggravating her asthma - a story that is horrifying in a different way. In both cases that you are citing, the children seem to have directly ingested the protein that they were allergic to. Interestingly, both cases had nothing to do with what their classmates or classmates' parents did or did not do, but with how their schools were handling food. One conclusion you could draw from THOSE cases is that the schools should be taken out of the food handling business altogether, with students returning home for meals or parents packing lunches. That is common in many other countries, but perhaps wouldn't work in the U.S., because so much poverty relief is received through school meal programs.

Some interesting facts about food allergies from the head of the Food Allergy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children.

From ENTToday, March 2011:

Perhaps even more noteworthy to many otolaryngologists was the recommendation that “introduction of solid foods should not be delayed beyond 4 to 6 months of age,” including the introduction of potentially allergenic foods (Guideline 40). “The prior thinking was that you had to withhold milk for a year, eggs for two years, and nuts and seafood for three years, and now they’re saying that there’s really no reason to withhold anything beyond four to six months,” Dr. Reisacher said.

“That’s a very big change in what was advised previously,” said Dr. Mahoney, who noted that the new recommendations are in agreement with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) own recently revised guidelines (Pediatrics. 2008;121(1):183-91).

Dr. Simon said the major revision has come as the result of some surprising new research. “There’s some data suggesting that we may have completely missed the boat on this one, and that potentially earlier introduction of food may actually be a good idea,” he said. “At that point, the infant’s immune system is very, very underdeveloped, and it may accept the food and get tolerant to it, whereas if you wait longer, when the immune system has really matured, that’s when it’s going to see it as something foreign and then develop the allergy. So we may have had this really backwards.”
http://www.enttoday.org/details/article/1025783/Closing_the_Knowledge_Gap_New_food_allergy_guidelines_provide_clarity_to_some_ot.html

Not that it's important, but I read a little more about the Christine Desforges case today and I didn't want to leave anyone with the wrong impression. The coroner emphasized several asthma triggers that happened before she collapsed, including the fact that she was at a party with smokers, the fact that she smoked pot that evening, and that she had been engaging in "physical exertion" with her boyfriend (the one who had had peanut butter on his toast nine hours earlier). The coroner's overall message is that adolescents with asthma often feel invincible and don't fear the disease as much as they should. http://ottawaasg.com/OASG2006/Downloads/CANADA11May06.pdf

Thought I should add that I have a gluten-intolerant daughter in PPS and I have found that I feel very safe with their policies. They do not allow children to share food and I have provided some pre-packaged gluten-free treats for if an unplanned event comes up. If you call the nutrition center they can go over the ingredient lists and let you know which school lunches are safe...turns out my daughter can have beef nachos but not the bean nachos. Of course, my daughter is old enough and honest enough that she will tell an adult when she thinks she shouldn't have something.

We love peanuts, too. I have to say, maybe it would be better for these kids with the life-threatening allergies to stay home until they could police themselves better.

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