twitter facebook stumble upon rss

Peanut Butter Panic

sign up for the momlogic newsletter Tweet This

Poor peanut butter. It has taken such a beating over the years.

girl eating peanut butter sandwhich

Jennifer Ginsberg: The fear of peanut allergies is so widespread that nearly all schools have become "Peanut Free Zones." I actually remember a time when I could bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school. Amazingly, I never witnessed the spontaneous death of another child from the mere scent of my sandwich.

Now we are told that if we pack an item in our child's lunchbox that not only contains peanuts, but any nuts, and anything that has been produced in a facility that processes peanuts, we may put another child into anaphylactic shock.

At my stepdaughter's private school, we were sent notes home on a weekly basis about this very topic. One note went so far as to threaten that even if our child had peanut butter for breakfast, the allergic child could still smell trace amounts on her hands and have a horrible reaction. Peanut butter is now contraband, and we are required to eliminate it entirely from our child's life because your child might have the 1 in 10,000 chance of a peanut allergy.

Strangely, "Peanut Butter Panic" is an affliction unique to upper-class Americans. When I told a group of moms in my toddler's play group that she loves peanut butter and eats delicious spoonfuls of it on a daily basis, the gasps were palpable. "But ... I didn't even think you were allowed to do that!" one mom exclaimed, clearly alarmed, as if I had given my daughter a pot brownie. The general consensus in the room was that peanut butter was dangerous, something to be avoided for the first three years of life, if not forever.

Do you ever hear about children in third-world countries having peanut allergies? Not only are these allergies nonexistent in most parts of the world, peanuts actually save the lives of starving children in Africa! A therapeutic feeding program called Project Peanut Butter has been developed by the leading authority on severe child malnutrition, Dr. Manary. Endorsed by the World Health Organization, Project Peanut Butter recognizes the amazing nutritional value of the peanut and uses it to make a formula for starving children which offers a 95 percent recovery rate.

Is it possible that the poor peanut has become a scapegoat for all of the anxieties associated with parenthood? The world can be a frightening place, and perhaps it is easier to launch a war on peanut butter than it is to bravely face the real issues which threaten our children. According to some doctors, 25 percent of parents believe their children have a serious allergy, while in actuality only 4 percent do. Roughly, the same number of Americans die each year from lightning striking them as from peanut allergies. Perhaps we should make our schools "Lightning Free Zones" as well!

It is time to lay off the poor peanut. If you happen to be the parent of a child with a legitimate peanut allergy, please do not demand that all nuts be removed from my child's life. Teaching your child that the entire world needs to accommodate him is not a realistic life lesson. It is your job to keep your child safe until they are able to do so themselves.

Peanuts are a healthy and delicious food for the overwhelming majority of children, not to mention a lifesaver for many. Let's start to give the peanut the respect it is due!



next: My Child Is Having Surgery
794 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jen November 27, 2009, 12:56 PM

First of all, I know what the dangers are of individuals having a peanut allergy but let’s keep this in perspective, only 1% of the population have this particular allergy. The author is stating that a school sending home notes to dictate what kids eat at HOME and completely banning it from school is extreme. Wouldn’t it be better to educate children on allergies? Also, if a child has an allergy then the school should have an EpiPen, in cases of emergency. Also, Claudia, please read your facts!!! You CANNOT go into anaphylytic shock by smelling peanuts. There is no protein in smell!!

Cristina November 28, 2009, 3:47 PM

Go to FAI or FAAN or Protect Allergic Kids for information/support. This article doesn’t state the facts. You can have a reaction from touch or smell. Peanut oils are difficult to remove. The statistics are higher each year for epinephrine administration. Why put a child and their friends through this tramatic experience. An epi-pen just buy you time to get to the hospital. It is not a cure. My son is 9 and has had several accidents at the hands of educated and informed adults. No child should have the complete burden to monitor their safety. They cannot control certain situations at school. And as said earlier parents are not at school to supervise. There are simple steps a school can take like setting up safe zones and eliminating food for birthdays. After all, aren’t we a country that is battling childhood obesity and diabetes? Some schools serve soybutter instead of peanut butter in the lunchroom. Anaphylaxis is recognized as a disability under the ADA. Parents should request a 504 plan to protect your child’s civil rights and keep them safe in school.

Colleen November 28, 2009, 5:25 PM

I am going to come back and write again
Right now I am very angry

My son is allergic to peanuts
THEY WILL HURT HIM

I used to love peanut butter
And I would eat it by the spoonful
My son is allergic and I never ate in the house again

WHY
Because my son’s life is more important then peanut butter

In face he is allergic to a lot more then peanut butter
Have you ever heard of
eosinophilic disorders
Please check out www.apfed.org
For more info
My child survives on a feeding tube
Why
Because he is allergic to food

Do NOT say we are panicing
Walk in our footsteps for a day
I am sure your article would read differently
And if your only problem in the world is that your child can not eat his or her peanut butter sandwich at school
I would like to walk in your footsteps

I carry a medical bag and formula and food pump and his 5 safe foods everywhere he goes.
That is a REAL problem

Andrea November 28, 2009, 5:26 PM

I am appalled at your callous ignorance. So your child can’t bring PBJ to school..have them eat it at another time. My child is indeed anaphylactic to ALL nuts including peanuts. Any trace amount of these allergens can be fatal to my child. I watched my child nearly die as she was gasping for air turning blue and covered with hives just from cross contamination of one of the nuts she is allergic to. Be happy you don’t have to constantly monitor what your child eats in fear of a severe allergic reaction. Unless you walk a mile in my shoes, do not judge. When you are told A CHILD CAN DIE from your precious one’s favorite snack, do not take it lightly..you don’t know which of the 4% out of the 25% your are dealing with. It is not up to your discretion to make that decision. We live in a society where we embrace one another’s diversity & have become so PC to avoid hurting the feelings of others. The same principal applies here & you may be saving a young innocent life. This is a serious issue and there are gov’t guidlines & policies which back it up under the Americans with Disabilites act..a person who has anaphylaxis related to a medical issue is technically considered disabled. So back off, educate yourself a little further & I invite you to watch a video of someone experiencing anaphylaxis due to just a small amount of exposure. There is a reason why all schools and child care facilities are paying attention to food allergies, IT IS SERIOUS. There is no reason to risk a child’s life & don’t take on the ‘so what, give them Benadryl or stick them with EpiPen’ this is a traumatic experience for a child..imagine if your own had to be injected because they couldn’t breath and were turning blue just because they touched a surface or came within close proximity of someone who has pbj on thier breath. It happens, it happened to mine & no one should have to see their child go through this. This is more serious than you play it out to be any many more people are on board to help protect the lives of allergic kids. The number of related deaths is low because of increased awareness and vigilance from the schools and child care. The kids are more sympathetic to their peers than parents like you. Shame on you.

Pamela November 28, 2009, 5:56 PM

Hello,
I think since you have children without these issues you seem to understand the severity of the situation. I raised a child with no allergies or any other issues and she just turned 20 a couple of days ago. I now have a 27 month old little boy who has Eosinophilic Esaphagitus. I am sure you never heard of that as it is very rare. We are not sure if my son would have an anaflactice reaction to peanuts or not due to his condition. But I think you should stop spouting off at the mouth and think about this as if this was your little child that could die from this type of reaction and just because you have not seen it personally doesn’t mean anything. You are ignorant and should understand what other parents are going through to fight to protect their children. Is it more important for your child to have an P&J sandwich and jeopardize the health of another? What a selfish person you and when there are so many other foods out there to choose from. I would never wish what my husband and I and son are the rest of our family are dealing with on another person but today part of me wishes people like you knew what it felt like to live this life that we do. However, I would never no matter what wish this life on any child no matter what. You should understand what you are talking about before you rattle off these issues.

Laura K. November 28, 2009, 7:01 PM

Jennifer - I am someone who has no family member with peanut or any other kind of food allergies, thank goodness. But, a few years ago, I witnessed a stranger’s child completely stop breathing and subsequently die (I later found out) due to a peanut allergy just because she was in proximity of a kid who had it in his lunchbag. I think you are dangerous in your quick dismissal of just how deadly peanut allergies are. I think your kid can forego a pb&j if it means another kid may be able to, oh, I don’t know, BREATHE! Call me selfish.

CBear November 28, 2009, 8:38 PM

I am appaled by the lack of investigating on the part of the person who wrote this article, If someone at your daughters school has a severe peanut allergy (as it sounds like is the case, by all the letters and precautuions) hyper vigilance is very necessary inorder to protect this child. Then thay are all very necessary. No we do not need to ban it from every school, but yes it does need to be banned from any school with a child with a severe peanut allergy! Please do your homework. BTW I do not have a child with an allergy, but was happy to follow all precautions when a classmate of her was.

Kendra November 28, 2009, 9:51 PM

As the mother of a child allergic to peanuts and many other foods (as confirmed by testing evaluated by specialists with extensive training and observations made by multiple ER physicians), I am incensed by this article! I do not disagree that it is impractible and unfair for parents of kids with allergies to expect the entire world to change for them. However, I also think that common decency should lead people to WANT to accommodate my child in every reasonable way.

Not only is it incorrect to say that “nearly all schools” are peanut free zones, but many (most?) parents of peanut allergic children have never requested this restriction on their children’s classmates! My son is not the only child in his classroom of 20 students with a life threatening peanut allergy. The school is not peanut free, but the classroom is. Other students may eat peanut butter in the cafeteria for lunch, but treats sent to school for birthdays and other special occasions must be peanut and tree nut free. The reason for this is multi-faceted. First, peanuts and tree nuts are NOT necessary in the diets of children. Convenient and potentially healthy choices? Yes. But something a child cannot live without at snack time? No. My child HAS reacted to contact and airborne peanut exposures. We do not ask the entire world to stop eating peanuts and tree nuts. We ask for his CLASSROOM to be nut free so that it will be a safe learning environment for him and his friend who is also allergic to peanuts.

The author, in her attempt to paint all parents of peanut allergic kids as irrational, has pointed out the accepted statistic that only 4% of people will have a true food allergy. She fails to indicate that the rate of food allergy is higher among children — more in the range of 6 to 8%. She also fails to indicate that peanuts are the most common cause of severe and life-threatening food allergic reactions in the U.S.

The author uses the 4% figure to show that 16% of the population imagines allergies that apparently do not exist. This supports her bias that parents requesting accommodations for their food allergic children are hysterical and likely imagining their child’s medical condition. But just a few paragraphs before this, the author stretches the numbers for her own agenda when she says that there is a 1 in 10,000 chance of your child having a peanut allergy. According to the math that I was taught in school, 4% of the population would actually be a chance of 4 in 100 or 1 in 25 if you want to reduce it down for more precise comparison. If we’re going to use statistics to make a point then let’s use them accurately, shall we?

As for the statement that peanut allergies do not exist in third world countries… First, I know of no study where researchers have gone to third world countries to do the necessary allergy testing. Instead, they rely on public records to identify causes of death. Chances are that those in remote third world locations with no doctor in the vicinity would be able to accurately determine the cause of death in every circumstance. I also wonder whether if it is typical for children in third world countries to frequently eat peanuts if they are not part of the Project Peanut Butter feeding program that was mentioned. (Kind of tough for a person to develop an allergy to something they’ve never been exposed to!) Also toward this point… Allergies are an inherited condition. Third world countries are still somewhat subject to the Survival of the Fittest theory, whereas those in developing nations are able to cheat death thanks to the availability of antihistamines, systemic steroids and epinephrine. Those with severe allergies are therefore able to survive into adulthood to reproduce, potentially with another allergic individual, resulting in another generation of allergic kids. It stands to reason that if allergic individuals die at a young age in third world countries, that there would be fewer allergic individuals to contribute to the next generation of allergic children than in developed nations.

Rather than railing against the parents of children with a life threatening medical condition, it would be more appropriate to ask what you can do to make life a little easier for their family. Something as simple as choosing to eat something other than a PB&J just before spending time with a peanut allergic individual can cut down on incidental exposure caused by the unseen food proteins that remain on your hands, clothes and in your saliva. Washing your hands after eating or handling food, even if they seem clean, will cut down on the transmission of unseen food proteins which can and DO cause life threatening allergic reactions for some patients. (Doing so would carry the added bonus of cutting down on the tranmission of germs.) Planning a birthday or classroom celebration where food is not the main focus or (gasp!) is absent altogether allows allergic children the opportunity to fully interact with their classmates without reminding them yet again that they are different.

By all means, attack the policy of school-wide peanut bans that do nothing but raise your anger and provide a false sense of security for the parents of children with peanut allergy. But in doing so, please remember that a child’s LIFE is at stake and that you have the power to help that child live to see another day!

Kendra November 28, 2009, 10:04 PM

Continued from above…

The author uses the 4% figure to show that 16% of the population imagines allergies that apparently do not exist. This supports her bias that parents requesting accommodations for their food allergic children are hysterical and likely imagining their child’s medical condition. But just a few paragraphs before this, the author stretches the numbers for her own agenda when she says that there is a 1 in 10,000 chance of your child having a peanut allergy. According to the math that I was taught in school, 4% of the population would actually be a chance of 4 in 100 or 1 in 25 if you want to reduce it down for more precise comparison. If we’re going to use statistics to make a point then let’s use them accurately, shall we?

As for the statement that peanut allergies do not exist in third world countries… First, I know of no study where researchers have gone to third world countries to do the necessary allergy testing. Instead, they rely on public records to identify causes of death. Chances are that those in remote third world locations with no doctor in the vicinity would be able to accurately determine the cause of death in every circumstance. I also wonder whether if it is typical for children in third world countries to frequently eat peanuts if they are not part of the Project Peanut Butter feeding program that was mentioned. (Kind of tough for a person to develop an allergy to something they’ve never been exposed to!) Also toward this point… Allergies are an inherited condition. Third world countries are still somewhat subject to the Survival of the Fittest theory, whereas those in developing nations are able to cheat death thanks to the availability of antihistamines, systemic steroids and epinephrine. Those with severe allergies are therefore able to survive into adulthood to reproduce, potentially with another allergic individual, resulting in another generation of allergic kids. It stands to reason that if allergic individuals die at a young age in third world countries, that there would be fewer allergic individuals to contribute to the next generation of allergic children than in developed nations.

Rather than railing against the parents of children with a life threatening medical condition, it would be more appropriate to ask what you can do to make life a little easier for their family. Something as simple as choosing to eat something other than a PB&J just before spending time with a peanut allergic individual can cut down on incidental exposure caused by the unseen food proteins that remain on your hands, clothes and in your saliva. Washing your hands after eating or handling food, even if they seem clean, will cut down on the transmission of unseen food proteins which can and DO cause life threatening allergic reactions for some patients. (Doing so would carry the added bonus of cutting down on the tranmission of germs.) Planning a birthday or classroom celebration where food is not the main focus or (gasp!) is absent altogether allows allergic children the opportunity to fully interact with their classmates without reminding them yet again that they are different.

By all means, attack the policy of school-wide peanut bans that do nothing but raise your anger and provide a false sense of security for the parents of children with peanut allergy. But in doing so, please remember that a child’s LIFE is at stake and that you have the power to help that child live to see another day!

Kendra November 28, 2009, 10:09 PM

Continued again…

Something as simple as choosing to eat something other than a PB&J just before spending time with a peanut allergic individual can cut down on incidental exposure caused by the unseen food proteins that remain on your hands, clothes and in your saliva. Washing your hands after eating or handling food, even if they seem clean, will cut down on the transmission of unseen food proteins which can and DO cause life threatening allergic reactions for some patients. (Doing so would carry the added bonus of cutting down on the tranmission of germs.) Planning a birthday or classroom celebration where food is not the main focus or (gasp!) is absent altogether allows allergic children the opportunity to fully interact with their classmates without reminding them yet again that they are different.

By all means, attack the policy of school-wide peanut bans that do nothing but raise your anger and provide a false sense of security for the parents of children with peanut allergy. But in doing so, please remember that a child’s LIFE is at stake and that you have the power to help that child live to see another day!

Erica November 30, 2009, 4:00 PM

Some food for thought-in our case it has been the other children, yes the wonderful friends of our children from the time my daughter was in kindergarten that were the protectors-they repeatedly told and still tell their parents that they want to sit at lunch with my kids so please DON’T send pb&j-makes one wonder how much of an every day necessity pb&j really is…

Anonymous December 2, 2009, 1:48 PM

where are all these defective allergy prone kids coming from?

Anonymous December 4, 2009, 10:41 AM

Being a drug and Alcohol specialist in no way makes you a food allergy specialist. Stick to what you know, and don’t try to belittle those of us who actually have experience in this area.
Would you be angry if a child brought a knife to school even if he had no intention of hurting anyone? I would, because there is always that chance that an accident can happen, and it could easily be fatal.
I’m sorry that you need to find another alternative for your childs lunch and wash his hands before school. However, I am much sorrier for all of the parent’s (and there IS an explosion of them in recent years) that have to fear for their childs life because of your ignorance and arrogance.
You should instead be thankful that it is NOT your child in that situation. You can send your child to school and not fear for his life.
And by the way, a 1 in 10,000 chance? I’d really like to know where you get your statistics- or are you just making that one up too?

Anonymous December 4, 2009, 11:46 AM

I feel for your frustration with the subject, I do. Unfortunatly, you are extremely ignorant to the facts of food allergy. I admit, until my little boy almost died from peanut butter, I too was ignorant. What I don’t understand though, is why you wouldn’t WANT to protect these children? As a parent, and as a humane human being, I would do anything to protect any child in our school, particularly if doing so only meant a minor inconvience on my part. If there was a child who had ANY allergy or other problem that threatened his life, I would gladly do my best to accomidate that problem.
Unfortunatly, I believe it will take you witnessing a reaction first hand to understand what it is really about. I just really hope that it is not by the hands of your child. That would be an awfully heavy weight not only for you, but for her to live with.
Also, this is not an upper-class problem, it affects everyone. Maybe your friends just have more education on the matter than you do. Please do us all a favor and read up on the facts or talk to a specialist before posting. Your ignorance is truly dangerous.

Anonymous December 4, 2009, 12:51 PM

So, do you let your child play outside in a lightning storm, or do you take the necessary precautions to keep her safe?
Would you stick someone else’s child out in a lightning storm when they come over to play?
Would you expect the school to let children play out in a lightning storm?
Where is the relation?
The schools have deemed peanut allergy to be a significant risk, and therefore take the necessary pre-cautions.
Your child can eat whatever she wants at home. Nobody is saying that peanut butter is bad. But at school, safety comes before your child’s picky eating. Please stop being so selfish.

kadie December 5, 2009, 6:14 PM

Wow! How horrifically ignorant. You obviously have no concept of living with a child with severe, life-threatening allergies, or empathy for any parent who does. So sorry that the temporary lack of PB in your “stepdaughter’s private school” disrupts your life and hers so drastically. Poor things. How do you cope with such adversity?

Kelly December 5, 2009, 6:40 PM

To the Anonymous who called children who deal with allergies “defective” and wondered where “they are coming from ” (in a previous post)….I’m so shocked that stayed “anonymous,” you coward. You’re as ignorant as the “writer.” I’d rather deal with a planet of allergic people than one that is plagued with stupidity such as yours. Which leads to another scientific question….”Where are all of you ignorant people coming from.”

allermom December 12, 2009, 11:23 PM

I hope you never have to see your 8 year old child gasping for breath, blood pressure falling, skin gray like death, feeling like she is going to die (they get a terrible feeling of impending doom) look at you and ask, “Mommy, am I going to live?” And you say yes, everything’s going to be OK, so she doesn’t panic, but you’re really thinking you don’t know if she will make it and where the hell is the ambulance?! We were lucky she was with us when it happened - we knew what to do and the Epi-Pen saved her life - she ASKED us to give it to her, the first time we ever had to after numerous reactions in the past. And it hurts like a @&*%^ As a parent, my biggest fear is that call from the school - she’s on her way to the ER, and I don’t get to be with her or say goodbye to her. All because of a tiny protein, ACCIDENTAL ingestion, unprepared personnel, other ignorant parents, and another student who jokingly misleads about food ingredients. She’s allergic to mustard, and it’s not as rare as you think - google it. People can be severely allergic to many, many things. No, we can’t ban them all from schools, but we can ask for help in keeping our kids safe. They have a right to attend public school, and are safe when appropriate, reasonable precautions are taken based on the severity of their allergy. The school personnel becomes “in locus parentum” and they have a responsibility to keep all kids safe.

Anonymous December 31, 2009, 7:47 AM

If it was your child who had a 1 in 10,000 risk of dying…I would hope that you find it not worth the risk and that your child’s life is more important than letting all other children have a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Parents of children with allergies are doing their “job” in keeping them safe, by requesting not to bring peanuts to school. It’s parents like you, Jennifer Ginsberg, that make it more challenging. Be grateful your child doesn’t have these scary challenges in life and and focus on all the things she gets to do and not on wha she does not get to eat while away from home.

Anonymous December 31, 2009, 10:19 AM

Kelly: you & your kid are DEFECTIVE!


Leave a reply:



(not displayed)

     




Avoid clicking "Post" more than once
Back to top >>
advertisement