One of the most frustrating comments that I have gotten from other adults in response to accommodating food allergies is "Well, we can't eliminate all foods." Why is it that a request to limit peanut intake is often met with this statement?
I would agree that peanut allergies have gotten the most attention out of all the food allergies in the school system. This is because peanut allergies are well know to cause anaphylactic shock, where the person has a closing of the throat and difficulty breathing. This type of severe reaction can be fatal. Although anaphylactic shock is not limited to peanuts, they are the most common food culprit and most prolific in school age food choices. Shellfish is the other food allergy diagnosis that almost always comes with a prescription of epinephrine due to it's tendency to cause anaphylactic shock. However, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are much more of a common item in school than cocktail shrimp and fish sticks.
I believe some of the resistance to limiting peanuts in the schools comes from the "what's next" fear? If we don't allow peanuts in the classroom, will they take away snacks with egg too? What if a child comes in with a severe allergy to wheat? Will we have to take away bread? Pretty soon, there is nothing left to eat safely and we are forcing non-allergic people to purchase expensive gluten-free, allergen-free foods.
This is how many non-allergic parents truly feel. It's not a question of accommodating one allergy. It's a question of where will the requests end, and the fear of how it could make their lives more difficult. This is where the comment, "Well, we can't eliminate all foods!" comes from.
It can be extremely difficult to calmly deal with this statement when having a discussion about food allergies. However, I have found the best way to handle it is to chuckle a bit and explain that you don't want all food to be restricted. You are just asking for some basic steps to be taken to keep your child from a potentially life threatening situation.
No one wants to "be that parent." You know who I mean. The one that asks for special accommodations and always seems to make things difficult. Well, get over it! There will always be those parents, school officials, neighbors, family members, and friends that just don't get it. Their comments can be insensitive and hurtful. The best thing we can all do is to remember that in the end, we all want what is best for our kids and no one wants to see a child in jeopardy. So, swallow your anger at insensitive comments and do your best to explain the real issue with allergies. Many people will come around.
- Peanut allergy: what you need to know
- Tricking the immune system to cure peanut allergies
- Should the teacher address the class about food allergies?