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PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 7:10 pm 
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Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 6:26 pm
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Location: Toronto
Hi! I am new to this forum and am just amazed by all the wonderful information that everyone is sharing out there! My question is a simple one but one that I cannot see the answer to when browsing through; when schools (in our case, an elementary school) take the decision to be "peanut/nut safe" - do the schools usually go as far as to ask other parents to avoid sending in the "may contain" products too? I would be grateful for any views / experiences on this. Thanks!

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son in JK with allergies to peanut/nut. Also has asthma.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 7:48 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:17 pm
Posts: 6456
Location: Ottawa
Hi Sam, I see from your profile that you are in Ontario. You are fortunate in that Ontario has legislation to that enforce public schools to have policies, plans and training tp protect children in school.

http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_ ... nID=38%3A1

You are asking about allergens in the school. The law states
Quote:
Strategies that reduce the risk of exposure to anaphylactic causative agents in classrooms and common school areas.


This can mean different things. At a minimum, schools will advise students not to share foods. Very few schools will ban a certain food completely as it is impossible to get every speck. They may ban pure nuts or peanut butter as the likelyhood of these spreading the allergen in to surfaces is far greater than a sandwhich made with a bread which might contain nuts.

Some schools will ban sharing baked goods, others will discourage the activity.

It is a good idea to meet with your school principal to see what their policy is. You can always discuss your concerns with them and see if you can agree on a policy/action plan for your individual child. Some schools have different plans for the classroom of the child with food allergies.

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Daughter: asthma, allergies to egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, most legumes (not soy) & penicillin. Developing hayfever type allergies.
Husband: no allergies
Me: allergies to some tree that flowers in May
Cat: allergic to beef, pork and lamb


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2008 9:22 am 
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Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 6:26 pm
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Location: Toronto
Hi Susan - thanks for your comments. It's interesting as our principal is new to job and to the school and 'inherited' the no nut policy. She's being pretty amazing at working with us and is interested in our thoughts on whether the policy should include 'may contains' or not (the policy doesn't specify).

Our previous CPE/daycare had banned all 'may contains' (babies being babies and fingers / mouths everywhere etc) but I am not so sure this is feasible, or even to be expected, in an elementary school. My gut is that it is asking too much of a school community and I don't want to push for something where the risks are low of cross-contamination - I'd rather save any kudos we have with the school for the inevitable higher risk incidents down the road. This is why I was eager to hear what other schools with school-wide 'no nut' policies were doing / including, or what views are out there on this. Cheers for the input!

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son in JK with allergies to peanut/nut. Also has asthma.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2008 9:42 pm 
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Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2005 12:09 am
Posts: 1054
Hi Sam -- opinions vary widely on this topic within the allergic community.
My son's school is "nut safe" and doesn't allow any peanut or nut containing foods. Signs are posted on every entrance to the school as well as throughout the school stating this along with the explanation that prevention of an anaphylactic reaction is dependent upon complete avoidance of the allergen. As far as I'm aware, the school hasn't made any official statement about "may contains". Do I hope that parents on their own decide against sending in "may contains" -- definitely yes -- but I personally wouldn't support a ban against "may contains" at our school. Because of the potency of peanut protein and the oily consistency of peanuts and nuts, my feeling is that my son lives in a "may contain" world everyday. If we go to the park, the mall, the grocery store, wherever -- we understand that every surface he touches "may contain" peanuts and nuts. Until peanuts and nuts don't exist any longer or there is a cure (one can dream... :wink: ) that is his reality. So we live in the world taking necessary precautions like washing hands often, wiping eating surfaces down, etc.
It also isn't currently required by law in Canada that manufacturers label for possible cross contamination with allergens. So even if a ban on "may contains" existed, to depend upon labels without the "may contain" statement as being "safe" ultimately means falsely assuming the food doesn't contain traces of the allergen and in the end can actually pose a risk to the allergic child. All of the children in my son's class are required to wash their hands before snack/lunch and afterwards. Tables are sprayed and wiped down after each meal. There is a rule against food sharing. No food is allowed to be consumed in the yard during recess times. I personally think this approach provides a safe environment for my son. I agree that you don't want to needlessly restrict others in ways that make them feel that they are unable or unwilling to comply with any rules at all about food. I am able to volunteer at my son's school during lunch time to help supervise -- I must say that I feel that a more important issue is ensuring adequate adult supervision during eating times for children at risk of anaphylaxis (as well as ensuring that supply/occasional teachers are trained -- but that's a whole other issue...). Oftentimes teachers are stretched between two or more classrooms, or schools rely on older children to supervise. In the end, mistakes happen -- foods that shouldn't get sent in, occasionally do. Parents need reminders. If you can, stay as involved as possible and keep the lines of communication open with your child's teacher. If you're able to be that extra set of eyes, all the better. I find that as "on board" as my son's teacher is, she is only one person and not able to catch everything. She does her best.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 4:30 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 01, 2005 8:55 pm
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Location: Vancouver, BC
I have been volunteering with anaphylactic groups and learning all I could about anaphylaxis for 9 years now, and this is the message I recieve most often from "anaphylactic leaders", be they allergists or national groups representing us.

The best apporach to use with schools is one that balances the needs of allergic children with the greater community.

This part is all me babbling on my opinions.

Do we need to limit "may contains" - maybe for kis who cannot healp sticking their fingers in their mouths, but probably not for older kids. It causes a lot of problems for people with allergies such as milk and egg and other not so common allergies if the larger community is making huge effort to reduce every speck of peanut/nut on a school. Studies have shown that kids only have ANAPHYLACTIC reactions if they ingest their allergen some way, although they may have mild reactions to skin contact they have not got any cases of anaphylaxis this way (if you have had that kind of reaction it would be very helpful to all of us if you would go to your alergist and have that documented, because people keep saying to me that they do, but the allergists say they don't, so if it's happening to you, please get that information scienticially proven so the rest of us are not taking big risks based on what the doctors are telling us).

I talked to a man this weekend whose child is severely anaphylactic to milk (was unconscious for hours after a contact) and they have had real difficulty getting the school to accomodate them in any way. They pointed out that the school was "peanut aware", and that their child had just as much right to safety, and the signage around peanuts/nuts was taken down, so then all the kids become not so safe.

I am not saying this is good - obviously it is not - but it is what happened.
This is not the only time I have heard of such backlash.

If you ask for a school to limit peanut butter sandwiches and products that contain peanut/nut, but not the "may contain", I think you actually create a safer environment, because people are more likely to say, "all I have to do is find an alternative to peanut butter, or substitute a different type of cookie, I can do that." If you tell 500 families they have to read every label, spend more money on expensive brand names, stop shopping for bulk food bins, and read every label, at least some of them are going to resent you.

All the kids with multiple food allergies are not getting the same accomodations that kids with nuts/peanuts are getting because it is too hard, and they are the ones who have the most allergic systems, we have to look at what we are asking will mean for our most vulnerable.

It has been shown over and over that what will save lives is always having access to an auto-injector and controlling asthma. Limiting "may contains" has never been shown to save lives, but I think it has caused many kids to have a lower quality of life, because they have had to deal with backlash.

I also talked to a mom who has a child with 4 major allergens to avoid, and in her kids class, they focus on hygeine, and don't ban anything on behalf of her kid - he shares a desk with a child who just moves herself over, or holds whatever away from him a little bit, then washes her hands, if she brings the wrong thing, and it is working very well. The school limits peanut products because of other kids, and the mom said she wished they wouldn't, even though her child is LTA to peanut/nut. She wants the focus on self-protection and staff training.

I used to feel stongly that peanuts and pitbulls should be banned from the universe, and although I still feel that way about pitbulls (please do not start writing to me about this, my dog was eaten in front of me by a St. Bernard when I was a kid, and so I am quite phobic, and I don't care if it's bad owners, bad genetics, bad whatever, I feel what I feel, and I recognize that it is a phobia and there are very nice putbulls out there, but I will cross the street rather than walk by a leashed, mussled one) I am reconsidering peanuts, cos I have met so many people who are living great successful lives without expecting huge accomodations, and they eat differntly without being scarred by the experience. Their example has caused me to rethink some of my beliefs.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 9:48 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 22, 2006 12:52 am
Posts: 214
Thanks for your post, Aaronsmom. Did you read the latest issue? There was a whole article on talking to kids about allergies, and it really opened my eyes. I don't have kids yet, but if I do have them later, I worry that given my family history and my own personal history, they may have allergies. The article was very reassuring and pointed out that in every single case that has gotten media coverage where a child died, it was because they did not have their meds with them or did not use them properly (e.g. used asthma puffer but not epi-pen). So focus on training is so important. I worked at a school last year that was very peanut-aware in the sense of not allowed to bring it, it got mentioned at the staff meeting etc. but 1) I doubt half those teachers would know how to administer an epi-pen if they had to, I myself who carries one had it for six months before a doctor thought to check to see if I could correctly do it and I could not and 2) had a rule about storing meds in the classroom, so all epi-pens were kept in a locked cupboard in the office and I bet half the teachers couldn't tell you which one it was. So, which would be more helpful, banning all the peanuts or having the epi-pens where people could see them and having the public health nurse who came in to show us what to do for the diabetic kid bring in a dummy epi-pen and give a five-second tutorial?

As a teacher, I have been on both sides of this fence and I guess my personal opinion is, I think a lot of people can get a false sense of security if they feel like the school is 'safe; and really, we can never guarantee that. Our school is attached to a church and they use the space after we leave. So, even if I told you WE did not bring peanuts in, do I know that the cub scouts in the church group are doing? Or the PTA in their after-hours meeting? Could I personally 100% promise that the school was absolutely to the smallest dust mite 100% safe? No. Nobody could ever promise that. That's why I think, more important than the ban, is education on how to handle emergencies if they do come up, the same way you teach your kids that the liklihood of the house burning down may be small because such and such precautions have been taken to keep us safe, but if it does burn down, HERE IS HOW TO GET OUT. You know?

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Asthma and eczema
Drug allergy (succinylcholine)
Food (corn, raw apples, green beans, tree nuts, flax)
Misc (pollen, grass, mold, dogs, cats)


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 Post subject: may contains
PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:11 pm 
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Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 6:26 pm
Posts: 4
Location: Toronto
Thanks so much for all your great feedback on this question. I am really appreciating reading the various pointers and am glad of the additional substance I now have to put behind my gut feeling on this! It all makes perfect sense!! Maybe I too, am finding my balance between being a paranoid peanut-hating parent to a mum who can trust that her little man will manage out there in the big wide world without her providing he follows the few simple rules we have engrained in him so far... Cheers!

_________________
son in JK with allergies to peanut/nut. Also has asthma.


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