September 6, 2013

So Your Kid’s Classmate has a Peanut Allergy

Prior to the Princess’s OIT, I didn’t write a lot about her peanut allergy. I’m not really sure why. I think there’s a lot of value to experienced parents sharing their tips and tricks, but it was just something I never wanted to write about much. I didn’t know what to say, I guess, Which is silly, because it’s our life and we were in the midst of living it.

I think, partly, I was too sensitive about it. I couldn’t really deal with any negative criticism or suggestion that we should do things differently. We made our plans and I just didn’t want to discuss them.

I guess I’m feeling a little less sensitive about it now, because I’d like to talk for a minute about what to do if you find out that your child’s classmate has an allergy.

In some circles, some parents of non-allergic kids aren’t sure why my kid’s allergy is their “problem”. That’s never made much sense, to me. I’m very much a “it takes a village” sort of girl and I believe that helping other children is just what you do. I understand that there are children with limited diets and palates and special needs that make eating a challenge. I’m not insensitive to that at all. I know that some of the suggestions I’m about to make are likely more expensive than your run of the mill choices and if you’re really watching your pennies, you’re probably freaking out a little bit.  We have spent times in our lives where the added expense of a few extra dollars per each jar of sunflower butter would have been a big issue, so I do understand the concern.

It is a very difficult thing for the parent of a severely allergic child to send that child out into the world. Of course I worry about who was eating what before they played on the swings or had a slurping drink out of the drinking fountain at the grocery store. It used to be terrifying. I know some people will suggest that kids who are “that allergic” should just be homeschooled, but that was never the best option for us. It wasn’t something I felt like we would be good with and it wouldn’t be the best thing for the Princess.

Every school year, I touched base with the Princess’s administration and teachers.  An aside to allergic parents, you MUST involve yourself in your child’s school and classroom to the furthest extent of your abilities.  I know that you may have to work or that you have younger children that prevents you from being in the classroom regularly, but make yourself available.  It’s not enough to walk in with the epi-pens and a doctor’s note.   If your school hasn’t dealt with an allergy on your level before, you need to guide them along.  Providing lists of “safe” foods is a great place to start.  It takes very little time and effort.  Second, volunteer to bring in food whenever there’s a treat opportunity or party in your child’s class.  It’s hard to see our kids missing out on the simple pleasures like birthday cupcakes.  We also provided a Princess Approved snack for birthday treats (the Princess always liked Oreos and plain Oreos ARE peanut free and are not cross contaminated!), but for parties, I always baked or made something that she could have every time.

So, you’re room Mom this year and your child has a peanut allergic child in his/her classroom.  What do you do?

First off, reach out to the parent of the allergic child and ask for a list of pre-approved food.  Please consider that commercially prepared foods (like the aforementioned Oreos) are probably preferable to the parents of an allergic child.  No offense, but we don’t know what goes on in your kitchen.  By this, I mean, peanuts aren’t something you’re probably spending much time worrying about and if you’re serving peanut butter or other peanut products in your home, there’s a very good chance you could have some missed residue that could contaminate your home baked goodies and put an allergic child at risk.

If you really must provide home baked goodies, ask the parent of the allergic child if they’re available to bake.  Parents of allergic children, make the offer first thing during the school year if you’re able.

Remember that for most allergic children, simply avoiding products containing the main ingredient isn’t enough.  We also skipped “may contains” which were products that 1) were processed in a facility that also processed peanuts 2) may contain peanuts.  We couldn’t take that chance.  While Keebler cookies or plain M&Ms seem safe, to an allergic child they could mean a reaction.

So, what can you send in for a Halloween treat for your child’s peanut free classroom?  There are tons of options! Here are some of the Princess’s favorite sweet, peanut free treats

  • Oreos (regular and double stuffed)
  • teddy grahams
  • Barnum animal crackers
  • Nabisco Vanilla Wafers
  • Original Chips Ahoy (also mini.  Blue package only)
  • Graham crackers
  • Rice Krispie Treats
  • Goldfish
  • Ritz
  • Cheez-Its
  • Starburst
  • Skittles
  • Tootsie Rolls/Tootsie Pops
  • Plain Hershey Bars (but please read the labels.  While nearly all Hershy bars are safe, there is one size that is listed as being processed in a facility with peanuts.  Mini and regular size bars should be safe, but if you’re buying large bars for a project/activity, double check!)
  • Twizzlers
  • Laffy Taffy
  • Nearly all fruit snacks save Brach’s Brand. In fact, Brach’s brand isn’t safe across the board, which is a super bummer because it’s hard to find candy corn made by anyone else.
  • Hostess baked goods

Please note: that most store brand knock offs of the above foods will probably be safe, but read packages and reach out to the parent of the allergic child if you have questions!

Also, please consider if you’re sending home treats with the allergic child, to include packaging if they’re not national brands which are 1) well known to be safe (see above) or 2) easy to find allergy information for via google.  We’ve had to throw away a lot of treats over the years because the small, individually wrapped candies may have been safe, but without identifying information we had to err on the side of caution.

Lastly, if your child eats in classroom OR if your school cafeteria has banned all nuts and nut products and you have a child that LOVE peanut butter, please consider checking out Sunflower Seed Butter (Sunbutter).  You can find peanut free brands in grocery stores.  My favorite is from Trader Joe’s and while it’s not exactly peanut butter, it may be close enough for your peanut butter lover.

As the mom of an allergic child, thank you to all the parents, teachers, administration and other staff who worked so hard to keep the Princess safe in the years she needed it.  Due to diligence, understanding and compassion, the Princess NEVER had an accidental exposure at school.  Eight years of school with no slip ups is such a big thing.


The Biggest One, Tied Up 4 Replies to “So Your Kid’s Classmate has a Peanut Allergy”


4 thoughts on “So Your Kid’s Classmate has a Peanut Allergy

    Author’s gravatar

    I’m so excited that you posted this! Ellie-Belle’s birthday is next week, and we were JUST sent home a notice about a severe peanut allergy in the classroom. I am stoked to have a whole list of allergy-mama-approved options to work with! You’re the best!

      Author’s gravatar

      My pleasure. :) I’m glad our experience can be used for something positive!

    Author’s gravatar

    Hi Jamie,
    This ought to be required reading for all parents of all school-age kids! Of course I appreciate the list since I blog for SunButter and we’re always looking for nut-free complements to it as a spread or dip. But as a fellow mom of school-age kids, this is going on our refrigerator for snack and lunch packing! Thanks.

      Author’s gravatar

      SunButter was a staple while the Princess was dealing with her allergy. Sadly, she never grew to like the taste of it, though Littlebit likes it a lot. I know a lot of families have picky eaters who survive on PB&J and, speaking as a peanut butter lover, SunButter is very close in taste.

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