Peanut-Free Zones in Schools
Because peanut allergies can be dangerous for kids who have them, "peanut-free" zones are popping up in schools across the country. What are they and how do they affect your kids?
First and foremost, it's important to understand just how serious a peanut allergy can be. As William Sears, M.D., and Martha Sears, R.N., explain in The Family Nutrition Book: "Children who are allergic to peanuts are very allergic, and, unlike many other food allergies, this is one that they do not usually outgrow. If your child is allergic to peanut butter, be sure to warn her school and other adults who may be serving your child snacks. Some people are so allergic to peanuts that even a whiff can trigger an asthmatic attack."
Because of the severity of this allergy, many schools have implemented "peanut-free" zones. (Daycare centers and preschools are more apt to be peanut-free throughout their buildings because younger children tend to share food and put things in their mouths that they shouldn't.) Depending on the number of children with a peanut allergy who attend the school, the zone can be as small as a table in the cafeteria to as much as a classroom or group of classrooms.
How to Keep Kids Safe
If your child is allergic to peanuts, it's vital that you find out about his school's peanut-free zone and make sure he eats only there. (Your child's teacher should also alert other parents so they won't accidentally bring in snacks for the classroom that contain peanuts.) Instruct your child to always wash his hands well before and after mealtimes to reduce the risk that he'll come into contact with peanut residue.
Conversely, if your child isn't allergic to peanuts and regularly brings food with peanuts in it to school (for example, the ever-popular peanut butter sandwich), let him know if any of his classmates are allergic to it and make sure he understands why it's important to always keep it away from them.
If one of your child's good friends or classmates is allergic, you may also want to consider not packing anything with peanuts in it in his lunch bag, just to reduce the chances of an accidental allergic reaction. Instead, reserve it for at-home lunches on the weekends.