Recently there was a tragic incident involving a young girl and a homemade rice krispies treat; it resulted in her death. Shocking, confusing, heartbreaking, and for parents of a child with a peanut allergy a huge reminder of just how dangerous peanuts can be to our children.
When I found out my child had a peanut allergy I panicked, but just a little. I knew how common the allergy was and felt we would be able to manage it easily. We found a wonderful allergist who addressed our concerns, assuring us that smelling peanuts and even touching a substance containing peanuts would not cause anaphylactic shock; it may cause hives and other uncomfortable symptoms but unless ingested he would be fine.
For two years I checked packaged foods and asked at restaurants and bakeries if their products contained peanuts and had two major rules; if the product did not contain any peanuts and was not made on shared equipment with peanuts it was okay to eat. I felt that was all I needed to do to ensure my child was safe. Then I read the story of this young girl and the rice krispies treat and I panicked, this time a lot! I had tried so hard not to be neurotic about this allergy, but maybe I needed to be.
I had believed I was solely responsible for making sure my child did not eat anything with peanuts. But now I realize it cannot just be my job. Everyone needs to be responsible in helping to ensure children with food allergies are not exposed to that allergen.
Foods containing peanuts need to be clearly labeled and children and adults need to be notified when these foods are present. Every parent needs to be aware there will be at least one child in a classroom with a peanut allergy, even if that child does not know it yet. And every parent needs to know how very real the danger is when an allergic child is exposed to any amount of peanuts. In their world peanuts are dangerous the same way a gun would be dangerous; if aimed at that allergic child the results could be extremely severe. (According to a FARE funded study on foodallergy.com, peanut allergies in children in the U.S. have more than tripled between 1997 and 2008. An article on Today.com reports at least one in every twelve children in the U.S. has a food allergy, with peanuts being the most common food allergen)
In my almost perfect world (in a perfect world my child would have no allergies), schools would be peanut free rather than peanut sensitive. My child would not need to be isolated at lunch, made to sit at a nut-free table instead of with friends, as if being punished for having an allergy. I would not have to fear everyday that my child will be exposed to a food that is so delicious and so common, it is guaranteed at least two children will have it for lunch. But the reality is peanuts are not going anywhere. It is better that my child be aware of this and understand the allergy, knowing how to avoid the food and what to do if ever exposed.
Our allergist did not want us to panic after hearing about the tragedy with the young girl. He did not feel this was a common event but he did say he hoped this event would remind parents to always have epi-pens readily available. My take away from this awful incident is to speak out and speak up about how important it is to keep children with peanut allergies safe.
The world does not have to be perfect it just has to be educated and care enough to help prevent these senseless tragedies from continuing to occur!
Here is a short list of some surprising places peanuts and peanut products can be found:
- Body lotions, soaps, and shampoos – ask your allergist if this is a concern. Most peanut oils in these products are highly refined and will not cause a reaction but make sure before using any of these.
- Hot sauce, chili sauces, and gravies. Always read the labels carefully!
- Arachis oil is a peanut based oil.
- Many alternative nut butters do contain peanuts or are made on the shared equipment. Do not assume these are safe.
- Peanut hulls can be found in compost. Before having a top-dressing applied to your lawn check with the contractor to find out if this ingredient is present.
For more information on peanut allergies including testing for the allergy, reactions, and lists of safe and unsafe foods visit http://www.foodallergy.org/allergens/peanut-allergy andhttp://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org. And please, if you suspect your child may have an allergy seek medical advice and help.
~Jan Snadeker, An Ideal Mom
My ‘Ideal’ means trying my best, forgiving myself when I do not, and learning from my mistakes and my triumphs. On my site you will find honest reflections on life, marriage, and parenthood, research based ideas and educational activities, and hopefully inspiration as you join me on my journey to become an ideal mom.