no Peanut Butter for lunch in school

This is a serious question, and is not intended for the Pit, so bear with me. One of my children is a picky eater, and LOVES peanut butter and jelly. However, due to kids with peanut allergies, there are no peanut products allowed in the school.

Is this as wide-spread phenomenon as I am led to believe (approx. 3 million Americans ), or is it over-stated ? Is the peanut allergy so sensitive that merely being in the same room as peanut butter will cause an anaphylactic reaction?

There are many days where we have PB&J and bread in the house, but I have to go out to get turkey or bologna in order to pack lunches. I am not trying to sound insensitive, and I would never want another child to be endangered but it does create a type of hardship for others. Do other parents have problems choosing suitable lunch alternatives? Is there a better solution than “no PB in this school”?

So-Cal anecdotes:

  • My Pre-Schooler is not allowed nut based products.
  • My Elementary Schooler has “nut free” tables for lunchtime. He has one friend who is on the high end of peanut based allergies.

I haven’t found a non-nut yet still peanut buttery goodness substitute.

Back in my elementary school years, I used to buy a nickel bag of Planter’s peanuts from the lunchroom every day. Shoulda seen the carnage as my classmates keeled over in anaphylactic shock when I popped that sucker open.

Ah, good times.

There are, apparently, those for whom the allergy is sensitive enough that it can be triggered by airborne peanut particles - very likely when people talk and eat at the same time - or an invisible smear of peanut oil left on a table from a previous lunch hour.

One of our Dopers, I forget who, had a kid go into anaphylaxis from breathing the air in woodshop - they were using walnuts to stain wood. IIRC, the kid in question knew enough not to touch the walnuts, but he needed his Epi-pen anyway.

I have no idea why peanut and other nut allergies are suddenly such a big deal, but yeah, they are. And if they’re “overstated” or overdiagnosed, does it really matter? Even if there’s only one kid in your school allergic to them, do you want your kid to have to live with the memory of killing that one kid accidentally?

Total bans are Pretty common here in the UK - at least in infant and primary schools - in secondary schools onwards, I think it’s often assumed that kids with allergies are alert and responsible enough to be able to avoid risk, and self-administer medicines if they have a problem.

Nut allergies can be pretty severe - not usually so that just being in the same room as the item would trigger them, but young kids are messy - some people have allergies sensitive enough that they could be triggered by the amount of material transferred casually from residues left on the hands, or transferred to the hands when kids wipe their mouths.

Kids are notoriously messy eaters, it’s highly unlikely that if the lunchroom has 20 PB&J sandwiches a day, that no PB will get smeared on hands, clothes, lunchboxes, etc. and spread around to other kids. The peanut allergy is severe enough that this kind of precaution is not entirely ridiculous.

If there is a documented case of a kid with a peanut allergy in the school, then I can see the principal regulating peanut products, up to (but certainly not as the first resort) a total ban.

But on the off-chance that some kid might have an allergy? Then it is going too far.

Obviously I don’t know the details of the OP’s case, but I’ve never heard of a peanut ban in my area.

I imagine with younger kids the biggest concern probably comes from sharing lunches. A younger child with a severe nut allergy could be dead before anyone could hep if they just took a big 'ole bite out of a PB&J sandwich.

Maybe, but you can understand that it’s something the schools would greatly prefer never to have to deal with.

I never heard of peanut butter allergies until perhaps 10 or 15 years ago, but now the day care center Mrs. Napier works at has a total ban, and I hear local schools do too.

I think I read somewhere that improving sanitation and vaccination programs has so reduced the frequency of infections that children’s immune systems must fight off, that their immune systems are starting to overreact to otherwise nonthreatening substances. Further, that this causes much of the recent increase in allergies and asthma. And that there was some particularly interesting consequence of this relating to a herpes virus and childhood chicken pox and adult shingles cases. And, finally, that there is some research going on to consider the merits of deliberately exposing people to a variety of infectious and contageous bacteria and viruses that are essentially harmless, to give the immune system something safer to work on than peanuts. Can anybody help me pull together or correct these somewhat connected threads?

MilliCal loves peanut butter, but it’s banned at her school. She generally gets soup in her lunch bag, now*.

I, too, am mystified at the apparently sudden prevalence of nut allergies. Peanut butter was ubiquitous when I was a kid, and in the not so distant past as well.

*In a Thermos, not directly in the bag.

My daughter has severe peanut allergy - a trip to Emergency with her first tast of a peanut butter sandwich when she was a toddler was the heart stopping introduction. This was the '80’s - no Epi Pens, or if there were, no one told us.
The allergy certainly wasn’t well known then, so people thought I was this neurotic, over protective mother and were almost hostile to taking precautions.I have seen my daughter’s lips and tongue swell after peanuts thrown at her hit her on the arm. Your kids can live without peanut butter - my daughter can’t live with it.

I don’t know what I would have eaten if I could have a PB&J for lunch. It is a cheap meal and we didn’t have a lot of money. Mom made it for me most every day for many years.

Hey, I don’t blame you. I totally agree with your daughter’s school taking whatever precautions they need to keep her away from peanuts.

But can you agree that it is going too far if a day care or school bans peanuts even though no one who attends has an allergy?

I’ve heard of this theory too - and it makes a fair bit of sense. Another possible factor is that nowadays, when people drop dead, we’re better at finding out exactly why it happened.

I don’t believe in total bans with older groups - I believe in adults exercising appropriate care. The difficulty is with little children - a day care centre may have a changing population ranging from babies to pre-schoolers and the much smaller children may not have been in a situation where the allergy became manifest previously. Sorry to get heated about this, but it used to enrage me that people were willing to risk killing my daughter rather than make a different food choice for their kids.

Have a separate room where the allergic kids can eat. My kid’s school unfortunately does the opposite; the kids who are tolerant of peanuts and enjoy it have to eat PBJ away from everyone else.

Turns out there’s only one kid in the entire elementary who is peanut sensitive. In my book, he’s the one who should be eating in the corner away from everyone else.

It’s like making people with healthy immune systems wear space suits in public so that a few bubble kids can walk around.

But is this happening? Yes, I agree, theoretically, it’s going too far, but I just haven’t seen it. None of my son’s schools have had a peanut ban, 'cause there’s never been a need for it. My mother’s school has a peanut ban, because there’s at least one student with a peanut allergy and there’s a communal lunch room. In another school in her district, the students eat in the classrooms, so only the classroom with an allergy has a peanut ban. That makes sense to me.

BTW, not even the teachers know who the kid with the peanut allergy is. If the parents choose not to tell them, the school nurse and principal can’t reveal the information, thanks to medical privacy laws.

If it’s a sensitive enough allergy, then airborne peanut particles can trigger it. That includes the chemicals that waft off of peanut butter - even if you can’t smell it, it might be in your nose.

You can’t segregate the allergic ones, because that would be an invasion of their medical privacy - you can’t let the other students know who’s got a peanut allergy. Which, honestly, is prob’ly a good thing. I could see some 10 year old mad at another kid who might think it funny to attack with peanut butter to make her sick, not really understanding that it could kill her. Or kids who don’t believe the allergy “testing it” by sneaking a bit of peanut butter to the kid - goodness knows enough adults are guilty of that shit!

I can’t complain about taking a minor precaution to avoid killing somebody’s daughter, of course.

Perhaps the problem is the surprising nature of the way this has changed over the years. Eating peanut butter sandwiches somehow changed from being the normal lunch to being life threatening, and as far as I know has done this without explanation, without much advertising, and for no reason. I accept that the threat of peanut allergy is a real threat, but it is still somewhat hard to believe, unless maybe we hear of some discovery that explains it. To make an example that is even more of a stretch, imagine that wearing red socks turns out to be fatal for some of your classmates. It’s so surprising that people question whether it’s really true, and how it could have changed so much, without meaning to threaten your kid’s life.