Nut Free Classrooms, What to Do?


RevKT

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I was wondering what we are supposed to feed our kids for lunch or at a friends house when they have a nut free classroom or home. They tell me it's all nuts, peanuts, tree nuts, coconut (as of 2007 coconut is in the nut allergy family.)

Most of what we eat is cooked in coconut oil, even our jerky uses coconut aminos. I would hate to send a kid into anaphylactic shock with my sons food. He needs strict food though, he can't just eat gluten or even processed deli meat "sometimes" as all sorts of additives and grains give him GI distress.

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Can you switch to an animal fat for cooking foods he would be taking to school? Bacon grease, beef tallow come to mind.

Allergies vary in scope, from only ingesting causes a problem, to "can't even be in the room" severity. If its a specific child, maybe find out the danger zone? If you're lucky, as long as the other child doesn't touch or eat the food, you might be fine.

At our school, the nut allergy kids have their own table, so any at-home or school-bought items won't affect them.

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This whole "nut free" thing annoys me so much - and I am anaphalyactic to nuts and peanuts. My brother and I both grew up with food allergies, and we took care of ourselves. That meant learning how to read labels as soon as we learned to read, never eating anything we didn't know the origins of, and asking as many questions as possible about all the food we ate. I don't understand how when I was in elementary school (15-20 years ago) I was pretty much the only kid with food allergies, and now it seems that half the kids today claim that they can't even be in the room with nuts. All it has done is made everyone skeptical of every kid with "allergies" - we need to distinguish between "if I smell it I will die before you can get me to the ER" and "If I eat a lot of it I get a tummyache".

And for the record, neither my brother nor I (with nut allergies) ever had a reaction to coconut; my grandfather can eat all nuts BUT coconut, so I'm not buying the connection.

I would simply explain to the school that just as these children have dietary concerns, so does your son, and you'd appreciate it if they'd respect his diet and make equal consideration for him as well.

*end rant*

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I think it's partially legit and partially helicopter parents. Allergies are not just related to the allergen, but also environmental stuff.

Environments nowadays are much more sterile, which leads to poorly functioning immune systems. Add to that all of the plastics and stuff (which affect the same), and breast feeding going out of vogue for a while, and formulas not doing great things for kids as well....it all leads to more kids with allergies.

In regards to helicoptering, if any parent on here had a kid that launched into psychopathy for days after being "glutened" and had the option of making a classroom gluten-free, don't you think they would? I don't fault them for that.

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I can cook with other things and do, but so many recipies call for coconut oil or milk and I worry about forgetting exactly what is in a recipe and sending him to a place where kids have nut allergies and accidentally getting someone sick. His school this year is not nut-free, but next year will be and he has a friend who's sister is allergic to nuts and we have to send him to their house with his own food and I forgot we cooked the meat in coconut oil.

And, someone asked about coconut allergy: "in October of 2006, the FDA began identifying coconut as a tree nut."

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I might do a little more research to see if coconut products are really reactive for those students - perhaps you could chat with the parents? I know, as a mom with "special diet" kids, I love to chat with other parents who are just trying to figure out what the heck to send their kids.

And, as said mom, I also do my best to make it known that we've got a mild allergy/dietary preference/psychopathic behavior issue, rather than an anaphlactic issue. I think that's only fair.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I might do a little more research to see if coconut products are really reactive for those students - perhaps you could chat with the parents? I know, as a mom with "special diet" kids, I love to chat with other parents who are just trying to figure out what the heck to send their kids.

And, as said mom, I also do my best to make it known that we've got a mild allergy/dietary preference/psychopathic behavior issue, rather than an anaphlactic issue. I think that's only fair.

I have seen in a few posts about food allergies that people who do not have an anaphylactic reaction and have more psychological responses to food should not make as big a deal about food restrictions as those who can go into anaphylactic shock. I get the point but I also want to warn that psychological reactions to foods, especially for people with mental illness, can be life threatening. Eating gluten or too much sugar at just one meal, for some people, can lead to a severe manic or depressed state with great risk for suicide. So I get why people assume only an anaphylactic response is important and worthy of strict food requests, but I also want to raise awareness that anaphylactic shock is not the only imminent risk of death from food. I think people know if they have severe reactions and should be able to say they need strict adherence at restaurants.

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I find it really silly that coconut is counted as a "nut". I think I've only come across one person that is allergic to it. I'm allergic to all tree nuts (except pistacios) and peanuts myself, and coconut is safe. It just seems silly.

And I do agree with nut free schools, but my kids school doesn't have a cafeteria, so there would be no safe place for an allergic child to eat. They all eat in the classroom, it would be pretty awful if some kid with peanut butter on his hands went and touched all the desks, or the chalkboard, or the books and an allergic child walked past and touched the same things and had an ana (or any type really) reaction. There is also a teacher in the shcool that is Ana to nuts, so they have to make it safe for her also.

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hdlb111 - ours doesn't have a cafeteria either, and I can only imagine the fear that would cause as a parent. There is a peanut allergy in another classroom, but none in my kids', so the whole school is peanut free.

RevKT - That's an excellent point. It's incredibly important to be clear about the severity of any sensitivity or allergy. For example, my 5 year old goes a little exorcist in the presence of HFCS. It's short burning (about 20 minutes) but terrifying nonetheless. My 3 year old, however, needs 2 or 3 gluten exposures before she starts to whiz wheeze. Gawd.

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Yeah, allergies these days are a bit ridiculous. I think it's in large part, like was mentioned above, with being born into sterile environments. Our houses are all clean, babies aren't ever allowed to put anything unclean into their mouths, and are slathered endlessly with Purell. If our immune systems are never given anything legit to fight, they're going to turn on other stuff, and whatever is at hand is out.

It also has something to do with a leaky gut on the baby's part. Babies' intestines start out not being able to process certain things, so formulas especially aren't the best thing for them to have. It isn't 100% designed by the body as something that will be digestible. Breastmilk (and a vaginal birth!) give the baby the probiotics their sterile guts need to help keep the gut from leaking undigested proteins into the bloodstream, which means the immune system has less foreign stuff to fight, which means less allergies.

At least that's what they say!

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hdlb111 - ours doesn't have a cafeteria either, and I can only imagine the fear that would cause as a parent. There is a peanut allergy in another classroom, but none in my kids', so the whole school is peanut free.

RevKT - That's an excellent point. It's incredibly important to be clear about the severity of any sensitivity or allergy. For example, my 5 year old goes a little exorcist in the presence of HFCS. It's short burning (about 20 minutes) but terrifying nonetheless. My 3 year old, however, needs 2 or 3 gluten exposures before she starts to whiz.

We don't have a cafeteria so I try and be careful with nuts. I always hear the peanut one as the bigger problem. like never bring peanuts because even being in the same room with them can cause a reaction but that a kid next to a kid with a tree nut allergy could eat their food and mot cause a reaction in the allergic child. What are best practices around tree nuts? That allergy is just so scary and I wish we had better ways to protect the kids.

Robin, your child with HFCS sounds like my son with any corn. He literally ends up a depressed heap on the floor crying and unable to function for at least a few hours it ends with another 6 hours in pain and in the bathroom. Poor kids!

I know many people talk about sterile environments being such a problem. I also think its however the food s processed and modified these days that can cause such bad reactions. My son is fine with grass fed beef but always gets stomach issues with a bunless burger elsewhere.

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Robin, your child with HFCS sounds like my son with any corn. He literally ends up a depressed heap on the floor crying and unable to function for at least a few hours it ends with another 6 hours in pain and in the bathroom. Poor kids!

She says it makes her feel "like I'm never going to go to Disneyland again." Which, to a 5 year old princess-loving girl, is complete and utter tragedy. She will actually consciously avoid those foods if she's told they have "yucky sugar" in them.

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She says it makes her feel "like I'm never going to go to Disneyland again." Which, to a 5 year old princess-loving girl, is complete and utter tragedy. She will actually consciously avoid those foods if she's told they have "yucky sugar" in them.

Aww! That is a terrible feeling! I love Disney too. Now I am wondering how the heck we could eat Paleo on a trip to Disney. We usued to do the PB&J and apples for almost every meal so we did not have to pay for park food. I guess the next time we go we will make a lot of beef jerky.

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We're a cafeteria less nut free school as well. Paulo learned to hate sunbutter in kindergarten...sigh....he gets left overs a lot, chocolate chile is a favorite, heated and put in a thermos. I also send chef salads with homemade dressing. He likes ham, so I do ham/avocado roll ups. Organic all beef hotdogs are an occasional treat. Plus tons of fresh fruit and veggies. I've found this year either his appetite is shrinking or he's just having too much fun chatting with his tablemates because he's not eating a lot at lunch so I've scaled down the amount of food I send considerably.

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  • 4 weeks later...

As the mom of a peanut allergic K-er who outgrew an egg allergy, my understanding is that you really want and need a nut-free environment with allergic kids in daycare and preschool. They don't get not sharing, their hygiene post-meals is questionable, etc. As they get older, it can switch to a nut-free table (assuming a cafeteria.)

I think where the problem comes in is where there are rules without understanding what the issues really are. When we got the peanut diagnosis this year I had to spend a lot of time explaining that a) he was fine sitting with the kids eating peanut butter. He knows enough at this age not to share and B) he was fine with actual tree nuts. He eats a larabar at snack every day.

I would encourage conversations--I don't know any parents with kids with food allergies who wouldn't be happy to discuss the issues their kids face!

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I've been following this thread for a while just out of curiosity and figured I'd jump in and see what the final consensus was.

RevKT, have you decided on a plan for next year? As someone with peanut allergies, I can totally understand both sides of this issue.

Here are my suggestions on what to do about packed lunches:

1. As someone said before, food made from seeds is a great substitute for nuts. You can use sunflower or pumpkin seeds to make nut butters, flours (to use in place of almond flour recipes), granola, trail mixes, etc.

2. As far as cooking in coconut oil, while not as good, you could use ghee (if you consume butter), or any seed oils. While not as beneficial as coconut oil, one meal a day shouldn't be a problem. If you don't consume ghee, try making some homemade broth, skimming off the fat, and cooking your kids' meals in that.

3. With the coconut milk, you could try substituting a homemade seed milk, although I realize that won't produce the same results.

I hope these suggestions help. I'd love to hear your plan for next year!

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Schools just don't want to be sued, so they take extreme measures if an extreme case is brought to them. It only takes one for many schools to go all lockdown on the peanuts. Interesting, because do they do this with gluten? I know someone who can't even touch it without a reaction and if he eats it... Hospital time. But, do whole schools go gluten free?

This all makes me glad we are homeschooling. I really feel for parents who have kids they know have food issues, but can't get schools to take them seriously or, worse, just want their kids to eat a healthy but not conventional diet. Some of our schools have even gotten to the point where they won't let a child bring their own lunch. They are forced to eat what the school feeds them. Horrible.

I second the suggestion that perhaps talking directly to the parents of the child with the allergy, you can see if coconut is ok in this case or really not. If it isn't, you may sadly need to just avoid using it entirely if the risk is too great that your child might bring it to school. I can't have coconut milk, but I can use the oil, and I've learned to accept I can't make recipes with coconut milk anymore. Eventually, you become ok with it.... Or so I tell myself. ;-)

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