Saturday, August 22, 2015

Tips EVERY teacher should know on how to deal with a peanut/tree nut free school/classroom & FREEBIE!

Did you know a peanut is a legume (belonging to the same family as soybeans, peas and lentils), not a tree nut? 

These healthy little legumes are deadly to many students, including my daughter, so I take food allergies VERY seriously at home and at school. Because we have lived with this allergy for four years, I have learned a lot. 

Some schools have declared that they are “nut-free,” meaning no nuts AT ALL can be brought in for snack or lunch. No peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch send parents into a panic, but do not worry, there are plenty of other foods to pack that are healthy and harmless to classmates. 

Why is this so important? Peanuts don’t even have to be consumed to cause problems; peanut proteins in the air can affect people who are sensitive. Peanuts are one of the food allergens most commonly associated with anaphylaxis, a sudden and potentially deadly condition that requires immediate attention and treatment. 

Last year, a high school helper gave my five-year-old daughter a regular M&M when she got to the lunch room. My daughter took the candy, but before eating it, she asked if it contained peanuts.  The girl replied that it didn't (it wasn't a peanut M&M, so normal people would answer this way). My daughter ate it and within minutes, entered the nurses office to receive an epi-pen. She had hives on her face, neck, and throat. Luckily, my husband and I work next door, at the intermediate and middle school and were called to ride in the ambulance with her to the emergency room. She was fine after a four hour hospital observation, but the whole experience was around $4,000.00! We sure met our  insurance deductible that day! 

Although that candy didn't contain peanuts, it was produced in a factory that uses peanuts and could have contained peanut powder from the air. This meant the candy was "contaminated" and off limits. Checking labels is SO important for anyone with allergies. If the label states it was produced in a factory that also produces foods with peanuts, it is a no-go for kids with allergies. At first it was so confusing and seemed like such a chore, but when it's a life or death situation for your child, you get the hang of it rather quickly. 

Some companies that we trust as peanut-free get tricky and create new products containing peanut butter. Usually, this leads to me calling the toll-free number on the box and finding out how and where it was manufactured. When Oreo Cookies came out with peanut butter Oreos, I think my daughter saw the advertisement on television and actually cried tears.  (When we called the company, we found out that peanut butter Oreos are produced in a complete different factory, so regular Oreos would still be safe. YES!!) Oreos are the staple "treat" for food allergen kids. Kids allergic to dairy, tree-nuts, peanuts, and other major allergies are okay to have Oreos. Because of this, every Fall, I send in a Tupperware container full of mini packs of Oreos. I tape a note to my daughter's teacher on the outside explaining her allergy and telling her if there is ever a celebration, my daughter can simply have a pack of Oreos. Honestly, she is fine with the allergy and knows sometimes she has to be left out, but as a parent I feel bad. I try to do what I can to make her feel included. She wears a medical bracelet and NOW knows she doesn't eat anything I don't pack her at school...not even one candy. 

If your classroom is peanut and/or tree nut free, check out the free posters on TPT, like the one above. I was going to make one for my classroom this year, but I don't have to now because Perkins Class on TPT created the adorable one above!

Since I am a nut free freak, I created a go to list to help you out. Also if you want to send home a list to parents of safe snacks for their child to bring to school, you can print out a great one here.

I hope this helps you out in understanding how severe peanut and tree nut allergies can be. They really are no joke. My daughter is currently involved with a peanut desensitization program and is doing awesome. Pretty soon she might even be able to eat "peanut contaminated" foods. Eventually she will be eating three peanut M&Ms a night for "medicine" and she couldn't be more thrilled. It is a life changing program and gives me, as a mother, a HUGE sense of relief. :)

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