Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Allergy Table - Ugh

I guess I am naive, but I never realized that Bella sat at an 'allergy table' at her school.

I had always been under the impression that she just never sat next to kids that had nutty foods in their lunch, and that all the kids washed their hands after eating so they didn't spread the nuttiness to Bella.

So, they do wash their hands after eating, which is great. But I noticed that Bella always told me that she sat next to her friend "P" at lunch each day. I found this a little odd and asked her why she didn't sit next to her cousin (he is in the same class as her). She just shrugged and told me she couldn't, because he might have peanuts in his lunch.

I didn't think much of it, but then I started to worry that it was already starting. That she was already 'peanut girl' and that she was already being ostracized for her allergy. Visions of her sitting alone each day, with no friends, filled my mind. I was envisioning how I would handle homeschooling her to help her overcome the psychological damage done to her by the bullies with their taunts and threats and....

Uh, I got off on a little tangent there, didn't I? Ahem....

So I had a chat with the folks at her daycare. And yes, indeed, Bella sits at the 'allergy table'. Which is FINE with me, don't get me wrong. And any of her pals can sit with her as long as they don't have peanuts in their lunch that day. Whew.


Here's where I am puzzled. The other kids at the table, well, they don't ALL have peanut allergies. Some of them have shellfish allergies, some have milk allergies, some are allergic to tree nuts, and some to eggs.

The thing is. I send all of those in Bella's lunch in any given week (except of course for the tree nuts). Now I feel terrible, that I could have inadvertently exposed a kid to an allergen! Yikes!

I've emailed the director of the school already about it (I asked her to call me-I didn't say about what). They should, at the very least, send a note home to the allergic kids so we are aware of the other allergies at 'the table'. Of any parents, we'd be the most likely to understand, empathize, and comply.

Or should they? Does this seem bizarre to you guys?

BTW, I am really happy with the school Bella goes to. I don't want her living in a bubble or anything, so I am ok with it not being a peanut free school. They always provide nut free snacks (for everyone, not just Bella). And if there is ever a question with special snacks, treats, food projects, etc., (sometimes they'll have a weekly theme that incorporates food - they tasted sweet, sour, salty, etc, today in fact) they are always making sure that we find something Bella can have. They really are great. They may just need a leeeeeetle guidance on this one.

What should I say? Or should I? Maybe I should just play dumb and ask her to confirm their policies and practices? I'm not very good at playing dumb though :)


ChupieandJ'smama (Janeen) said...

Oh, I wouldn't play dumb. I'd just say that "It was brought to my attention that...." and just explain to them your concerns. There's nothing wrong with that. They may have a good explanation or they may be totally clueless and need your guidance. Either way you're doing your "good food allergy deed" for the day :)
This is the reason I'm not too hip to the "peanut free" table for my son. What about wheat, tree nuts, eggs etc? And I don't want him at a table all by himself. That's just too sad to even think about. So I've devised a plan. I work in the lunch room for the older boy and I take the younger one with me and let him eat with the other kids. This way I get to see how it goes. And if it goes badly then I'm there with the EPI. So far so good and he's been up close and personal with a peanut butter sandwich (wheat and peanuts, shudder) on more than one occasion. The kids are actually great with him. They all know he has food allergies and take great care with him. Of course when he goes to school there by himself I will have to put rules and safe guards in place with the teachers and cafe staff but for now I think we will be ok.

Lise Samson said...

I think that allergic students would all benefit from clearly rules set about the allergic table. Maybe, you should meet the other parents of allergic kids to know what they think about the allergic table in order to agree with clear rules that you may suggest to the school director.

Also, like you, I am preoccupied by the impact of the label “peanut student” on Bella perception of herself and on how other acts with her.

When he was younger, my son went to a school where peanuts and nuts were not allowed in lunches and it worked very well. Now that he is a teenager, he goes to another school of 1500 students where peanuts and nuts are authorized in the lunchroom. We had no other choice to accept it because all teenagers’ school proceed this way around her. I teached my son to always watch what his neighbours eat and to keep his food away from them.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is "only" dairy-allergic at this point, although, still testing for others... but some schmuck sat her at the "peanut free" table because of her allergy, with a PEANUT BUTTER sandwich. She had to tell the substitute that she has a PB sandwich, and that she's not allowed to sit at the PB-Free table today, and the teacher didn't know what to do with her, because of her allergy.
Fortunately for us, she can touch dairy, and smell it on someone else's plate, so we don't have to isolate like with a PA...

But I think the best answer for your issue is to EDUCATE everyone around your daughter and make sure that they are aware of what is and isn't in your comfort level... And as she gets older, she will be able to advocate for herself. My Molly is 5.5, in Kindergarten, and she knows what she cannot have, and will explain to anyone who asks/offers. Unfortunately, many people confuse the dairy allergy with lactose intolerance, therefore, she wears an "allergy bracelet" that reads "DO NOT FEED ME WITHOUT ASKING MY MOM" and has my cell phone number on the reverse side. She has shown this bracelet to numerous people to "prove" that she cannot have what they have offered her.

I guess if the alternative to the Allergy Table at school is them not caring, my theory is you can never be too careful.

Karen said...

It is such a tightrope walk we do...between keeping out kiddos safe and sparing them feeling ostracized at school. I have always found that talking with those in charge helps. I always tell them how much I didn't want to be "that parent" who always was complaining - but that this issue is far from petty. I have also found that the more involved I am in volunteering, the better! Good luck :)

Jenny said...

My daughter sits at a peanut-free table at her elementary school and so far the issue of other allergies has not yet arisen, but I'm sure someday it will.

However, in pre-school, I sent her with her own food to eat (rather than the food they provided) and one day I sent some fresh strawberries (trying to send the fruits and veg, you know!) and it turned out that a girl at her school was allergic to those. I felt terrible.

I always speak up about the food allergy issue because otherwise school staff don't get the info they need. I've been able to change a few things and help educate the school personnel and that has been really rewarding.

Don't worry too much about your daughter being the "peanut girl." My daughter has already dealt with some silly stuff at the peanut-free table and has done fine. Most of the kids are very supportive and look out for her. In fact, I talked about this very topic on my own blog ""

Keep up the good work. Love your blog! --Jenny

sarah said...

I am posting from the UK,
we never had a peanut free table in our school. ( I am sure others do,but its not common )
the uk has plenty of nut allergic children.

I dont think I would ever be happy about a peanut free table or the idea of an allergy free table.
my son has quite a few allergies, and just simply avoiding one in this way wouldnt really support him in his managing a true allergy avoidance plan.

So he simply sat with the other children at the end of the table. With close observation by staff.
He had a photo and list of his allergens in the kitchen , for all lunch room staff to see.
He didnt eat any of the school meals until he was in the last year there ( as allergies had changed)
he never had a lunch hall allergy problem there in 7yrs.

However, we did have more problems in other areas of school.
But thats a lonnnnnnnnnng story.

have been hanging around this blog for 3 months now, thought it was about time I joined in.


Unknown said...

I thought our elementary school was strange for having the same policy. One year it is a peanut-free and tree-nut free table, another year it is peanut-free, tree nut-free and something else-free. As you point out, it can't be all things to all allergic students without some coordination! My non-allergic child happily ate hummus and pita many days at what we thought was a peanut-free, tree nut-free table with his nut-allergic friends. We later found out, it was also sesame-free, and hummus usually has tahini (sesame oil) in it! I was horrified. I definitely am going to follow-up on this once the younger, peanut-allergic child is ready to begin school. Don't hesitate to speak up; maybe you can be the person to help them find ways to accommodate multiple food allergies. I bet they don't realize what they are creating with that set-up...

Hippy Goodwife said...

yikes! I dread this part. My son is still in preschool (co-op, so I am there nearly every day) I just don't know how I will handle lunch time in kinder.

The allergy table sounds like it will create many more problems as kids with new allergies arrive. I wish I had a good solution.

Shannon B. said...

Yikes. I can totally understand your reaction and fears! I don't like this strategy at all, honestly. I prefer the make the entire school peanut free approach better because of this. It doesn't seem fair that she doesn't have a choice in who she wants to sit next to everyday, I mean, sure you might share allergies, but it's not really expanding a child's social skill set, it also seems to suggest that you're weird and different.

I guess it's good they're playing it safe, but I think you should have been informed about the other allergies the other students as well!

Great post in the carnival :D Glad I found this. It's an interesting topic -- I'll be sure to share this post on (I'm the Community Manager)

GeonHui's Bakery said...

Golly..I'm not sure what I would do. That's a difficult predicament. I think talking with the other parents to see there thoughts.