I'm heading over to my kids' school today for a mandatory meeting with staff and all of the fourth grade teachers regarding my daughter's food allergies. Hooray for her school! They take the time and the initiative (they called me, I didn't call them--how refreshing!) to set up meetings with each allergic family to discuss any potential pitfalls as well as medical needs, emergency procedures, field trips, snacks, lunchtime, etc.
As I get my forms ready to go, I started thinking that the biggest problem we face as my daughter gets a handle on her own allergies and is less likely to knowingly ingest peanuts or tree nuts. And that problem is peanuts and tree nuts don't only show up in the school cafeteria or in the Halloween treats bag. They can turn up in the unlikeliest places.
Touching enough peanut or tree nut residue and then bringing that into your eyes or mouth can trigger reactions. The risk is there and it has happened to my daughter on her initial allergic reaction as well as to other kids that we know. For example, a neighbor boy played a video game after his friend ate peanut candy and he got hives, facial swelling and asthma symptoms. At the FAAN conference last spring, a speaker mentioned that her teenage son had a reaction from playing an air hockey game directly after someone who was eating peanuts. So, though the risk is lower than ingestion, it does exist and I need to bring it up.
I decided to provide the following list of non-edible items that may contain peanuts or tree nuts with a request to make sure my daughter either avoids these items or is given the chance to wash her hands after handling them. They include:
- Art supplies/craft projects. Many schools use food in craft projects -- like tree nuts and peanut butter -- and art supplies may contain nut oils. These need to be checked out.
- Small rodent food. My daughter's school has a science center that houses rabbits and guinea pigs--one of the kids' favorite parts of the day is visiting these pets. However, most small rodent food (hamsters, mice, plus rabbits and guinea pigs) almost always contains peanuts and usually some type of tree nut as well. For hygienic reasons I know the kids wash up after handling these animals, but it's good for the teachers to know that she may become exposed from these cute, seemingly harmless critters.
- Science experiments. One common chemistry experiment involves making peanut brittle; many other science experiments may use food. Make sure the teachers know that your child can't be involved in any science projects that contain their specific food allergens. By letting the teachers know early in the year, you give them time to accommodate your request.