Monday, March 14, 2011

Beyond a Peanut Giveaway Winner: Plus, the Whole Florida Peanut Allergy Protest Mess

After a random drawing, I'm happy to announce that Colleen Dabler is the winner of the Beyond a Peanut flashcard giveaway! Congrats to Colleen and please be sure to e-mail me at with your address so we can send you your prize. Thanks also to all who entered. I hope you will consider purchasing these cards if you did not win--they are well worth the price. You can share them with teachers, daycare workers, family and friends.

This giveaway came at an opportune time for discussion about food allergy education because the need for education about food allergies has never been greater. Many of you have contacted me about the Florida peanut allergy protest regarding peanut allergy accommodations at an elementary school. The sad part of this saga is that it seems to me that education was lacking on both sides. I don't understand what happened there, other than not enough education and information was given to the parent population and it blew up in the face of the school, and, unfortunately in the faces of parents who only wanted to protect their severely allergic first-grader.

Certain routine procedures like hand-washing are a regular and easy part of preventing allergic reactions. Peanut sniffing dogs and mouth rinsing (stated as the proposed accommodations given by the Florida school) may raise a few eyebrows among people who know nothing about the seriousness of food allergies. And I'm not sure that most allergists would recommend those two features as part of a school's food allergy guidelines. Were the intentions good? Yes, of course. I feel for any parent of a first-grader. That is a scary time. They are at school all day for the first time and subjected to lunch routines. If you don't know what to expect, it can seem terrifying. I've been there and I've felt the fear. I get it.

We want to seem reasonable and rational when dealing with schools, even if we don't feel that way because, after all, this is the life of our kids we are talking about. Where is the happy medium? That answer will vary depending on your child's case and the school culture. No venue is ever going to be be 100% safe for an allergic person. Too many variables come into play. So you have to use reasonable accommodations to make a school safe enough for a child to attend.

I don't want any of you to be discouraged by the actions of a few Florida protesters who are uneducated about food allergies. These parents were clearly wrong in their actions and frankly, I'm glad this happened if only to expose food allergy hatred for what it is: ignorant. I doubt if only food allergy parents will make that judgement. I hope they will see themselves on TV and wonder if this is how they want their kids to view them--protesting the rights of a 6-year-old girl who didn't ask to be given a life-threatening food allergy. One sign I saw said "Our kids are Special too." I bet any kid with a life-threatening food allergy doesn't want to be "special" in this way. It's really special to be unable to eat your friends' birthday cake or Halloween candy from the neighbors, and be restricted from visiting an ice cream shop?? Not really.

Because of the ignorance and hate, wherever we go, we must make it our job to advocate and educate when you ask for food allergy accommodations, whether it be at school, with friends and family or even at a restaurant or on an airplane. Every small step you take does have a positive impact. I truly believe that.

As a wrap up, I'm including a link to an essay I contributed to the current FAAN newsletter. The title is, appropriately enough, "Dealing With Those Who Don't 'Get' Food Allergies."

Take heart, everyone, and hang in there!


jenny said...

Well said Jenny, well said!

Speedbump Kitchen said...

I agree, well said. I too, was scratching my head at the recommendations to wash out mouths and the peanut dog. Perhaps it's because I'm a pediatrician, and I've seen enough poor allergy management to make your head spin..but I came away from the situation angry at this little girl's doctor. The recommendations are unorthodox, but let's just assume her allergy is so severe that it warrents these extreme measures. If this were the case, and I "prescribed" these unorthodox measures only to find my patient the target of this whole disaster...I'd get a HIPAA waver from the family and be out there defending my medical management, rather than let this family be branded as extreme when they were just following the doctor's orders. The silence of the doctor and unwillingness to defend the "prescription" and the patient speaks volumes to me in this case.

Jenny said...

Great to hear from a pediatrician on this! It is unclear where the directives for the child's accommodations came. I don't know if the doctor prescribed these measures (personally none of my daughter's allergists ever did in our case and she's very severely allergic). You bring up some good points.

Poker Chick said...

This Florida issue highlights a need for education for us FA parents - not just dealing with other people who don't "get it" but what do you do if your SCHOOL doesn't "get it"?

I would love it if you could do a follow up regarding options in school in particular and resources parents have if they try everything and still meet with resistance.

How do you handle an administration that doesn't get it? You can force a 504 but if they will not take it seriously the danger is still there. When my daughter started kindergarten we went through a few terrifying months where I was up at night all the time terrified about her safety at school. We had encountered a lot of hostility to food allergies but unfortunately the worst case happened to be the principal of the school to which we were assigned. She wouldn't even TALK to us! In this case, "being patient" would have meant putting our daughter's life in danger on a daily basis. They suggested we "wait and see" if there were any issues. Our daughter is now enrolled in another school, where they are not only peanut free, they take the concept of inclusiveness very seriously. You can read a highly simplified version of our story here.

Thanks for everything you do!