To Kill By Way Of Prevention
A child at my daughter's school has peanut allergy, so the school has banned all peanut products to prevent inadvertently exposing this individual to these products. Is this really necessary?
- No name / No state given
Most people who have peanut allergy develop allergic reactions only when they eat peanuts or peanut products. Rarely, a person can be so sensitive to peanuts that reactions occur even when exposed only to peanut particles in the air.
Keep in mind that kids share food. Also, peanut particles from foods eaten by other children can contaminate surfaces such as tables, plates and utensils. These surfaces could then be touched by a child with peanut allergy, triggering an allergic reaction. One way to reduce the risk of inadvertent exposure is to ban all peanuts and peanut products from the school.
If your body might fail if exposed to even trace amounts of something most others find completely innocuous, how can you safely leave the house? Here’s the story of some of the earliest schoolwide peanut bans, which the New York Times reported in 1998:
Prodded by parents warning of lethal allergies, by the contentions of some researchers that peanut allergies are on the rise and, not least, by a fear of litigation, growing numbers of public and private schools across the country, including many of New York City's most selective independent schools, have banned peanut butter from their cafeterias. Others have declared peanut-free zones or set up committees to figure out what to do.
Think about that: out of concern for children with such severe allergies that even trace contact with peanuts might kill them, schools in Manhattan ban peanut products.
For those not familiar with the city:
1. It is very crowded and even if you never set foot in a school you can’t go anywhere without having hundreds of people, at some point during the day, pass within a few inches of you. You will even — literally — bump into some of them.
2. In nice weather there are thousands of street vendors selling all sorts of foods and beverages, including delicious bags of fresh, hot, honey-roasted peanuts and cashews you can smell from a block away when the air is right. People who eat these nuts (or even walk by the sellers) become nut-contaminated and some of them are among those who will pass within a few inches of you. You will even — literally — bump into some of them.
3. Manhattan has so many restaurants that if you ate at three different ones every day it would take decades to eat in every one. Many are ethnic places that fry their foods in peanut oil. Their customers (as well as some people who merely walk by when the doors are open) become nut-contaminated and some of them are among those who will pass within a few inches of you. You will even — literally — bump into some of them.
So if you have one of those fatal peanut allergies, stay away from Manhattan or else you will die. Banning peanuts from Manhattan schools won't save any allergic children; we must ban the allergic children from Manhattan. Even in less crowded places, a kid with such a dangerous condition must not be taught to go through life with the belief that others will go out of their way to accommodate him. In the long run, getting your kid through school alive doesn’t matter if he dies within a year of graduation.
A new study demonstrates a predictable side effect of the nut-free-world campaign:
More than one in four children with nut allergies can't identify the nut that they are allergic to, a new study shows.
The findings suggest that well-meaning parents may be being a little too protective for their children's own good by banning nuts completely from the home, so children never see what they look like, Dr. Ronald M. Ferdman of the Children's Hospital Los Angeles, California, told Reuters.
"Kids just have to get that skill to be able to protect themselves, instead of relying on their parents for the rest of their lives," he said.
(Had I been the reporter covering the story, I would have asked the researchers about the possibility of school nut bans contributing to the problem. I’ll bet they would have given me some great quotes in support of my thesis. But I digress.)
Children with nut allergies were actually less able than those without allergies to correctly identify shelled and unshelled peanuts, although this may have been because they were slightly younger on average than the non-allergic kids, Ferdman and Church note in their report in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. . . . "It is possible that the parents of peanut-allergic children did not allow peanuts in their homes and that their children, therefore, never had the opportunity to learn to recognize them," the researchers note.