I just read an interesting editorial on the “War On Peanuts.” Here’s an excerpt: “Officials [in North Carolina] recently sent letters home to parents asking that they no longer pack peanut-butter sandwiches or cookies in their kids’ lunches.” They go on to say, “We’re all for keeping kids free of lethal food reactions. But in the case of peanuts there appears to be an overreaction. Some parents have even gone out and bought peanut-detector dogs for their kids….CDC data show food allergy deaths are extremely rare, with peanut-related deaths almost nonexistent.” They claim that although the numbers are increasing, overall, the percentage of children with true food allergies still isn’t that big. The author continues, “Punishing other kids for such an extreme minority is, well, nuts. The health benefits of peanuts to the other 99% far outweigh the risks.”
Ten years ago, when my child was first diagnosed with food allergies, I would have been livid reading this editorial. The author is too flippant about food allergies. When my daughter was first diagnosed, I thought peanuts should be banned from all of her environments, including daycare and extended family’s homes. The information I had at the time paralyzed me with fear. Now that we’ve lived with food allergies for awhile, I have a different perspective. Peanuts are a part of everyday life, and isn’t it my job as a parent to help my children learn how to manage their food allergy in everyday life? I can’t control their environment forever, but I can equip them with common sense about food safety.
Reading this editorial actually made me feel kind of embarrassed. Was I the parent who completely overreacted? Did I make people think that I needed a peanut-detector dog? (if there is even such a thing!) I wish I had my perspective now back when my child was first diagnosed. I’d be a little more relaxed but still vigilant. I’d educate and work as partners with people instead of request a removal of all peanut products.
I still feel strongly that I am doing a lot of things right to keep my children safe and teach them how to manage their own allergies. I wonder though if in another ten years, I’ll look back again and wonder if I should have done things a little differently. This is where it’s helpful to band together with other parents dealing with child food allergies. We can lend perspective to those who have a more recent diagnosis, and we can learn from those more veteran than us. It feels better to know that we’re not alone!