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Allergy Anxious


Amy Dickinson

[This is a ProTeacher approved message from Syndicated advice columnist "Ask Amy" (Amy Dickinson). Ms. Dickinson's column can be found in 125 newspapers around the country including the LA Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune! If she uses your advice in her column, she might mention your name! ]

Dear Amy:

I have a question about food allergies. It seems like more and more kids have them these days and I am curious about how other schools handle this situation.

This year one of my children has a child in his room with peanut allergies and there is also a diabetic child in his room. The class has been instructed not to bring in anything peanut-related or sugary.

For birthday treats, we are supposed to avoid cookies, brownies, cupcakes, etc. It is supposed to be a sugar-free, peanut-free treat. As far as the peanuts go, they are also supposed to avoid this at lunch.

Another child of mine has a milk allergy and a peanut allergy in his room. They have a very strict list of what type of food they can bring -- basically only fruit and vegetables. No crackers, popcorn, string cheese, yogurt, etc. Since it's kindergarten, lunch is not an issue.

I am very sympathetic to these children and their families, but I wonder if this is the best way to handle this. It used to be pretty easy to send food to school and now it involves lots of label reading -- or in the case of the kindergartner, figuring out what's on the allowable food list that he will eat. I don't want to come across as insensitive to these kids, but what about the rest of us?

I feel that this all-or-nothing policy is not the answer. Perhaps readers can get in touch and say what happens at their schools?

Allergy Anxious
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Senior Member
food at school

I have a student in my class who is not allowed to eat sugar, and last year I had a student who couldn't eat strawberries. When we had class parties, I informed the parents, and the parents of these two sent in their own "treat" for their child. The kids were not sensitive about it, and they knew that eating something else could harm them. Everyone else could eat the regular treat, and it really wasn't a big deal.


Senior Member

My daughter is allergic to strawberry products (both artifiicial and real) Her teacher knows that there is always osmething extra in her lunch box in case snack involves something she can't eat. My daughter understands that the things she's allergic to can harm her so she wants to avoid them.

In my own class there is a child with a milk allergy. I try to be sensitive to him when choosing things to bring in. However, our school sponsors many ice cream parties. On these days his mom sends in his favorite popsicles.


New Member
a teacher with allergies

As a teacher with a serious milk allergy, I know what both children and parents face with in school treats. At the beginning of the school year as a class, we discuss why people might not be able to have the treats that we bring to school. We learn how to use proper manners when we are offered a treat. Instead of saying no or I don't like it, we say no thank you. Children with severe allergies should be allowed to bring and store treats at school that they would be able to eat. It is not a matter of "special" treatment, but a matter of being severly ill or having bad side effects. I have never had an issue with any parents sending an extra treat for their child if needed. They key to success, is communication with all parties, teacher, student, and parents. Hope this is helpful. :)


Senior Member
In my opinion, different protocol should be followed depending upon the allergy/ health issue. Most issues can be dealt with by making "suggestions" and then the parent of the child with the health concern sending a safe alternative snack to be stored in the classroom for those times the snack is not compliant. Many parents will want to comply and an option will be available if they don't.

Some problems, like peanut allergies, are more of an issue because of residue issues. In those cases every effort should be made to educate parents on how to keep those residues out of the classroom and to provide a safety avenue for the allergic child when those residues are introduced (such as a plan to have the child leave the room and appropriate handwashing and surface cleaning).

I am the parent of a peanut allergic child. I understand that "peanut free" is not a realistic goal for most people. He learned at an early age not to eat things that are homemade or not properly labeled and always had an alternative available. He knows to get himself out of the room if necessary. He carries an epi-pen for emergencies. However, he has been fortunate to be surrounded by adults and peers who know of his allergy and have made accomodation by either avoiding peanut products altogether or by careful management of residue issues.

In my opinion, a class would be best served by trying to keep the majority of group snacks compliant for all children. Lunches and party snacks can be dealt with as a separate issue. While, obviously, I am biased because of my son, as a teacher I feel it is important to teach the kids to care for each other. Dealing with each other's medical issue with compassion is one way to do that. I've always found that the kids are much more willing to do this than the adults.

Another issue is that kids are often frightened. They don't want their friend to have anaphalactic or diabetic shock in the classroom. Minimizing this chance and having plans in place helps all the children. As I've mentioned, I've been fortunate to never have to ask for "peanut free" for my child. He has found peers and adults around him to be compassionate and careful in helping him stay safe in a realistic and unobtrusive way.

Teach 5

Senior Member
approved snacks

In my class, when I have a child with food allergies or a diabetic child, I ask the parents to send in a box of an "approved snack". That way when another child brought in a birthday treat, the allergic or diabetic child also got a treat that they liked but we didn't have to worry about contents, etc. It is sometimes very difficult to tell if something has a certain food in it & I didn't want to be responsible for giving the child another snack. For my diabetic students, I always called the parents & told them we were sustituitng their special snack for their regular snack that day so their insulin could be calculated properly. I also ask parents to substitute non-food items for treats when possible. Small items like pencils, erasers, etc.