Posted by Cris on | April 25, 2011 | No Comments
This column provides a space for sneezywheezy.com readers to share their stories – and let other parents know what to watch out for. Special thanks to AY’s mom for telling us about this event, which happened recently at her son’s playschool here in Singapore.
By AY’s mom
My son’s teachers knew he has a peanut allergy. I didn’t expect them to use peanut butter during arts & craft session, but that is exactly what they did.
My son AY turns two next month, and he attends an accompanied Mandarin playgroup for two hours, twice a week. He’s been going there for almost a year, and the school has never served any nuts or peanut butter during their snack time. The usual snacks, provided by the school, are biscuits/ cookies, cheese, fruits or sausage. They are aware of my kid’s allergy; he’s allergic to peanuts and eggs. They always tell me or my nanny if the cookies have eggs. In fact, for the past year, they have never served biscuits /cookies that contain eggs. But I still ask every time they serve biscuits /cookies just to be extra cautious.
One day last week, AY came back from school with my nanny, and I noticed that the creases of his arms and neck were red, and there were little bumps around his chin and mouth. I could tell that it was an allergic reaction. Immediately I asked my nanny what they served during the snack time and she said “peanut butter”. I was shocked and horrified. She said “Of course I didn’t let him eat it.” She said she didn’t even let AY go to the table.
So I called the school to talk to someone in charge of the Mandarin program. The person I spoke to said the director is not in today, but wanted to know if she could help, so I told her what happened: Basically, I was shocked to find out they were serving peanut butter especially when the teachers knew about his allergy. I had to educate her that food allergy can get set off not just by eating, but also by touching too. And, in the case of peanut, it is airborne allergen. What’s more, it is life threatening for some people with a very serve allergy. She had no idea. I told her to please share the info not only with the Mandarin program director, but also the entire school, and make it a school policy that they ban peanuts from classes where there are students with peanut allergy.
Several hours later I got a call from the Mandarin program director. She called to assure me that AY’s teacher was aware of his allergy, and they didn’t serve peanut butter during the snack time. Instead, it was during the arts and crafts session. They used the peanut butter as a sticking material. And, she was surprised to hear that AY had a reaction just from being in the same classroom. I had to repeat what I had told the school earlier: food allergy is not just through consumption but from touching. In particular, peanut allergy is airborne, and can be life-threatening which is why peanuts are banned on airplanes and in schools in the U.S., including many international schools in Singapore. The Mandarin director admitted she didn’t know these facts, and thanked me for the information.
I confirmed with my nanny that it was indeed used as sticking glue during the arts and craft time. She told me they let the kids spread the peanut butter on a celery stick, and stick raisins onto the peanut butter. Then, they let the kids eat it! So what’s the difference between snack time and arts and crafts, my nanny asked. My nanny says she didn’t let him do that “arts & craft” project. Instead, he only did the other arts and crafts project, which doesn’t use peanut butter. Just as a background on their arts and craft session, there are always two projects per session, and two tables are set up, one for each project.
I think he got reactions because the other kids were touching the peanut butter and touching everything else that AY also might have put his hands on. Or, could he possibly get a reaction through the air, since peanut is airborne allergen? Not sure if peanut enzymes in peanut butter can flow in the air. Who knows? The important facts are (1) he got an allergic reaction; (2) luckily it was very minor; and (3) it was preventable if the teacher and the school had been more knowledgeable about the danger of peanut allergy.
Before I had AY, I didn’t know anything about food allergies, or that people could get allergic reactions from touching. None of our family members did, both from my side and husband’s side; so I don’t blame AY’s school for not knowing it. Unless you know someone very well who has food allergy, people would not know. It is not a common knowledge.
Parents of kids with food allergies should just assume that many people don’t really understand food allergies, and therefore you have to spell it out. It’s safer that way. I had to call AY’s school to educate them so that there won’t be any tragic incidents in the future at their school.
The lesson I learned is educate, educate! – yourself, your children, family, friends, schools, and whoever in close contact with your kids. I am still learning myself about food allergies, and need to share my knowledge with all our family members and AY’s future schools and friends, and most importantly, AY when he is old enough to understand.