Food allergies are a fact of life for many children, and some schools must make lunchtime arrangements to keep the allergic child safe. Is a peanut-free table, room or even school fair to the non-allergic children?

Allergy trumps school lunch choices

We speak to parents and experts on why you should be happy to keep peanuts out of your child’s lunch for the safety of her classmates.

Peanut allergies are no joke — even a tiny bit can send a child into an allergic reaction, which can be anaphylactic. Anaphylactic allergic reactions are serious medical emergencies, and if emergency medication (epinephrine) isn't administered in a timely manner, it can result in death. Some schools, in addition to providing teacher training on the use of EpiPens, have implemented peanut-free areas of their building, or have designated the whole school peanut-free. Arguments, generally from parents, spring forth as they feel it impinges on a non-allergic child's right to eat what they want. Here's why it's important for everyone to help protect our kids.

Some reasons it may be harder

For kids who have other special diets, such as being vegan or vegetarian, it can be more difficult to impose a peanut butter ban in the school. Charles Stahler from the Vegetarian Resource Group ( says that banning peanuts from a school can make it harder for vegetarian kids. “Many vegetarian and vegan kids live on peanut butter at school or camp because there is not much else convenient to eat,” he explained. “So in most cases, it would seem there should be a way to balance the needs of both populations rather than totally banning peanut butter or similar foods.”

Life-threatening trumps inconvenience

However, most experts, parents and fellow allergy-sufferers agree that the potential life-threatening aspect of a peanut allergy trumps a child’s desire to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “The American Disability Act requires a school to meet the needs of the food allergy child, and it would be foolish not to — it is a life and death situation,” said Jamie Perillo, child and family psychotherapist who serves on the board as an expert clinician for the Food Allergy Education Network. “Kids are generally accommodating and supportive to their peers. It is often the adults who are not. A child who brings in peanut butter and triggers an anaphylactic reaction in the food allergy child would hold a tremendous amount of feelings if that occurred. The rule then protects both children. Children can learn compassion from these rules. A lesson in compassion and a great friendship is worth more than that peanut butter sandwich.”

Child with peanut allergy dies at school >>

Cheryl McEvoy, the director of communications for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, agreed. “While a peanut-free classroom or a ‘no cupcakes’ policy may seem unfair to children who do not have food allergies or sensitivities, health and safety are the priority,” she shared. “It’s a medical necessity.”

Non-allergic kids have options

Jen from Canada, who has suffered from allergies (including a life-threatening peanut allergy) for most of her life, agrees that a no-peanut rule in schools is best for everyone involved. “No one has a ‘right’ to eat peanut butter at school,” she told us. “It's not a right. It's simply a choice, and given that a child could die because of the choice, no you don't get to bring it to school. There are plenty of other foods that kids can bring, they don't 'need' peanut butter and they can eat it all they want at home.”

Entertaining kids with food allergies >>

Especially in the younger grades, protecting a child with a life-threatening peanut allergy should be priority for staff, students and other parents. When you don’t have personal experience with food allergies and how frightening they can be, it can be difficult to really understand the need to eliminate certain foods from a child’s environment. All of us — as parents and fellow human beings — should consider the safety and welfare of all children as important as our own and should not balk at a peanut ban.

More on food allergies and kids

Mom story: My kids have life-threatening food allergies
How to manage your kids' food allergies at school
Your child's severe food allergy


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Comments on "Do kids with food allergies inconvenience “normal” kids?"

Dawn October 03, 2013 | 6:56 PM

To need to learn how to spell & write properly. You are another ignorant one!!!!

Dawn October 03, 2013 | 6:35 PM

To Lisa....well said!!!!!

Dawn October 03, 2013 | 6:21 PM

My comment is in response to "RUTH'S COMMENT" on September 23rd, 2013. I couldn't even read any further comments after hers because I was so DISGUSTED BY HER IGNORANCE!!!!!! She would be the first one to complain and make a fuss if it was one of her kids allergic to peanuts. Feed your little monsters their peanut butter, but the hell that another child might die because your kid ate peanuts around them. I hope your kids don't grow up to be as ignorant as you are. Shame on you!!!! You sounded like idiot when you wrote your statements.

Ruth September 23, 2013 | 2:18 PM

How are these peanut allergy children going to survive in the real world? The real world is not going to accomodate them in this way. The company they end up working for is not going to make special provisions for them, as it's their responsibility to not eat anything they shouldn't. I understand pre-school, but a child needs to be aware of their allergies by the time they start school. You can't control what other people are doing before school either. What if a child has peanut butter for breakfast and touches the bus seat or handrail? Are the parents of the allergic children going to try to dictate what my kids and others who are not allergic eat for breakfast? Sorry, not happening! As far as the sun butter suggestions that I have gotten from these parents, are you aware that sun butter is almost double the price of peanut butter?! The last time I looked at the price, it was almost $7.00 for a small jar! Some of us are on a budget, and when it comes to feeding a family of 5, I'm not about to spend that much on a little jar of something that YOU feel my kids need to eat, unless you want to pay for it! I don't want to see any child sick, but the kids with allergies need to be put in a class together or kept out of the public school system. I firmly believe that there are so many allergies because of overprotective, over sanitizing parents! It will NOT hurt your child to get dirty!! You don't need to call your pediatrician every time your child looks at you funny!

Oakley Pit Boss August 08, 2013 | 7:02 PM

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Gabi's mom August 05, 2013 | 2:17 PM

My 3rd child is severely allergic to peanuts, nuts, and mildly to pretty much everything else. Ultimately, yes, it is HER problem and she must learn to navigate in a world where most people enjoy those things. My daughter is almost 18 and when she was little she was the pioneer of school policy. I made my own health forms, made my own peanut free signs, I was winging it! We are so lucky people were receptive to accommodations, but I didn't push my luck and act like a Diva! There are children with other illnesses and issues who's parents must advocate for them. Before you judge remember your child may inconvenience other people by breaking an arm and needing someone to help, or be out of school sick or on a vacation and need homework, notes, or catch up. Karma is a b!

MichelleP July 16, 2013 | 11:56 AM

I was sympathetic to the parents who posted here whose kids have allergies until I read the shouting in all caps and the ridiculing. You're not helping the case of having compassion. I'm with the "no one else should be inconvenienced because of your child" camp. Guess what? My daughter and my sister in law have peanut allergies. We deal with it because it is OUR problem, no one else's. A colleague of mine refuses to take her 12 year old daughter who is allergic to nuts to her in laws for any event involving food, because her MIL refuses to have a completely nut free meal. I agree with her MIL. 12 is old enough to know what she can't eat, and colleague admitted herself her MIL provides plenty of other nut free dishes. It's caused serious problems in her family and in her marriage. Why should everyone else not eat something just because her child can't? Thank you, Rin. What's going to happen to these kids when they grow up? The world isn't going to cater to their allergies.

Becky July 11, 2013 | 7:16 AM

My son was diagnosed with a dairy allergy last year. Not as severe as some but on top of severe allergies to pollens, mold, dust and cotton he has an epi-pen. Before he was diagnosed I was the mom who would contact the teacher to see if children had allergies before sending snacks in to school. When I would bake cupcakes I would cut the labels off the box and send them in so the teacher could see exactly what was in the food I was sending. I always tried my best to watch out for the other children even though mine were "normal." Now that I have a child who isn't "normal" I do the same as I always have... I watch out for other people's children. To the parents that have a problem with kids with allergies and nut-free policies at school, SHAME ON YOU! We're talking about children's lives here, put yourself in the shoes of a parent who has to send their child to school knowing they could die if an ignorant parent decides to forget the rules and send something anyway. And Sue, you say we need to worry about bullying? You're the bully, making fun of children who could die at any moment. Parents of children with allergies aren't health nuts, we have no choice, you think we want to raise our kids like this? We want our kids to be like all the other kids out there. I hope our situations never reverse, I have a feeling you would be singing a different tune if it was your child.

ReallyPeople??? June 11, 2013 | 1:23 PM

Wow! A lot of intolerant and ignorant comments on here. I fear the compassionless, selfish little monsters some of you will release on society one day. I have a good friend who did everything right during her pregnancy and followed pediatrician's recommendations on when to introduce certain foods, but her toddler has unfortunately developed several food allergies. One day he had no trouble with eggs, the next time they were served, he had a reaction and had to be rushed to the ER. And so it went with several other foods along with extensive, painful testing at the allergist's office. Their lives have become a constant challenge, being vigilant to protect their child from something as innocent as a cookie that could ultimately take his life. There is an alarming increase in food allergies around the world, some studies suggest links to GMO's and the Western diet of highly processed foods, which btw, they rarely take part in anyway, feeding their son mostly nutritious, whole foods. But this really is becoming a societal, not an individual problem, and everyone would be wise to take notice. To those unwillingly to compromise and make a small, temporary sacrifice for the well being of others: be thankful you and yours aren't afflicted w/ food allergies, and have some empathy and understanding for those who are.

SoObvious April 29, 2013 | 9:35 AM

Banning people from eating peanuts is unconstitutional. While at a school it might seem like a higher prevalence of peanuts lying around, in reality, the chance is everywhere else equally. So banning people from eating something at a certain time is simply unconstitutional. There is no argument. Your child's problem doesn't trump my right to eat food. Your problem your special accommodations. Not my problem, no reason for me to change for you.

Monica April 07, 2013 | 4:11 PM

Hi Beth. I don't know if you'll see this comment, but I am the author of this article as well as the other and wanted to respond to what you wrote. There is a big difference between vaccines and eating peanut butter. Your child not eating peanut butter at school does not harm them, but me vaccinating my child on schedule might. She is partially vaccinated, and will be fully vaccinated according to our state laws by the time she enters school -- just not on the same schedule most parents do. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

beth April 07, 2013 | 1:21 PM

I find it very ironic that the person writing this also writes why her child is on a delay vaccine schedule. Let's see if I have this child should forgo peanut butter at school to protect the kids with allergies. Yet you yourself do not vaccinate your child to the detriment of children who cannot be vaccinated? So it's okay to subject kids to whooping cough, measles, mumps, chicken pox, but not peanuts? For children who cannot vaccinate because of cancer, low immune system, etc those illness are deadly. Sounds like one hell of a double standard to me.

Sue February 14, 2013 | 8:46 PM

Children should be allowed peanut butter sandwiches at school or anything else they wish to take. Because some mother wants to bring up a child who is hardly allowed anything why should everyone suffer. Violence and bullying is the thing they should worry about. Do they never take the child to a restaurant or shopping mall in case peanuts are around. These children are usually the sickly looking children. Health nuts are always sick.

Suzanne January 30, 2013 | 9:51 AM

My children are vegetarian and both of them are in nut-free classes. On top of that, my son needs to eat a gluten free diet. Yes, it's inconvenient at times, but I would rather deal with inconvenience than being responsible for another child's potentially life threatening allergic reaction. I work around it. If my children want to eat nuts, they do it after school. It is not that hard. I don't understand people who complain about it.

Sandra January 19, 2013 | 10:25 AM

Also our son knows not to eat anything we have not approved and does not trust a verdict of safe given by someone we have not told him he can trust. As he grows up he will have more control, learn to read and understand food labels. We don't expect the world to change for him, but at the moment he is too young to make these decisions himself. The school situation is different in that he has to be there so it should be safe for him. Even if this is just a dinner lady watching his table and understanding friends and their parents. Thank you to them.

Sandra January 19, 2013 | 10:02 AM

My son is 5 and has multiple food allergies. I used to raise my eyes to the sky when parents waffled on about this allergy and that allergy. Completely self diagnosed, un tested etc. now where most of my sons allergies are concerned so long as he does not eat it or cover himself with it he is fine. I would say that's most food allergies to be honest, BUT his nut allergy is different. why? Because there is a chance that if he eats or touches nut products he could have an anaphylactic reaction. I am not just assuming this... I have seen his blood results and I have sat up all night in HDU watching him struggle to breathe. His school is not nut free but his class is. His friends, 5 year olds, not teenagers or older children with greater understanding have been fantastic, they choose to bring foods which will keep their friend safe, they have compassion. I find that is a quality that is often lost with age. His teachers are amazing everything is just normal for everyone. I would also like to remind those anti that allergy often starts in teenage years and whilst I would wish this on nobody , I would be interested to have this discussion again after your child becomes the allergic one. The other consideration here is actually your child. How is your child going to feel if it was their peanut butter sandwich that made their friend sick, or even killed them, how will they feel about themselves and how will they feel about you. That you valued a peanut butter sandwich over their friends future. Good luck explaining that to them. Nut allergy is different..... Anaphalaxis is not a tummy ache and a bit of a rash! Please be more understanding.

Julia January 07, 2013 | 3:37 PM

So your kids are NEVER allowed to eat peanut butter because your friends are alleric? Sorry, but THAT is nonsense. At school? Sure, make it peanut free. But not letting your kid eat peanut butter EVER even when they are at home and won't be seeing anyone with an allergy that day..e on!!

Holly January 07, 2013 | 9:45 AM

I don't have a child with allergies, but my kids have 3 friends who do. So, I have simply trained my kids to like sunbutter and almond butter instead of peanut butter. What an easy switch and sunbutter sure tastes so similar to pb. An easy solution for everyone! :)

Pinksapphire January 06, 2013 | 6:58 PM

Tardis_blue, Thank you!!! I say "ditto" to everything you said. And to NormalMom, it's moms like you that I don't understand. If your child had a life-threatening allergy, would you feel differently? Of course you would because it would be your child whose life was on the line every time they took a bite of food!

Lisa January 06, 2013 | 6:56 PM

WOW, "NormalMom" you are really something! Our kids are NORMAL, which have just been dealt a card of having life threatening food allergies. Food allergies are becoming more & more common and it's something people like you need to learn to accept. We didn't ask for these allergies, but have learns to love with them. It doesn't just affect our kids at school it's ALL day EVERYDAY, social events, birthdays parties, sporting events...EVERYTHING our kids do! So sorry but yes it would be nice to send my son to school and not have to worry EVERYTIME the phone rings and it's the school (they call a lot because I voluntary) oh is my son OK?? You seriously need to put yourself in our shoes. We don't need a separate school for kids, we just need compassionate parents who understand that our kids just want to be "normal" too! Did you ever hear of Karma??

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