Happy First Day of School (and Watch Out for Killer Salmon)

Today is the first day of school for a lot of Americans. If you’re a young reader, Happy First Day of School to you. If you’re a parent, Happy First Day of Taxpayer-funded Daycare!

Here’s the latest email from our town-run facility for the pre-K crowd (most of it was bold-faced, but I removed that):

… there are students in the preschool that have severe allergies to PEANUTS, TREE NUTS and SALMON. Strict avoidance of all peanut and nut products and salmon is the only way to prevent a life-threatening allergic reaction. Even touching a small amount of a product or an accidental ingestion of a food product containing peanuts could result in a life-threatening situation. We are asking your assistance in providing all students with a safe learning environment.

To reduce the risk of exposure, PEANUTS, all TREE NUTS AND SALMON will NOT be allowed in the preschool this year. Please do not send any foods containing peanuts, nuts or salmon for your child to eat for snacks (morning and extended day) or for lunch in the classroom. Please read ingredients labels carefully. Any exposure to peanuts or nuts through contact or peanuts, nuts and salmon by ingestion can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction requiring emergency care.

Additionally, if your child eats or handles food that contains peanut/nut, peanut/nut oils or peanut/nut dust for breakfast on a school morning, we ask that he/she wash their hands before coming to school.

Readers: What allergies are you getting emails about? Could aggregated school letters from around the U.S. be a useful data set to track to see how Americans are evolving?


20 thoughts on “Happy First Day of School (and Watch Out for Killer Salmon)

  1. We have friends whose child has a severe allergy to tree nuts (but not peanuts.) Having seen him react to accidentally coming in contact with these, we keep a syringe (provided by the parents) in our house.

    Salmon is off-limits; trout ok?

    An acquaintance told me that their school prohibits any dairy-based snacks brought from home; the school cafeteria sells/provides milk and dairy – WT?

  2. saw the evolution from my Millennials and my considerably younger kid when the middle school was embarking on 2 nights of “Outdoor Education.” Last century, there was a presentation, with minimal mention of allergies or medications. In 2014, the presentation spent at least 50% of the time on how meds were to be sent, administered, stored, returned, etc.. So the next time I took my then-12 yo for his annual check-up, I asked the pediatrician, “What percentage of your patients are on meds on a regular basis?” His answer: “about two-thirds.” Had it changed in the past decade? “Yes, way up, almost doubled.” The allergy issue had my youngest kid subjected to nut-free, dairy-free, wheat free desserts at the Halloween & Valentine’s parties in his class in 2nd grade due to the presence of one child with severe allergies. The parents flew the cupcakes in from Manhattan (at their expense) and they were inedible. None of the children ate more than one bite. My husband called this the least common denominator approach — everyone suffers if one kid can’t have the butter-laden cakes my older kids enjoyed. By the time their much younger sibling was of school age, the public school had banned all homebaked goods, as everything had to come from a supermarket-style bakery with all ingredients, mostly unnatural, listed, so the teacher could determine if this item was safe for the students with allergies. But if your child can’t breathe after ingesting nuts, it’s pretty awful from what I’ve been told.

  3. forgot to add they also had to be eggless — these were from Divy’s in Manhattan Fedexed to Maryland — so prob cost a fortune for the worst cupcakes ever — I think it was rice flour, applesauce, and some sort of WFM expensive sweetener

  4. > “what percentage of your patients are on mess?” His answer: “about two-thirds.” Had it changed in the past decade? “Yes, way up, almost doubled.”

    The CDC vaccine schedule for 0-6yrs in 1983 had only 10 vaccines, the 2015 schedule had increased to 38. Unrelated coincidence? Maybe we’ll see when The Donald’s vaccine safety czar, democrat Robert F Kennedy jr, eventually publishes his findings.

  5. 38 sounds high to me, even with all the new vaccines like chicken pox (since circa 1995?) — maybe they’re including flu vaccines which are optional??? (I personally have never had one, and my kids only occasionally got them when they were being offered while they were waiting in line at the college dining hall, but their peers for the most part had them each fall/early winter). I also asked this pediatrician whether there’s still a lot of Ritalin being prescribed (since that’s the one a pediatrician I know personally felt was overprescribed for kids who can’t tolerate the seat work required by schools), and he replied in the affirmative, but didn’t give specific numbers.

  6. We have the opposite problem. Our moderately-functioning autistic son has severe food aversions. Peanut butter and jelly (on white bread, crusts removed, please) is one of the five foods he will eat, and the only entree he will eat day-in, day-out. We’re in the midst of a battle royale with San Diego Unified because they’re trying to ban peanuts from his classroom. Only the lawyers are going to win this one.

  7. When my son started preschool i gave him a peanut butter sandwich. I had always been given dreary peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and it seemed to me like a rite of passage. But I then received a call from the school and had to admit that i and i alone had given the lad a peanut butter sandwich — couldn’t blame his mom (for reasons that are not relevant here). I was admonished, given a lecture on the hazards of the peanut and told that because i had done so my kid had to eat alone — he was four or five at the time and imagine the trauma that must have caused. I would have thought that it is the kid with the allergy, if indeed there was a kid with an allergy, who should have been removed from the group, but I guess i was misinformed. I bet George Washington Carver, who, if memory serves, invented the peanut would have been rolling over in his grave.

  8. @John Watson: Maybe San Diego will adopt Montgomery County Public School (MD) policy — there is a nut-free table but those who want to bring PB&J can sit at any other table. MCPS is a huge system so they’ve surely been through lawsuits over allergens.

  9. Don’t tell the school that you prepared your kid’s school lunch in a kitchen that also processes tree nuts, peanuts, salmon, shellfish, eggs, wheat, soy, and milk.

  10. It turns out that in Israel peanut allergy is very rare. It appears that the reason is that a favor early food for Israeli infants is called Bamba. Bamba resemble American cheese puffs (Cheetos) but for reasons of kashrut instead of being cheese flavored, Bamba are peanut flavored and therefore pareve (neither meat nor dairy and so can be eaten at any meal). Toothless Israeli infants suck on them and they melt in their mouth, no teeth required so they are a perfect early food for babies. Apparently by introducing peanuts early Israeli kids do not develop peanut allergies.

  11. I have no doubt peanut allergies are real, but the prevalence seems to be off the charts.

    Has anyone checked to see if there is a strong correlation between wealthy zip codes and peanut allergies? My guess would be that the ghetto schools have a much lower frequency of peanut allergies, maybe even nil.

  12. Peanut allergy was pretty rare in the US when I was a kid, but that was before it became a highly desirable status symbol to be a victim of something, even if it was only an esoteric medical condition.

  13. I doubt that Bamba is the (only) reason. Here in Germany, peanut & tree nut allergies are no big deal, and I have never heard of salmon allergies before. There are no limits of what food kids could bring to school. We do have some fashionable allergies here, like Gluten, but that’s mostly an issue for adults, and from my observations it seems to concentrated in one particular social group.

  14. re: GermanL’s speculation that there is a correlation between income level and nut allergies — having just moved from one of the most affluent high school districts to a much more modest one, where about 25% of the kids are eligible for free or reduced price lunches (versus perhaps a few kids out of a graduating class of 510 where we previously lived), I am missing the endless stream of paperwork about the protocol if your child has an allergy, if your child desires PB&J for lunch, etc.. The lunch also costs exactly half what it used to, and although I packed my son’s lunch, he says that on the first day of school yesterday, it looked much better than the previous school, and thus he decided to buy his lunch ($1.25) today. Looks are deceiving, but we’ll see soon enough (he and his older brothers tried the large system lunch for about $2, eventually rising to $2.50), not to be repeated. I have a close friend in the DC area who volunteers for a foundation on this issue, as one of her children ended up the the ED when another family’s nanny gave him those packaged peanut butter crackers (Lance brand sticks in my brain from her story) around age 2, and I am sympathetic since I have met many families over the years for whom this is a life-threatening issue.

  15. @Suzanne Goode: That would make too much sense. They are enforcing, and have doubled-down, on their zero-tolerance, zero-decision policy. The same policy that requires them to accommodate our son’s food aversion. We have obtained an injunction that requires them to accommodate him. Their “accommodation” is to require him to eat lunch in the nurse’s office, which we find not acceptable, and is being addressed by the court on Friday.

  16. completely empathetic, John, as one of my kids was briefly an extremely picky eater (Mom’s homemade mac & cheese, corn-on-the-cob, broccoli in an ironic twist as George W. at the time confessed to hating broccoli as mom Barbara made him eat it as a child — it was the only green veggie my then 10-yo would go near) — and what with 4 kids I’ve encountered tons of children who are difficult eaters. So MCPS official policy, which I observed as a recess volunteer many times, was to designate a “nut free table,” which I noticed was placed at the far end of the cafeteria so that it was max distance from where food preparation went on — which included PB&J sandwiches — actually the default if your kid had no money/kid’s account was drawn down. My one highly social kid informed me when this policy went into place, probably around 2003, that he didn’t ever want nut products in his packed lunch (he refused to buy the lunch after one experience, with the “upside down breakfast” as the pancakes were so heavy/weird he nearly vomited that afternoon — he was used to “Joy of Cooking” pancakes with real maple syrup and these were probably more like that mix at all the chain hotels like Holiday Inn) so he had the option of sitting at the nut free table, rather than with his class. since he had a friend with severe nut allergies that year in his grade. I wish you all the best, but hope an economist is hired as an expert witness to explain how benefiting the few, i.e., those with nut allergies, may not maximize overall welfare. But since the debate on board airplanes has led to the banning of nuts there (right?), I understand why you’re pessimistic.

  17. One of my businesses is a preschool center in upstate NY – after 14 years in the business I’ve never seen such a laundry list of allergies in children between 2 to 5 years of age (or of behavioral issues – but I digress). It has been a topic of great conjecture between my wife and myself for some time.

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