My older daughter goes to a “nut-free” preschool. I’ve always considered the nut ban somewhat of a nuisance (as if packing lunches isn’t challenging enough!), but I’ve also recognized the importance of preventing kids with severe allergies from becoming ill. And I’ve always assumed that these bans were supported, and perhaps even initiated, by allergy experts. Imagine my surprise, then, when I came across this NPR blog entry today:
Sami Bahna, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, tells Shots that the confusion [over food allergies] has led to unnecessary public banishment of a frequent suspect – the peanut.
“If we are going to eliminate peanuts, and another child is allergic to hazelnuts, and another child is allergic to milk, and another child to wheat – there’s no end to this,” he says.
Saying that “taking the peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunchbox option away from a school full of kids” is an “overreaction,” Bahna explains that many patients claim food allergies without having them. (Indeed, recent Stanford research showed there is no clear criteria for diagnosing food allergies, and some patients may be getting misdiagnosed.) And Shots writer April Fulton points out that only 1 percent of people allergic to peanuts have reactions from being near to or smelling the food. “People have to get real,” Bahna told her.
So what does Bahna, who helped develop new guidelines on food allergies, propose?
Parents and patients should take the initiative. Many food allergy sufferers can take precautions, like avoiding the foods, taking an antihistamine before potential exposure, controlling asthma and carrying an Epipen, he says.