Can Nuts (of All Things) Make Home More Dangerous Than School?

by Sarah Burns
Originally Published: 

Pre-kids, I could take ’em or leave ’em. If nuts were in front of me and I was hungry, I’d nibble, but I didn’t crave them.

However, once I became a mom, that all ended. I developed a definite hatred for nuts.

My daughter was a mere six months old when she was diagnosed with a stage four peanut allergy. Translation: Consuming a peanut could potentially kill her. Suddenly, the nuts I had never paid attention to were everywhere. I couldn’t avoid them.

My only consolation? I knew I wasn’t alone. According to a recent CDC study, food allergies in children are on the rise—increasing more than 50 percent since 1997.

While initially hearing the severity of my daughter’s allergy just about assassinated me, I swiftly rebounded, doing all I could in my power to protect her. I instituted a hand washing policy for all newcomers in our home, abstained from eating any nut products (and foods processed in those facilities), asked all individuals to avoid eating nuts both before and during their visits, and embarked on my latest odyssey: Finding a safe, nut-free preschool. It hasn’t been easy—I’m still struggling with the thought of someone else protecting my daughter’s diet and life, which is why I was shocked to read a new study stating that peanut-allergic kids are more likely to be at risk in their own homes than at school.

In the study, which was conducted at Canada’s McGill University, scientists reviewed the circumstances surrounding 567 incidents of accidental peanut exposure to allergic children. The researchers classified 11.3 percent of the reactions to these exposures as “severe” and 50.1 percent as “moderate.” Only 42 percent of severe peanut allergy reactions recorded in this study were evaluated by a medical professional, and almost one in six went untreated.

“For moderate reactions, medical attention was sought only 25 percent of the time,” stated study author Sabrine Cherkaoui. “This is despite 37 percent of exposures occurring in the child’s own home. We found that children are most at risk of exposure in their own homes and when children do have a moderate or severe reaction to an exposure, parents often do not know how to react appropriately.”

Another surprising nugget? “Schools and daycares that allow peanuts may be doing a good job of controlling risk due to heightened awareness of the dangers,” Cherkaoui says.

Who knew a child’s home could be the biggest hotspot? The good news: There’s a lot you can do to prevent a reaction. “More education is required,” says Cherkaoui.

So, ply your friends and family with info today. Simple tactics like having allergy medications (like an EpiPen) and medical contact information at the ready in your home (I plaster mine in the kitchen and kids’ room) as well as instituting stricter food rules for all family members and visitors can go a long way when it comes to sidestepping potential problems.

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