I Used To Think Peanut Allergies Were Bullshit

by Andrea Johnson
Originally Published: 

When my oldest child started second grade, we were informed that another child in the class suffered from a nut allergy and the entire grade would be going nut-free as a result. The letter rocked our happy little peanut butter and jelly world and I was simply livid.

My daughter was a picky eater from hell and peanut butter was one of the few things that she would happily eat. Couldn’t the allergic kid just sit at separate table or something? Why inconvenience a whole grade for just one kid? The world isn’t peanut free, dammit, why should school be allowed to dictate what I can and can’t feed my own child?

My son is terribly allergic to cats. Does that mean no family at school should be allowed to have cats at home because their kid might come to school with cat hair on his or her jacket and it could set off a reaction? Of course not. I saw absolutely no difference in the scenarios. I made snarky comments on Facebook and rolled my eyes every day that I had to send a turkey sandwich, knowing full well that it would be thrown away after just a few bites. Peanut allergies were bullshit, I thought.

I should have known better.

Four years later, and my third child has a nut allergy. Karma? Nice to meet you.

Thankfully, it’s a relatively mild allergy so far, but they say her reactions could become more severe with increased exposure. Suffice it to say that we’re not testing that out here in the kitchen with a jar of Jiff.

And although we are vigilant in our own home, both about possible triggers as well as educating all of our children about risk factors, I am terrified when I send her into the outside world. She barely remembers to put pants on without a reminder, for Pete’s sake — she’s five — how can I trust her to stay away from any food that could possibly contain a trace of peanut??

This new world is a terrifying one to live in. I’ve seriously considered home-schooling, but I can’t afford to quit my job to stay home and do it. It’s not like you can get a disability check for a food allergy. (I checked.)

So I put my faith in other parents each and every day when I send my baby off to school. I trust that they will respect the peanut free policy and realize that we’re not simply trying to make life more difficult for them. Having a child with a nut — or any food — allergy is not something I would wish upon anyone. Parenting is hard enough without the added fear of exposure. Nut allergies are real, not some silly exaggeration invented by helicopter parents.

Even if I used to roll my eyes about them.

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