Nut Allergy Parenting: The Safe Snacks List for School

(Thank you so much for your feedback here and on Facebook! This post is updated below.)

It’s time for Eva to go back to school!

I think the first day of school is a source of stress for a lot of parents, especially when kids are this young. You have to get into a new routine and let your kid go off without you for a while. Once the dust is settled, I actually love the whole “go off without me” thing. Eva gets to be independent and we get a much-needed break so we can miss each other. That being said, those first days…blah.

I created a handout for her class this year. Her classroom is nut-free again (of course), but the school isn’t nut-free so I’m always a little bit stressed about whether or not the other parents will be annoyed that they have to deal with Eva’s allergies. The absolute most awkward thing about allergy parenting is telling other people what they can/can’t feed their kids because you need them to accommodate you. Nobody has ever been rude about it, but I still find the whole thing really uncomfortable.

Here’s the handout I created:

Nut allergy safe snack list for schools - parenting kids with food allergies is so complicated!

PDF version: Safe-snack-list

I definitely stressed over this one. I couldn’t decide if the photo was over-the-top or useful, but ultimately I want them to know what Eva looks like (don’t feed this kid!!) and at least I didn’t use one of the really awful ones where she’s all blotchy or hooked up to tons of machines. Plus, I’m actually hoping they talk about Eva’s allergies with the kids in the class and I thought the photo would help. It’s such a tough thing to get kids to understand, but once they really get it they turn into the fiercest little advocates and defenders.

I also stressed about how much information to share, since I feel like I wrote a damn essay about the history of Eva, but I guess too much info is better than not enough. You can see that we decided we were comfortable with cross-contamination risks. That’s going to keep me up at night for a while, but I do feel like Eva needs to take on the responsibility of managing her allergies at some point and keeping to her own snack is a good first step. I know she’ll be tempted when someone brings in something fantastic and I’ve given her plain crackers (again) but such is life. Same with birthday treats – I wish she could eat the cupcakes everyone else eats, but she can’t and I’m not going to have everyone bend over backwards to hide treats from her. That’s part of her deal and she needs to have a thick skin about it.

There are things that I didn’t include on here, but thought about. I didn’t include anything about Eva’s asthma because nobody can really do anything about that so it’s just an FYI for the other parents. I didn’t include all of the problems with sunflower oils in lip balms, sunscreen, and lotion because she really shouldn’t be rubbing the other kids that much anyway. (I hope!) I didn’t include the fact that she’s also super allergic to animals, even though she has gotten rashes from hugs before. I just…you know. I can’t ask people to lint roll their kids every morning. Crazy town! We’ll deal with that if it comes up.

Sigh. It’s hard. I feel like I sound like a stressed out micro-manager in the hand out, but since I am a stressed out micro-manager I guess that makes sense. Hopefully we can just creep through this year without any major incidents (Hospital free 2015? Maybe?) and then we’ll be that much closer to Eva being able to manage herself enough for public school. I have to keep in mind that for every stressor like this one, there are a ton of little victories that make me appreciate the kindness of people and how much help I have out there.

Virtual hug, allergy parents! Good luck for a safe school year!

* * * * *

UPDATE: I got lots of feedback online today and I feel like it was maybe 80% positive, with 20% either being annoyed or offended by the handout. I definitely mulled over all the criticisms and ended up making some little changes. I didn’t listen to all of the advice and I didn’t agree with all of the advice, but I do think that many of you made some really good points about the language and how clear everything is. I didn’t soften the language about telling people what they can’t bring (no nuts ever!) but I added a thank you and clarified some other things. I also added Kyle’s information, because it was a little weird that he wasn’t on there. (Even though nobody noticed but Kyle. Poor Kyle.)

Here’s the version that went out to parents after I spoke with the teachers:

safe snack list

Like I said, it’s probably still annoying and offensive to some people but I felt good about it and it’s what I need to do for my family. Interestingly, the place where I apparently goofed is on the snack list, which is the only part of the letter that I wasn’t stressing. I was going to be fine with Eva just eating her snack and the rest of the kids eating things they can’t have, but the teachers weren’t fine with that so I need to create a much longer safe snack list that will be the only-foods-from-this-list list for the year. That’s actually much more of an imposition and I would bet that at least one parent was less than thrilled, but I’m also very appreciative that the teachers took a firm stance when I wouldn’t.

Overall, the response has been positive. And if it wasn’t…honestly, I don’t think I’d be the first stop on that train track to Complaint Town so if they go to the teachers or the administration I might not even know about it. That’s the thing – in a weird way, as long as people don’t bring nuts into the class and they do what I’ve asked to keep Eva safe, it’s none of my business if they’re annoyed or offended. I mean, Eva’s allergies are annoying. So until people are showing up with peanut butter cookies and telling me to go jump off a bridge, I need to make my peace with the fact that people might be put off about the hassle. I just need to remind myself that people feeling put off isn’t the end of the world.

Oh, and the rest of the stuff about her teachers and their approach to learning and the stuff they have planned? AWESOME. I’m so excited for her. It’s going to be a great year!

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  • Reply Anonymous

    I have to admit that if I got something like this from my child’s school I would be pretty upset unless I specially had requested an allergy classroom. It is not my job to shop, cook, and change my lifestyle around the needs of someone else’s child. I get that it really, really sucks for you and Eva, but it shouldn’t have to be my family’s problem. (And yes, I do actually have allergies.)

    Unless I was getting school for free (or you were providing all food every single day) I would most certainly complain.

    August 27, 2014 at 1:42 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Well, I disagree of course but I’m glad that you stopped by since I don’t think your opinion is uncommon. And don’t feel like you need to be anonymous – all feedback is welcome!

      August 27, 2014 at 1:46 pm
      • Reply Anonymous

        If your child had a learning disability, you wouldn’t expect everyone else to be brought down to that level just for your child. This is the same thing. A severe disability.

        And on a seperate note, while my child goes to a private school, I do not consider public school to be “free” either.

        August 27, 2014 at 2:32 pm
        • Reply Carly Morgan

          I think there are two problems with this comparison. The first is that I would expect Eva to be accommodated for any disability, be it physical, mental, etc., and I would hope that other parents used it as a lesson in compassion and empathy. The other problem is that it’s apples and oranges because Eva’s allergy is life-threatening and not putting her life in danger is relatively easy (eat peanut butter at home instead of at school). The balance of danger vs. inconvenience is way off.

          August 27, 2014 at 2:47 pm
        • Reply Eve

          Anonymous: She might not be my child, but I’m pretty offended by your comparison of Eva’s life-threatening allergies to a student with a learning disability. However, for the sake of your argument, let’s say that her consuming any of these allergens, is, in fact, a “disability.” Under I.D.E.A., public schools are required to accommodate a child’s needs as a result of his or her disability. I teach in a private school, and though we’re not required by law to accommodate I.E.P.s, we do anyway, because we ALWAYS do things in the best interest of our students. It sounds like this school does, too! I.E.P. support includes special therapists, classroom tools, accommodations, and rules that teachers and the school are legally required to follow. Teachers, principals, and classmates of students with disabilities often come together to help a student who needs it, because helping a fellow human being who struggles-for whatever reason-is the “right thing” to do. A majority of the learning disabilities don’t carry life-threatening penalties day-to-day. Eva’s “disability,” in this case, is not supported by anyone but her parents-and the ramifications of her ingesting something she is allergic to can be utterly devastating. Carly and Kyle aren’t parents who put their daughter on a faux-diet because they feel like it-and believe me, in this day and age, we all see plenty of kids on special diets that they are put on because of a “want,” not a “need.” The Morgans have to protect their daughter who is seriously at risk when some bozo brings ritz peanut butter crackers to school. Give them a break!

          August 27, 2014 at 9:45 pm
          • Carly Morgan

            Thanks, Eve!

            August 27, 2014 at 9:47 pm
          • Emily

            Upset about asking you to help protect a child? Rather than being mad why don’t you be a good example and teach your child the importance of respect. My sons best friend has an anaphylactic allergies to tree nuts, it has taught us so much discipline. My kids LOVE peanut butter but they are very aware of nuts when they see Morgan. These kids with allergies don’t ask for these allergies. Can you imagine being a child always living in fear that food is going to kill you? Can you imagine being a parent sending your child to school and the risk of sitting next to a child such as yours, whose mom is pissed off that they need to think outside the PB sandwich box. Look outside your little world and think of how difficult life is for this child. People like you make me disgusted at humanity sometimes. You should be humiliated for such a response.

            August 28, 2014 at 1:39 am
          • Carly Morgan

            Thanks, Emily!

            August 29, 2014 at 6:51 pm
  • Reply Meagan

    I think this is a great idea! I had lunch with a bunch of moms this week who were FREAKING out that they couldn’t send peanut butter into the classroom this year; they totally didn’t get it. I told them your story and they had NO idea that could happen to a kid. Even the nurse didn’t think about it! I like that you included the picture – it shows it’s real and that you’re not just an over-the-top hover parent that something *might* happen to your child! Here’s to hoping for an allergic reaction-free school year for Eva! Oh, and maybe on the days where parents bring in those treats Eva can’t have, you guys can have a little party of your own when she gets home with safe baked goods! (although you probably already thought of that!)

    August 27, 2014 at 1:43 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thanks, Meagan! That’s a big part of the reason that I post our allergy stuff. Hopefully awareness starts to spread since so many families have this problem these days.

      August 27, 2014 at 1:49 pm
  • Reply Diane K.

    I am so torn on this one. I will admit that my children are in college now but did have friends with serious allergies. I chose to send my children to private school. None of the parents sent anything like this. The teacher/principal did tell us if we had a child in the classroom and the teacher was responsible for making sure that the child was in an area safe for them. I would tell the teacher you have a hand-out if any parents ask for them, but if I was given it, I guess it would “feel” forced. Again I paid for our school and not a small amount so my children were able to do things that were not allowed in public school.

    Not sure if Eva is effected by scent. This only happened once while my daughter was in 6th. grade and honestly the child put themselves in more danger than the other children.

    I think the picture is way too much especially because children open the packages before giving them to their parents and will see Eva this way and treat her different. Children can be cruel.

    Hope this helps a little. My recommendations is to put a happy picture on the flyer and let the teacher give them to any parents with questions after being told there is an allergy in the room. May God Bless you with a wonderful school year.

    August 27, 2014 at 1:59 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thank you for the blessing!

      August 27, 2014 at 2:47 pm
  • Reply Brandy Bacon

    While my children dont have allergies, and I have gotten a bit upset about my kids being in nut free rooms, I think in my opinion, i would rather that letter, as is with the picture, come from the parent instead of the school. I can understand the concern seeing she is at such a young age. I would absolutely be more inclined to go by a safe list if it was done this way. I also like the fact that you included your email, as I would be the one searching for other alternatives that were safe as well and to be able to email you if I was unsure about an ingredient would be great.

    August 27, 2014 at 2:04 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thanks, Brandy!

      August 27, 2014 at 9:47 pm
  • Reply Colene

    I would never be offended by a parent protecting their child. It isn’t an big deal for someone to not bring something into the classroom. The items you listed are super easy to find and bring. They are all in the easy last minute snack isle. It isn’t hard to grab these instead of granola bars.
    As for the picture… I love that people will see her and know who she is and know that you are trying to prevent Eva from harm.
    Anyone who is offended or rude about this baffles and saddens me. I guess they are lucky to have never been with a loved one who is having a severe reaction or recovering from one.

    You are what is RIGHT with allergy parenting. Keep up the good work.

    August 27, 2014 at 2:50 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thank you, friend!

      August 27, 2014 at 9:45 pm
  • Reply Nicki

    Parents need to think of a nut-free room not as more work for them but to focus on protecting a child. I am sure no one would intentionally or unintentionally want to harm a child. This is just one more thing as parents we do to protect our littles. No matter if the child is our little or anothers, remember it takes a village!

    Thank you for advocating for your daughter and educating others about the severity of your childs nut allergies! Good job momma!

    August 27, 2014 at 3:05 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      So true – I would feel awful if I was the parent that sent one of Eva’s classmates to the hospital. Amen to the village!

      August 27, 2014 at 9:44 pm
  • Reply Renee Jones

    Honestly would not be upset or offended. You are looking out for your child. I think having the newsletter at least gives the parents a heads up about what not to send to class for snacks, better to be safe than sorry. I know some parents might feel put out, but what if it was their child? I know I would hope that parents would understand that I want my child to be safe. As Nicki said above Good job momma!

    August 27, 2014 at 4:04 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thank you, Renee!

      August 27, 2014 at 9:43 pm
  • Reply Anonymous

    Coming from someone who has a degree in nutrition and friends with severe allergies I like the idea behind this letter. However, I might consider trying to ask for help in keeping these foods away from your daughter as opposed to telling other parents what is and isn’t allowed into the classroom (unless it is specifically an allergy free room!). Unfortunately, many parents are not aware of the seriousness of food allergies and I worry they may be rubbed the wrong way being told what their child can and can not have. Good luck with everything… I hope she has a wonderful and allergy free school year!

    August 27, 2014 at 4:59 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      It is going to be a nut-free room specifically, so I tried to change the language but there’s no not-annoying way to say “absolutely no nuts”. I definitely think that’s the stumbling block of the hand out, but I’ll be breathing easier now that it’s out there.

      August 27, 2014 at 9:43 pm
  • Reply Victoria Shingleton

    Hey, Carly!

    I think the hand-out is a great to hand out to parents – it’s not your job to keep from offending people, but it is your job to do everything you can to protect your daughter. If someone has a problem with their child being in a nut-free room, that’s their issue (and perhaps they will request that their child be relocated to a different room because of it).

    A few suggestions… I understand that you want to have a photo of Eva on there so people can recognize her as being the one with nut allergies. However, although that photo is adorable, I think it could send the wrong message. On a regular day, Eva looks like a normal, healthy kid (if a stranger walked into the classroom and was told to pick out the nut-free kid, they would have no idea). You might choose to instead use a photo that illustrates how Eva looks on a typical day when she’s going to school, since she’s not going to have the oxygen to identify her.

    In the paragraph when you talk about snacks, you start the sentence with “We’ve decided that”…. that comes off a little controlling and gives the “I make the rules” vibe (which of course rubs other mothers the wrong way). I’d take that out and just start the sentence with “We’re comfortable with those snacks coming in.”

    And the birthday treat paragraph is a little confusing to read. I would word it – “If you’ll be sending in birthday or holiday treats to share with the class, please make sure that it is a treat which is wrapped to be sent home for consumption” or something like that. I think that now it reads so hypothetical that it is a bit confusing. But I believe the point is that if they want to send something with nuts, they need to send it packaged to be taken home with the kids so that it is not consumed in the classroom.

    Also, it’s good how you include your contact information. I suggest with that wrapping up by thanking the other parents for their cooperation.

    I wish Eva the best of luck in pre-school, and I hope that the parents of other kids will be very cooperative and helpful so that you can breathe a little easier at home!

    August 27, 2014 at 4:59 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thanks, Victoria! I kept debating on that photo and switching in other ones but I ended up coming back to this one because the “healthy” photos were really random. I did make it smaller though, so that it isn’t as in-your-face with the oxygen. Also, your advice on the wording was spot on and helped a lot. Thanks!

      August 27, 2014 at 9:41 pm
  • Reply Hope at Disneyland

    I’m more offended by the lack of compassion by some of the commenters on here and on FB. You’re seriously not asking that much of people. All you’re saying is that your kid could die from these things so please consume those products at home. End of story. So simple! It’s not difficult to be considerate of others especially when it comes down to food since there are so many alternatives. I like the list of safe food . I think it helps a lot. I also like some of the suggestions about adding more “please” and “thank you’s” in there so it doesn’t come off as a decree but more like a “hey, help a fellow parent out. I’d do the same for your kid”. I also get the picture message. It underscores the seriousness of it all. Best of luck to Eva at school. I hope her schoolmates and their parents are a little more understanding than some of the people you’ve dealt with today.

    August 27, 2014 at 5:51 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thanks, Hope!

      August 27, 2014 at 9:39 pm
  • Reply Natalie

    I would actually appreciate this coming home and the picture as well because I would never want to inadvertently harm a child – especially over something as simple as not sending in certain snacks. And I understood that you weren’t telling people what to send – the list was simply suggestions of things that are totally safe. I don’t think any preschool parent whose kid is already in a nut free class would have a problem with this letter but even if they do – don’t let it bother you! Have a great year Eva. 🙂

    August 27, 2014 at 6:18 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thank you so much, Natalie!

      August 27, 2014 at 9:39 pm
  • Reply Jamie

    My son is in a nut free daycare/preschool. As young as the 1 year old room, we start bringing snack about 2 times a month. Before our transition to the 1 year old room, I went to the director to ask questions about that cross contamination warning on labels and she read me the riot act…As if I was purposely looking for snacks that would hurt someone. Needless to say, I got pretty snotty with her and stated, “The reason I am asking these questions is because I don’t know and don’t want anyone to get hurt.” After, I walked away. The 1 year old room provided me with a list of accepted snacks. Thank you. That made my life easier–I just shop from that list. No big deal. So, I for one are grateful that you added the list….
    I would also be grateful for the letter. I’d want to know how I can help.

    August 27, 2014 at 7:04 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      I think that story is a great example of going too far the other way. I so think that advocacy is important (and I’m thinking I probably need to work on manning up my approach a little bit), but when it ends up crashing down on some poor unsuspecting parent it doesn’t help anything. Thank you for sharing!

      August 27, 2014 at 9:38 pm
  • Reply Kelly Wood

    I don’t think asking fellow parents to ‘kindly avoid killing my child’ is unreasonable in any way, and I’m flabberghasted by the people who can’t be bothered to avoid allergens for the safety of your child. I am trying to keep my high school classroom as nut free as I can, bexause there are severe allergies in the school and I don’t want to end up hurting someone because someone wanted a peanut butter cookie. I love this handout, I think it evokes just the right amount of pathos. My heart aches for Eva and I want to protect her.

    August 27, 2014 at 7:31 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thanks, Kelly! It’s always good to hear from teachers because I worry that she’s going to be the kid the teachers don’t like because she’s so much work. I’m sure those allergy parents very much appreciate you!

      August 27, 2014 at 9:37 pm
  • Reply Brandy

    I did post before, but as a teacher I would consider a quick talk to the class as well. For one, it demystifies the situations. When it’s not a secret, it’s also not interesting and just becomes part of the routine. Also, it’s a whole bunch of extra eyes in the (very unlikely!) event that things go wrong. If everyone knows what the signs of a reaction are and what to do if they see them, you’ve added a layer of protection.

    Try: “The Princess and the Peanut Allergy” by Wendy McClure or “The Bugabees: Friends With Food Allergies” by Amy Recob. These are both books you could read, or ask the teacher to keep in the room. 🙂

    I also agree with a previous poster that the line “we’ve decided we’re comfortable…” comes off wrong. Maybe something like, “We understand not all snacks are safe from cross-contamination, and that’s okay, but please avoid the specific ingredients mentioned.”

    Best of luck!

    August 27, 2014 at 9:17 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thanks, Brandy! I did get this suggestion tonight so I think I might follow up. It’s terrible, but I haven’t even read those picture books and I’m an allergy mom! I think I’m going to have to hit Amazon.

      August 27, 2014 at 9:36 pm
  • Reply Gaylin

    I have always been baffled by peoples entitled attitude towards other peoples allergies. “Sure you have allergies, just don’t inconvenience me or my kids.”

    Allergies landed on me at 35 and I have had to deal with a lot of crap because if I didn’t have them before, how can I have them now? Allergies can happen any time. I no longer have any contact with one of my sisters (for a host of reasons), she has made it very clear that I must be faking allergies for the attention and I should just eat whatever is offered to me and shut up.

    Eva does not have allergies ‘on purpose’ to inconvenience other parents. She is also a small child and needs the help of all adults around her to keep her safe. All children are entitled to an education and a safe place to get that education. Argh, this whole issue makes me angry.

    As an adult I am more than capable of taking care of myself and my food and saying no when someone tries to pressure me into eating something that might be safe. “Might” could put me in the hospital.

    I agree with the suggested minor edits of the newsletter. I would keep the photo as it, people need to understand that this isn’t an inconvenience, this is life threatening.

    I wonder how one of these peanut-entitled parents would feel if they got charged with reckless endangerment by sending unsafe food to school.

    August 27, 2014 at 10:06 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thanks, Gaylin!

      August 29, 2014 at 6:50 pm

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