Nuts are off the menu
By JULIA ILES
THE humble peanut butter sandwich, once a lunch box favourite, has joined the list of banned foods at schools as an increasing number of students are diagnosed with life-threatening nut allergies, also known as anaphylaxis.
For 18 months Janette Wilson has worked with South Grafton Infants School to ensure her daughter Sophie, 4, has no exposure to peanuts when she starts school. Ms Wilson has liaised with teachers who will all need anaphylaxis training, as well as organising a classroom without carpet or curtains for Sophie's other allergies.
"Even if she touches a spoon which has been washed but had satay sauce on it, she could go into anaphylactic shock," Ms Wilson said.
"Wherever Sophie goes we have to be very conscious of her environment, she can't go to friends' houses, and her teachers won't be able to give her any type of lollies that they may give out as rewards as there could be traces of nuts in them."
Anaphylactic shock is a sudden, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction caused by food allergy, insect stings or medications. Ms Wilson said Sophie was surprisingly mature about her allergies, which in addition to peanuts includes dust mites, dairy and yeast.
"She (Sophie) knows and we tell her straight that if she has peanuts she will stop breathing, it has made her grow up really quickly though," Ms Wilson said.
"It does become draining, but I look at her and wouldn't change anything, she is absolutely perfect the way she is."
Sophie's grandmother, Margaret Lang, said her grandaughter will also have a carer who will watch over what she eats at school.
"People think you are paranoid as you have to monitor what Sophie eats and her environment all the time, but it's not paranoia, its just ensuring that she stays alive," Ms Lang said.
Some schools in the Valley which have students with severe nut allergies are opting to ban all peanut butter and Nutella products.
Gillwinga Public School doesn't have any students with peanut allergies, but has chosen to take it from the canteen as a general health precaution.
At St Andrews School, due to an increasing number of children with peanut allergies, all peanut and nut products have been banned.
"We're keen to protect kids as much as we can and are trying to limit their exposure," he said.
Mr Bailey said it often happened that kindergarten children would swap lunches.
Before joining St Andrews Mr Bailey worked at a Sydney school where within five years the number of students with peanut allergies rose from one to 16.