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Problems at School

Class Presentation by an Outside Party

The Rainforest Caf� located at the Scarborough Town Centre (it's no longer there) was offering free presentations to schools about the environment/or rainforest. A presentation was scheduled for my son's Grade 2 class and arranged by our school council. My son came home and said there were nuts in the classroom that day. I probed a little further and learned about this presentation. Apparently, a parrot is brought along on these presentations and is fed nuts to keep it from getting overly excited by the children in the room. Luckily, my son did not come into direct contact with the parrot or the nuts. I called the restaurant and spoke with the person who conducts these talks. We discussed how to avoid putting anaphylactic children at risk by introducing nuts into the classroom when the parrot is involved. It was agreed that she would ask if there are any anaphylactic children in the classroom/school and it would be better not to bring the parrot and the nuts for the presentation.


Inaccurate Information

A couple of years ago, my son's school was having a cookie dough fundraiser. I was very skeptical when we received a promotional letter from the school, encouraging families to buy the dough, which was "nut free". Too good to be true, and after seeing the colour flyer with Macadamia Cookie Dough, I contacted the company directly, to inquire about their products. I was told that the doughs were not "nut free" as they were run on a shared line with other nut-containing products.

Apparently, the sales rep, who dealt with the fund raising coordinator, had mistakenly given out a company letter saying that it was "nut free". She had encouraged the coordinator to use the same wording on school letterhead to promote the dough.

I met with the principal directly to raise my concerns about the potential risk of the misinformation. The principal moved quickly to retract the "nut-free" claim and advised that the school had been misinformed by the company. He asked that families "enjoy the cookies at home" as they were not nut-free. (The school has a policy restricting products with peanut/nuts.) A reminder was also printed on neon-coloured paper and taped to the bins of dough before they were picked up.

Lessons Learned: Check things out for yourself unless someone you trust has checked out a product. People's standards are different. We cannot expect people who do not have to live with anaphylaxis to understand the details of food labeling. Many will take a 'peanut/nut free' claim at face value and will not ask the next tier of questions about potential of cross contact. (Tip: Members of Anaphylaxis Canada received a checklist with the March 2002 newsletter, which helps to ask the right questions - Is this Product Safe? Check it Out! Encourage school volunteers to use this as a guideline.)


Bake Sale

The school my children attend was having a bake sale. When my 8 year old daughter, who is anaphylactic to peanuts, asked me for some money, I said "No", because we can't trust where the goods have come from.

That afternoon, I received a call from the school saying that my daughter thought she was having an allergic reaction to a butter tart she had taken a bite of. It turns out that the teacher had bought butter tarts for the children who didn't have money. She had read the ingredients and the tarts were safe. However, my daughter's guilty conscious was getting to her, as she hadn't told the teacher why she did not have any money.

It was a very difficult situation as my daughter was very frightened and upset but I needed to reinforce the rules with her. Thankfully, she was not having an allergic reaction. I told her that she should know better and that is exactly why I didn't give her money. Although the teacher shouldn't have purchased anything for my daughter, I did not put the responsibility on her. My daughter had to write a note of apology to the teacher and the school secretary for scaring and worrying them.

Lesson Learned: I know now that when the school has a bake sale, I need to send a safe treat to school with my children to avoid temptations.


School Episodes

One day, my son returned home from school, quite upset that he had forgotten to take his fanny pack with his EpiPens�. He had tried to tell the teacher, but as it turned out, I was not contacted and he went through the day, without wearing his fanny pack. I think things in the classroom got busy, and his request was forgotten. (He does have two spare EpiPens� at the school.) I told him that he did the right thing, by telling the teacher, and in future, he must insist that we be contacted. I did not make a big deal of it but did go in to speak to the teacher about the need to contact us.

Lesson Learned: This year, I have added on the note to the teacher that I want to be called if this happens. I provided an extra fanny pack for him to carry the two back ups in case we cannot be reached. I would prefer to be inconvenienced, and have my day interrupted to bring in the ones that have been forgotten�a reinforcement to all of us to double check that the fanny pack is on before leaving home.



I was quite surprised to learn that M&M; peanuts and other snacks with tree nuts were being given out to the kids in my son's class around Halloween. As suspected, this was an oversight. The student teacher, who provided the treats, was not aware of the school policy and had purchased these treats for the kids. I set up a meeting with the teacher, who was very apologetic that this had happened. I tried to reassure her that, from time to time, things will get overlooked, even though there is a policy in place. Julian knew to not accept the goodies and tell me about this episode. We decided that I should provide the principal with an information kit to be given to all student teachers during their orientation session. The kit contains the school anaphylaxis policy and general information about the condition.

Lessons Learned: Expect the unexpected. A good policy does not mean 'perfection' or 'peanut/nut free'. It's important to raise your concerns without making people feel badly. Mistakes will happen from time to time. Julian's rule about 'no sharing/accepting unapproved foods' has kept him safe many times. He felt good knowing that he did the right thing.


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