Letter: Prevent allergic reaction at school

According to a new study, peanut allergies in

According to a new study, peanut allergies in children have more than tripled in the United States from 1997 to 2008, an alarming trend that can’t yet be explained. (April 11, 2005) (Credit: www.photos.com)

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As we send our kids off to school, many of us will be told that their new classrooms are "nut free." Unfortunately, nuts are not the only major food allergy.

Both of my boys, ages 6 and 10, have severe dairy allergies, not to be confused with lactose intolerance, which is not an allergy. My 6-year-old has had two anaphylactic reactions due to accidental ingestion of dairy.

All of the media from the past several years would leave any reasonable person to believe that peanut allergies are in their own separate category of severity. They are not. Every allergist knows that any food allergy can be deadly. Sabrina Shannon died at school in 2003 after eating French fries that were contaminated with cheese. Her death due to dairy allergy caused Canada to pass Sabrina's Law.

As helpful as schools want to be, food bans -- or should I say, nut bans -- are bad policy. They create a false sense of security.

Instead of demanding bans, we need to create an environment where all individuals with all food allergies can feel safe. Hygiene is the key. Students must wash their hands before and after eating. Hand sanitizers don't work for this. Wiping down tables is also important. Minimizing food in the classroom itself is also important. Probably what is the most important is to have an emergency plan in the school and have the epinephrine auto-injector always available.

Harriet Spitzer-Picker, Great Neck

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