You already know that in the five years I've spent dealing with my son's food allergies, my views on how these things should be handled have changed. Part of that is that he's getting older, but a larger part is that I'm understanding more about how allergies work, and what's realistic for us to ask of the world around us. I think that for young children, food bans have a place, as does Dr. Susan Waserman, one of Canada's foremost allergists and president of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. But as kids age, well, bans need to be loosened. It does my son no good to expect that the world will protect him. That's his job. So this article Global News has released comes as no surprise.
As it turns out, many experts also feel food bans offer little protection for those with life threatening allergies. "When we set rules and guidelines, we need to act through baseline evidence, and not according to the way we feel, because our feelings might be misleading," said Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan, pediatric allergist at Montreal Children's Hospital. And really, I've never read a more accurate statement about the handling of food allergies, ever. Of course our feelings get in the way of how we manage these allergies. I challenge anyone to be told a food may kill their child and keep a level head at all times. It is positively terrifying to read stories about accidental exposures killing people, so yes, we let our feelings get in the way. But we cannot argue with the facts, and the fact is that these bans (beyond a certain age group) seemingly do little.
In fact, a recent study pointed out that most accidental exposures have happened in schools with nut and peanut bans, so where are we left? We ban alternative butters because they look like peanut butter, we limit kids' exposure, and in the end, we're not even truly protecting them? Dr. Waserman notes that, "Most risk from peanut is from ingestion," making it clear that once a child is able to avoid touching another student eating a peanut butter sandwich, or the surfaces they're eating on, the child is likely fine to manage the allergy without bans.
Parents of kids with food allergies will likely tell you differently: they feel safer sending their child to school with bans in place. But what about classrooms where no allergies are present? The one-size-fits-all approach causing more friction than it should. If people were more flexible and understanding, I am positive better management procedures could be implemented; plans that would be effective in keeping kids safe by educating everyone on the facts of food allergies.
What do you think?