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What is Best Way to Handle Lunchtime for Children with Nut Allergies? (National Poll Results)

Parents of nut-allergic kids more likely than other parents to want a lunchtime without restrictions, according to U-M’s National Poll on Children’s Health

 

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Most parents of kids with and without nut allergies don’t support schoolwide bans on nut-containing products, according to a new University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

 

Schools don’t have a single standard for managing environments for nut-allergic children, and there is no clear research about which strategy is safest at lunch or snacktime, says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics.

 

So in this month’s poll, parents of elementary school-aged kids both with and without nut allergies were asked what they thought was the best way to handle lunchtime for children with nut allergies. 

 

The most preferred option among parents of nut-allergic kids was that their children should eat in a lunchroom with no restrictions on where their children sit or what other children eat (47 percent).  In contrast, 22 percent of parents of nut-allergic children thought the best strategy for their child was a ban on nut-containing foods in the lunchroom or the school.

 

For parents of kids without nut allergies, the most preferred option was that nut-allergic children eat at a designated location (a nut-free table) where nut-containing foods aren’t allowed (58 percent in favor).

 

“Children with allergies to peanuts or tree nuts must be very careful about what they eat. These allergies can carry life-threatening consequences,” Clark says.

 

“But the results of this poll show that parents don’t believe there is one right strategy for keeping nut-allergic kids safe.”

 

The poll is based on a nationwide survey of 816 parents of children 5-12 years old, of which 5 percent reported their child has a peanut or tree nut allergy.

 

Matthew Greenhawt, M.D., of the University of Michigan Food Allergy Center, said the poll shows that parents of unaffected kids also are interested in making sure nut-allergic children are safe.

 

“These results are reassuring because it demonstrates parents of unaffected children have empathy and understanding. That can go a long way towards calming anxiety about sending a food-allergic child to school,” Greenhawt says.

 

Clark said parents also were asked about their level of support if their children’s school were to implement different policies for nut-allergic children: 61 percent would support a policy that nut-containing items are not allowed in classes with a nut-allergic child.

 

“These results provide hope that parents can work together with the schools to create a safe and mutually agreeable learning environment for their children,” says Greenhawt. 

 

Recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourage schools to consider the needs and preferences of nut-allergic children in deciding whether to designate a nut-free area or restrict nut-containing products altogether. Greenhawt says this poll’s data can help schools struggling with policy questions.

 

“Schools, governments, parents and doctors who may be involved in the decisions around school nut policies should not presume that all parents of nut-allergic children have the same preferences.  Seeking a broad range of input will help to craft a policy that meets the needs of all children,” Greenhawt says.

 

Broadcast-quality video is available on request. See the video here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?...amp;feature=youtu.be

 

Full report: http://mottnpch.org/reports-su...ch-parents-speak-out

 

Website: Check out the Poll’s website: MottNPCH.org. You can search and browse over 80 NPCH Reports, suggest topics for future polls, share your opinion in a quick poll, and view information on popular topics. The National Poll on Children’s Health team welcomes feedback on the website, including features you’d like to see added. To share feedback, e-mail NPCH@med.umich.edu.

 

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mottnpch

Twitter: @MottNPCH

Additional resources:

CDC: Food Allergies in Schools

CDC: Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs (PDF)

 

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From Matthew Greenhawt, MD, MBA, MSc, FAAP Faculty Collaborator for this study:

Data from a new survey conducted by the CS Mott National Children’s Health Poll and the University of Michigan Food Allergy Center was released today.  This survey module aimed to assess national opinion on peanut and tree nut allergy management policies in schools. For background, the CS Mott National Children’s Health Poll is a monthly survey that measures the public’s opinions, perceptions, and priorities regarding today’s most important child health issues and trends. Findings from the National Poll on Children’s Health reflect the attitudes and perspectives of people from across the country – from all types of communities and groups.  This particular food allergy module contained a 5 question survey which was conducted in a nationally representative sample of 816 parents of school aged children aged 5-12 years, specifically exploring issues surrounding attending school with a peanut or tree nut allergy.

The following are the noteworthy findings from the study:

1) The parents of the peanut/tree nut allergic children did not demonstrate a clear preference as to how to manage eating in the lunchroom, though 47% of parents of peanut/tree nut allergic children expressed a preference for no restriction on seating or on what another child can eat, and only 22% supported a ban on peanut/tree nut.  In contrast, among the parents of non-allergic children 58% responded that the school should designate a specific area, such as a table, where nut allergic children sit, and 24% supported a ban on peanut/tree nut.

2) In the classroom, 62% of all parents supported banning peanut/tree nut containing items, but only 43% of all parents surveyed supported a ban on bringing food from home for celebrations/parties, and 38% supported a school-wide ban on peanut/tree nut containing items.  The level of support for these policies was not significantly different between parents of peanut/tree nut allergic children and parents of children without peanut/tree nut allergy, interestingly.

3) Overall, there does not appear to be a single consensus appearance on how to manage peanut/tree nut allergy within school.  However, it does appear that parents of children without peanut/tree nut allergy do have both empathy and understanding for the needs of peanut/tree nut allergic students, given a larger percent supported more restrictive policies than the parents of the peanut/tree nut allergic children in terms of lunchroom and classroom management. 

The take home message is that this poll shows evidence that parents of unaffected kids are interested in making sure nut-allergic children are safe, and that parents of children with peanut/tree nut allergy may not all be as supportive of restrictive school policies as may be assumed.


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