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Peanut butter on the playground

Posted on April 14th, 2007 by Alison Read 6 Comments - Add Your Own »

kids_playground.jpgI took my girls to the playground today and my 2.5 year old daughter made a new friend. Some kids just hit it off, and these two girls were giddy with each other. They giggled, tackled, and hugged. Both were cruising around with remnants of their lunches in their hands (I canadian pharmacy / cialis coupons / generic viagra can feel the mothers of food-allergic children cringing right now) – my daughter had a last piece of gluten-free tortilla and her friend a piece of bread with jelly. Right after the hug, the little girl’s mother told her daughter to be careful because her hands were messy… with peanut butter.

Alarms went off in my head – peanut butter! I felt like I was seeing one of those TV programs where they go into the hotel rooms with a black light to see where the… um… “mess” is. Anyway, I was imagining peanut butter everywhere – on the playhouse that sits in the sand, on the sides of the slide where kids run their hands as they spiral down, on the chains holding the swings, and on the handle of the bathroom door.

Luckily for me, my kid isn’t allergic to peanut butter (according to tests). Cashews yes, and I have seen kids with baggies of cashews on the same playground, but I don’t worry about cashew butter around the place (maybe I should?)

So today I am asking the question – do parents of peanut-allergic children bring their kids to playgrounds? If so, how do they keep their kids safe? Please comment below and help the other mothers out there!

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  1. We go to playgrounds, but I try very hard not to think about peanut butter on the equipment.

    We don’t go anywhere without my son’s epi-pen and Benadryl. He seems to get a skin rash from touching peanut butter, but it’s not been anaphylactic so far. (Fingers crossed.)

    I’ve found crushed peanut shells on the playground, as well — that freaked me out at the time.

  2. My daughter is deathly allergic to peanuts and I worry about this all the time. I will not discontinue taking her to the playground because of it, I think it’s important to not live in fear and to teach her not to either…but to be prepared in case anything does happen.

    I cringe when I overhear parents offering their children anything with peanuts in it…or when I took my kids to the zoo a couple weeks ago and while in the restroom a mother came in saying to her daughter “you’ve got peanut butter everywhere!”

    I wish that there were a way for me to educate every unaware parent about peanut (and other food allergies), that they are to be taken seriously and to rethink what they give to their kids because it may affect others.

  3. My son also has a severe peanut allergy, and we go to the park quite often but it’s a big stressor for me. I wipe the swing handles, but give him a little “space” on the other equipment (we invented our own “secret signal”, a sort of sign language I could do from across the park to remind him that he needs to watch what other kids’ hands do, and to keep his own hands away from his mouth–very difficult for environmental-allergy kids who always wipe their noses on their sleeves!). Things became MUCH easier for us last fall, when he outgrew the phase where kids put everything in their mouths, but I still get nervous.
    My best advice is for parents to approach any Rogue Peanut Surprises the same way you do any other danger at the park– when teens run crazy circles too close to my playing infant, I summon my Used-To-Be-A-Teacher voice and say, “Kids, you need to be more careful, please. There are babies nearby. Thank you.” Granted, no one disputes the danger of roughhousing near a one-year old, and evidence has shown that plenty of people (unfortunately) disbelieve the dangers of peanuts, but I still think that as parents we need to relay the urgency to others clearly, regardless of what they think. I have had to be assertive on numerous occasions, and I know it is not always easy, but consider the alternative.

  4. For years I have been terrified of a reaction. We’ve had only one (to peanut butter). I’ve tried to talk to friend/parents about the real terminal dangers of peanut butter. I have compared it to “its like having a little kid running around with a loaded gun in front of my daughter”. People seem like the understand. They seem concerned and thoughtful. Then, the open up a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup and hand it to their child. Hmmmm. This is not working.

    My 6-year old has a severe peanut allergy. At this stage in her life, she’s able to communicate and protect herself well. Its very empowering for her to know that she can wash her hands after playing on equipment. She can watch out for people eating peanut butter and avoid them.

    Of course, I always have her Epi-Pen and Benedryl quick strip. I’m always alert and proactive too. But I cannot rely (at all) on other people to protect my daughter. And I can’t always be there either. So I’ve educated my daughter and she’s 95% reliable. She’ll do absolutely anything to avoid that Epi-Pen. The 5% failure is when she’s unaware of the presence of peanuts. So that’s the reality.

  5. Hi Alison –
    I cringe reading your post and realize it is an older one but just wanted to share my experience as a mom of two kids with life-threatening food allergies (including dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and peas). Aside from now having a service dog who checks the equipment, I do lots of things. Of course my kids gallup way ahead of me with glee which is very risky but, what can you do? In all of our eight years of visiting playgrounds only two near misses come to mind from them running ahead. This summer we ran through a field to a playground and thankfully I convinced the egg allergy kid to walk beside me with the dog. He right away alerted to the DOZENS of fresh broken eggs that were scattered through the field! There must have been an egg toss before us. The only other incident was from dozens of peanut shells scattered by the park bench. A parent or caretaker must have sat there eating while watching kids.

    At any rate.. they run ahead and start playing and I walk the playground (now with the dog too) and do a visual for candy wrappers, left over food, etc… and clean up or alert the kids to what I find. I watch my kids for signs of distress (coughing, itching, etc…). If I see other kids eating allergens when we arrive then we either leave, ask the parents to wash their kids hands with the wipes I happily provide before they go on the playground or I have my youngest wear gloves. We wash hands when we are done with wet wipes and we have a very important rule… NO fingers in the eyes, nose or mouth. If they need to rub their eyes, they have to use their knuckles. It’s not perfect but, we have cut way back on reactions. We also never leave home without benedryl, epi-pens, albuterol, a nebulizer and a cell phone.

    Love your blog!

  6. Ann,
    This is GREAT advice! Some things I haven’t thought of. I really appreciate it!!

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