Tree Nuts, Peanuts, and Child Care: What Parents Need to Know

In many Summer Camps, Nursery Schools, Preschools and Elementary Schools, families are asked to maintain a nut-free classroom. Peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, etc. are now sometimes disallowed in lunches and snacks in classrooms and occasionally school-wide.

Some parents view this as overprotective and unnecessary measure. Many children enjoy a PB&J in their lunches, and it’s an easy go-to lunch for a busy parent to pack. However, many parents reconsider their objections to the rule when they learn how common and serious peanut and nut allergies are to their child’s friends.

Peanut allergies are on the rise, having tripled in frequency from 1997 to 2008. The severity of reaction differs from child to child, and from each incident of contact. Anaphylaxis is the reaction that children with allergies will experience when exposed to an allergen, and it can range from rashes and hives to vomiting and restricted breathing, and death in some instances. Because children are not aware of transferring nut residue from child to child or surface to surface, it can be extremely risky for children with severe allergies to be in the vicinity of anyone eating peanuts in the classroom. In the most severe cases, children can experience anaphylaxis after touching a surface that another child has touched after handling peanuts.

Often parents wonder why if peanuts are legumes, and not related to tree nuts, why all nuts are banned in their child’s classroom or school? While it is true that peanuts are more closely related to soybeans and peas that to almonds or walnuts, most people who have peanut allergy do not also have allergies to other legumes. However, for reasons unknown, up to 40% of people who are allergic to peanuts are also allergic to tree nuts. For this reason, doctors may recommend that someone with a peanut allergy also avoid tree nuts. Sometimes this will also include avocados.

While it may take some adaptation to replace the peanut butter in our child’s lunches and snacks, there are nut alternatives, such as sunflower butter, which are delicious. Children whose school or childcare options prohibit nuts can always enjoy them as an after school snack at home. For the families of children with severe allergies, having a community that helps to protect their children from severe adverse health effects is deeply appreciated.

Prime Time Schools in Bergen and Hudson Counties in New Jersey, and in New York are peanut-free for the safety of all attendees. Prime Time Centers will also evaluate making individual classes or centers completely nut-free if there is local parent demand for a nut-free environment. Learn more about Prime Time Preschools, Daycare, Nursery School, Summer and Holiday camps, and after school programs, and their conscientious peanut allergen policies at www.primetimeschools.com.