Archive for the 'Mel’s Diary' Category

Melanie’s general round up on anaphylaxis in schools

Another of our newsletter subscribers Renee from Brisbane has asked a fantastic set of questions.

Basically Renee has just found out that one of her twin boys has anaphylaxis to nuts, and she is having greif with her child care centre that the boys go to, and adjusting to the new lifestyle that we find ourselves in. I won’t post the email, because it was quite personal, but….

Here is what Melanie had to say about it.

Keep in mind that Melanie hasn’t blogged for a very long time, since she gets so emotional when writing about allergies. Which is one of the main reasons why her book has taken so long.

Hi Renee,

Our thoughts are with you during this very stressful and overwhelming phase of life with anaphylaxis. I hope you were able to enjoy Christmas. It is a very challenging time!!

I’m glad you have been able to get an appointment with Jane so quickly, her waiting list is usually over 18 months.

Unfortunatley there is no way of telling how sensitive they will be to the trigger, other than by experiencing different scenarios. Tests only reveal the severity of a potential reaction, not how they can be triggered. Fortunatley, contact reactions are mostly kept to localised skin irritation (eg hives, dermatitis) and don’t usually progress further to an anaphylactic reaction….EXCEPT if the allergen is in contact with the mouth or eyes. This could potentially progress very rapidly. The incidence of anaphylactic reactions through smell is very, very small (yet possible). My son is anaphylactic to dairy products, and has had a major reaction from touching a small droplet of milk and unwittingly rubbing his eye, yet does not react from milk boiling on the stove (not ours….at the shops) nor being surrounded by the endless sources of dairy all around him on a daily basis…….thankfully!!!! An old preschool friend reacts moderately to her allergen just by being near it. It is unfortunately just by trial and error, and being equipped at all times to deal with it if it happens.

Be very wary of “nut free zones”, or any “free zones” for that matter. There is no such thing. For many reasons they are incredibly dangerous. To name a few:
– You can’t rely on other people’s ability to read labels correctly (staff or parents);
– it breeds apathy from the teachers as they can assume that all lunches are friendly, and not check who they are sitting next to, or be looking out for reaction symptoms;
– some people couldn’t really care about other kid’s issues and will simply defy the “ban”.
“free zones” are not usually advocated by anaphylaxis groups. “Awareness zones” is a more realistic option.

We tried to change preschools when we moved 2 years ago. Both were a c&K center. At our first place there where were no bans in place (could you imagine banning dairy products and eggs from a kindy?) and we never had any reactions as there were procedures in place. Nearly every child had milk at lunch, not to mention the butter on their sandwhiches, yoghurt and cheese……aaaaagh! But, the teachers had all the kids wash their hands after every meal, and there were no problems. At the second place they already had a child with anaphylaxis there, so we thought it would be an easy transition. Wrong. It was a “nut free zone”. The kids lunches were never checked, the other allergic child was given a cake brought in for a birthday, which they later realised he wasn’t meant to eat, the teachers snacked on peanut cluster biscuits after home time which they kept in the fridge with the kids lunches! Upon seeing all of this, we had no faith in their ability to look out for our son with a product that wasn’t “banned”. It isn’t taken seriously by all people. You really have to trust your gut feeling. After 2 weeks of spending every lunchtime at the center and crying myself to sleep at night, we changed him back to his old center and spent a fortune on petrol to keep him safe. Sometimes you can’t change the system, as people are just people. “free zones” really only offer a false sense of security for the parent of the allergic child, and the staff.

All staff needs to be informed of your son’s anaphylaxis, relief or otherwise, by the director or teacher in charge. AND the medicine must follow him, without a doubt. These are two fundamental things that ensure the safety of your child. It sounds like very bad management. The fact that they hadn’t even put the action plans up would really concern me, making me think that the safety of my child was not a priority of theirs.

Craft boxes are notorious for containing things our kids wouldn’t be able to use. We got around that by having his own craft box with things we brought in, or had been checked by us before going in his box.

You definately need to research schools thoroughly. The potential for problems is so much greater than in a confined room where the kids are closely monitored all day. I have written about our experience with our school search as a blog entry. Again trust that gut feeling. You can usually tell from the interview how it will be handled. We found the state system did not offer anything that we felt comfortable with……they tuned out when they realised it was dairy they would be dealing with, along with peanuts, eggs…….. We have found a private school within 10 mins from home that have been awesome. Not one anaphylactic reaction all year (touch wood). We never thought we would be able to send him to school. He completed grade 1 last year, grade 2 in 2007! However, the jitters are starting at the thought of having to deal with a different teacher this year.

I hope I have helped….. even if only a little.

Take care,

Our reply to the reply on the banning of peanuts in schools

Hi Rachael,

Thankyou for your response.

Actually, my son does not have to consume dairy
products for a reaction to occur.

One drop from a drink onto his skin or a chair
or swing that he touches is enough. Hands that
have held a sausage roll, or a sandwich with
butter…… these are no less lethal than traces
of peanut butter on a slide, yet that is all we
ever hear about.

If you are anaphylactic, you are anaphylactic.

We always have trouble trying to convince parents
with peanut anaphylactic children that we have
exactly the same life-style concerns as themselves,
just because the allergen of concern is dairy.
It is definately an uphill battle for all
the other allergens.


Reply email from mother that wants peanuts banned from schools

Hi Melanie

I thankyou for your comments, but would like to say that my son also has
allergies to eggs/white fish and other products, all of which are life
threatening if eaten.

Unfortunatley I cannot have them banned – but I have done much research,
allergies to nuts and nut products are at a higher rate than other
products and most deadly to children.

If many schools in the ACT and NSW have a proven successful track record
with the banning of nuts, then we can do the same – then many innocent
little lives may be spared by banning them from schools.

I too am a member of the Anaphylactic Society – but to me if you say
lets not bother with a total ban, then this still encourages parents to
put peanut butter on their childs sandwhiches and include nut products
in their lunch boxes.

I believe the push for a ban ongoing training and awareness will aid in
the prevention of further deaths.

I have also spoken with many parents because of this article, many
children with a nut allergy only need to sit next to a child eating a
peanut butter sandwhich to induce an attack, I would ask of you? Does
an anaphylatic reaction occur in your child, when sitting next to
another eating a cake containing eggs?


Our email to the mother that wants to get peanuts banned in schools

Hi Rachael,

I am writing to comment on the article printed in the Sunday Mail 20/11/05.

Firstly I would like to say that I empathise with you, having a child
with anaphylaxis myself. I am sure we would all agree that the health
and safety of our children is paramount, whether they have anaphylaxis
or not. The primative instinct of protection is the primary focus for
all parents, and I applaude your attempts to protect the safety of your

As you would know, anaphylaxis is a severe and life threatening reaction
to an ‘foreign’ body that the immune systen mistakenly believes to be a
threat. This could be anything, not just nuts as stated in the article –
I am sure you were misquoted there.

My 5 year old son is dairy and egg anaphylactic, and to a lesser extent
allergic to peanuts and a wide variety of other foodstuffs. His life is
no more or no less important than those people with pea/nut anaphylaxis.
How can there be legislation to protect the pea/nut allergic and nothing
for the thousands who could die from coming into contact with the
endless other things that their bodies may react to? You can’t legislate
against everything. Yes, it is unfair. Yes, our lives are more
complicated than others. Yes, we have so much to worry about every
minute of every day, I would never pretend there is no difficulty living
with food-induced anaphylaxis.

It would be quite discriminatory for schools to choose who they will
protect and who they will cross their fingers for, based on what kids
are allergic to. Just like you, we have to deal with the fact our boy
may die if he comes into contact with any foods or drinks containing the
offending allergen, but can you imagine a school banning every dairy or
egg product from their grounds? This certainly wasn’t offered by our
school for next year when we were interviewing them. If you think it
possible, please tell us how. We wanted to change the world but have
realised our job is to prepare our son to live in the world as we know it.

At the Kindy/Preschool where our son has attended for the last two
years, no food bans were in place, and never did we ask for any. There
was, however, excellent teacher/parent communication, extensive teacher
training, student training, and management strategies to reduce the risk
of exposure. We are grateful to proclaim that there have been no
incidences in the two years, even with almost every child having butter,
yoghurt, cheese dips, milk and peanut butter on a daily basis. With 2
weeks to go though, we still hold our breath everytime the phone rings
on those 3 preschool days. But that is the life we live. We deal with it
the best way we can.

The best skills we can teach our son is the ability to look out for
himself, have excellent judgement, good communication and an
understanding of his life-long condition, because he will have it for
life, not just during school hours. The world is filled with nuts,
dairy, eggs, fruit, bees…….. before school, after school, at parks,
beaches, shopping centres, parties, sleepovers etc. It can’t be
eliminated, but we can teach our children to live with what they have
been dealt. It is not up to the government, schools or anyone else. At
the end of the day you can’t trust anyone to do their job properly but
yourself. Legalised accountability can never ensure the safety of our
children. Educating our loved ones can.

The anaphylaxis support group, Anaphylaxis Australia do not advocate
banning foods from school. They recognise that people can forget about
the ban, blatantly defy the ban or genuinely not realise the food/drink
contains the allergen. Teachers and admin can hide behind a false sense
of comfort thinking that noone has the banned product at school, and not
actively look for any signs of a reaction, as there ‘shouldn’t’ be any
allergen at school. I know this happens, as it has happened to an
aquaintance of mine, and at the preschool of a friend. So, I do urge
you, if your school of choice does ban peanuts, that they be constantly
reminded to be on the lookout for possible reactions, as there are never
any guarantees.

I do commend you for getting the difficulties of raising children with
anaphylaxis out to the masses, and the problems our kids face on a daily
basis. Thank you.

I do want to wish you a very safe and happy Christmas. I hope it is an
enjoyable time for you all, as stress-free and as trouble-free as possible!


Mother calls for ban on Peanuts

The following is an article that was printed in our local Australian – Queensland publication – The Sunday Mail on 20 Nov 2005 by Jeessica Lawrence.

This got my wifes back up so much that she emailed the mother (whom we left her email address out) to express our views on the topic. I’ll add it to the blog shortly.

A letter to the editor was also sent but no response from The Sunday Mail has been forthcoming as yet. I’ll keep you all posted.


A Brisbane mother whose son could die if exposed to peanuts wants them banned from schools.

Rachael Munro said children who had anaphylaxis – potentially fatal allergic reaction to nuts – were at risk of dying within minutes if exposed to even a minute amount.

Ms Munro, whose son Jordan, 3, has an acute allergy, said teachers and staff needed training to save a child who asphyxiated.

Jordan must carry an Epi-pen on him at all times. It must be stabbed into his leg if he shows signs of swelling or asphyxiation.

“If teachers or staff can’t find that pen within five minutes he would die” said Ms Munro, from Wishart.

Peanut allergy has become one of the fastest growing allergic afflictions in Australia, with one in 100 people at risk – double the rate 10 years ago.

Several Queensland schools, including Holand Park State in Brisbane, already have banned them from canteens and ask parents not to include nuts or peanut butter in lunch boxes.

“Parents have been very understanding. We’ve had 100 percent support”, principle Tony Gribbin said.

More than 200 people signed a petition started by Ms Munro ( and she plans to take her campain to Premier Peter Beattie.

Medical Advisory Board for Anaphylaxis Australia chairman Dr John Ruhno said a shift toward roasting peanuts was thought to be responsible for the rise in allergies because it increase the amount of allergen.

But he stopped short for calling for nuts to be banned from schools.

“A voluntary ban would be a good thing but as soon as you start legislating you need to have the peanut police,” he said.

“We need to have a progam in place to actually teach the teachers to regonise what anaphylaxis is and to use adrenalin.”

A spokesman for Education Queensland said schools managed students with allergies on an individual basis, on the advice of the student’s doctor.

The spokesman said medical experts had not recommended a blanket ban.