Dear Amy:

I have a question about food allergies. It seems as if more and more kids have them these days, and I am curious about how other schools handle this situation.

This year one of my children has a child in his room with peanut allergies, and there is also a diabetic child in his room. The class has been instructed not to bring in anything peanut-related or sugary.

For birthday treats, we are supposed to avoid cookies, brownies, cupcakes, etc. It is supposed to be a sugar-free, peanut-free treat. As far as the peanuts go, they are also supposed to avoid this at lunch.

Another child of mine has a milk allergy and a peanut allergy in his room. They have a very strict list of what type of food they can bring -- basically only fruit and vegetables. No crackers, popcorn, string cheese, yogurt, etc.

I am very sympathetic to these children and their families, but I wonder if this is the best way to handle this. It used to be pretty easy to send food to school, and now it involves lots of label reading -- or figuring out what's on the allowable food list.

I don't want to come across as insensitive to these kids, but what about the rest of us?

I feel that this all-or-nothing policy is not the answer.

Perhaps readers can get in touch and say what happens at their schools?

Allergy Anxious

I posted this question on -- an online educational community. Teachers who responded emphasized the need to clarify these policies with your children's teachers.

The peanut allergy is potentially very serious and any exposure to peanuts -- even "peanut dust" in the air -- can trigger a reaction.

A diabetic child, however, will not become ill by sitting next to somebody eating food with sugar in it. A person with a dairy allergy will not become ill if another child eats yogurt.

These food sensitivities, allergies and preferences (some children follow vegetarian, kosher, halal or other diets) present an opportunity for a classroom teacher -- even of very young children -- to teach about diversity. The lesson goes like this: "Just as we're not all the same on the outside, our bodies aren't the same on the inside. Some of us can't eat certain kinds of foods for a whole lot of reasons -- religious, cultural or medical. This is why we need to respect other people's food and their diets. We can't share food, because someone might get sick if they ate what we ate."

Any child on a special diet needs to be educated by parents -- with the teacher's support -- because that child is going to have to take responsibility for his health and diet out in the world. Children with food allergies and sensitivities should be sent to school with whatever food or treat they can consume, and if they eat one thing while some of the other kids are eating another thing, that's fine.

My experience in the classroom with young children is that they can be very effective at policing themselves and assisting one another, given the information and the opportunity.

Dear Amy:

This note is a response to the lady who was afraid of whom she might see at an Al-Anon meeting.

As a 12-year participant of Alcoholics Anonymous, I can assure her that if she sees anyone she knows at an Al-Anon meeting, he or she is there for the same reason.

I've met doctors, lawyers and all kinds of people held in high regard in their communities at AA meetings. Once a person gets inside "the rooms," there's no race, social standing or any other obstacle standing in the way.

In conclusion, the meetings are not only about substance abuse; they're about "stinking thinking," too! We all suffer from that. And, everyone takes anonymity seriously!


Thank you for reinforcing this very basic principle of AA and Al-Anon.

Write to Amy Dickinson at or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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