This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 2, 2014.
Parents of children allergic to nuts can take comfort in knowing that other parents have their backs. The results of a new survey from the University of Michigan reveal that moms and dads of kids without nut allergies are in favor of school policies that protect allergic kids, even if it limits what their own kids bring to school.
Researchers from the university’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital surveyed more than 800 parents of elementary age kids nationwide. Five percent of parents in the survey had children with nut allergies, and nearly half of them said they’d like their children to be able to eat at a normal lunch table without any limits on what kids around them bring in their lunchboxes.
More than half of parents whose children didn’t have allergies favored a special nut-free area of the lunchroom that would be safe for allergic kids. Many were also willing to outlaw homemade snacks in classrooms if that’s what it took to protect kids with allergies.
“These results are reassuring because it demonstrates parents of unaffected children have empathy and understanding,” Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, research director of the University of Michigan’s Food Allergy Center, said in a statement. “That can go a long way toward calming anxiety about sending a food-allergic child to school.”
Here are the numbers:
The percentage of parents whose kids have nut allergies who said they’d like their children to eat in a school lunchroom with no restrictions on where they sit or what other children eat. Only 22 percent thought schools should ban foods with nuts.
The percentage of parents whose kids do not have nut allergies who said allergic kids should sit at a designated place in the cafeteria, such as a nut-free table. Compared to parents of kids with allergies, even more of these parents supported a full school ban on nuts (25 percent).
The percentage of all parents in the survey who support schools banning nut-containing treats in classrooms where there is a child with nut allergies. Forty-three percent support policies that outlaw homemade snacks at school parties or special events.
The percentage of children in the United States who have peanut allergies – a rate that has tripled since 1997, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics in December. As The Chronicle previously reported, that study revealed expectant mothers can decrease the chances their children will have nut allergies by eating nuts before, during and slightly after pregnancy.