Peanut-free daycares and preschools are quite common and can be found in all shapes and sizes, from small home daycares to larger child care centers and academically oriented preschools. Other than removing snacks and foods that contain peanuts or peanut butter, no other sacrifices need to be made to be a peanut-free daycare center. Therefore, many daycares choose this route, as a means of minimizing the potential for accidents among their students. Of course, peanut allergies can be extremely serious, even life-threatening, so diligence is always a good idea when considering a daycare that claims to be peanut-free.
It is important to keep in mind that the understanding of food allergies can vary. Therefore, even at a peanut-free preschool, one of the first questions you should ask is how the caregivers and teachers have been trained to avoid allergic reactions, and if they know how to respond if one occurs. If you have an infant or toddler (and even a preschooler), they may not be able to effectively communicate their peanut allergy, so it's important that the teachers and child care providers have a complete picture of what to expect in the case of an accidental exposure.
If you are considering a peanut-free home daycare, you may want to confirm that no food items at all containing peanuts are stored in the house. Similarly, you should always go over a list of safe and unsafe foods with daycare staff. Many peanut-free daycares also operate from within multi-purpose buildings such as places of worship or elementary schools, increasing the chances of cross-contact, especially if there is a shared kitchen facility. In those instances, or if your child has especially severe allergies, it might be best to pack alternative snacks and a lunch from home every day.
Even if you are satisfied with the precautions at your chosen daycare, events like birthday celebrations greatly increase the chance of a parent inadvertently bringing snacks with traces of peanuts. Although awareness of nut allergies has increased over the years, many parents still need to be educated, and some peanut-free daycare and preschools encourage parents to give presentations on the topic to other parents, as a means of dispelling myths and increasing understanding. You may also want to be proactive and suggest this yourself if you have concerns about how well other parents understand the risks to your child.
Ultimately, it's impossible to completely control an environment, but well- managed peanut-free daycares can be wonderful environments for a child to learn and grow without feeling held back or diminished by his or her allergy.
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