Posted 7:59 PM 8/2/2012 : 'Hold the nuts, please': schools designate nut-free zones
As students headed back to school on Thursday morning, many of their lunchboxes weren't carrying the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Nearly six million American kids have some type of food allergy and studies show the amount of peanut allergies among children tripled between 1997 and 2008.
Like many school districts, District 49 has designated nut-free zones. Students with serious anaphylactic symptoms are assigned to nut-free classrooms and lunch tables. For parents like April Saraceni, it's one less thing she has to worry about.
"You can't imagine how relieved I was to walk into a room and see it was a peanut-free room and hear other parents talk about their peanut allergies as well," Saraceni says.
Her second-grader's extreme peanut allergy was the cause of multiple trips to the emergency room and hospital stays. After moving from Hawaii to Colorado Springs, she enrolled him in Imagine Indigo Ranch where school officials say they have several students with nut allergies.
"It helps things feel more normal for him, that he's not the oddball. He's not the only one who has to sit in a special place."
Dr. Eric Caplan of Colorado Springs Allergy and Asthma gives educational training to school districts including District 49. While Caplan says there's "no such thing as a nut free world," he thinks it's important for schools to take the neccessary precautions to protect kids with food allergies.
Although Caplan believes there are a multitude of factors causing the increase in food allergies, there's one theory called the "hygiene hypothesis."
"If the cookie hits the floor, now it goes in the trash. So we think our immune system gets bored and, when it gets bored, it mounts an allergic reaction to things it's not supposed to like peanuts, treenuts and cats and dogs."
Caplan strongly urges those with food allergies to consult a board certified allergist and always carry an EpiPen.