According to Time Magazine, an apparent increase in peanut allergies among children is prompting schools to set up nut-free zones. Cafeterias and other designated areas in these schools are safe havens from products containing nuts in an effort to keep vulnerable children safe:
According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, peanut allergies more than doubled between 1997 and 2002 in children under 5 and are now estimated to affect more than 1% of school age children. "It is like being in a minefield," says Dr. Scott Sicherer, an associate professor of pediatrics, allergy and immunology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Researchers don't yet know why these allergies are blooming, but some experts think premature exposure to nut-based products in infancy may be to blame. Others believe the link is genetic. Still others cite the hygiene hypothesis — the idea that more and more parents are oversanitizing their kids with antibacterial agents, causing their immune systems to become more susceptible to allergies.
To find out if a nut-free zone is where your child belongs, contact an allergist in your area.
Dr. Sicherer is Associate Professor of Pediatrics, a researcher at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and author of "Understanding and Managing Your Child's Food Allergies" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). His areas of clinical interest include: Food Allergy; Atopic Dermatosis (Eczema); Asthma; and Pediatric Allergy. He practices in New York City.