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Note: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and should not be assumed to reflect the views of Deep South Voice or its affiliates.

When your child’s life depends on health regulations in public schools, politicians promising to ‘Deregulate, deregulate, deregulate!’ don’t sound so appealing.

I’m sorry you’re outraged you can’t send your kid to school with a peanut butter sandwich, but I want my son to stay alive. 

Today, in the post-fact world in which we live, people often fail to understand why certain things have changed. I understand that they feel as if their childhood is being taken from them, thanks to laws and regulations that fly in the face of their memory of when America was great. 

Who wouldn’t be upset for being told their kid can’t do like they did and ride their bike without a helmet, or that they can’t ride in the back of a truck to a fishing rodeo with the rest of the neighborhood kids? They’re living proof that it doesn’t hurt anyone, after all. They survived a childhood of playing in ditches and drinking a two liter bottle of Mountain Dew a day, going outside from morning until they saw the porch light.

That’s enough to make anyone who remembers how awesome their childhood was mad as hell. That is, until you stop and look at some of the statistics that made regulations to prevent kids riding on the floorboards of their mom’s 1979 Ford Thunderbird necessary.

The newest gripe is regulations that prevent kids from bringing peanut butter sandwiches to school for lunch. I don’t think I’ve gone a week lately without seeing someone bitch about it as if the rules are some totalitarian attempt to control every aspect of their lives, right down to what they can eat (we’ll ignore the irony that many of the same people are all in favor of limiting what kinds of food people can purchase with SNAP benefits until a later date).

The rate of cycling deaths among young children has plummeted in recent decades, thanks in part to laws requiring children to wear helmets and other safety regulations. Source: CDC

For the most part, when I don’t like a law or regulation, I do my best to find out why it exists. Don’t get me wrong – some are completely baffling and serve no purpose that would benefit society.

But when it comes to the regulation that bans kids from bringing products with peanut butter to school, it’s there because it means life or death for the kid who had no choice in having an allergy that could kill them.

My son, William, is one of those children.

“Prayers won’t save him if he comes in contact with a peanut, but medical science and sound public health policy will.”

Every time I see someone post to social media how the country sucks because their kid can’t eat a peanut butter sandwich at school, I want to come though the screen and explain exactly what William’s mother and I have to go through every minute of our lives to ensure he doesn’t die. 

The simple fact is that any contact with a peanut — even airborne — can be the end of his life. We take more steps in a day to prevent that from happening than anyone could imagine. On top of the peanut allergy, he has egg, milk, lobster, and oyster allergies, and is susceptible for developing others as he gets older. 

Why are so many people developing these allergies? I wish we knew, but unfortunately that isn’t the case (some scientists speculate it may have something to do with the Western diet). This is why many of us are so worried about the Trump administration’s mission to deregulate the state. Prayers won’t save him if he comes in contact with a peanut, but medical science and sound public health policy will.

Food allergies are on the rise among children in the U.S., and scientists aren’t sure why.

Allow me to explain what goes into a day for parents of a child with allergies.

1. We have to read the label on every box, every time we buy it in order to make sure it isn’t made with the allergen or processed in a plant that also makes foods with the allergen.

2. We have to go to the website or call the company to make sure of the same thing and that things haven’t changed for foods that used to not be made in those plants, but now are. Without regulations, companies aren’t required to provide that information on labels and websites. Today, the FDA doesn’t require labeling of “processed on a line with,” or processed in a plant with (allergen). Some companies do, which makes it a lot easier.

3. We have to plan trips to restaurants or other places to coincide with those that don’t have anything that can trigger a reaction.

4. We have to carry two EpiPens, a steroid, and an antihistamine with us at all times in case of accidental exposure.

5. We have to tell a five year old that he just can’t participate in birthday parties with school friends who might have a food made with an allergen. No treat is safe unless we send it with him.

6. When we take him to the movie theater, we have to sit in the handicap section after carefully inspecting for a stray Goober or other food that he might accidentally come in contact with.

7. We have to live in close proximity to a hospital. If he is exposed, a hospital trip is a must in hopes the reaction isn’t fatal.

8. Even apples and other fruits and vegetables have to be washed with Dawn in order to make sure there isn’t any chance of cross contamination.

9. He cannot participate in several school activities without his mother taking off work to chaperone in case of an emergency. I happen to live in Oxford and can’t do this at the time being.

10. He literally cannot go anywhere peanuts are served. Ever. I used to love to take him to baseball games. That’s out.

11. When he eats a new food, we sit on pins and needles hoping he doesn’t have a reaction.

12. A phone call from the school or daycare is the scariest thing you can imagine.

13. Coughing isn’t just a normal function – it’s a warning.

These are just a few of the things that have to be done to ensure a person with food allergies doesn’t die. So next time you hear someone griping about how bad this county is because they can’t send their kid to school with a peanut butter sandwiches, tell them to educate themselves as to why this is the case. 

Hopefully, they’ll start thinking about more than just themselves.

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