I am working on making our emergency department peanut-free, and I am wondering if there are any other EDs that are peanut free. If so, I'd love to hear from you.
If you are interested in why we are doing this, here is the rationale:
6 million children = 8% of children = 1 in 13 children in the United States has a food allergy.
3% have a severe food allergy.
90% of food allergies are related to 8 allergens - peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish.
Of children with food allergies, 25% are allergic to peanuts, which is more than any other allergen (21% milk, 17% shellfish, 13% tree nuts, 10% eggs, 6% fin fish, 5% wheat, 5% soy) - these numbers exceed 100% because kids have multiple allergies.
It would be difficult to stop serving all allergens in our emergency department, where food is surprisingly important to patient care even for shorter patient visits.
However, I believe that eliminating peanuts is still worthwhile because:
1. Peanut is the most common of the top 8 allergens in children.
2. There is only one peanut product (peanut butter) in our ED so it is reasonably achievable.
3. Peanut butter is particularly sticky and has a higher chance than other top 8 allergens of leaving residual on countertops, bedside tables, and bed rails, even if wiped down.
4. There is a safer alternative that does not contain a top 8 allergen (Sunbutter, made from sunflower seeds). It even tastes really good, and similar to peanut butter.
5. This role models for other institutions that it can be done.
6. This sends a message that we care about the safety of all of our patients.
I look forward to hearing about any successes, or other thoughts!
Julie Brown, MD, MPH
Associate Professor, University of Washington
Attending Physician, Pediatric Emergency Medicine,
Seattle Children's Hospital, MB.7.520,
Seattle, WA 98105-0371
Office: (206) 987-4016
Fax: (206) 729-3070
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